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Archive for February, 2014

Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

February 28th, 2014 at 12:29 pm

criminal hearing, homicide, murder, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, guilty pleaThe Chicago Tribune recently ran an article about a defendant who withdrew his guilty plea in connection with a murder charge. The 22-year-old man, from Aurora, had pled guilty to murdering a woman in October of 2005, when he was just 14 years old.

 Appellate Court Decision

The hearing came in light of last year’s appellate court decision, which stated that the defendant’s 2009 guilty plea was invalid, as it provided for a 45-year minimum sentence, and not the 35-year sentence he should have received as the result of entering a plea to first-degree murder. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case when county prosecutors appealed the appellate court’s decision.

 New Criminal Process

There was a short court hearing on February 11th, which served to reset the criminal process against the defendant in light of the appellate court opinion allowing him to withdraw his plea. It was the first court hearing since the decision.

 Case Background

The defendant’s current charges stem from the murder of an Aurora woman during a home invasion on October 31, 2005. Her body was discovered by law enforcement two months later in Batavia Township. The Defendant, who is a Sudanese immigrant and had a significant juvenile record prior to this incident, was originally arrested for the murder in 2007. When he pled guilty in 2009, he almost immediately tried to withdraw his plea.

 Illinois Law Regarding Withdrawing a Guilty Plea

According to the law in Illinois, certain procedural and legislative requirements have to be met in order for a defendant in a criminal case to  withdraw a guilty plea. A motion to withdraw a guilty plea must be filed within 30 days of the date it is entered. This time limit must be met in order for a judge to even consider hearing the motion.

If the Judge agrees to hear the motion, the defendant must show that the guilty plea was not made knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily. This is usually difficult to do, as criminal procedure usually requires the defendant to be fully informed of the rights he or she is waiving as the result of pleading guilty and the consequences of doing so. Established case law has stated that guilty pleas will not be withdrawn unless it is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.  Therefore, it is usually exceedingly difficult to successfully withdraw a guilty plea once it is entered.

All that being said, while it is difficult to withdraw a guilty plea, it is not impossible, as the case previously mentioned demonstrates. An experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and likelihood for success in light of the facts of your particular case. If you or someone you know is charged with a crime in the state of Illinois, contact us today.

Paul Pless’s Legal Troubles Continue

February 27th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

 prostitution, arrest, criminal law, Chicago criminal defense lawyer, criminal defense, Illinois criminal attorneyThe News-Gazette recently reported on a story involving the latest legal woes with which former University of Illinois administrator Paul Pless is dealing. Just over two years ago, investigators discovered that Pless was altering the grades and test scores of law school applicants in his then position as the assistant dean of admissions at the University of Illinois College of Law (UI). Now, he is facing criminal charges for his alleged involvement in a prostitution ring.

Criminal Charges

The article reports that the McClean County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Pless with solicitation of a sexual act, graded as a Class A misdemeanor, after he was arrested on December 30th by police. He is expected to appear before a judge on February 19th for a hearing in connection with the charge.

Mr. Pless was one of four men who were arrested the same day as the result of a prostitution sting operation that was being conducted by the Bloomington Police Department. Many details are being kept confidential by police since the case is ongoing, but the State’s Attorney did say the circumstances leading to Pless’s arrest involved a confidential source who was working with the police, posing as a prostitute.

Maximum Punishment

All of the men were transported to McLean County jail after their arrest, but they were all later released on their own recognizance. If they are convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, they can face a maximum of 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.00. The judge presiding over sentencing will have discretion to impose a lesser sentence, and may be inclined to do so, particularly if any of the defendants do not have a prior criminal record.

Pless’s Background

Pless once held a prestigious position at UI law school, well known for recruiting promising students to attend the school. He ended up resigning from his position in the fall of 2011 after it was discovered that he altered law school applicant’s credentials in order to make them appear as more attractive candidates for the school. Investigators determined that Pless engaged in improper behavior in at least six out of the ten law school classes that he was responsible in evaluating for admission.

It remains to be seen what the final result of Pless’s criminal case will be. When police work involves undercover informants, important constitutional protections apply. For example, there are strict rules regarding what information authorities need to secretly record conversations and otherwise collect information that may later be used in criminal trials.

Hiring an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney is important in order to protect your rights and ensure that proper protocols were followed at all times. Contact us today if you or someone you know has been charged with a crime.

