Re-Introduced Bill Decriminalizes Possession of Marijuana

Naperville criminal defense attorneys, possession of marijuanaRepresentative Kelly Cassidy recently re-introduced House Bill 4357, which would replace criminal penalties for the possession of minimal amounts of marijuana with a civil fine. The new bill is a variation of the same law that was proposed last year and sent back to the General Assembly, with suggested amendments, by Governor Bruce Rauner.

House Bill 4357

If passed, the new law would significantly decrease the severity of current penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana by making the crime a civil infraction punishable only by a fine. Under the proposed bill, someone charged with possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana commits a civil law violation and is subject to a fine of between $100 and $200.

Additionally, the bill would amend the vehicle code by changing the level of marijuana that must be detected in a person’s system before an arrest for driving under the influence can be made. Under the new law, to be considered driving under the influence, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration in a driver’s blood must be at least five nanograms per milliliter of blood or 10 nanograms per milliliter of another bodily substance. Once this threshold is reached, an officer may make an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Aside from significantly decreasing the harsh penalties that currently exist for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the bill would also make important changes to the law concerning expungement. If passed, the law would require law enforcement officials to automatically expunge, after a few months, any record of a person’s conviction for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana.

Current Law

In Illinois, being convicted of possessing marijuana can carry serious consequences. For instance, possessing up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is a Class C misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one month in jail and the mandatory payment of a $1,500 fine. Possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams of the substance is treated even more severely and is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to six months in jail and the payment of a $1,500 fine. Possessing up to 30 grams is treated as a Class 4 felony. Conviction carries the threat of one year in jail and the payment of additional fines.

Unlike House Bill 4357, current Illinois law includes no provisions for having a criminal record for committing this minor offense automatically sealed or expunged. For this reason, many citizens who have only been convicted of one minor offense will have a permanent criminal record. This can make it much more difficult to seek employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

If you have been arrested for or charged with marijuana possession, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free consultation.