Governor Approves Last In Series Of Bills Streamlining Illinois Criminal Code


CHICAGO- A nearly 8-year, bipartisan effort to reduce the complexity of the Illinois Criminal Code concluded on Monday with Gov. Pat Quinn's signature on the last of a series of bills making the criminal laws more readable, understandable, consistent and just.

Drafted by the Criminal Law Edit, Alignment and Reform (CLEAR) Commission, the outdated and sometimes redundant Criminal Code of 1961 has been reduced by about one-third and transformed into the less complicated and easier to comprehend Illinois Criminal Code of 2012.

Co-chaired by former Gov. James R. Thompson and former Illinois Appellate Court Justice Gino L. DiVito, the CLEAR Commission was formed in late 2004 and has been composed of legislators, the Attorney General, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement representatives and other experts in the criminal justice system.

"Commission members volunteered their time conducting a meticulous review of every line of the Criminal Code, stripping away portions that had been ruled unconstitutional and reordering the statutes without changing the crimes and punishments enacted in the past," Thompson, who was one of the authors of the 1961 Code, said. "By making our laws easier to understand and free of conflicting and even unconstitutional provisions, this new code should make mistakes in criminal trials less likely."

The code had been so complex the rewrite had to be approached in segments, and the first of the CLEAR Commission's 11 bills was presented to the General Assembly in 2006.

The final bills signed by Quinn were:
House Bill 2582 makes several technical changes, including updated cross-references throughout the code, adds mental states for certain crimes and removes civil violations from the Criminal Code.

House Bill 3366 combines into one article all crimes against children, which previously were scattered throughout the Criminal Code.

"Year after year and decade after decade, so many changes had been made to the Illinois Criminal Code that it sometimes puzzled and tripped up the most experienced lawyers," said former Justice DiVito. "It became so tangled in knots that nearly all involved in the criminal justice system wanted to see it changed, but every proposed change carried the risk of unintended consequences and sometimes further complications.

"Fortunately, the CLEAR Commission provided a place where all sides could share ideas and deliberate changes with the same goals, and we had the active involvement and cooperation of both party caucuses in the House and Senate."

The accomplishments of the CLEAR Commission also included the creation of the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC). Created by legislation recommended by the CLEAR Commission in 2009, SPAC—the membership of which mirrors the diverse stakeholders on CLEAR-- collects data and conducts comprehensive analyses to help the Governor and General Assembly make informed decisions about changes in the criminal justice system. Created as a temporary council in 2009, Gov. Quinn recently signed House Bill 4031, which extended SPAC's sunset repeal date to Dec. 31, 2015.

The chief sponsors of HB 2582 were Reps. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago; Dennis Reboletti; and William Davis, D-Hazel Crest; and Sens. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, and John J. Millner, R-Schaumburg.

The chief sponsors of HB 3366 were Reps. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs; Esther Golar, D-Chicago; Randy Ramey, Jr., R-Carol Stream; Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan; and Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica; and Sens. Dillard, Millner and John M. Sullivan, D-Rushville.

The work of the CLEAR Commission was accomplished with technical assistance provided by The Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States and the Vera Institute of Justice. Financial and in-kind support was provided by the Bank One Foundation; the Chicago Bar Foundation; the Field Foundation; David Heller, Illinois Bar Foundation; the JEHT Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; Mayer Brown LLP; the New Prospect Foundation; Pew Charitable Trusts; the Rockit Fund, the Steans Family Foundation; the University of Chicago Law School; the Wieboldt Foundation; Winston & Strawn LLP; and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

The CLEAR Initiative was developed by staff at Metropolis Strategies (formerly Chicago Metropolis 2020), a business-based civic organization promoting long-term planning and smart investment in the Chicago region and working for better outcomes in our legal and corrections systems.
For more information about the CLEAR Commission, visit

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