Misdemeanors account for the vast majority of criminal dockets in courts in Illinois and around the country. Public defenders, prosecutors and courts struggle to keep up with the pace of frequent misdemeanor arrests.
A pilot program in Illinois that is supposed to run until the end of 2018 permits some patients to use medical marijuana. While the state's Controlled Substances Act makes possessing, cultivating, selling or trafficking marijuana a crime, if a person has less than 2.5 grams of cannabis, it is considered a Class C misdemeanor and the person will simply be required to pay a fine. Laws about drugs such as heroin and cocaine are much stricter.
On May 17, the Illinois Senate passed a bill that would allow sick students to use medical marijuana while attending school. The bill, which passed by a vote of 50-2, has been forwarded to Gov. Bruce Rauner for approval. It isn't yet known if he will sign it.
Illinois residents lose their driver's licenses for six months after being convicted of DUI for the first time, but they may seek to have their driving privileges reinstated after 31 days by obtaining a Monitoring Device Driving Permit. Obtaining a MDDP involves installing an ignition interlock device, and Illinois also requires cameras that are used to ensure that breath samples are provided by the offender and not a friend, relative or acquaintance.
More than one in five people behind bars in America have not been convicted of a crime. These alleged offenders throughout Illinois and the rest of the U.S. sit in jail while they await trial. The nation's system of cash bail has been criticized by social advocacy groups for being unfairly harsh on poor defendants, and a study conducted by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and Princeton seems to add weight to these claims. The researchers scrutinized tax and court records to determine how pretrial detention affected the outcome of criminal cases. They found that pretrial release decreases the likelihood of a guilty verdict by 14 percent.
The 1st District Illinois Appellate Court recently handed law enforcement officials a defeat. The court ruled in a 2 to 1 decision that a portion of the state's drunk driving law is unconstitutional. The appeals court said that police officers investigating DUI cases must obtain a warrant before drawing blood or obtaining urine samples from drivers suspected of being impaired.