It is not easy being a young person in Illinois these days. For example, when I was a kid, if a police officer caught you with beer, the beer would be confiscated and your parents might be advised about it. Today, you would be arrested or cited for Underage Possession or Consumption of Alcohol and possibly face a driver’s license suspension, community service, a drug and alcohol evaluation, drug and alcohol education and/or treatment and other consequences. The same can be said of Speeding. If you speed more than 30 MPH over the posted speed limit, you are guilty of a Class B misdemeanor under Illinois law. This is so even if were driving on a large tollway with hardly any one else on the road. Speed 40 MPH over the posted speed limit and you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which is equivalent to a DUI, battery or even a Retail Theft charge. Speeding was not a crime years ago unless it constituted Reckless Driving. Possession of minor amounts of cannabis or drug paraphernalia also constitute crimes in Illinois. The Illinois statute relating to Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and many comparable village or city ordinances, carry with them a mandatory minimum fine of $750.00. Ironically, possession of a small amount of Cannabis might be less costly to a criminal defendant than possessing an item of drug paraphernalia.
The Illinois legislature has enacted scores of new laws over the past decade or two which have great consequences to Illinois youth. What used to be considered youthful or adolescent indiscretions are now considered crimes. If you are arrested and fingerprinted by a police officer in Illinois, there is a good chance an academic institution or prospective employer can gain access to said information. Moreover, colleges, graduate schools and employers do not always advise a prospective student or worker why they were not admitted to the institution or why they did not get the job they applied for. Thus, a school or work applicant might be excluded from admission or employment based on an arrest record and never be advised about it.
If you are charged with a crime in Illinois, especially if you have future scholastic or work ambitions, you need a good lawyer to minimize the impact of said crime on your future. In addition, many misdemeanor crimes, and even some drug-related felonies, are expungeable under Illinois law. Many criminal defendants who receive supervision on misdemeanors incorrectly believe that the arrest and/or guilty plea or finding will expunge automatically. This is not so. Arrests that are identifiable in law enforcement databases must be expunged. In addition, a criminal defendant that received supervision for an expungeable type of misdemeanor must wait a specific amount of time from when his or her sentence of supervision terminates satisfactorily and affirmatively file a Petition to Expunge the charge with the Clerk of the Court. Certain convictions can also be sealed.
The trend of the Illinois legislature to continue to enact new criminal violations will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Thus, it is important to know your rights and enforce them to protect your future.