Will County, Illinois Attorney James Glasgow announced on Tuesday that the chief judge of the 19th Circuit Court approved a motion to expunge records for 1,653 cases for misdemeanor possession of less than 30 grams.
In a press release, Glasgow said the move “will help these individuals move forward with their lives and place their convictions permanently behind them.”
“Today’s Order is a step in removing barriers to those who have been impacted as a result of having a criminal record based on these low-level cannabis possession cases. Back in 1998, I successfully wrote the grant creating Will County’s Drug Court, and spearheaded each of our other Problem Solving Courts as well. I truly understand the importance of removing obstacles and providing opportunities. That is exactly what today’s Order will do for those whose records will be expunged.” – Glasgow in a statement
Chief Judge Christopher M. Kennedy, who signed the order, said the reforms show “Restorative justice is important to Will County and to our society as a whole.”
“These expungements demonstrate our commitment to this principle,” he said.
The voter-approved law also allows dismissal of Class 4 felony and misdemeanor cannabis delivery offenses, but the county’s motion to vacate and expunge addresses simple possession cases that are not associated with felony charges or offenses outlined by the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, the Attorney’s Office said. The order includes cases only from Jan. 1, 2013 through June 25, 2019. The remaining cases in the county will be reviewed by Jan. 1, 2023 for offenses between Jan. 1, 2000 and Jan. 1, 2013; and Jan. 1, 2025 for offenses that occurred prior to Jan. 1, 2000.
On January 2, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued 11,017 pardons for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions. However, the Chicago Tribune reports that there are more than 700,000 cases in the state that likely qualify for expungement. Earlier this year, Cook County officials worked with Code for America to identify and clear 2,200 eligible cases. Code for America has also worked to identify and expunge cases in California. McHenry County officials this year also expunged about 1,900 low-level cannabis cases, according to the Tribune.
However, the Tribune reports that few counties are taking the initiative to clear cannabis-related records. The Lake County Attorney’s Office indicated that it had received and granted only two requests for expungement.
The law allows felony cases involving up to 500 grams to be expunged – there are an estimated 71,000 such cases in the state – however, advocates say few of those cases have been cleared due to lack of familiarity of the process by citizens and courts.