Illinois Considers Expanding Program for First-Time Weapons Offenders

Governor Pritzker is considering expanding a program that allows first-time offenders to erase charges related to weapons possession. The law allowed those between the ages of 18 and 20 to participate in a program that, if successfully completed, would erase the charges from their record. The initiative is part of a broader effort to ensure the employability of young men in the Chicago area and across the state. 

The First Time Weapons Offender Program was passed in 2017 by a Democratic-controlled Congress as a five-year experiment. The program was extended again on a one-year basis, and now, it could be extended yet again. The new legislation would remove the age limit, shorten the probationary period, and allow the initiative to continue indefinitely. Thus far, however, the Governor has not signed the bill into law, so, as of now, the old provisions still remain on the books.

Eligibility for the First-Time Weapons Offender Program

To be eligible for the program, an offender must not have a previous criminal record. The weapon that they are charged with possessing must not have been used in a violent crime. Lastly, the offender must not have any pending orders of protection against them at the time of their arrest. 

Weapons charges on your criminal record can be difficult to overcome, which is why the legislation is considered important. It allows younger individuals who have otherwise clean records to avoid the potential black mark of a criminal conviction for weapons charges. 

Meanwhile, Illinois has some of the strictest gun-control laws of any state on the books. In many cases, weapons charges are felonies that can later trigger the charge of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. This charge is considered a class-2 felony that can have serious consequences for anyone who is convicted of the charge. This includes difficulty finding employment or rental housing, and in some cases, an offender can be prevented from acquiring licensing for certain jobs. Potential sentences for being a felon in possession of a weapon can range from three to 14 years. 

The First-Time Weapons Offender Program allows those with otherwise clean criminal records a reprieve from a felony charge related to weapons possession. It will also prevent the triggering of an unlawful use of a weapon by a felon charge if the offender is found in possession of a weapon again. 

At this point, it is unknown whether or not the Governor will sign the provisions into law. Illinois remains one of the toughest states in the country to possess a weapon. However, many of its newer laws are still under scrutiny on Constitutional challenges. With the crime rate soaring, it may be difficult to get legislation passed that appears to be “soft on crime.”

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

David Freidberg represents the rights of those who have been charged with serious weapons crimes. Call our office today at (312) 560-7100, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately. 

Contact Information