While every state in the union is a unique part of the tapestry that makes up the United States, the basics of probation in Illinois work just about the same as they do in any other state. In the Land of Lincoln as in elsewhere, the court-ordered sanction known as probation serves as an alternative to incarceration that supports a criminal's rehabilitation. In contrast to jail time, probation emphasizes individual responsibility and community-oriented accountability – ideally, it aims to reduce the rates of rearrest, too.
One thing probation most definitely is not, though, is universally consistent. The conditions of probation in Illinois vary on a case-by-case basis, and the Midwestern state's own laws add a few wrinkles to common probation laws. And these laws are hugely relevant to the population, too; in Illinois, the approximate number of probationers is roughly two-and-half times that of the entire statewide prison population.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Probation rules in Illinois are not unlike those in the rest of the United States, though new laws passed in 2017 have generally softened the state's probation guidelines.
Basic Illinois Probation Rules
When a criminal offender in Illinois demonstrates the necessary willingness and ability for rehabilitation, a court of law may choose to order probation rather than incarceration. While probation keeps the offender out of the big house – and there are plenty to go around, with about 45 in the state, from the Muddy River Correctional Facility to the Western Illinois Correctional Center – it always comes with plenty of conditions. If these conditions aren't met, the offender may face various legal consequences.
Conditions vary from case to case, but many Illinois probation rules are common. For instance, those on probation are likely to have a curfew and an order to avoid contact with any victims of their crimes. Obligations to participate in drug testing, substance abuse rehabilitation, counseling, community service and job searching programs are often part of probation programs, and probationers must regularly report to a state-assigned probation officer from an Illinois probation department (the Probation Services branch of the Illinois Courts). Similarly, probation programs often require the payment of fines, attorney fees or restitution (in which a defendant gives to the claimant). During probation, consuming alcohol and drugs, possessing firearms or other weapons and crossing state borders are all very often prohibited (on the latter condition, probationers in the state of Illinois can file a motion before the court to request out-of-state travel permission). In the Prairie State, if probationers break even a single condition of their probation, they are considered in violation of probation.
Illinois offers a few different types of probation supervision, with unique strategies tailored to the needs of the probationer. Examples of programs instituted by the state's Adult Probation Department include Intensive Probation Supervision, an Intensive Drug Program, a Sex Offender Program, programs from the Mental Health Unit and the Gang Unit, a domestic violence-oriented program, and more tailored supervisory probation in tandem with specialty courts.
Though the terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably, probation differs from parole. While parole supervises individuals after their release from incarceration, probation acts as a sentence itself – both probation and jail time are sentencing options. In the state of Illinois, probation and parole operate entirely separately, with the former handled by local circuit courts and the latter directed by the state-level Illinois Department of Corrections.
Supervision and Reporting
In Illinois and the other 49 states, probation officers handle the task of supervising offenders when they're released into the community by the circuit court, helping keep them on track, holding them accountable and helping them reintegrate. In addition to enforcing the court's orders and keeping probationers from breaking the terms of their probation or otherwise committing crimes, officers help tailor treatment and assistance programs to individuals. They do all of this by meeting one-on-one with probationers at home or at work, and relaying the court's expectations.
One of the key methods for keeping probationers accountable is monthly supervision reports. Via this standard practice, probationers submit a monthly supervision report, or MSR, to their probation officers. In addition to basic contact and identification info, this form requires probationers to provide details and updates on where they're living, who lives with them, and whether or not they've moved within the month. It also asks for employment information, such as the number of days worked or missed, job changes, gross wages and typical work hours. Probationers must provide monthly updates on any vehicles they drive – from year, make, model and color down to mileage and vehicle ID numbers – and the state of their finances, including total monthly cash inflow and outflow. On the note of finances, probationers even have to provide full account numbers for their checking and savings accounts and list any and all expenditures over $500. A full page of the MSR is dedicated to compliance with supervision conditions, requiring the probationer to provide details on any questioning from law enforcement, pending charges, contact with those who have criminal records, community service, aftercare, rehabilitation or fine payment that occurred during the month. By federal law, any false statements on an MSR can result in the revocation of probation, up to five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine or a combination thereof.
Illinois Probation Violation Laws
When an Illinoisan is suspected to be in defiance of any single condition of her probation, the best case scenario is a warning from her probation officer. When the officer decides that a warning just won't cut it, the alleged violator may be asked to appear in court. At the courthouse, a judge will then determine whether or not the terms of the probation were violated. However, before the probation can be legally revoked, the prosecution is required to file a Motion to Revoke Probation, which results in a hearing where the probationer and the prosecutor will be able to present their respective cases before an Illinois judge. Probation may not be revoked under Illinois law until offenders have a fair opportunity to defend themselves at a probation violation hearing. Moreover, probationers have a right to enlist the aid of a criminal defense lawyer at said hearing.
