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Emanuel Proposes Reducing Illinois Drug Penalties

Posted on in Criminal Law

Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney, drug crimes, Illinois drug penalties, drug crime penalties, criminal penalties, decriminalize marijuanaSentencing reform has been a hot topic among policymakers, particularly as it relates to non-violent drug crimes. This push comes in light of the fervor with which the United States incarcerates its own citizens. In fact, according to the International Center for Prison Studies, the U.S. has 716 people in prison for every 100,000 people in the country, giving it the largest per capita prison population in the world. Importantly, a large swath of these incarcerations are the result of non-violent drug crimes.

Now, the Mayor of Chicago is getting involved in the debate. Speaking at a panel for the Illinois General Assembly, the Mayor urged the state legislators to reduce the severity of drug crimes across the entire state using a two-pronged approach.

The Proposed Reductions

The Mayor's plan involves two major changes to the drug law. First, the proposal suggests reducing the severity of simple possession of less than a gram of any controlled substance down from a Class 4 felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors still do have severe penalties, including up to a year in prison and a fine of $2,500, but the court also has the option of placing an offender on probation instead, which can keep him or her out of prison.

In addition to that reduction across all classes of controlled substances, the Mayor also made a separate proposal related to marijuana: decriminalization. Under this plan, a person caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana would be issued a ticket and be forced to pay a civil fine, but it would not trigger criminal penalties. This strategy would mimic a Chicago ordinance from 2012 that decriminalized marijuana within the city limits.

The Purpose

The Mayor and other supporters of this sort of reduction effort say that this would better align our limited criminal justice resources with our societal values. Reducing sentencing for non-violent drug offenses will allow police to focus on more serious or violent offenses, and it will free up prison space as well, something that ultimately has the potential to reduce the costs, and the taxes, of the criminal justice system. Additionally, a prison sentence can often irrevocably alter the trajectory of a person's life, meaning that keeping minor offenders out of prison may actually reduce crime in the long run.

However, the proposal has raised concerns from certain sectors who are worried about being soft on crime, as well as other, more politically-minded, opposition that fears that the Mayor will ask for stricter gun laws as part of this change.

If you or one of your loved ones has recently been charged with a drug crime or some other criminal offense, contact a Crystal Lake criminal defense attorney today. Our firm is here to help make sure that your side is fully represented in court.

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