SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation today to tighten a loophole that allowed close relatives to help fugitives flee without fear of getting punished.
Inspired by a Tribune investigation, the new law allows criminal charges to be filed against a fugitive’s spouse, parent and other close relatives who help him or her avoid prosecution. The new law makes it a felony for close relatives 18 and older to aid the fugitives.
Illinois had been one of only 14 states that exempted close relatives from criminal charges, a point underscored in the Tribune series, “Fugitives from Justice,” which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting.
The report showed relatives helped fugitives leave the United States and remain free even in cases where people were killed.
“It is my duty to keep the people of Illinois safe and ensure we have a sound criminal justice system,” Quinn said. “This legislation will prevent criminals from evading punishment and help us bring them to justice.”
Sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, and Rep. Sidney Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove, the law allows judges to punish violators with a prison terms of one to three years and a fine of $25,000.
“We can’t have a system where people are hiding criminals,” Silverstein said. “I’ll give kudos to the Tribune for bringing this to everyone’s attention. This loophole had to be closed.”
The law takes effect Jan. 1.