Archive for January, 2014

Learning Curve as Concealed Carry Law goes into Effect in Illinois

January 30th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

One of our more recent blog posts discussed the new concealed carry law that went into effect in Illinois starting in the New Year. Now, many news outlets are reporting on some of the obstacles and challenges the implementation of that law is bringing up in practice. Lawmakers are proposing bills that provide for harsher punishments for carrying guns in prohibited zones such as schools, penalize instructors who fail to train properly, and decrease the age for legally carrying a weapon.

 concealed carry law IMAGEPenalties for Carrying in Prohibited Zones

Some were surprised to learn that the new law changed the penalty for possessing a firearm in a school from a felony for the first offense to a misdemeanor the first two times an individual is charged with the crime. Changes propose increasing the penalty associated with having a gun in school, in addition to other places where they are prohibited by law, including libraries, parks, and on mass transit vehicles, as well as adding places of worship.

Advocates of gun rights are not so enthusiastic about the increased measures. They point out that any law will likely only matter to those law-abiding citizens who choose to follow it. They suggest letting the law play out for a while and seeing how the new law works, before going ahead with any suggested changes to the legislation.

Gun-Safety Training

Even those who have expressed opposition to increased penalties for those caught having a firearm in a prohibited zone are on board with stricter regulations for gun safety instructors. Other proposed legislation seeks to change punishments for those gun-safety instructors who falsify their training records. Instructors are required to give 16 hours of instruction on gun safety procedures. If they falsely allege they did so, they may serve jail time and face losing their own license to carry a weapon.

Lowering the Legal Age to Carry

Currently, the law allows for those citizens over the age of 21 to apply for a license to carry. Another proposed change to the law would include lowering that age to 18.

In addition to these changes, many are also expressing concerns over how the law will apply to those with mental health issues. Some representative are saying that these concerns are coming directly from citizens, who are wondering what protections the law affords to ensure those who suffer with mental illness are not getting access to guns.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand new laws, the consequences of violating them, and how they apply to you. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving a firearm in Illinois, we can advise you of your rights. Contact us today.

Chicago’s Ban on Guns Struck Down

January 26th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

According to an article recently published by the Chicago Tribune, a federal judge decided that a main part of Chicago’s gun ordinance which prohibits licensed gun stores from operating within the city is unconstitutional. The U.S. District Judge, Edmond Chang, opined that he was not convinced that the prohibition was necessary in order to achieve the goal of reducing gun violence, something that was imperative in order to outweigh the constitutional protections found in the Second Amendment. In addition to that provision, the Judge also decided that it was legal to transfer firearms as gifts or through private sale, provided the recipient was 18 years old or older and had a firearm owner’s identification card.

 Chicago gun ban IMAGEChicago’s crackdown on guns in the relatively recent past had made it a primary target of the National Rifle Association. Reversing the recent ban on licensed retail stores in the city and private gun sales is considered a win by gun rights advocates in their crusade to eliminate some of Chicago’s strict firearm prohibitions. The ruling coincided with Illinois’ new concealed carry law, which was set to take effect in the new year. It should be noted that the city is expected to appeal the judge’s decision, which will likely prevent any gun stores from opening in Chicago any time soon.

While it goes without saying that Chicago struggles with illegal guns and gun violence within the city’s borders, it seems the local government will have to try again to strike a balance between gun safety and respecting constitutional protections, a task lawmakers have been struggling with in the last few years.

The federal judge said that in this particular case, the city failed to show how allowing the legal sale of firearms in Chicago would result in a “genuine and serious risk” to public safety. The ban, he said, reached too far in totally banning legal transactions between buyers and dealers, while also failing to prove that doing so would achieve the purpose of the ban itself. The Judge pointed to other methods, such as regulations and licensing, that would address the city’s concerns while allowing law-abiding citizens to acquire firearms if they chose to do so.

While the NRA has been a key player in this suit as well as others across the country in their aim to chip away at gun control laws, others say that individual citizens have been successful in passing laws with the goal of keeping gun violence down. Some say the city’s ban failed because it aimed too high: the blanket ban on gun sales contradicted the idea that if there is a constitutional right to own a gun, part of that protection is the right to obtain one. Instead, the city may have been more successful in imposing numerous regulations on the sale of firearms.

It is likely that gun control will continue to be a hot button topic in the news and in politics and the local government. This means that crimes involving firearms may be particularly scrutinized by law enforcement and the public. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving a firearm, contacting an adept criminal defense lawyer in the Chicago area is crucial. Contact us today for advice in your particular matter.

