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Zalewski reworks crime bill, lowers some non-gun penalties

Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013

* From a press release…

Renewing his efforts to help Illinois get smart on crime, State Rep. Mike Zalewski has introduced a larger package of bills to address shortcomings in Illinois’ criminal laws from juvenile sentencing and theft to gun and drug crimes.

Zalewski, D-Riverside, fervently worked through a number of concerns about Senate Bill 1342, known as the mandatory minimum sentences bill for gun felonies. He won rare support for his changes from the National Rifle Association and gun-rights legislators but ultimately the bill remained in the House at the conclusion of the General Assembly’s veto session.

Since the session ended a month ago, Zalewski has worked through opponents’ concerns and developed this package of bills to take head on complaints that the mandatory minimum sentences approach would not address broader problems in Illinois’ penal system. The new bills would:

    * Clarify that a factor for the charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon is if the person charged committed a crime as a juvenile that would draw a forcible felony charge if it had been committed as an adult, rather than any felony

    * Increase the threshold for being charged with retail theft under state law from $300 to $500, with full repayment required to the merchant

    * Increase the threshold for enhanced penalties from being charged with theft from $500 to $1,000

    * Expand the possible use of electronic monitoring devices when suspects are released on bail or their own recognizance

    * Require defendants to be released on their own recognizance when charged with possessing less than 1 gram of heroin or cocaine, or less than 10 grams of marijuana

“I’m still committed to seeing our state put the worst of the worst behind bars when they intend to commit serious crimes with guns,” Zalewski said. “But I also recognize we have to get smarter on crime, not just tougher. I’m hopeful these changes will spur a good discussion about how we can ease the burden on our swamped prison system while making sure that we’re putting those who need such serious punishment behind bars.”

The I-bonds for small possession is promising. Too many people are allowed to languish behind bars because they can’t make bail.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Stones - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    People need to remember that the use of electronic monitoring comes at a cost of approximately $10 per day. Even though the offender is usually supposed to cover that cost they often cannot. Also electronic monitoring does not ensure that someone will not engage in the behavior that put them on monitoring in the first place. It’s a tool but not a solution or substitute to incarceration.

  2. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 11:50 am:

    These ideas might need someone stronger to carry them.

  3. - DJ - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 12:06 pm:

    This is a great start but doesn’t go far enough. But a great first step

  4. - Joan P. - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 12:16 pm:

    “Increase the threshold for being charged with retail theft under state law from $300 to $500, with full repayment required to the merchant”

    I think this must mean “charged with FELONY retail theft”.

    “The I-bonds for small possession is promising.”

    Right now, there is supposed to be a presumption for I-bonds. The bail statute says it should be “liberally construed” to rely on contempt of court or criminal proceedings rather than financial loss to ensure the defendant’s appearance.

    Unfortunately, most judges ignore that.

    So why limit the “required” language to minor drug possession? Why not all non-violent offenses, and least where the defendant has no prior criminal history? Those people are probably going to be placed on probation anyway, if convicted, and it would minimize the far too frequent situation where people plead guilty just to get out of jail.

  5. - Joan P. - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 12:24 pm:

    @ Stones -

    $10? Do you know what the cost of locking someone up in the Cook County Jail is? Nearly 15 times that, more if the person is mentally ill. Even if the county never collects one red cent from someone released on electronic monitoring, it would be a huge cost savings.

    That said, one problem with electronic monitoring is that some systems require the use of a landline. As many people move to having cell phones as their only phone, systems that can be used with cellular technology need to be put in place.

  6. - Stones - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 12:36 pm:

    Joan P. - Yes, I am keenly aware of the cost of incarceration in a county facility versus electronic monitoring. My main point is that electronic monitoring is not a substitute to incarceration. If someone wants to commit a crime while on electronic monitoring the system will not stop them whereas incarceration will. It should be used as a tool by the judicial system but it is not a solution.

    I might add that statewide Illinois is nowhere near developing any standard protocols for electronic monitoring between police agencies. There is much work to do if this ever becomes the law.

  7. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 1:03 pm:

    “Package” of bills, plural.

    So, retains Rahm’s mandatory minimums and proposes additional reform bills that can quietly die later?

    Which opponents is that supposed to satisfy?

  8. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 1:05 pm:

    Two amendments:

    1) For the purpose of political representation, Illinois’ incarcerated shall be counted were they lived before being incarcerated.

    No more diluting political power of minority groups. No more inflating the political power of prison communities.

    2) Any increase in sentences for gun crimes has to be paid for–at least 25% of the cost–by a new tax on ammunition.

  9. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 1:55 pm:

    For non violent criminals, I support monitoring. Except for habitual criminals.

    While we have people in prison, why not defray the costs by requiring them to earn their keep. They can run a garden, make things, do labor, anything that makes them responsible for their upkeep. It may lead to life skills they lack and actually give them something they can use in society when they earn release.

