Cook County to Relax Policy on Traffic Offenses

I love how the building support (the pylons) are on the outside.Some shifts in Cook County traffic policy under recently elected States Attorney Kim Foxx will be occurring as detailed by Chicago Tribune contact reporter Megan Crepeau in an article this morning. Certain traffic offenses will now not be prosecuted by the States Attorney’s office, leaving the prosecution decisions to local municipalities. The traffic offenses that will no longer be prosecuted by Cook County involve charges where a person is driving on a suspended or revoked license – where that license has been revoked for financial¬†reasons rather than more serious reasons such as DUI or Reckless Homicide. As Crepeau writes, those financial reasons usually include failure to pay child support, tolls, or parking tickets. This does not mean that those charges will automatically be dropped, but that the individual towns will now have the option of whether they want to pursue them. The reason cited for this change was less ideological and more about a lack of resources, especially man/woman power. This was clear from Crepeau’s interview with Eric Sussman, the first Assistant States Attorney, wherein he said that “the shift represents a reshuffling of increasingly scarce resources, . . . noting that the number of assistant state’s attorneys in the county has plunged in the past 10 years. That means each prosecutor’s caseload far exceeds what experts suggest, . . . citing a recommendation that assistant state’s attorneys handling misdemeanors should have about 400 cases apiece. In Cook County, that number is closer to 5,700.”

Sussman heavily indicates that in working with law enforcement and talking about these changes, they stressed these financial reasons rather than disagreement with the laws themselves.¬†“So far at least, it makes it easier for law enforcement to understand we’re not doing this because we disagree with the law or have a philosophical problem with the way the law is set up,” Sussman said. “I think that a lot of this came as news to a lot of law enforcement agencies that we are as resource-constrained.” However even though it’s clear lack of resources appear to be the big reason here, it should be mentioned that Kim Foxx’s record since taking office has included heavy efforts to change how Illinois deals with low level nonviolent offenders so as to both make sure precious resources are allocated to more important things, and that citizens aren’t severely punished for minor crimes.

The article went over this as well: ¬†“The move comes as State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, elected in November, has pushed in other ways to change how her office handles low-level, nonviolent cases. In December, she dramatically raised the bar for felony charges related to shoplifting. And this week, she said that prosecutors could recommend that judges release non-violent defendants charged with low-level crimes without any cash bail, pending the resolution of their cases.” So there’s no doubt finances are playing a huge role in these new policies but Foxx has also shown a focus to change the way that low level offenders in Chicago are punished in general. Those reasons no doubt include humanitarian ones as well.

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