In addition to the changes to the juvenile justice system that we discussed earlier this month, a handful of changes to Illinois' criminal code took effect on Jan. 1. It may take some time to see the effects of some of the changes, as they address more behind-the-scenes operations (for example, more and improved police training). Other changes, however, will have an immediate effect on how suspects are treated, how crimes are prosecuted and the penalties for certain crimes.
Police body cameras, of course, have been in the headlines following some high-profile incidents in Chicago. The new law establishes rules and regulations for the use of body cameras but does not require police departments to use the cameras. Officers in departments that opt in will have to record every law enforcement activity they are involved in, with two exceptions: conversations with a confidential informant and conversations with a victim or witness who specifically asks that the interaction not be recorded. When in someone's home, officers must inform those present that they are being recorded.
Police may not use chokeholds unless deadly force is justified.
The processing of rape kits has also been in the headlines lately. The nationwide backlog was about 400,000 kits in September 2014. According to National Public Radio, about 4,000 of those are awaiting processing in Illinois. As a result, the General Assembly changed the statute of limitations for sexual assault.
The statute will still run for 10 years, but the clock will not start until the rape kit is processed. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the alleged offense and stops on the day charges are filed. On the one hand, this means that, at the current rate of completing the testing, someone suspected of the crime may have to live under that cloud for 14 years. On the other hand, by waiting until DNA evidence is available, law enforcement may be less likely to rush to judgment.
The extended statute of limitations does not mean that someone suspected of sexual assault should wait to talk to an attorney.
Chicago Tribune, "New 2016 Illinois laws: Police body camera fee, gay conversion therapy ban," Monique Garcia, Jan. 2, 2016
Claims Journal, "Many New Illinois Laws In Effect Next Year Deal With Safety," Dec. 31, 2015