  10. - Yossarian Lives - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:08 pm:

    My thought? That is one confusing and badly written press release.

  11. - John - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:14 pm:

    “REQUIRE defendants to be released on their own recognizance…” Way to go Rep. Zalewski! The elected legislative branch closest to the people must force the courts and the unelected police bureaucracy to let nonviolent offenders bail out.

    Anyone who has ever laid eyes on Cook County jail, would have to be totally lacking in pity to think a kid should spend a weekend there because he didn’t have $100 in his pocket to make bail after he got caught with some pot.

    The criminal “justice” system in IL has become the modern day Jim Crow merged with a police state control system. Much of the IDOC population is black, and most of the prisons are located in small towns in mostly white areas. With little industrial base left thanks to free trade, the prisons, (fed by the cops & courts) become the biggest employer in the area.

    Look at Harrisburg, home of the Illinois Youth Authority juvenile prison. That must be a large employer in Saline County. That’s a lot of voters invested in the police state.

    Understand this dynamic and understand why Rep. Brandon Phelps placed Duty to Inform in his carry bill. Creating the new “crime” of DTI makes a lot of new “business” for the cops and courts.

  12. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:15 pm:

    I’m with WalkinFool. This guy has been all over the block. I’m not sure what the game plan here is other than more press releases.

    –People need to remember that the use of electronic monitoring comes at a cost of approximately $10 per day.–

    Duly noted. Next!

  13. - countyline - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:30 pm:

    -2) Any increase in sentences for gun crimes has to be paid for–at least 25% of the cost–by a new tax on ammunition.-

    There’s a poison pill if I ever saw one…

  14. - Ken_in_Aurora - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:38 pm:

    ===Any increase in sentences for gun crimes has to be paid for–at least 25% of the cost–by a new tax on ammunition.===

    I assume that you also think we should pay for domestic abuse incarceration with an increase in the liquor tax, and for arson sentences with a new gasoline tax, too?

    Care to justify taxing legal uses to pay for illegal abuses?

  15. - Anon - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:43 pm:

    Bonds are set based on danger to the community AND to secure defendant’s presence in court. Very few people charged with

  16. - Guzzlepot - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 2:46 pm:

    If possession of small amounts of weed isn’t a serious enough crime to merit incarceration it probably shouldn’t be a crime at all.

  17. - Amalia - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 3:13 pm:

    January 1 is coming, and with that, any one of us can travel to Colorado and buy a quarter once of weed per day, if we pay a price that includes 25% tax. local residents can buy more per day than the quarter ounce out of state resident limit.

    time for Illinois to get with the program. Marijuana is legal in the City of Denver as of Jan. 1. The Denver Post now has a pot editor and is looking for a pot critic. that’s how legit it is.

    move that kind of bill and I’ll be impressed.

  18. - Todd - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 3:20 pm:

    I’m in a deer blind today will read it later mike has tried to work with us but Carl that ammo tax ain’t gonna fly

  19. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    Have a great day Todd. Hope you got some heated socks on. It’s colder than a …

  20. - Rod - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    Why does Zalewski think so called getting smart on crime legislation will have any pay off in the 21st legislative district? Since his district is a majority Hispanic doesn’t it seem possible that eventually he can be targeted for defeat by a Hispanic Democrat who is supportive of gun owners rights.

  21. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 4:49 pm:

    ==who is supportive of gun owners rights. ==

    What is anti-gun owners rights about this bill????

  22. - John - Tuesday, Dec 10, 13 @ 6:57 pm:

    In 1995 it was Republican governor George Ryan who insisted that simple UUW be a felony, and refused to sign the bill if it was not. Who knows how many otherwise decent folks such as landlords collecting rent, etc. now have a felony conviction and can never again own a gun. What did NRA or ISRA do about that?

    “He won rare support for his changes from the National Rifle Association…” When has the NRA not been in bed with the expansion of the police state anyway? Who is “the NRA” in IL? Looks like it comes down to one contract lobbyist, doing whatever he wants without supervision from headquarters.

    The gun rubes don’t understand that if they get arrested for any gun offense, or the newly created “crime” of Duty to Inform in Phelps carry bill, before trial they will get a letter in the mail from the State Police suspending their FOID card & carry license.

    Since Vandermyde apparently does the bidding of the Chiefs of Police, among other police unions, as proved by inserting Duty to Inform in Rep. Phelps so-called “good” carry bill, NRA law-and-order types might want to contact Chris Cox or Chuck Cunningham at NRA/ILA and let them know what they think about gun crime penalty enhancements, B4 they get caught in the meat grinder along with those nasty Chicago criminals.

