Sen. Villanueva

SPRINGFIELD —State Senator Celina Villanueva advanced a measure to help people who plead guilty to a possession charge a second chance in exchange for diversion into a probation program.

“First-time offenders of possession are typically young people who have made a misstep and by enrolling in a diversion program, they have shown their commitment to righting their wrongs,” said Villanueva (D-Chicago). “Clarifying that a recorded conviction without judgement is inadmissible allows folks to turn their lives around without a negative record lurking behind them.”

Currently, a person who successfully completes a probation program will have their sentence or conviction vacated. This clean record applies while the person is enrolled in the program as well as for those who successfully complete the program.

House Bill 5285 would protect individuals who plead guilty to a possession charge in exchange for diversion into a probation program with the promise that a felony will not be included on their record upon successful completion of the program. This measure is needed because background checks often misinterpret diversion into special probation programs as a “conviction.”

“When we place a permanent judgement on people who are trying to better themselves, a vicious cycle is created,” said Villanueva. “Recidivism is far more likely when people have nowhere to turn.”

House Bill 5285 passed Senate Special Committee on Criminal Law and Public Safety and heads to the full Senate for further consideration.