Nate Nieman

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Northern Illinois University Law Review


The Illinois Post-Conviction Act is a procedural mechanism that allows a criminal defendant to assert that his federal or state constitutional rights were substantially violated during trial or at sentencing. The passage of the Act expanded a defendant’s ability to challenge his conviction and sentences collaterally, where before the Act, he had only been able to raise these challenges on direct appeal. However, the Act’s strict standing requirement precludes defendants from relief once they have completed their sentence, ignoring the fact that many important, life-altering civil consequences resulting from criminal convictions occur after a sentence has concluded.

This Article argues that the Act’s standing requirement inadequately contemplates later collateral consequences flowing from a defendant’s conviction that are just as—if not more—important to a defendant than the conviction that triggered the collateral consequences in the first place. These collateral consequences place a defendant’s liberty in jeopardy, yet many defendants currently are unable to use the Act to challenge the convictions that triggered these collateral consequences. I argue that the Act’s standing requirement could be modified to conform with twenty-first-century law in two ways: Illinois courts could dispense with the current “imprisoned”/not “imprisoned” dichotomy and instead focus on whether a petitioner is suffering an “important” consequence of his conviction; or the Act could be amended. This would give defendants a meaningful avenue to seek relief and provide a needed update to the current state of the law in Illinois—which, as of now, is effectively giving criminal defendants a right without a remedy.

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College of Law

Suggested Citation

Nate Nieman, Rights Without Remedies: How the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act’s Standing Requirement Has Failed Defendants, 44 N. Ill. Univ. L. Rev. 21 (2023).

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