QUINCY -- Changes in Illinois law that take effect next week should allow flexibility in sentencing in some drug cases while also allowing prosecutors another option to go after those dealing drugs.
Starting Monday, anyone convicted of a second felony methamphetamine charge will not be required to be sent to prison. It's one of more 200 new laws that take effect.
"They can still get prison, but they can also get probation, so we won't have to be modifying charges to fit someone into Drug Court for example," said Adams County State's Attorney Gary Farha.
Farha said the revision is line with a changing philosophy on drug addiction.
"The importance is to get them help, and get them off the drugs," he said. "We're at that point in time where drug addicts need to get treatment and get straight. Sometimes that does mean they have to go to prison, but it doesn't have to be that way."
A new option for prosecutors in Illinois allows them to charge someone with drug-induced homicide even if the delivery of the drugs to the person who dies took place in another state.
"Particularly for counties like Adams that are right across the river from Missouri or even Iowa, it's important, and we will utilize it," Farha said. "Hopefully, we won't have any deaths, but that's unrealistic with the rise of fentanyl and carfentanil."
The state's attorney's office charged three cases of drug-induced homicide in 2016 related to overdose deaths where heroin was laced with fentanyl.
Starting in 2018, it will be easier to have charges expunged, if the case is dismissed or if the person is acquitted. It can immediately be expunged and not require a two-year wait.
Juvenile delinquency finding records will also be automatically be sealed two years after the case is closed, except for more serious offenses including homicides, felony sex offenses and certain bodily harm offenses.
Farha noted there was little of the 27 recommendations from the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform enacted into law, but he expects more legislation from that next year.
The commission was formed in February 2015 with the directive from Gov. Bruce Rauner to make recommendation to reduce the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
Highlights of other laws taking effect Monday in Illinois
º Abortions will be covered for state workers and women on Medicaid, and ensures abortion remain legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
º Law enforcement officers will be required to undergo training on mental health systems and illnesses.
º Early childhood programs will need to find services to help young children to resolve problems instead of expelling them.
º When pets are considered marital assets, who gets custody can become part of divorce proceedings.
º Sixteen- and 17-year-olds will be allowed to register as organ and tissue donors.
º Corn is designated as the official state grain of Illinois.