Kane Co. woman avoids ID theft charges

SPRINGFIELD — A Kane County woman avoided identity theft felony charges Thursday after the state Supreme Court ruled the law under which she was charged is unconstitutional.

Claudia G. Madrigal had been accused of using her position at a Batavia insurance company to access another woman's personal information without her permission in January 2009. Madrigal was charged under Illinois identity theft laws that state anyone who uses someone else's personal information to see records of their actions or communications could be charged with a felony. A Kane County judge had dismissed the case and ruled the statute unconstitutional before it was appealed to the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled Thursday that part of the law is too vague, saying it could criminalize innocent conduct. All seven justices ruled in favor of Madrigal.

In the court opinion, Justice Robert Thomas, of Glen Ellyn, wrote that because there was no phrasing in the subsection that required criminal intent, the section was unconstitutional.

“The statute as it currently reads would criminalize such innocuous conduct as someone using the Internet to look up how their neighbor did in the Chicago Marathon,” he wrote.

Madrigal's attorney Don Zuelke made a similar argument before the court earlier this year. He said Madrigal was simply looking up information about someone for her job at the insurance company.

“Just Googling somebody, you've committed a felony,” Zuelke said, arguing the law should be struck down.

Zuelke said he was happy to see a bad law struck down, but believed Madrigal would have also been innocent if the case was argued on the merits of the facts.

The state disagreed and defended the section of the law in question, but lost.

Assistant Attorney General Garson Fischer argued the identity theft law should be left in place because lawmakers didn't intend to criminalize Googling.

While the Supreme Court struck down one aspect of Illinois' identity theft laws, it left others in place and urged lawmakers to reword the section they overturned.

Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General's office, said the office is reviewing the decision and would discuss the possibility of redrafting the statute with the legislature.