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Trump tells Reuters he fears a perjury trap. Also on the Tuesday rundown: Iowa activist to protest in support of a nationwide prison strike; and a solar project throws shade on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Carjacking Crackdown Bill Means More Detention for Juveniles

A bill that aims to reduce carjacking would put the burden on juvenile justice advocates to prove their clients should be freed until their cases are resolved. (Pixabay)
A bill that aims to reduce carjacking would put the burden on juvenile justice advocates to prove their clients should be freed until their cases are resolved. (Pixabay)
May 29, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Claiming not to know that a car is stolen would no longer be a major factor in prosecuting suspected carjackers under a bill pending in Springfield. But its critics say the protection is crucial for many unknowing teens and passengers caught up in a bad situation.

Supporters, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, say too often, car thieves are charged with misdemeanor trespassing instead of a felony. Senate Bill 2339 would require checking to see if the person has the vehicle without the owner's consent. But it also requires detaining minors suspected of car theft, pending a psychological evaluation that could take up to 30 days.

State Representative Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, said she's not even sure the state has the capacity to perform those assessments.

"Which will create the potential of a young person being in a county lock-up for far longer than they need to be, and without having been actually charged or convicted of a crime,” Wallace said.

Wallace said the focus should be on finding ways to fund community treatment programs, as studies show they are more successful in helping troubled juveniles than just sending them to detention centers.

In the course of 2017’s alarming rise in instances of armed carjacking in Chicago, more juveniles than adults were charged. Police say oftentimes adult gang members direct juvenile members to steal the cars.

Wallace said punishment should be applied on a case-by-case basis, instead of making it easier for unsuspecting young people to get caught up in the criminal justice system.

"The idea that even if you are in the car with a person who may have stolen the car, I think there needs to be proof that you are aware of that,” she said; “so that you, too, are not charged and detained for a long period of time."

Despite supporters claims that the bill would not enhance penalties, Wallace said she believes it does - even in car thefts that don't involve violence. She also points out that the bill allows only for the detention of minors, while adults suspected of similar crimes are free to bond out and await trial at home with their families.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - IL