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January 9, 2003

Governor’s Commission Provides Final Report of Revised Criminal Code

SPRINGFIELD – Governor George H. Ryan today accepted the final report from the Criminal Code Rewrite and Reform Commission. The Commission, made up of over 30 prominent Illinois prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officials, judges and law professors, was formed in May 2000 to update the Code, which is more than 40 years old, to make criminal law fairer for victims and defendants and make the Code easier to read and understand.

“I’ve often made the connection between the work of this Commission and that of my Commission on Capital Punishment,” said Governor Ryan. “If we’ve sent innocent people to death row because of ineffective counsel, jailhouse informant testimony, prosecutorial misconduct or mistaken identity, then there are probably people sitting in prison for other crimes of lesser penalties who have fallen victim to the same systematic errors.”

The Commission’s final report includes the proposed Code, as well as supporting commentary and tables that identify and explain all recommended modifications to current Illinois law. The report, which is currently being prepared for publication and will soon be available in two bound volumes, fully details the objectives and accomplishments of the Commission’s project.

“The Illinois Criminal Code was 40 years old, reflecting decades of amendments and well-intentioned legislative initiatives that now often conflict with each other,” said Governor Ryan. “This undertaking was important to make the Criminal Code clear and consistent, and, most importantly, fair. Fairness and justice are what most concern me.”

One of the main objectives in the revision process was increasing clarity of the Code while reducing length. The rewrite project has provided a valuable opportunity to consolidate multiple offenses that overlap, contradict, or narrowly focus on particular instances of a general category of improper conduct. The new Code offers a clearer articulation of Illinois criminal law for lay people, lawyers and judges alike. More straight forward code provisions, for example, promote the development of clearer jury instructions, helping jurors fulfill their important role.

Another important objective of the Commission was to impose rational and proportionate offense grades. The process that has generated current law makes consistent grading difficult. The revision project provided for a general review of the system of grading offenses, considering how all offenses relate to one another.

In just over two years, the Commission has undertaken a substantive recodification effort that has resulted in a proposed new Criminal Code that is clearer and more comprehensive, fairer for all the citizens of Illinois and a fraction of the size of the original Code. The proposed Code addresses the many significant changes in our society over the last 40 years and ensures that the laws of Illinois will provide a cohesive and fair approach to crime and punishment in the years to come.

“This was by no means a simple task or an easy undertaking,” said Deputy Governor Matt Bettenhausen, who served as Chairman of the Commission. “Without the hard work of a lot of talented and dedicated individuals, this project never could have come together.”


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