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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

Guns & Drugs: A Trade-Off in Illinois?

Posted on in Chicago criminal defense lawyer

Illinois drug possessionCity of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently pitched a controversial idea to help open up prison space for violent offenders and to allow non-violent offenders a chance at a productive life. The pitch is, objectively, a trade-off. Mayor Emanuel is prepared to lessen Illinois drug possession laws in exchange for tougher gun control laws. Not only has Emanuel committed to decriminalizing marijuana, but his plan would also reduce minor drug possession charges to misdemeanors, which have lesser sentences than felonies. “Minor” drug possession would be considered less than one gram of any controlled substance. Anything over that amount would still be considered a felony. This would be an expansion on a marijuana ticketing bill introduced in Chicago in 2012.

The Pros

Proponents backing Mayor Emanuel’s plan point to a reduction in prison population. A significant portion of Illinois jails are filled with non-violent drug offenders. The rationale is that this legislation would free up jail space for violent criminals and allow police officers an opportunity to focus on violent crime in our streets. Mayor Emanuel openly reminded the public how “[a] felony conviction can make it harder to go to school, apply for financial aid and find housing. There are times when a felony conviction is no doubt warranted, but we have to ask ourselves whether it’s too high a price to using drugs.” This resonates with anyone who has had to face the wrath of society after making one mistake in their past.

Illinois would not be the first state to significantly lessen “minor” drug possession charges, or to decriminalize marijuana possession altogether. Washington state and Colorado recently decriminalized the drug, and several other states and jurisdictions have similar legislation pending.

The Cons

While critics are not necessarily opposed to lessening drug sentences, they are opposed to Mayor Emanuel’s push to increase the severity of gun-related crimes. He wishes to set mandatory sentences for gun possession, a controversial practice that has been eliminated in many jurisdictions due to its “zero tolerance” nature. Essentially, mandatory minimums take little, if anything, into consideration besides the crime at issue. This removes judicial discretion at sentencing and does not allow considerations of criminal history, past moral conduct, family, financial status, or any additional considerations.

Similar to the concealed carry ban battle the city of Chicago fought and lost, the push for tougher gun laws is not new to Illinois. Framed as a trade-off in a political re-election time, though, critics are hesitant to jump on board. If the idea is to lessen prison population, they say, is this not just perpetuating the issue? This is true especially due to the mandatory sentencing guidelines that are currently being proposed, and there are continued concerns about whether stiffer gun penalties are actually the solution to Chicago’s gun problems.

What Does This Mean for Me?

When new laws go into effect, they will very rarely be applied retroactively. That is, if you have already received a conviction for possession, a new law will not change the disposition of a completed, open, or pending case.

If you or anyone you know has questions about your rights or previous convictions, Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. is here to help. Even if you have already been convicted of a crime, we may be able to help you remove the conviction from your record and help you move on from your past. Whether you were convicted of a drug crime, gun crime, or any other criminal offense, our experienced DuPage County criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge needed to navigate the legal system in Illinois. Please contact us today for a free initial consultation at 630-472-9700. We have two convenient office locations in Oak Brook and Naperville, Illinois.

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