Harsher Penalties for Domestic Battery Defendants

January 22nd, 2014 at 6:00 pm

A new law that went into effect this month will allow prosecutors in Illinois to impose stiffer penalties on domestic battery offenders. According to the Rockford Register Star, the 2014 law states that those defendants who have multiple misdemeanor domestic battery convictions can be charged with a felony in light of the multiple convictions. The purpose for the harsher penalties would be to give law enforcement and prosecutors another way to protect victims of domestic violence from their attackers.

 domestic battery IMAGEAlthough some say that domestic violence is a crime that is often disregarded because it involves family members, it is one of the most common crimes reported to local law enforcement, though it is still believed to be underreported overall. The issue of domestic violence is certainly large-scale, with thousands of domestic violence incidents reported in local counties each year.

As of the first of the year, if an individual is charged with a misdemeanor domestic battery and that same individual was previously convicted of an identical charge at least once before, the grading of the charge will increase to a felony. Domestic battery is defined as harmful physical contact, harassment, threatening behavior, or interfering with the personal liberty of a household or family member. If the defendant has one or two previous convictions, their charge will be graded as a Class 4 Felony and they can face incarceration of one to three years. Three prior convictions will result in a Class 3 Felony with two to five years incarceration, and four or more prior convictions will make it a Class 2 Felony punishable by three to seven years in jail. Prior to the new law taking effect, any repeat offenders, no matter the number of prior convictions, were charged with a Class 4 Felony, the lowest graded felony charge in Illinois.

Prosecutors will retain prosecutorial discretion in making decisions, as well as in deciding on a case-by-case basis if a certain action should result in the offender being charged with a felony. Prosecutors and law enforcement will regularly work together with other local agencies in order to develop their responses to domestic violence reports, and to discuss the details of certain cases, particularly those cases that have resulted in serious injury or even death. Police officers intend to look at severe cases of domestic violence closely, and to avoid assuming a domestic violence situation will have less serious consequences than other assaults.

As the new law takes effect, there will be a number of cases that define its parameters, so that others can be aware of what sort of consequences to expect. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago can be invaluable in arguing your case in light of a change in the law. Not only are we informed on legal changes, we are prepared to advise you on how they can affect the specific facts of your case. Contact us today for a consultation.

Changes to Illinois Law in 2014: A Rundown

January 18th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

As we mark the beginning of 2014, many new laws will emerge in the state of Illinois.  We previously discussed the change in Illinois law regarding the use of mobile phones while driving and the consequences of doing so, but there are other changes that will take place that are worth mentioning as well. According to an article recently published by NPR for St. Louis, the relevant issues encompass everything from marijuana to littering.

Medical Marijuana

The new law involving medical marijuana involves a four-year trial program that allows individuals that are plagued with certain specified ailments to get a prescription for medicinal marijuana. Regulations and licenses have not been issued, so this may not go into effect right away in 2014. In addition, in order to meet the requirements of the law, the illness must be considered debilitating.

changes to Illinois law IMAGE Smoking Cigarettes

In 2014, smokers will have to take their habit outside and find a proper receptacle to get rid of the cigarette butts when they are finished. Illinois’ Litter control Act has been amended to include cigarettes, so people in violation of the policy can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, plus a fine of up to $1,500.  A second offense is graded as a Class A misdemeanor, and a third will be considered a felony, which can be punishable by a jail term of one to three years and up to a $25,000 fine.

As an extension of the law, property owners are also required to place enough waste receptacles on the property. If they fail to do so and littering takes place where a receptacle should be, the property owner can be charged with a petty offense and be fined $100. After getting a warning, property owners have 10 days to place the necessary waste receptacles on the property. If he or she fails to do so after the warning, they may be charged with a petty offense and be fined $25 for each receptacle they failed to obtain.

Minors

For purposes of delinquency or records concerning a minor in Illinois, the relevant age will be increased to 17 in 2014, up from 16 as it was previously. In addition, those under 18 will not legally be allowed to use facilities for tanning, minors will be prevented from buying e-cigarettes, and students will have the right to refuse a school’s request for their passwords to social networking sites unless the school can show good cause.

Alcohol

It will be legal to seal and travel with one unfinished bottle of previously opened wine beginning in 2014.

Traffic

In 2014, bicycles are considered an exception from the prohibition on two-wheeled vehicles moving on the right of a separate craft that is not propelled solely by a human being.

The speed limit will be raised to 70 mph on some highways, but areas of Chicago and Metro East will reserve the right to set speed limits at a lower number.

