Post by Attorney Jean Maclean Snyder
When sex offenders are released from prison, they face the intimidating task of complying with theÂ Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). Now a federal trial court judge has issued a decisionÂ that offers hope for one of the difficulties with registration.
John Saiger arrived in Chicago in March 2013 upon his release from prison. His effort to registerÂ under SORA was complicated by the fact that he could not find housing. SORA requires sex offendersÂ who lack permanent housing to report to police headquarters every week and explain where they haveÂ lived for the previous seven days. When Saiger did that, a police officer told him he must first obtain aÂ state identification card with an address acceptable under SORA. Saiger couldnâ€™t do that â€“ he wasÂ homeless â€“ and so the officer refused to allow him to register. But failing to register is a crime, so SaigerÂ was arrested, charged with a felony, and sent to jail to await trial.
While in jail, Saiger filed a lawsuit. His suit charges that the City of Chicago has an unwrittenÂ policy of denying homeless people the right to register under SORA, and that this policy explained theÂ run-around the police officer had sent him on. The suit charges that the policy violates procedural dueÂ process and other constitutional rights.
The City moved to dismiss Saigerâ€™s lawsuit, arguing that even if his claim was true, the officerâ€™sÂ actions werenâ€™t unlawful. In response to Saigerâ€™s charge that the policy had violated his procedural dueÂ process rights, the City said that Saiger had adequate remedies available, because he could challengeÂ the Cityâ€™s action by filing a lawsuit or by raising the issue in his criminal case.
The judge didnâ€™t buy it. Ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said that aÂ homeless person likely wouldnâ€™t have â€śa ghost of a chanceâ€ť of being able to file a lawsuit before he hadÂ been charged, and that challenging the refusal afterwards wasnâ€™t a sufficient remedy. Thus, heÂ concluded that Saiger had presented a viable procedural due process claim. (Judge Kennelly dismissedÂ other claims that Saiger had brought, as well as his claim against the individual officer.)
Now itâ€™s up to Saiger to show that his turn-down was part of a City policy denying registration toÂ homeless people. Meanwhile, Saiger resides in Cook County Jail awaiting trial on his felony case.
Jean Maclean Snyder