Articles Posted in Alternative Sentences/Programs

UUW-Unlawful-Use-of-a-WeaponYesterday, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, signed a bill into law which increases the minimum sentence for defendants convicted of a second or subsequent violation of Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon. Under current law, a defendants convicted of a second or subsequent violation of the Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon statute would be convicted of a Class 2 felony which carries a mandatory prison sentence of between 3 to 14 years. The new law, which was signed yesterday, increases the mandatory prison sentence to 7 to 14 years.

This new law enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Springfield, something that has been very rare in Springfield in recent years.  This new law was strongly supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson.  Chicago officials are desperately trying to do something to deal with the out-of-control gun violence in Chicago.  It’s possible that this new law will do little, or nothing, to stop the gun violence in Chicago, but the politicians want to be seen as trying to do something.  In spite of the strong bipartisan support, our elected officials could not help but let this new law get caught up in the partisan bickering which has handicapped Springfield and endangered the health of the State of Illinois. Governor Rauner and Mayor Emanuel have been bickering over many issues concerning the funding needs of the City of Chicago.  Most recently, Governor Rauner has indicated that he would like to sell the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.  According to Rauner, the possible sale of the Thompson Center could fetch the State of Illinois as much as $300 million.  Mayor Emanuel has been placing obstacles in front of Governor Rauner to stop any sale of the Thompson Center.  Most recently, Mayor Emanuel threatened to hold up zoning laws as an obstacle to allowing Rauner to sell the Thompson Center.  Governor Rauner wanted Mayor Emanuel to come to Springfield for the signing ceremony to show the voters that progress was being made in bipartisan efforts to do business and work past differences in Springfield.  Mayor Emanuel indicated he would not attend a signing ceremony in Springfield with Rauner and accused the Governor of threatening to veto a 911 bill for Chicago that would raise phone bills but provide more money for Chicago’s 911 system.

At the end of the day, the bickering politicians but aside their petty partisan fight and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson attended a quickly arranged signing ceremony in Springfield. However, Mayor Emanuel did not attend.  In order to get support for this legislation, the new law also makes other changes to the law.  This new law gives greater power to the Illinois Department of Corrections to give sentencing credits to inmates who have been sentenced to prison.  This may allow some inmates to be released earlier from state prison.  This new law also appears to give more options for first time offenders to address the causes of their crime.  We have to see, what, if any options will be available for first-time offenders to avoid jail and a possible criminal conviction.  These changes appear to be trying to take steps towards lowering the prison population and the costs associated with the criminal justice system.  This effort seems to be a concession towards those legislators concerned with the cost to taxpayers for housing inmates in state prison.  I saw a recent survey that it costs the State of Illinois about $25,000 a year to house an inmate in State Prison for one year.  Another change to this law creates a task force within the Illinois State Police to help combat gun crimes.

Kane-County-Diversion-ProgramThe Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office has a unique program which gives first time non-violent offenders an opportunity to avoid having a felony or misdemeanor conviction on their record.  It’s called the Deferred Prosecution Program.  It started in 1995 and was originally called Second Chance.   Prosecutors working in Kane County, as well as criminal defense lawyers, have long sensed that this was a good program with good results.  Recently, those beliefs were proven to be true.   A study was conducted with the help of Aurora University to study how effective this program was.  That study showed that 92% of criminal defendants placed into this program have not been convicted of any crime since completing the program.  A 92% success rate is good no matter how you look at it.  In my 25 years of practicing criminal law, I have had the opportunity to have many of my clients accepted into this program and agree that it is effective and is a great opportunity for a first-time offender to avoid having a criminal record.  Let’s discuss what this program is and how it all works.

What originally started as one big program in Kane County has been split into 5 different Deferred Prosecution programs. There is the Felony/Misdemeanor Program, Misdemeanor Drug and Alcohol, Domestic Violence, Felony Drug, and Solicitation/Prostitution.   Whichever program applies to you, the process is essentially the same.  You must apply to be admitted into this program. The application can be made by the Prosecutor, your defense lawyer, the police department, or the judge.  This referral is usually made within 90 days of your arrest.  Once you have been referred to this program, you must contact the State’s Attorney’s Office to arrange for an intake interview.  You will be interviewed by a panel of citizens and they have to vote to approve your entry into this program.  If the panel recommends that you enter this program their recommendation is sent to the State’s Attorney’s Office.  The State’s Attorney’s office will review the application and your criminal record and will contact the victim and the arresting police officer for their input prior to making the decision about whether to allow you to enter this program.   You will not be eligible to enter this program if you have had any prior conviction for any crime or are currently on Probation or Court Supervision for any crime.  If you are an active gang member you will be denied entry into this program.  You cannot get into this program if you have a DUI, traffic offense, or the charge you are facing is a violent crime.  You will not be allowed into the program if you are charged with a crime against an elderly person or if the crime involves the use of a weapon.

Once you enter this program your case is continued for a period of time for you to successfully complete the requirements of the program.  Before you are placed into the program you will appear in front of a judge and you will plead guilty to the crime.  This means that if you do not successfully complete the Deferred Prosecution Program you cannot fight the case because you have plead guilty.  If you do not successfully complete the Deferred Prosecution Program you will go back to court and then the only question before the court will be what your punishment will be.  While you are in the program you will not be allowed to leave the jurisdiction without the approval of the coordinator of the program.  You must keep them informed about where you are working and where you are living.  You cannot use any drugs or alcohol and you must consent to random urine drops.  You cannot violate any criminal law and you cannot associate with any known gang members.  You will be required to pay the fees associated with being in that program.  Those fees consist of an application fee of $50, program fee of $570, and court cost of approximately $300.  There are also fees associated with the random drug tests.   If the staff of the Deferred Prosecution Program requests that you come in and meet with them, you must do that.  Most people who enter the program only have to mail in a monthly report about their status.  You will appear at a final court date and when the judge is informed you have successfully completed the requirements of the program and paid all your fines, fees and court costs, the case will be dismissed and you will be released without having a criminal conviction on your record.

TASC Probation in IllinoisTASC Probation is a special kind of probation that is available to criminal defendants who have substance abuse issues and elect to receive treatment for their disorder.  It’s a possible sentence that I have explored throughout the years to help my clients avoid a criminal conviction and be able to move on with their lives.  TASC stands for “Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities.”  This not for profit organization has offices throughout the State of Illinois in every County that provides treatment services for adults who have substance abuse issues.  TASC probation is different from regular drug probation in that you do not have to be charged with a drug crime to receive TASC probation.

Under the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependency Act you can ask that the court treat you as someone who has a drug problem.  Once you make that request you will be lined up for an evaluation with a representative of the TASC program.  They will interview you and determine whether you are acceptable for their program.  My experience has been that TASC will accept you if they determine that they have a program that they think will help you and if they determine that you are being honest and are ready for help.  They want to make sure that you are seeking their services because you really want help for your substance abuse issues and not just trying to avoid a criminal conviction for your criminal case.

You are not automatically eligible for TASC probation. There are certain things about your case and your background that could make you ineligible for TASC Probation.  If you are being charged with a violent crime, or you are being charged with a DUI, or if you have two or more convictions for a violent crime, or if you have another pending felony, or if you are already on probation or parole, or if you have been admitted to a treatment program two or more times in the past, or if you have been convicted of a Residential Burglary and have one or more felony on your background, you may not be accepted into the program.  There may be other things about you and your case that may make you ineligible for TASC Probation.  That’s why you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you with TASC so you could avoid having a criminal conviction on your record.