HUNTLEY – A resident caught with a marijuana pipe or a stolen cellphone soon could face a lesser penalty and avoid having it scar his permanent record under a proposal under consideration by the Huntley Village Board.
The proposal would give Huntley police the option to issue a village fine instead of a state misdemeanor charge for minor violations including drug paraphernalia, theft and theft of lost or mislaid property.
The changes are meant to save police time processing violations and gives first-time offenders a chance to avoid a criminal record, Deputy Chief Michael Klunk said.
“It’s not like you pay a fine and walk away. You still have to go through court, and you still have to see a judge,” Klunk said. “The only difference is the penalty is less severe ... It speeds up the process and, in some instances, gives people a second chance.”
Communities throughout the country recently have changed policing policies that allow officers to issue local fines for similar violations, such as small amounts of marijuana possession.
Crystal Lake considered decriminalizing marijuana possession before putting the idea on the back burner after naming a new police chief to replace the retiring David Linder.
But Huntley already has a local ordinance for small amounts of marijuana possession. By lessening drug paraphernalia charges, police now will have continuity with charging a resident caught with both marijuana and a pipe to inhale it, Klunk said.
Police thought the same would make sense for lessening the penalties for theft and theft of lost or mislaid property because retail theft is also a part of the village’s local ordinances.
Police Chief John Perkins presented the proposal to the Village Board on Thursday and fielded questions from trustees, who wanted clarification on why the option for lesser penalties is needed.
Under state law, drug paraphernalia and theft charges are Class A misdemeanors. Theft of lost or mislaid property is a Class B misdemeanor.
Under the proposal, an offender would face fines between $50 and $500 for drug paraphernalia; $25 and $500 for theft; and a minimum $250 fine for theft of lost or mislaid property.
Trustees will vote on the proposal during their regular meeting Thursday. The policy change, Klunk said, also should alleviate time officers spend processing the minor violations.
The Huntley police officer who mans Huntley High School often has to make arrests for theft, spending nearly 90 minutes processing the criminal charge.
Once an arrest is made, the officer has to leave school and bring the student to the police station for processing, Klunk said. With drug paraphernalia arrests, officers have to transport the perpetrator and often wait for the offender’s car to be towed.
Charging the offenders with a local fine allows the officer to complete the process within minutes, Klunk said.