Miscellaneous

Beginning in 2014, it will be considered a crime to accept payment for altering a criminal record.  Also, it will be illegal for State grant recipients and their employees to knowingly using grant funds for political activities or as compensation for time spent on political work.

These are only a few of the many laws that will go into effect in Illinois in 2014. Many other changes in the law, and changes in rules and procedures, may affect your rights if you were or will be charged with a crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago can help you understand changes in the law and how they may apply in your case. Contact us today for a consultation.

Why bring Minor Felony Charges in Juvenile Court?

January 14th, 2014 at 11:34 am

As we discussed in one of our recent posts about all of the laws set to take effect in the New Year, minors up to age 17 who are charged with certain felony crimes can be tried in juvenile court in Illinois. Previously, 17-year-olds charged with a felony crime were held in county jail with other defendants of all ages, and, if convicted, would have a felony on their record for the rest of their lives. There are many motivations for the change in the law, as Illinois seems to be echoing a change in thinking that is already occurring in states across the nation.

According to an article published by DNA Info Chicago, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s stance on the issue and the support of local politicians had a lot to do with the change, which was voted on by lawmakers in earlier in 2013.  The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission took the position that since 17-year-olds cannot participate in activities such as vote or play the lottery, join the military, or pierce their ears absent adult permission, they should not be treated as adults under Illinois law for the purposes of committing a crime. The decision was made to handle 17-year-olds faced with felony charges within the confines of the juvenile justice system.  The crimes that will be encompassed in the change may include anything from illegal substance charges to burglary and assault, but will specifically exclude murder and sexual assault.

juvenile crime IMAGEMinors Previously Charged as Adults

Questions are arising about those minors who have been charged with felonies prior to the law taking effect on January 1st, who would otherwise be having their case heard in juvenile court. While the law is not intended to apply to previously filed cases, defense attorneys are pointing out the inherent injustice in that fact. In the cases that are pending in adult court, the defendants are being charged with offenses that, if committed after January 1st, 2014, would have been handled in the juvenile justice system. The only difference lies in the date the alleged offenses were committed. Some defense attorneys are arguing that the charges should be transferred to juvenile court in the cases that are still awaiting trial.

Advantages of Juvenile Court

The juvenile justice system allows for offenders with pending cases to continue their education and to take advantage of services provided by local agencies. Further, a minor having their case handled in juvenile court gives them the opportunity to avoid a permanent criminal record that can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.  Otherwise, they can lose a lot of future opportunities and face a bleak future, one with severely limited job prospects. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission points out that minors placed in juvenile detention are more likely to make a positive change in their behavior that they would be if they were incarcerated in a county or state prison.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a juvenile crime in Illinois, hiring a criminal defense attorney experienced in juvenile matters is essential. Not only can we ensure your rights are protected in light of any changes in the law, but we can defend your case to the fullest extent. Contact us today for a consultation.

New Year Brings New Police Procedure

January 11th, 2014 at 11:24 am

The New Year is here, and with it come new laws and regulations that are going into effect. One change that could be especially relevant for criminal defendants involves new training for law enforcement in the use of Taser guns. According to WICS, who recently reported on the change, a new law went into effect on January 1st, 2014, and requires more training for police officers who may use Tasers on a suspect.

Taser gun IMAGEThe new law also requires police departments to keep detailed records of their training related to Taser use and when they are used in a confrontation with a potential defendant. In the event a police officer uses a Taser on a suspect, the officer will then be required to collect certain information from the suspect.

Some law enforcement agencies reported that it had already been their practice to keep records similar to those required by the law for the last seven years, and also regularly practiced displaying Tasers when an officer had one in his or her possession, something which was not required under the old rules. Displaying the Taser involves removing it from its holster and making sure the suspect sees it as if the officer is going to use it. At times, the suspect may start complying with law enforcement after seeing it and the officer can then secure it in the holster again without having to use it. Then, the protocol is for the officer to complete paperwork stating that they displayed the Taser, the suspect complied, and was not tased.

Under the new rule, all of the data kept by police departments will be required to be turned over to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, who in turn will present a report containing the relevant information to the governor of the state of Illinois and the Illinois legislature.

While not all changes in police procedure may have a significant impact on the rights of a criminal defendant, violations of procedure could very well affect the outcome of a criminal case.  It is best to consult with an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney who can discuss your case with you and protect your rights. Our attorneys have experience defending citizens in many types of criminal law cases, and we can advise you on the specific facts of your case. Contact us today for a consultation.