Illinois Lawmakers take Aim at Revenge Porn

February 22nd, 2014 at 12:03 pm

social media & Revenge PornThe increased and widespread use of technology and social media has brought up a whole new host of issues regarding conduct online. While we still struggle to define appropriate online behavior in some aspects, it can be argued that perhaps the law is struggling to keep up with actions that occur on the web. When discussing the damaging effects of online behavior, we often hear key words such as “cyber bullying” and “sexting,” but what it really comes down to may be described as harassment in the legal arena.

What is Revenge Porn?

Lawmakers in Illinois are taking notice and taking action to address these problems. According to an article recently published by the Chicago Tribune, the state is taking steps to give victims of revenge porn an outlet in court. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, revenge porn refers to the act of an individual posting an inappropriate photo or video of their ex-boyfriend or girlfriend online as a way to get back at them after the failure of the relationship.

Proposed Law

Lawmakers in Illinois are trying to prevent such an embarrassing event by proposing a new measure that would make it illegal to post such content on the internet without the consent of the subject of the photo or video. Senator Michael Hastings, who is sponsoring the proposal, compared the publishing of such explicit material to harassment, and said it was the worst kind of cyber bullying.

Proponents say the law is necessary because current Illinois statutory law fails to provide criminal sanctions as a consequence for such behavior. The state’s statutes do not protect the victims of such crime, who most likely consented to the photo or video initially, as the image was recorded in the context of a private, trusting relationship.

The proposed law would make it a felony to post nude and sexually explicit images of another party without their permission to do so. In addition, under the law, it would be a crime to request a fee in order to remove such images from a website. The penalties associated with the law would include a maximum of three years in prison and a $25,000.00 fine. However, judges would maintain discretion to order a lesser sentence if they thought doing so was appropriate.

Opposition

Those who are opposed to the law argue that making such action a criminal offense would infringe on the constitutional right to free speech. Specifically, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois takes the position that the state’s civil laws may be more appropriate to address such behavior, and should be considered as a solution to the issue before the activity is made a crime under state criminal law.

Criminal law and procedure may change more than the average public person is aware. That is why engaging the services of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Illinois is so important. Contact us today if you have been charged with a crime, and let us protect your rights.

Expungement in Illinois

February 19th, 2014 at 12:05 pm

expungement IMAGEMany people have likely made a poor decision or two at one point in their life. Unfortunately for some, these mistakes may have legal consequences. The good news is that in the state of Illinois, those charged with certain crimes may be able to get the charges expunged from their criminal records. As echoed in an article by World News Report, individuals in Illinois can obtain an expungement in order to avoid facing the consequences of their poor judgment for the rest of their lives.

What is an Expungement?

An expungement means that a person’s records will be sealed from public access, which means that these records will only be available to view with an order form the court.

The article further explains that in Illinois specifically, an expungement means that the records will be physically destroyed or returned to the person seeking the expungement. Further, the person’s name will be removed from any public record or index in which it may have appeared in connection with the associated charges.

Why Obtain an Expungement?

Petitioning the court for an expungement of a prior arrest or conviction is almost always advisable for those who qualify for one. Having a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to get a job, obtain a lease, or purchase a home, even if the offense occurred decades ago.

If the crime appears when an employer conducts a background check or on a landlord’s rental application, the person may be denied a job or a lease because of the conviction or arrest.

However, if that person obtained an expungement, the criminal activity would not be accessible by members of the public.

Not all Crimes are Eligible for Expungement

According to the law in the state of Illinois, certain criminal offenses cannot be expunged or sealed from public access. They include, among others:

  • Sex crimes involving minors;
  • Minor traffic offenses;
  • Certain crimes graded as felonies.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Illinois and you have questions about your eligibility for an expungement, it is advisable to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney about your situation. An attorney can discuss the specific facts of your case with you and determine if your case is able to be expunged or sealed from public view.

If you are eligible for an expungement, a criminal defense attorney can help you file a proper petition with the appropriate court. Contact us today to discuss your case and let us evaluate whether you can benefit from an expungement.

Medical Marijuana Use in Illinois

February 14th, 2014 at 1:02 pm

medical marijuana IMAGEThe legal status of marijuana use has been a popular topic in the media in the recent past. In fact, many are pointing out the coincidence that the two teams who will be competing in this year’s NFL Superbowl are from the two states that have legalized marijuana use across the board. While other states have not made such a dramatic change in their laws regarding use of the drug, a number of states across the country have legalized marijuana for the limited purpose of medical use. Illinois is one such state.

