Rep. Peter Breen Files Bill to Preserve Illinois Stalking Laws and Protect Victims of Stalking

When the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s stalking laws on November 30, 2017, because they violate First Amendment Free Speech rights, State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) went to work to preserve those laws, by revising them in accord with the dictates of the United States Constitution. Working with the ACLU of Illinois, Breen developed his bill to ensure the continued viability of Illinois’ stalking laws to protect victims of stalking and cyberstalking in the Land of Lincoln.

Breen’s HB 4506 was filed in Springfield on Thursday. “The Illinois Supreme Court, in People v. Relerford, found portions of the stalking statute unconstitutional, as overbroad and impermissibly infringing on the right to Free Speech,” said Breen, a constitutional law attorney who has served in the Illinois House of Representatives since 2015. “The ruling left a gaping hole in our statutes, which has left many victims of stalking now without legal protections. My bill, drafted in consultation with the ACLU of Illinois, would be immediately effective, to protect victims of stalking as soon as possible.”

The bill revises several constitutionally suspect parts of state stalking law, including prohibitions on communicating “about” a person or causing “emotional distress,” and content-discriminatory picketing exemptions. “We want to have laws in place that provide adequate protection against crimes, but we must also make sure our laws pass the litmus test of the First Amendment,” Breen said. “The changes I am proposing will provide sound, thorough protections for victims of stalking, while shoring up weaknesses in our current law, to head off future constitutional challenges.”

If approved by the General Assembly, the provisions of HB 4506 would take effect immediately upon its signing into law.

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