A House judicial panel voted 7-1 for a measure that would make it a felony for a family member to help prevent a fugitive's arrest or aid in his escape from a jurisdiction to avoid prosecution.
A family member would have to be at least age 18 to be charged under the proposal, which now goes to the full House. It sailed out of the Senate last month on a 52-0 vote.
Illinois is one of only 14 states that exempt close relatives from criminal charges, a point underscored in the Tribune series "Fugitives From Justice," which this week was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting. Currently, Illinois law exempts from prosecution spouses, parents, children and siblings who aid and assist a fugitive.
The lone vote against in committee came from a Democratic lawmaker from Chicago who said the measure creates a fine line in determining whether someone is helping a fugitive or not.
"How do you prove that?" asked Rep. Esther Golar.
Sponsoring Rep. Sid Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove, said the legislation draws a distinction between a mother who might not want to turn her fugitive son into police and someone who actively helps a fugitive escape a jurisdiction.
Mathias said he sponsored the bill because of "egregious situations where family members have actively helped fugitives and offenders from escaping jurisdiction."
The Tribune documented the case of Muaz Haffar, who fled to Syria in 2005 after being charged with killing student Tombol Malik, 23, according to law enforcement sources. Haffar's father, Dr. Nabil Haffar, bought a plane ticket to help his son escape, according to the sources. His father denies buying the ticket. Records and interviews indicate authorities believe that Muaz Haffar is still at large in Syria.