New Legislation to Address “Knockout Game”

January 7th, 2014 at 10:23 am

Chances are you have seen or heard of the disturbing new trend among teens to participate in what is known as the “knockout game,” in which the assailant unexpectedly attacks a member of the public from behind in an effort to knock them out. Victims are usually targeted at random. The dangerous trend has been featured on news broadcasts, online, and through other media outlets, who reported on the attacks with sometimes fatal consequences for the victims. Now the government is taking steps to address it.

knockout gameAn Illinois state representative, Dwight Kay, has proposed House Bill 3783, known as the Knockout Assault Prevention Act, which takes aim at punishing knockout game offenders. The Act would impose higher penalties on those convicted of the crime of battery while participating in the game, making it punishable by three to seven years of incarceration. It also provides that any minors above the age of 14 would be tried for the crime in adult criminal court. Currently, law enforcement seems to think that the trend is mostly confined to large cities, but if the legislation is passed into law in Illinois, any county would be able to use it.

In a case involving an elderly black male victim, the “knockout game” attacker will be charged with a federal hate crime. Authorities say that the attack in that case was racially motivated, as the attack and the moments leading up to it were video recorded, which revealed that the suspect targeted the man because of his race and color.  The recorded statement was of the attacker posing the question that if he were to hit a black person, would it be nationally televised. That defendant was 27 years old at the time of the attack, which occurred in the state of Texas. The victim’s jaw was fractured in two places, and he was hospitalized for several days as the result of the injuries he sustained in his fall to the ground. It is important to note that this defendant allegedly suffers from mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and was reportedly off of his medication at the time of the attack.

In New York, police charged a suspect with a hate crime in connection with the attack of a Jewish male as part of the “knockout” game, and other cases have been reported in numerous other states, such as Missouri and Washington. While this dangerous game does not seem to be confined to one area across the nation, it is safe to say that law enforcement will be cracking down on offenders from here on out.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, an experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. Our attorneys have experience defending citizens in many types of criminal law cases, and we are prepared to advise and represent you in your case. Contact us today for a consultation.

The Drug Trade in Chicago

January 3rd, 2014 at 10:22 am

Many people consider the Chicago area notorious for drugs, and more specifically the abuse of heroin. In fact, citizens in the Chicago area suffer the highest number of heroin overdoses across the country. An interesting article recently published by the Chicago Reader examined the state of Chicago’s “thriving heroin business” and the history of the issue over the last 100 years.

 drug trafficking in Chicago IMAGEOver the last century, Chicago’s heroin business has been able to change and thrive despite the measures aimed at curbing the behavior, including legal restrictions, increased law enforcement, and societal changes. Illegal drug markets began developing in the early twentieth century in marked areas of Chicago. Police were forced to strike a balance between cracking down on users and confining the activity to the known areas with known users and known criminal histories.

When Congress began passing restrictions on the trade of opiates in the 1920s, criminal organizations began dominating the business by smuggling the drugs, sometimes internationally. In the next 40 years, there was a shift in population in the west side of Chicago, with the area becoming predominantly African-American by 1965. Overall, the area suffered losses in jobs as a result of hundreds of companies closing. With the economy declining, the market for illegal drugs flourished.

Eventually, the organized crime families stepped away from the drug trade in favor of having gangs handle the business for them.  Instead of selling drugs on the street as was done in the past, buyers would call dealers to arrange a purchase, decide on a meet location, exchange a code and make the exchange through an opening in the door. Perhaps not surprisingly, gang and drug-related violence increased dramatically in the early 1970s, and in 1974, Chicago experienced the city’s highest number of annual murders.

The 1980s and 1990s brought another change in the drug business. Colombian and Mexican cartels took over drug trafficking into Chicago. Increased competition in Chicago forced the sale of drugs outdoors, usually in public housing complexes or other distressed neighborhoods. Incidents of violence spiked again, and it seemed drug sales were a commonplace occurrence happening everywhere.

By the early 2000s, many of the gang leaders heavily involved in the drug trade were incarcerated and gang structure was weakened. The rates of violence began to decline overall. The drug business is no longer strongly tied to a specific group, but now often involves different gangs participating in the business together.

People not only in Chicago, but across the state of Illinois and across the country, continue to struggle with and suffer from the use and abuse of drugs. As criminal defense attorneys, we have experience in defending clients who have been charged with numerous drug-related crimes. We are prepared to discuss your case with you and advise you of your rights. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, contact us today for a consultation.