Chicago mayor urges reduced penalties for certain drug crimes

In a speech to the Illinois House-Senate Criminal Justice Reform Committee, the mayor of Chicago urged lawmakers to consider reducing the penalties for low-level drug crimes. According to the mayor, money is being spent to punish non-violent drug offenders and keep them in jail, but these efforts have not reduced drug use. He believes that this money and amount of effort could be better spent on focusing on other types of criminal activity.

For the last two years, police officers and suburban communities with discreet authority in Chicago have been able to issue tickets to marijuana smokers with only a small amount of the drug in their possession. Chicago's mayor believes that this is an option that should be given to law enforcement throughout Illinois with the creation of a state law.

The proposed law would allow officers to give anyone found to be in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana a ticket and fine instead of making the individual face jail time. Additionally, the law would reduce possession of a gram or less of a controlled substance to a Class A misdemeanor down from a Class 4 felony. According to the mayor, this would create more room in jails for those incarcerated due to more violent or harmful offenses.

If someone is charged with drug possession, especially if it is their first time facing this offense, there may be programs available that help them avoid the full penalties for conviction. Alternatively, a criminal law attorney may be able to arrange for a plea bargain that helps an individual avoid jail time.

Source: WLS, "Mayor: Reduce penalties for minor drug cases in IL", September 23, 2014

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