Local News

New law requires arsonists to register with police

By Tim Petrowich, Marion Daily Republican
MARION -- A new Illinois law now puts those convicted of arson in a similar category as convicted sex offenders. Both are now required to register with local police agencies after their convictions.

Under the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, anyone convicted of what the state classifies as an "arson offense" is required to register with local police agencies. The procedure is very similar to the Illinois Sex Offender Registry requirements.

The new law has one local prosecutor puzzled. Williamson County State's Attorney Charles Garnati wonders why the state would put such a law into effect.

"I'm not sure I understand the difference between arson and armed robbery or burglary," Garnati said. "Where do you stop."

Garnati said the main impact of the new law will be to increase the case load for prosecutors.

"Fortunately here we have very few arson cases," he said. "I'm not in favor of putting arson on the same level with molesting a child."

Illinois law defines an "arson offense" as arson, aggravated arson, residential arson, place of worship arson, possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices or an attempt to commit any of those offenses.

The law also requires those convicted of arson to register with local police agencies within 10 days of a conviction, or within 10 days of release from prison if a prison sentence is imposed. That registration requirement continues for 10 years.

Similar to the sex offender registration requirements, convicted arsonists must register with local law enforcement in communities and counties where the person lives and works, is required when those addresses changed, and is required to be renewed annually.

Failure to register as a convicted arsonist within the appropriate time is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by up to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The new registration law is one of several that Garnati questions. He also noted that while people convicted of reckless homicide or second-degree murder can get probation, and someone who breaks into a home to steal a television set and is convicted of residential burglary must serve a mandatory prison sentence.

"To me, the child molestation is a much more serious crime than arson is," Garnati said.