Program Coordinator, Heather Bell (815) 334-4159
What is the First Offender Program?
The First Offender Program is designed for first time, non-violent offenders and gives them the opportunity to keep a conviction from being permanently entered on their record. The defendant must complete an intake interview with the Program Coordinator, meet with and be approved by a panel of citizens from the community, and if accepted, complete the requirements placed upon them by the State's Attorney's Office.
The requirements may include completing community service hours, obtaining a high school diploma or G.E.D., completing counseling, writing a letter of apology to the victim, paying restitution to the victim, and paying fees to the First Offender Program. Upon successful completion of the First Offender Program, the State's Attorney's Office agrees to dismiss the pending charge(s) against the defendant. If the defendant fails to successfully complete the First Offender Program, the defendant will be terminated from the program and the case will be returned to court for prosecution.
First Offender Program Application Process
A recommendation to apply can be made by the Judge, State's Attorney, Public Defender, or private attorney and should be done within ninety (90) days of arraignment (felony cases) or the first court date (misdemeanor). Once recommended to apply, the defendant needs to report to the State's Attorney's Office.
The Coordinator will contact the defendant to arrange an intake interview. At the interview, the Coordinator will explain the program and all of the necessary forms to the defendant. A program fee must be paid once admittance to the program has occurred. The fee for felony cases is $750 ($500 for public defender clients) and $500 ($250 for public defender clients for misdemeanor cases. Restitution payments will also be required, if applicable..
Presentation to the Citizens' Panel
At the conclusion of the intake interview, the Coordinator will schedule a date for the defendant to appear before the First Offender Citizens' Panel. The defendant will have to explain the offense(s) he or she is charged with and accept responsibility for his or her actions. The panel will then make a recommendation to the State's Attorney about the defendant's acceptance into the program.
After the panel has made their recommendations, the file will be reviewed by an Assistant State's Attorney and a decision will be made to approve or reject the recommendation of the panel.
If the defendant is accepted into the First Offender Program, he or she will sign an agreement on his or her next court date. The defendant will also be required to provide a written statement admitting to the elements of the charge(s) and his or her involvement.
If the defendant is not accepted into the First Offender Program, he or she will be notified by the Coordinator. There are no appeal hearings for rejection.
Dismissal - Satisfactory
Upon successful completion of all the requirements, the case will be dismissed at the final court date.
If the terms of the First Offender Program Agreement are not completed, or the defendant commits a new offense, the Coordinator may recommend to the court that the defendant be terminated from the First Offender Program.
First Offender Program Guidelines:
- Applicant had a prior misdemeanor conviction or court supervision within the last five (5) years (when applying on a misdemeanor case), or a prior adult felony arrest (when applying on a misdemeanor or felony case).
- Applicant is currently on probation/supervision/conditional discharge for misdemeanor or felony charges (juvenile or adult).
- Applicant is an active gang member.
- Applicant is charged with violent, domestic or sex offenses.
- Applicant is charged with Class (X), (S), (1) or non-probationable offenses.
- Applicant is charged with drug (other than cannabis) or alcohol related offenses.
- Applicant is charged with using a weapon.
- Applicant committed the offense while out on bond.
- Applicant is charged with a traffic offense.
- Charges of identity theft and committing a crime against an elderly victim will be considered on a case-by-case basis.