Illinois May Change Drug & Theft Crime Penalties

marijuana, Illinois drug crime, Illinois legislation, Illinois laws, criminal lawsIllinois lawmakers are currently in the middle of their five-month long legislative session in Springfield. It is during this time that proposed laws are introduced, debated, and voted on. Criminal laws and potential penalties are based almost entirely on state statute. That means that each legislative session comes with some changes to the criminal justice system in the state as lawmakers alter rules of crime and punishment..

For example, as discussed recently by the Journal Register Star, some policymakers are pushing a bill that would lower penalties for crimes involving small amounts of drugs. The move is being advanced as a way to more fairly treat offenders and better allocate public resources.

Marijuana Crime “Realignment” in Illinois

State Representative Michael Zalewski from Riverside illinois testified in front of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee this week in support of a bill to change the way marijuana possession was treated by authorities.

Specifically, under his proposal, possessions of small amounts of alcohol would be “decriminalized” and treated in a similar manner to traffic tickets. Essentially, if caught with small amounts of marijuana, offenders would be given a ticket and forced to pay a fine--not hauled off to jail. Under the proposal a first offense of small marijuana possession would come with a $250 fine. Additionally, under the same bill, penalties for other crimes would be relaxed. For example, possible prison time would only arise for retail theft over $500--the current level is $300. Also, defendants awaiting trial for low-level drug crimes would be released from jail pending final adjudication. The drive behind these and other proposals is concern about the overburdened prison system in the state. According to some reports Illinois’s current correctional system is designed to hold 32,000 inmates but currently houses 49,000. Proponents of these penalty changes argue that the state needs to re-focus on those offenders who truly need to be in prison while looking at options beyond incarceration for those guilty of lesser crimes--like small retail theft and minor drug possession. In addition to an overcrowded prison population, policymakers also pondered the effect on law enforcement officials and judicial dockets. As it now stands, significant state resources are spent on police efforts to arrest these offenders and obtain evidence for conviction. Many court dockets are similarly packed with judges hearing cases on these relatively “low level” crimes. By making changes to the state criminal code, the hope is that enforcement and judicial efforts can be better spent on addressing more serious crimes. Naperville Drug Crime Lawyer Regardless of whether laws are changed to ease punishments for certain drug and theft crimes, if you are facing any charges it is critical to have an experienced attorney on your side. For help with these matters in suburban Chicago, contact the attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today. We work with residents throughout the area, with offices in Geneva and Naperville.