On July 29, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228, which decriminalizes minor marijuana possession. The new law–filed by Senator Heather Steans and sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy–renders possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. The civil citation is punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200.
More than 100 local Illinois governments–including Chicago–have decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana. SB 2228, however, will extend decriminalization across the entire state. SB 2228 marks Illinois’ progress toward criminal justice reform. Last year, the Republican governor vetoed a bill that sought to decriminalize slightly larger amounts.
The bill further mandates that law enforcement must expunge the civil infraction from the offender’s record within six months after the resolution of the case. This is meant to lessen the chance that possessing small amounts of marijuana will keep a person from finding employment and supporting oneself. Finally, the law implements scientifically proven standards for detecting driving under the influence of cannabis.
Before SB 2228, the former controlling law — the Cannabis Control Act — rendered possessing up to 2.5 grams of cannabis a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days incarceration. Possessing 2.5 to 10 grams was a misdemeanor that could be punished by six months incarceration.
The bill’s advocates believe it will save numerous Illinois citizens from having their lives ruined for using a drug that is “safer than alcohol.” Moreover, its signage will prevent wasting state resources on such minor crimes; it will save Illinois projected millions in incarceration and enforcement costs.
According to the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC), the new law will result in a net benefit of roughly $24 million to Illinois over three years. This includes saving an estimated $15 million in averted costs of incarceration and probation. What’s more, the state is likely to earn close to $9 million in revenue from the civil fines.
Governor Rauner seeks to reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25% over the next 10 years. At the end of 2014, a relatively small but not inconsequential number–672 Illinois inmates–were serving time for marijuana violations. An additional 731 individuals were on parole for marijuana crimes. These numbers are thrown into stark relief when coupled with the fact that Illinois spends roughly $22,000 yearly per incarcerated offender. This money, advocates of the bill believe, should be dedicated to more serious crimes.
Governor Rauner’s signage of SB 2228 represents his commitment to criminal justice reform. As further evidence of this commitment, he simultaneously signed HB 4360, which would eliminate the lifetime ban on employment for defendants seeking work in schools who have been convicted of certain non-violent drug offenses. In particular, the law amends the School Code to allow individuals convicted of certain drug offenses to apply for jobs in Illinois schools seven years after the completion of their sentence. Advocates of this law believe it will increase job opportunities for former defendants who have served their time and are seeking to re-assimilate into society.
If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.
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