Senate Republicans put justice for victims first

Focus on legislation to combat the fentanyl epidemic, provide justice for victims of crime

Senate Republicans put justice for crime victims front and center in a press conference on Monday, April 24, featuring State Senators Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), Sally Turner (R-Beason), Sue Rezin (R-Morris), Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) and Steve McClure (R-Springfield).

The lawmakers focused on legislation taking aim at reducing fentanyl deaths, and protecting victims of domestic abuse, driving under the influence, and childcare center threats.

“When we talk about crime, all too often the focus is on those who commit crimes rather than on the victims most impacted by it,” said Sen. Fowler. “Victims need justice. Families need justice, and that’s what we are here to talk about today.”

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Turner aims to increase penalties for selling drugs containing fentanyl and prevent fentanyl deaths. Turner’s Senate Bill 73 stipulates that in addition to other penalties in current law, a person unlawfully selling or dispensing any drug that contains a detectable amount of fentanyl is guilty of a Class X felony and faces no less than 9 to 40 years in prison in addition to a fine of up to $250,000.

As deaths due to drugs laced with fentanyl are on the rise, Sen. Turner is also the Senate sponsor of House Bill 3203, which would expand the availability of test strips capable of detecting even trace amounts of fentanyl that substances may be laced with. The legislation would allow test strips to be sold over the counter and enable county health departments to provide them for free.

“Fentanyl is in each and every one of our communities and many of us even know someone who has been touched by a fentanyl death,” said Sen. Turner. “We can take decisive action today to slow the spread of fentanyl and prevent deaths.”

Destigmatizing fentanyl deaths is the goal of a measure sponsored by Sen. Rezin. Senate Bill 1086 would require that in cases where fentanyl either causes or contributes to a death, the coroner or medical examiner will report the death as fentanyl poisoning instead of a fentanyl overdose.

“When the term overdose is used, people assume the person who died intended to take the substance that ended their life, but with fentanyl we know that’s not typically the case,” said Sen. Rezin. “If someone dies because they were misled into consuming a substance that ended their life, it’s a poisoning. By changing how we frame these tragic deaths, we can confront this stigma and shed greater light on the fentanyl epidemic.”

Placing the emphasis squarely on the victims of violent crime, Sen. Bryant has introduced two legislative measures that address domestic violence and abuse. Senate Bill 1976 creates the new offense of Domestic Assault making it easier for law enforcement to go after domestic offenders who knowingly place any family member of their household in fear they are about to be seriously harmed. It also ensures that defendants released from custody ahead of a trial will be ordered to refrain from contacting their victims or entering their residences for a minimum of 72 hours.

Additionally, Senate Bill 1974 enhances the minimum penalty to Aggravated Domestic Battery rather than just Domestic Battery when an act of violence is committed against someone 60 years or older.

“Over the past few years, we have seen too many policies enacted that prioritize criminals in our justice system and ignore the victims of their crimes,” said Sen. Bryant. “We need to send a signal to victims that we hear them, stand with them and will fight for them to see justice.”

Troubled by incidents in his district, Sen. McClure is advocating for legislation that puts justice for victims first and protects Illinois’ daycare facilities. Senate Bill 1405 creates a blended sentencing provision for aggravated driving under the influence where an accident kills one person and inflicts great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to one person or more. McClure’s legislation would allow for justice to be served for all victims, instead of just one.

“In Springfield, Lindsey Sharp and her child were hit by a drunk driver while walking in a parking lot. Not only did that little boy have to watch his mother die, but he also suffered significant injuries,” said Sen. McClure. “Unfortunately, the perpetrator could only be punished for the death of Lindsey and not for injuring her son. My legislation would ensure that all victims receive justice.”

Sen. McClure has also introduced legislation to address threats to people in daycare facilities in the same manner as threats made to people in schools. Senate Bill 1968 would make it a felony to threaten a childcare institution or daycare center building or threaten violence, death, or bodily harm directed against someone at a daycare facility.

Dale Fowler

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