Monday, April 22, 2013

NEW HOPE FOR ILLINOIS FIRST-TIME FELONY DEFENDANTS: THE OFFENDER INITIATIVE PROGRAM

You’ve never been in trouble before. It’s bad enough you were arrested, but even worse, your first offense is a felony. Maybe it was for shoplifting or taking drugs, something that you swear you would never do again. Fortunately, Illinois has a new program that may help you put those criminal charges behind you.

As of January 1, 2013, the Offender Initiative Program allows certain types of first-time felony defendants to avoid a conviction on certain conditions. The Program only applies to first-time offenders for non-violent crimes such as retail theft, motor vehicle theft, burglary or drug possession. Your offense must be eligible for probation, and you may need an attorney to help you get into the Program.

The Program does not apply to any type of violent crime such as domestic battery, stalking, sex crimes, hate crimes, possessing a weapon or even DUI. If you have a prior felony probation or a conviction, you cannot participate.

If you are eligible for the Program, the proceedings against you will be put on hold for at least a year while you participate in the program. You will be ordered not to violate any other criminal laws (including traffic offenses), take drugs or possess a weapon. You may have to pay back anything you took or damaged. You may be ordered to hold a job, perform community service, take classes, get counseling or undergo drug testing.

If you stay on track, the charges against you could be dismissed. You will still need to petition for an expungement to get your criminal record completely erased. If you fail the program, you will again face the original felony charges.

If you are charged with a felony or other crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case to determine the best possible strategy for handling your case. While the Program may be ideal in many situations, it may not always be your best option. Maybe the evidence against you is weak, and you would be better off winning a dismissal. Even if the program is right for you, an attorney can help insure that you are allowed to participate.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. Source: 730 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/5-6-3.3.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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