Advances in technology often provide the motivation for new legal reforms. Take DNA evidence, for example, which is commonly used in criminal proceedings to confirm that a suspect is innocent or guilty. This technology was not always available during criminal proceedings. Before DNA evidence existed, numerous guilty individuals were found not guilty for heinous crimes. Conversely, numerous individuals were found guilty, when they were actually innocent.

Many of these individuals are serving time for crimes they did not commit. Many are also filing DNA-based appeals to exonerate themselves and get released. However, in some states, convicts who pleaded guilty during their criminal proceedings do not have the option of filing a DNA-based appeal. More and more states are coming on board with reforms to allow prisoners who pleaded guilty to file such appeals, though, and Illinois may be next.

Illinois Passes Law to Help Innocent Convicts

Many of these individuals may have pleaded guilty to get a reduced sentence -- and/or avoid death penalties -- due to strong evidence being brought against them. Indeed, there are many reasons why an innocent suspect would plead guilty. One Illinois state senator admitted that there may not be very many inmates that the law will help, considering that reasonable probability of a favorable DNA test must exist for the law to apply to them. Nevertheless, even if only a handful of innocent inmates gain release, the new law could be viewed as a positive step forward for justice. A new law in Illinois was passed so innocent convicts who pleaded guilty will have the right to file DNA-based appeals. According to a spokesperson for Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, the governor plans to enact the legislation soon. After it goes into effect, Illinois will be the 45th state allowing inmates to pursue DNA-based appeals after pleading guilty.

Inmates Must File a Successful Appeal to Benefit from This Legislation

As more states come forward with legal reforms regarding the use of DNA evidence, more innocent individuals could be released from prison. Still, these people must take action to file the necessary appeals. Also, those who qualify for a DNA-based appeal may have a better chance of success through the use of legal counsel familiar with the criminal appeals process.