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Archive for the ‘decriminalization’ tag

Discussions on Decriminalization of Marijuana Ongoing in Illinois

October 14th, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Marijuana plantAccording to a recent report, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed the decriminalization marijuana in certain circumstances. While similar suggestions have been voiced in the past, it seems that not everyone in the state of Illinois is on the same page regarding the proposal. In fact, some very opposite opinions have been raised about reforming drug charges from officials in the state.

The Mayor’s Position

Mayor Emanuel is reportedly arguing that some drug possession charges should be reduced in severity. Specifically, he is allegedly advocating for the decriminalization of marijuana possession in small amounts across the state of Illinois and for the reduction of the criminal grading of possessing less than one gram of any controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor. He said that doing so would make the criminal justice system more available to address more serious challenges to public safety and further the progress that has already been made.

The Mayor’s proposals would not only change the criminal justice system by saving time and money, but it also has the potential to make real changes to people’s lives. Mainly, the Mayor pointed out that those defendants who are trying to move forward with their lives after a drug charge would face many more challenges with a felony on their record than they would with a misdemeanor charge. This is especially relevant in employment settings.

Law Enforcement’s Position

It seems that the consensus among local law enforcement officials is that the Mayor’s proposal sends the wrong message regarding criminal behavior and fails to accomplish anything that is not already provided for within the context of the current court system. Regarding the grading of the drug crimes mentioned, representatives from the State’s Attorney’s Office in Peoria County have voiced the opinion that people charged with such felonies now can potentially erase their conviction by successfully completing probation or other specialized programs such as drug court. Their point is that alternatives are available to defendants who deserve them and such alternatives are regularly made available which allow the person to avoid having a felony conviction on their record.

Police officers also raised concerns that changing the grading of these criminal offenses from felonies to misdemeanors may not only send the wrong message, but may actually end up benefiting drug dealers by making it easier to sell controlled substances in smaller quantities. In addition, other law enforcement officials have voiced the opinion that decriminalizing drug charges as outlined by the Mayor would convey the message that it is acceptable to use drugs as long as they are being used in smaller quantities. This may not only signal to some users that some narcotics are less dangerous, but also that some drugs are considered “better” in the eyes of the law.

These concerns are of particular importance, officers are saying, as Illinois is in the middle of a heroin epidemic. Lowering penalties and hoping for a better result, they say, does not make sense. Instead, some are calling for a treatment component to be advanced with the decriminalization proposal it is advances. It is important to note that, in general, police seemed less concerned about the decriminalization of marijuana, in small amounts, where they would be allowed to issue citations for the offense.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a drug crime in the Chicago area, do not hesitate to contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today. We can schedule a consultation to meet with you in our Rolling Meadows or Chicago office to discuss your case.

Could Marijuana Possession be Decriminalized?

March 18th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

marijuana decriminalization, marijuana possession, Illinois criminal law, criminal defense, laweyr attorneyIn an effort to address the problem of ever-growing prison populations, a recent article reported that an Illinois lawmaker is proposing lower penalties for offenses involving small amounts of some drugs. The proposal includes decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession in favor of punishing the offense with a citation comparable to a traffic ticket.

The Proposal

The proposed change, coming from Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, is part of a recent interest in realigning the criminal justice system in order to decrease the population of inmates in prisons across Illinois. He said his plan would also include lessening the penalty for possession of small amounts of other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The proposal as it relates to marijuana would impart a $250.00 fine for the first such offense.

According to Zalewski, the plan would not only reduce prison populations, but would also lessen the burden for law enforcement labs to test substances related to criminal cases that may get dismissed anyway. He has been a recent advocate of a number of bills aimed at reducing sentences for certain criminal offenses, in spite of his previous efforts at tougher penalties for violations of gun control laws.

Committee Approval

Although the Judiciary Committee heard Zalewski’s proposals, they did not take a vote. Zalewski is beginning to gauge support for the proposals by speaking with colleagues, and has not yet stated when he will ask for panel approval.

Prison Overpopulation

Currently, there are 49,000 individuals imprisoned in Illinois’ correctional system, which was built to hold just 32,000. State prisons regularly house about 4,500 more inmates than they are suited to hold. The proposals outlined above, as well as other similar measures, take aim at those crimes that account for a large number of inmates in state prison. Not only would the measures allow for the reduction of the prison population, but would also pave the way for harsher penalties to be enforced for more serious crimes, such as gun offenses, something Zaleski also supports.

Not only does the overpopulation of prisons pose the realistic problem of space, but also the financial and budgetary problem of overspending on the prison system. Some estimate that the amount spent is about $1.3 billion – which is a great sum, but not even enough to adequately meet the needs of the inmates currently in the system.

Working out the Details

Zaleski refrained from describing the measure as the decriminalization of marijuana, the details of which are still being defined. He said it was more of a restructuring of the criminal justice system as it related to these offenses.

Even though the proposal has not been put into legislation yet, representatives from the narcotics bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said those arrested for possession of about an ounce of marijuana would face a $250.00 fine for their first offense. Previously, they would have faced up to one year of incarceration. Possession crimes involving heroin, cocaine, or other drugs will have a three-year prison term associated with them instead of four.

Drug crimes can be serious offenses. It is beneficial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in Illinois to protect your rights. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation about your specific matter.

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