What is the Offender Initiation Program in Illinois?

Having a criminal record can be a big obstacle in moving on with your life.  Especially if you are a convicted felon, you may have trouble getting a job, renting an apartment, and have other rights restricted like voting and possessing a firearm.  Its bad enough to have gone through a trying time in your life, to have it haunt you long after the deed is done can be downright awful.  The Illinois Legislature has amended certain laws to give first-time offenders a chance to avoid the devastating consequences of a felony conviction.

The Offender Initiative Program

The Offender Initiative Program took effect January 1st of this year.  It places offenders on a special form of probation that defers prosecution under certain conditions.  This program only applies to first-time offenses to non-violent crimes.  The offense charged must be eligible for probation in order to qualify.  So far, the only eligible crimes available for the program are theft, retail theft, forgery, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, burglary, possession of burglary tools, possession of cannabis, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of a controlled substance.


How the program works is by putting the charges against you on hold for at least a year while you participate in certain conditions, that if successfully completed would result in a dismissal of the charges.  The conditions imposed will be particular to the circumstances of your case, such as participating in a drug counseling program, take certain classes, receive regular drug testing, maintain employment, pay restitution, or perform community service.  All offenders will have to abstain from violating any laws while in the program, including traffic offenses, as well as refrain from using drugs or possessing a weapon.

If all the conditions are met, the charges will be dismissed.  This doesn’t completely clear your record, but it a huge advantage by not being dubbed a convicted felon.  To have your record completely cleared of even charges against requires a petition to have your record expunged.  If you fail the program, however, the charges against you will be fully prosecuted.


This is a State initiative, but its implementation requires agreement by the defense and prosecution.  Certain obstacles may exist if a local prosecutor’s office denies deferred prosecution as a matter of policy.  Further, political considerations where a local prosecutor may not want to appear lenient on crime could be problematic.  The court cannot overrule the prosecutor, so even though this program is available statewide, it is not a requirement since both sides must be in agreement.

Whatever the circumstances, an attorney will be a vital component to successfully navigating this process.  An attorney can negotiate with the prosecution in favor of this program and what conditions to impose.  It may even be in your best interest to avoid prosecution altogether if the evidence against you weak.  With something as precious as your future and freedom at risk, you need a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney to help make these determinations.

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