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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.

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Illinois Drug Courts: A Second Chance

Posted on in Drug Crimes

drugThere are three primary driving considerations behind criminal punishment in the United States: deterrence, retribution, and rehabilitation. Deterrence theories suggest that if people know about the punishments associated with crimes, they will not commit them. Deterrence can be either general or specific. Specific deterrence aims to discourage the individual criminal from committing future acts by providing them with a punishment for their actions, while general deterrence seeks to make an example out of the offender, thereby deterring others from similar conduct.

Retribution is the “you get what you deserve” type of mentality. This theory supports that punishment is a necessary evil when one commits a crime. The punishment, however, must be “proportionate” to the crime committed. This standard makes retributive justice difficult to implement because it is difficult to sentence offenders for similar crimes when every circumstance is unique. Regardless, the United States Sentencing Commission produces recommended sentencing guidelines based on the severity of the crime and the offender’s past criminal convictions, which can help judges determine what kind of sentence an offender should receive for his crimes.

Rehabilitation is arguably the most important theory of justice, but also the most difficult to implement in our justice system. Rehabilitation is the idea that instead of punishing offenders by having them sit in a jail cell, they should participate in programs that will better their lives, help them recover from previous hardships, and then be permitted to re-enter society as contributing and productive members. Rehabilitation is particularly important when you consider that it can cost anywhere from $14,000 to $60,000 per offender, per year to keep someone in prison in the United States. Rehabilitation not only offers a way to save taxpayers money in this regard, but certain rehabilitation programs may be the difference in saving an offender from a life of crime. It can also alleviate some prison overcrowding concerns.

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gun violenceRegardless of your opinion of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent gun control proposal, it cannot be denied that gun violence is still a problem in Chicago. Just recently, guns injured four people at three separate shooting sites around the city. Although all of the victims are still alive, no one is in custody for any of the incidents. These acts are among the many reasons the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago announced this summer that a new Violent Crimes unit would be added to the department list. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still significant work to be done.

Our lawmakers, communities, and politicians continue fighting the battle against gun violence in Chicago, but the crimes nonetheless go on. The Chicago Tribune has an informative infographic that displays crime patterns over the past decade and a half, showing the tremendous impact gun violence has in our communities. The west and south side areas of Chicago are disproportionately affected by gun violence, as demonstrated in a special report on Chicago shooting victims. Young people, even children and teenagers, are also disproportionately affected by gun violence in Chicago as well.

The swiftest proposals to lessen gun violence in our city came from the concealed carry ban. A tried and failed attempt at preventing concealed weapons in Chicago was the most notable of recent efforts. People who are eligible to obtain a concealed carry permit must apply, obtain a license, be fingerprinted, and go through a host of processes before they can bear arms in public. One of the most troubling effects of this legislation, though, is the amount of unregistered guns used in our streets. Some critics speculate that the stricter the gun laws get, the more gun violence there actually is. With the amount of unregistered weapons increasing, statistics become more difficult to keep up with, making reports inaccurate or incomplete.

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drivingMany of us have personal experiences with the detrimental effect drinking and driving-related accidents, deaths, and injuries can have on our lives. On the other side of that, however, are the thousands of people convicted of DUI offenses in Illinois each year. Illinois laws are designed to protect law-abiding drivers and pedestrians from those driving under the influence by establishing steep penalties for driving under the influence, but also to protect the rights of the accused.

Just before Labor Day weekend, the Illinois State Police Department and the Illinois Department of Transportation ran a campaign to encourage responsible driving. The state legislature continues to support increases in drinking and driving penalties, even for first-time offenders. Despite these campaigns and laws, police apprehend thousands of drivers suspected of drinking and driving annually, and hundreds of lives are lost as a result of driving under the influence. It is important to know what your rights are during and after a DUI charge in Illinois.

Illinois Implied Consent Laws

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property crimeWhen you think of “property,” your mind likely goes straight to your house, apartment, or land. Keep in mind that there are actually two types of property: personal property and real property. Real property is anything that is attached in a permanent state to land, while personal property is everything else. Personal property can be tangible, i.e. a cell phone, or intangible i.e. securities (stocks and bonds).

The Felony Class System in Illinois

Regardless of whether the crime committed involves real or personal property, being convicted of these crimes can have severe consequences. For example, in Illinois, a residential burglary conviction is a Class 1 felony. which requires a sentence between four and 15 years. The class system in Illinois provides for four “classes,” plus a fifth, “class X,” which was recently added to the system. Class X is considered the most severe, followed by Classes 1, 2, and 3. Class 4 is the lowest level felony, meaning it carries the shortest sentences. However, it is still a felony, which means it can have a significant impact on one’s future personal and professional life.

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