Feb 1

Illinois is kicking off the new year with a legislative bang by rolling out 215 new laws, including a number of criminal defense updates, according to an article by The Chicago Tribune. The following sections will provide an overview of several key updates to Illinois law.

Juvenile Criminal Records

From 2018 onward, Illinois will expunge the criminal records for certain juveniles. Outside of homicide and specific sex crimes, expungement will occur automatically 24 months after the criminal case concludes. By providing an avenue for rehabilitation, this law aims to help juvenile offenders avoid further criminal activity.

Firearm Offenses

There is also a new law that increases the potential jail sentence for repeated firearm offenses. The previous sentence range for a certain repeat firearm offense was three to 14 years. The new law increases the minimum sentence to seven years and keeps the maximum sentence at 14 years.

Homicide and Murder

Concerning the crime of homicide, the Illinois legislature decided to eliminate a mitigating defense commonly referred to as “gay panic.” Moving forward, a homicide defendant will not be able to excuse violence on the basis of the victim’s sexual orientation. Furthermore, the victim’s sexual orientation is no longer a valid cause for provocation in second-degree murder cases.

Hate Crimes

Illinois will deem any crime committed at a place of worship – such as a church, mosque, or synagogue – a hate crime. Illinois will also consider cyberstalking or other electronic harassment a hate crime under new laws.

Released Felons

All individuals released from prison – on parole, probation, or conditional discharge – will receive a copy of their birth certificate automatically. This service will be free of charge, in order to help released felons assimilate and gain access to necessary services.

Civil Forfeiture

The Illinois legislature decided to adjust the state approach to civil forfeiture. In essential terms, civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property from a suspected criminal. In most cases, the original owner does not regain possession, and authorities auction off the property.

In order to regulate this practice, Illinois will shift the burden of proof from the property owner to the government. Furthermore, the evidentiary standard for civil forfeiture will increase to proof by preponderance of the evidence. Overall, these new laws should make it easier for owners to regain possession of seized property.

Obama Day

In honor of the former U.S. President and Senator, Illinois has recognized August 4th as Obama Day. This will be an annual holiday, though it does not appear that public employees or state workers will get the day off.

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the offense, all criminal charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at johnprior@thepriorlawfirm.com or by completing an online form.

(image courtesy of Fineas Anton)