In terms of punishment, consequences – like Illinois probation rules themselves – vary by case. The probation may be revoked entirely, landing the offender in a correctional facility, but that's not always the case. The judge may instead choose to simply extend the duration of the probation, add more conditions to the probation, or even order brief jail time followed by release on probation.
Other potential violations of probation include missing (and failing to reschedule) meetings with your probation officer, missing a court appearance, not complying with court orders from the state's Adult Probation Department and even failing to inform the department of a change of address.
New Laws in 2017
January 1st, 2017, wasn't just the start of a new year in the state of Illinois – it's also the day that probation became a much more likely scenario than jail time, thanks to three new statewide probation laws.
First, these laws eased the burden on juvenile probationers. Before 2017, minor offenders found guilty of various offenses were subject to a five-year mandatory period of probation. With the passing of house bill 6291/PA 99-0879, this five-year probation period is only mandatory in the case of first-degree murder. That doesn't mean that young Illinoisan lawbreakers won't face probation – it just means that the probation period won't necessarily last half a decade. With the exception of first-degree murder, this house bill reduces the probationary period for minors across the spectrum of offenses. The same bill prohibits Illinois judges from committing minors to the Department of Juvenile Justice for controlled substance crimes, unless the youth has a history of probation violations.
Youth offenders aren't the only citizens of Illinois who benefit from the updated 2017 probation laws. In some cases, a conviction is entirely dropped from the offender's record following probation. This is known as vacating the judgment of conviction, and it oftentimes follows the successful completion of a court-mandated substance abuse rehab program. As of 2017, parolees now have more time to file a motion to vacate the judgment of conviction.
Likewise, felony probation in Illinois was loosened up a bit. For those charged with a Class 3 or Class 4 felony who have not been on probation before and are not charged with a violent crime, senate bill 3164/PA 99-0861 helps ensure that the defendant is entitled to probation for his offenses rather than jail time.
Probation Infrastructure in Illinois
Section 730 100/15(1) of the Illinois Combined Statutes, the Probation and Probation Officer Act, enables the Supreme Court of Illinois to establish a Division of Probation Services, "whose purpose shall be the development, establishment, promulgation, and enforcement of uniform standards for probation services in this State." Among the state's 22 judicial circuits, Illinois hosts 70 single- and multi-county probation departments tasked with supervising more than 100,000 probationers.
In 2015, various county probation departments received between $1 million and $2 million in funding from the Illinois state legislature, often double that of the funding in previous years despite $3.9 billion worth of state debt at the time. This increase in funding allowed for the re-hiring of probation officers lost to state budget cuts in 2010.
More on Illinois Probation
One common sort of Illinois probation is often used to sentence first-time drug offenders in the state. Dubbed 1410/710 probation, this type of sentencing allows the defendant to plead guilty, which is followed by a motion to vacate the plea. This motion is entered in the court record and continues until the termination date, so that by the time probation is completed, the conviction is vacated. Unfortunately for the offender, felony drug arrests and charges still show up on the criminal record (though you can apply to have those expunged five years after your probation's termination date, so long as you have no other felony convictions).
Per the Illinois Compiled Statutes, Illinois courts may sentence a consenting defendant to 1410/710 probation without entering a judgment. This type of probation last for 24 months, deferring further proceedings in the case until the conclusion (or violation) of the probation period. It always includes no less than three drug tests (paid for by the probationer), no less than 30 hours of community service (funded and approved by the county board) and may include additional fines, educational or vocational training, medical or psychiatric treatment or rehabilitation from the Illinois Department of Human Services, or, in some cases, an order to reside in a special residence for defendants on probation.
If you want to know how to find out if someone is on probation in Illinois, you might be out of luck; probation may allow offenders to carry out their sentences in public, but it's not always a matter of public record. According to the Illinois Compiled Statutes 110/12(4), when a person becomes a probationer and during the period of probation, "records shall be open to inspection by any judge or any other probation officers pursuant to order of court, but shall not be a public record, and its contents shall not be divulged otherwise than as above provided, except upon order of court.”
- Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley: How Probation Works in Illinois
- Illinois Department of Correction: All Facilities
- Azhari LLC: Three New Illinois Laws Regarding Probation 2017
- State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County: Adult Probation Department Frequently Asked Questions
- Illinois Courts: Probation Programs
- Daily Journal: Despite Budget Problems, Probation Gets a Boost
- Illinois General Assembly: Illinois Compiled Statutes: 720 ILCS 570/410 (from Ch. 56 1/2, par. 1410)
- Southern District of Illinois U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office: Probation: Supervision
- Southern District of Illinois U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office: Probation: Monthly Reporting
- U.S. Probation Office: PROB 8 (Rev. 7/04)