  23. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 11, 13 @ 9:53 am:


    So, what exactly would you support in terms of penalties for unlawfully having a gun? I don’t think you should be thrown in jail but should we just say “Oops, you broke the law, but don’t worry about any penalties for it.” And I would think that if you get arrested for a gun offense they might, you know, want to suspend your FOID and carry license. What’s wrong with that? And what exactly is your problem with the Duty to Inform? It’s a bad idea to have to say “Hey, my gun is missing.” I don’t understand this view that people have (such as yourself) that seems to say that any gun laws are bad.

    And you obviously don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about if you think Todd is a “rube.” I’m assuming you think he’s a “rube” because he actually has some common sense about things unlike you.

  24. - John - Wednesday, Dec 11, 13 @ 7:02 pm:

    A lot of questions here, which requires some legal definitions to answer.

    “Unlawfully having a gun” can be different from UUW: Unlawful Use of Weapons as it’s named in the IL criminal code. Some people can’t legally “have” or possess firearms at all, like convicted felons. Since the criminal code of 1961 was adopted, about the last 50 years, there was no provision for citizens to carry a gun in public, with some narrow exceptions: home, fixed place of business, hunting, etc. Then IL adopted the FOID card, which is really registration of gun owners.

    Cops on and off duty in IL are almost totally exempt from UUW restrictions, and may carry guns off duty and outside their jurisdictions. There is no provision in IL law to suspend the police power to arrest for cops when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as there is in the majority of other states. A cop who consumes alcohol hanging out in a bar off-duty, who is over the legal limit, may be armed under IL law, and for example may get in an altercation and attempt to arrest a private citizen, and not be charged with a crime. This may contribute to additional dangers for armed citizens interacting with cops off-duty and out of uniform, which the Duty to Inform provision of Phelps bill will aggravate. More on that later.

    Under the new HB183 carry law, if a citizen consumes alcohol, for example, to the point where their blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, then gets in an altercation and shoots another party, even if the shooting is considered legally justified by the court, they can be criminally charged under the carry act for being intoxicated at the time of the shooting, thus invalidating their carry license. They can then be charged with UUW, and this opens up the possibility of committing a “gun crime” and that’s where these get-tough-on-crime mandatory minimum sentences come into play, and Joe NRA, acting in an otherwise legally justifiable manner, ends up in prison because of mandatory sentencing laws, which take decisions away from the jury system, or “we the people” so to speak.

    The rubes, or many NRA supporters, do not understand that the criminal justice system could actually be turned against them, and that it is actually in the interest of the NRA lobbyist to pass bad and complex bills, where they are the cannon fodder for future NRA lawsuits. Nowhere does it state that NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde is a rube. He is the pied piper to the NRA rubes, those too uneducated, naïve, or lazy to read the bills he helps to write with Rep. Brandon Phelps and others.

    So the discussion of different gun penalties for different classes of citizens must start with the understanding that cops are almost totally above the law in many ways when it comes to gun offenses. In effect America is becoming an almost feudal society with different set of laws, creating different and unequal classes of people, and an almost permanent underclass of people in the prisons.

    Duty to Inform does not refer to lost and stolen guns, if that’s what you mean. DTI is a newly created criminal offense in Phelps carry bill that forces armed citizens to announce they are armed if asked by an “officer.” Only problem is, who’s an officer? The guy in line at the Aldi with long hair and biker tattoos who shoved you? Actually, he’s a deep cover cop, who is armed and not under direct supervision, and just feels like starting a fight with you today. After he shoots you, when the on-duty cops show up, he will claim that he displayed his badge (which he did not) announced he was a police officer (which he did not) and that you made a fast move towards your waistband (which was for your carry license). After you are dead and your family claims the body, he may very well get away with it in court. That’s why Ohio grassroots activists have been trying to repeal DTI for several years. Here in IL, the NRA lobbyist provided DTI language to sponsor Brandon Phelps for his carry bill, and Phelps refused to take it out. The dyamic duo in action.

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Want to learn how DTI works for taxpayers in the real world? Watch the video of Canton, OH officer Daniel Harless in action. Enjoy “the cop heard round the world.”

  25. - John - Thursday, Dec 12, 13 @ 9:58 pm:

    Demoralized- Forgot to answer one of your questions: “…if you get arrested for a gun offense they might, you know, want to suspend your FOID and carry license. What’s wrong with that?”

    It’s called innocent until proven guilty. Remember high school history class? Check the Magna Charta 1215 A.D. An arrest is an accusation of guilt. Doesn’t mean someone actually committed the crime.

    Talk to Stanley Wrice, who just got out of IL state prison according to the Sun-Times, “He’d been in prison for 31 years after he said he was forced to confess to a brutal 1982 gang rape after being tortured by detectives working under now-disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.”

    Try not to be so flip with other people’s rights. Your attitude might benefit by spending a night in jail sometime.

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