More Non-Violent Offenders Eligible for Probation

Published: Feb 24, 2017, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

A new law that went into effect at the start of this year helps make more non-violent offenders eligible for probation in Illinois. The law was originally known as Senate Bill 3124 and is a part of the ongoing effort to reform the criminal justice system in the state. Senate Bill 3124 works to make probation the preferred sentencing option for a wide range of non-violent, low-level offenders.

If you have questions about a criminal charge or possible sentence, contact our experienced criminal justice attorney today at 312-909-0706. We will evaluate your situation and help you understand your options.

Illinois is Attempting to Decrease Its Prison Population

Illinois prisons are among the most overcrowded in the United States, with the Department of Bureau of Justice Statistics estimating in 2015 that the state’s prisons were operating at more than 150 percent of capacity. The situation has become so difficult that in 2015 Governor Bruce Rauner created the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, with a stated goal to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025. The provisions of Senate Bill 3124 are part of the plan to reach the goal of a reduced prison population.

Probation is Now the Preferred Sentence for Some Offenders

Under the new law, before a judge can sentence certain low-level non-violent offenders to a term in prison the judge is required to review and consider the presentence report prepared regarding the defendant. If the judge still believes that a prison term is a necessary penalty for the defendant there must be an explanation of the reason why probation or a conditional discharge is not an appropriate sentence. In essence, the law now provides that in certain circumstances probation is the preferred sentence for a non-violent defendant and a judge must provide a clear explanation for why a prison sentence is appropriate instead.

Senate Bill 3124 Targets Class 3 and Class 4 Felony Convictions

The statutory preference for probation is directed towards defendants who have no prior sentences of probation or conditional discharge and no prior convictions for a violent crime. As originally introduced in the Illinois General Assembly the law would have applied to defendants convicted of any offense, but was later amended to apply only to defendants convicted of Class 3 and Class 4 felonies. Those felonies are considered low-level offenses and include possession of controlled substances, certain theft offenses and driving with a revoked license. According to a press release made by the governor’s office outlining criminal justice reform measures, nearly 60 percent of new prison admissions in 2015 for Class 3 and Class 4 felonies had no prior convictions for violent crimes.

How a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

As Illinois attempts to decrease the number of inmates in its prisons, it has become less likely that a conviction for a low-level non-violent felony will lead to a prison term. However, the sentence is still up to a judge’s discretion and a felony conviction remains incredibly damaging both personally and professionally. If you’ve been charged with a non-violent felony you will want a skilled and knowledgeable Chicago criminal defense attorney on your side.

Attorney Michael O’Meara has more than 20 years of legal experience and has defended his clients on a wide range of criminal charges. Call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case.