New state legislation reduces penalties for juvenile offenders

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2021 | criminal defense

Illinois’ Procedural Justice for Youth Act went into effect on August 13, 2021. The Act reduces the mandatory minimum sentences of convicted juveniles. As reported by WAND-TV news, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3513 into law as part of Illinois’ criminal justice reform initiatives.

The signed bill changes how judges calculate sentences for convicted teenagers. Prior to the Procedural Justice for Youth Act, mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines gave younger offenders longer sentences than older teenagers convicted of the same offense.

How the change affects violent and habitual juvenile offenders

Illinois law defines a violent juvenile offender as an individual under 18 who engaged in an act that would result in Class 2 or greater felony charges if an adult committed the same offense. As noted by CBS Chicago, prosecutors must show that an individual used physical force or threat to convict a defendant of a Class 2 offense such as vehicle hijacking.

To classify as a habitual juvenile offender requires proof that a minor engaged in an act that would result in Class 2 or greater felony charges at least twice. With the passing of HB 3513, juvenile offenders classified as either violent or habitual will no longer stay in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice system until they reach the age of 21.

Changes in penalties while incarcerated

The new legislation modernizes Illinois’ methods for penalizing juvenile offenders by establishing guidelines matching national incarceration standards. Under the new state guidelines, the Illinois DJJ may no longer confine teenagers to a room or subject them to isolation as punishment for poor behavior.

The changes seek to transform the juvenile justice system so there is a better chance of a successful return to society. They may help lessen the negative impact that youthful mistakes and incarceration have on an offender’s ability to navigate a positive path forward.

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