Crime & Courts

Prosecutors offer deferral program to low-level offenders in McHenry County

McHenry County prosecutors could dismiss more low-level crimes as part of a new program that would favor requirements such as mandatory counseling and community service rather than jail time or probation.

Previously known as the First Offender Program, the newly dubbed Deferred Prosecution Program could lead to the dismissal of charges including retail theft and violent offenses in which no one was seriously harmed.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced the program’s launch Monday. Kenneally hopes to divert “less serious offenders” from the criminal justice system to a volunteer panel of citizens, according to a news release. The program’s original form, which was open only to first-time offenders, resulted in a recidivism rate of less than 20%, according to the release. Unlike the First Offender Program, defendants with previous arrests on their records might still be eligible to participate in the Deferred Prosecution Program.

Not all cases are accepted, however. Drug or traffic offenses, along with domestic violence, stalking and sex crimes are not eligible for the program. Certain violent offenses will be considered on a case-by-case basis and only with the consent of the victim, Kenneally said.

Once a judge or attorney has referred a case that is accepted into the program, the defendant would be required to provide a written statement admitting to the charge and his or her involvement. The victim also would have an opportunity to address the defendant and a panel of volunteers, which includes members of the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition and Workforce Network, Kenneally said.

The defendant would then be ordered to complete certain requirements, such as paying restitution or writing an apology letter, to complete the program and have their case dismissed. Anyone who does not complete the requirements would be sent back to court for prosecution.

Participation in the program costs between $250 and $750 in intake fees, depending on the type of case. Prosecutors can reduce the fees based on a defendant’s financial situation, Kenneally said.

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