The Illinois Supreme Court, in a 5-2 split opinion in People v. Leib, held that a registered sex offender was knowingly present on “real property comprising any school,” in violation of an Illinois law prohibiting the presence of sex offenders in a school zone, when he attended a festival consisting of games and food in a parking lot across the street from a church and school. The festival was a fundraiser for the school of church.
At issue before the Court was (1) whether the parking lot in question was “real property comprising any school”; and (2) if so, whether the registered sex offender knew he was on such property.
Regarding the first issue, because the term “real property comprising any school” is not defined in the law, the Court looked to the definition of “comprising” and determined that property can be “comprising” a school if it is “made up” of the school, constitutes the school, or is “included especially within a particular scope” of the school. Based on this, the Court concluded that such property need not be contiguous with a school. As a result, even though the parking lot was not contiguous with the school, since there was evidence that the parking lot was used for school purposes and was owned by the parish – which owned the school and the church – and further evidence that the church and school were connected to each other and considered to be synonymous, the Court found that the parking lot is “real property comprising any school” for purposes of the law.
Regarding the second issue, the Court found that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the registered sex offender knew he was on “real property comprising any school” when he attended the fest. The Court emphasized that there was testimony that people understood the church and school to be synonymous with one another and that attendees believed the festival to be a school function, especially since the festival had children’s rides not only in the parking lot, but also in the street between the parking lot and the school.
The two dissenting judges agreed with the majority that the parking lot was real property comprising any school but disagreed that the evidence was sufficient to prove that the registered sex offender had such knowledge, relying on the fact that there was no evidence of any signage putting on notice that the parking lot was school property, that the flyer for the festival did not mention the school, and that there was no evidence that the sex offender had ever been to the location previously.
For questions about this case or the prohibition of sex offenders in school zones more generally, please contact Jennifer Rosenberg in our Students/Special Ed practice group.
Source: People v. Leib, 2022 IL 126645