Redesign Criminal Processes
Criminal processes can be improved by emphasizing less harmful system responses to violation at every point in the system, including police deflection of arrests and prosecutorial diversion. To do this, expansive and effective diversion mechanisms will be required that acknowledge and address the reasons people carry guns, providing opportunities to address the true drivers of gun possession while also safely reducing incarceration trauma and felony barriers, especially for youth and young adults.
Bring Transparency, Fairness and Community Voice to Charging Decisions in Gun Cases
Prosecutors’ exclusive collaboration with law enforcement during charging leads to criminalizing survivorship; exclusion of community voice; incomplete information in developing bond requests; and reliance on faulty tools such as gang databases in decision-making. It can be unclear to the public who will be charged, for what, and how that is decided, reducing public input – and confidence – in prosecutorial policymaking. Overcharging can include felony treatment of Concealed Carry License (CCL)-only violations – that is, cases where a person has a valid FOID card; felony charges for cases that could be charged as misdemeanors; and disparities in how expired/out-of-state license issues are handled throughout the state.
- Increase transparency around the charging process
- Create a mechanism for ensuring community voice in the charging and court processes
- Reverse the presumption that gun possession cases should be charged as harshly as possible; instead, begin with the presumption that any gun possession case that can be charged as misdemeanors should be
- Better analyze statewide data regarding who is arrested and charged, disaggregated by race, age, and arrest location for all gun offenses
Diversion programs are often so small in scale and so rarely used as to be unknown even to some frontline prosecutors, not to mention judges and defense counsel, in the handful of Illinois jurisdictions where they exist.
Expand and Encourage Diversion and Deferred Prosecution in Gun Possession Cases
State’s attorneys have virtually unlimited general diversion power through the use of their prosecutorial discretion. But diversion programs are often so small in scale and so rarely used as to be unknown even to some frontline prosecutors, not to mention judges and defense counsel, in the handful of Illinois jurisdictions where they exist.
- Expand successful diversion programs based on research-based best practices
- Encourage training and education on public safety data supporting diversion as well as specific local diversion programs
- Extend and expand the First Time Weapon Offender Program
Implement Systems to Detect Cases Involving Unlawful Police Conduct As Soon As These Cases Enter the System
Prosecutors are missing, or not looking for, illegal searches and arrests at the felony review stage, even though gun possession cases, which often begin with warrantless stops and searches, are rife with such abuses.
Cases where illegal stops and searches are eventually detected and litigated can still take months to reach this resolution, greatly impacting the lives of people who have been charged.
Excluded evidence is supposed to deter unconstitutional conduct on the part of government officials – but without timely and consistent suppression litigation, this does not occur.
- Implement mechanisms to review Fourth Amendment issues separate from pre-trial discovery process
- Create a mechanism for court practitioners to collect and identify patterns of police misconduct
- Issue real consequences for police witnesses’ failures to appear–and other state delays
- Eliminate pretextual stops and consent searches in practice and in law