Illinois State Rep. Zalewski to Push Mandatory Minimum Anti-Crime Package at Hearing

Post Date: February 24, 2014

(The Illinois Observer) An Illinois lawmaker is seeking to win approval of an anti-crime legislative package from a key House committee this week.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) will be presenting his “smart on crime” package at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Zalewski aims to move forward on the Illinois mandatory minimum sentences initiative for serious gun crimes, an issue that has lingered after stalling during the fall 2013 veto session.

Since the fall, Zalewski claims to have worked through opponents’ concerns and says this package of bills address complaints that the mandatory minimum sentences approach would ignore broader problems in Illinois’ penal system. Additionally, he won “rare support” for his changes from the National Rifle Association and gun-rights legislators.

“I’m still committed to seeing our state put the worst of the worst behind bars when they intend to commit serious crimes with guns,” Zalewski said. “But I also recognize we have to get smarter on crime, not just tougher.”

Zalewski says the bills (HB 3770HB 3771HB 3773) aim to deal with “shortcomings” in Illinois’ criminal laws from juvenile sentencing and theft to gun and drug crimes:

  • Clarify that a factor for the charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon is if the person charged committed a crime as a juvenile that would draw a forcible felony charge if it had been committed as an adult, rather than any felony
  • Increase the threshold for being charged with retail theft under state law from $300 to $500, with full repayment required to the merchant
  • Increase the threshold for enhanced penalties from being charged with theft from $500 to $1,000
  • Expand the possible use of electronic monitoring devices when suspects are released on bail or their own recognizance
  • Require defendants to be released on their own recognizance when charged with possessing less than 1 gram of heroin or cocaine, or less than 10 grams of marijuana

Experts will testify on Wednesday about the impact of the bills and how “they could help to reprioritize who is ending up in the state prison system”, according to Zalewski.

“I’m hopeful these changes will spur a good discussion about how we can ease the burden on our swamped prison system while making sure that we’re putting those who need such serious punishment behind bars,” said Zalewski.

The committee hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Room C-1 of the Stratton Building. Read more