On July 29, 2016, Governor Rauner signed SB 2228, which changes the sentence for possession of small amounts of marijuana from jail time to a fine, usually between $100-$200. The change will reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on incarcerating prisoners, as well as the strain on the court system. However, since the offenses in question were formerly criminal in nature, there is no law on the books that addresses them now that they are civil. To work around this problem until legislation can be passed, the Illinois Supreme Court has issued several new procedural rules to use in the interim.
The decision to decriminalize possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was implemented officially on September 1, and will have positive effects on the state’s budget if the financial impact analysis performed by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (ISPAC) holds up. In order to help the adjustments to the law be processed smoothly by both state employees and offenders, though, regulations have been propagated by the Supreme Court to ensure that the process is respected.
Supreme Court Rules 585-590 were adopted in September 2016, and each specifically delineates procedures by which civil marijuana possession citations can be disposed of. Rule 585 merely establishes that the rules are applicable to civil actions, but Rules 586-590 govern aspects of procedure that the average person may be unaware of and should know if they are issued a citation for possession.
Rule 586 sets the guidelines for appearances, which will usually happen between 30 and 45 days after the violation. It also sets out the amount of the fine in most situations—$120—though extenuating circumstances may adjust the amount upward or downward. This also ties into Rule 588, which sets out that you do not have to actually make an appearance if you admit the violation and pay the fine (which you can do online). Since Rule 586 allows proceedings to go on without the presence of the citing officer, if the offender pays the fine, it can save both administrative costs and time in court.
Rule 587 establishes the procedure by which someone can contest the violation, if they do choose to do so. The procedure is fairly similar to that of traffic tickets, with a timeline being given for how long you have to inform the court—usually 10 business days. If you do so in time, the appearance date will be pushed back, and you may have your day in court. Rule 590 establishes the court’s right to collect judgment from anyone who declines to contest or pay the relevant fine. This may seem obvious, but authority must be established for the civil court to be able to enforce the Supreme Court’s regulations.
Consult an Experienced Attorney
Possession of small amounts of marijuana may be decriminalized, but it does not mean it is legal. Therefore, if you are cited under this new law or charged with possession of a greater amount, you still may be in need of an attorney. The knowledgeable Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are well versed in this area of law, and are staying on top of developments as legislation and Supreme Court regulations continue to evolve. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.
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