Over the last decade the Cook County State’s Attorney Office and the Illinois General Assembly have worked to offer programs to first time offenders for drug and theft offenses. These First Offender Programs are designed to give minors the opportunity to keep charges off of their record after completing the program’s activities.
However, until earlier this year, there were no programs offered for men and women under the age of 21 caught with firearms. Illinois started the First Time Weapon Offender Program because authorities recognized that young adults may make poor choices, but that these choices do not need to define who these children will grow into. The diversionary program aims to prevent further poor decisions from being made while under the supervision of the State.
In establishing the First Time Weapon Offender Program (730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.6), the General Assembly states:
“The General Assembly has sought to promote public safety, reduce recidivism, and conserve valuable resources of the criminal justice system through the creation of diversion programs for non-violent offenders. This amendatory Act of the 100th General Assembly establishes a pilot program for first-time, non-violent offenders charged with certain weapons offenses. The General Assembly recognizes some persons, particularly young adults in areas of high crime or poverty, may have experienced trauma that contributes to poor decision making skills, and the creation of a diversionary program poses a greater benefit to the community and the person than incarceration. Under this program, a court, with the consent of the defendant and the State’s Attorney, may sentence a defendant charged with an unlawful use of weapons offense under Section 24-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012 or aggravated unlawful use of a weapon offense under Section 24-1.6 of the Criminal Code of 2012, if punishable as a Class 4 felony or lower, to a First Time Weapon Offender Program.”
Due to the number of gun deaths in Chicago the program is somewhat controversial, but it appears the State is aware that young men and women carry guns for protection and often do not receive the education nor the training necessary on how to legally carry weapons in Illinois.
During the 18-to-24-month program, the defendant must meet a number of conditions. The defendant must:
- Not violate any criminal statutes
- Refrain from possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon
- Obtain or attempt to obtain employment
- Attend educational courses preparing the defendant to obtain a high school degree, GED, or courses toward the completion of a vocational training program
- Refrain from having in his or her body any illicit drug unless prescribed by a physician
- Perform a minimum of 50 hours of community service
- Attend and participate in program activities
- Pay all fines, assessments, fees, and costs
If a defendant is eligible for the First Time Weapon Offender Program, it is a great option for getting a case dismissed from their record. However, a defendant is not eligible for the program if he or she:
- Committed the offense during the commission of a violent offense
- Has previously been convicted or placed on probation or conditional discharge for any violent offense
- Had a prior successful completion of the First Time Weapon Offender Program
- Has previously been adjudicated a delinquent minor for the commission of a violent offense
- Is under the age of 21
- Has an existing order of protection issued against him or her
If you or a loved one are charged with a gun offense and you qualify for the program you should contact an attorney to discuss your options. Call or email Richard Fenbert at Fenbert & Associates, LLC for a free consultation.