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Illinois Revises Gang Member Contact Law

Posted on in Criminal Law

Illinois Revises Gang Member Contact LawAs of the beginning of the year, Illinois has revised a criminal law that critics claim was being used to unfairly target and arrest people on parole or probation. The revised law makes it a class A misdemeanor for certain people on probation to participate in gang-related activity. The previous version of the law was viewed as overly broad and resulted in parolees being arrested for simply being seen with someone in a gang. By changing the language of the law, lawmakers hope to reduce the number of arrests involving nonviolent offenders who are only guilty by association.

The Previous Law

The Illinois Criminal Code of 2012 included a law against “unlawful contact with streetgang members.” As a condition of parole or probation, a court can order a subject to refrain from direct or indirect contact with a known gang member. The law made violating this court order a misdemeanor. The only exception to the law was if the gang member was a family member or living in the same household. For people living in areas with high gang activity, avoiding contact with gang members can be difficult. They could be arrested for:

  • Talking to a neighbor;
  • Walking with someone down the street;
  • Accepting a car ride; or
  • Having co-workers who are gang members.

Chicago police, in particular, were accused of abusing the broad language of the law to profile people in low income neighborhoods. According to an investigative story, nearly 3,000 people in Cook County were arrested for illegal gang contact from 2011 to 2016. Critics of the law said that it was not taking violent criminals off the streets. Instead, it was a hinderance for people on parole or probation who feared being arrested because they were seen with the wrong person.

The New Law

The revision to the criminal code, which was signed into law last August, removes the words “contact with streetgang members” and replaces it with “participation in streetgang related activity.” The new language requires police to believe the subject is taking an active role with a gang before making an arrest. There is still potential for abuse, depending on what police consider to be gang-related activity. However, it should prevent police from arresting someone who has an innocent interaction with a gang member.

Life After Jail

Criminal courts will often set conditions as part of granting someone parole, bail or probation. Breaking one of those conditions could mean an arrest and return to jail. Society already makes it difficult for you to start a new life after leaving jail. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will advocate for your rights when a criminal court is deciding the conditions of your release. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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