 Conditions to Legally Use Medical Marijuana in Illinois

Just because Illinois has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes does not mean that users are free to do so at their own discretion. According to an article recently published by Liberty Voice, an individual who seeks to use the drug for medical reasons may still have to pay a substantial fee, get a background check, be fingerprinted by law enforcement, and could be asked to surrender their firearms. Other costs associated with the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons can include a $150.00 fee for an identification card application and the cost of fingerprinting, which can range from $30.00 to $50.00.

 Limits of the Law

In Illinois, marijuana was legalized for the limited purpose of use as another method of treatment for grave diseases that cause what is considered a debilitating condition, as well as chronic pain. Those who suffer from such defined diseases can use the drug within certain guidelines that still have to be fully defined. Other use is still illegal, and possession of the drug in Illinois will still be considered a Federal offense.

The Illinois Department of Public Health posted the proposed rules and regulations regarding the new law on their website. After February 7th, any public comments submitted will be turned over to the panel of lawmakers who will decide by April 2014 what exactly the medical marijuana law will include in the state. The law is part of a pilot project for medical marijuana use in Illinois, and will be in effect for four years.

 The State’s Position

Illinois concedes that medical marijuana use has a long history going back thousands of years, and modern medicine supports that its use is beneficial for those suffering with debilitating illnesses such as cancer, HIV and AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. The drug can be effective in treating pain and addressing side effects associated with these illnesses that other medicine cannot. Licensed physicians have recommended the drug to hundreds of thousands of patients in other states where medical use is legal, and its recognition by other medical organizations gives it credibility.

This law represents an important change in Illinois’ drug laws. However, it is important to note that the change is very narrow and limited to a specific use that must meet numerous conditions and regulations in order to be considered legal. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving illegal drugs in Illinois, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Should Juveniles Serving Life without Parole be Revisited?

February 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm

juvenile crime IMAGEA United States Supreme Court opinion from 2012 stated that sentencing juvenile defendants to mandatory life without parole amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and such sentences were therefore declared unconstitutional. A local Chicago media outlet recently published an article about the ruling and its effects on past juvenile offenders.

The Court’s opinion and the related sentence imposed does not equally affect all juvenile offenders. Illinois was just one of a number of states that, in the 1980s and 1990s, imposed harsher penalties on those juveniles who were found guilty of violent crimes. The old sentencing rules made the sentence mandatory, which meant that a judge had much less leeway in considering circumstantial factors in imposing a sentence. Now, in light of the Supreme Court decision, such life sentences are no longer mandatory, and while they are not completely prohibited, should rather be used only in extreme cases.

The opinion has also inspired many juvenile offenders, who have long since been sentenced and their time for appeals passed, to petition the proper courts for hearings to be re-sentenced. At least five of such requests have been granted by the Appellate Court in Illinois. When those cases are argued and decided, they will provide the groundwork for whether the Supreme Court’s opinion will retroactively apply to juvenile cases that were already closed.

In making the decision to apply the rule retroactively, attorneys say the Appellate Court will likely consider whether the fairness of the criminal justice system requires the change in procedure, or whether improving the system by implementing the change going forward is fair enough. Opponents say it is unlikely the ruling will be retroactively applied, while proponents seem confident it will, as it represents a matter of due process since juveniles would have been denied the benefit of counsel presenting mitigating factors at their sentencing hearings. A decision by the Appellate Court is expected by summer.

If the ruling is retroactively applied, it will bring with it a host of problems to be addressed. Hundreds of cases of juvenile offenders will have to be heard at re-sentencing hearings, which means witnesses and victims will have to testify again. Such cases will surely present complicated and emotional situations.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime as a juvenile in the Chicago area, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

Backlog of Rape Kit Testing is a Problem Nationwide

February 7th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Rape Kit Testing IMAGEThe Chicago Tribune recently reported on a story covering the delay in processing and sometimes complete failure of rape kits to be tested by law enforcement and lab workers across the country. The fear of many is that as a result of this failure, victims would not get justice and their attackers would remain free to rape them and potential other victims, as long as they were not in prison. As a result, many concerned citizens are forming organizations and getting involved in groups aimed at eliminating the backlog and coming up with alternative ways of testing rape kits and tracking them.

 Many advocates of the victims allege that the backlog in testing is attributed to the low priority that many sexual assault victims are given by law enforcement. Illinois was the first of four states to mandate the testing of rape kits, which it implemented in 2010. Now, the almost 4,100 kits that were untested at the time have been processed, some decades old. The completed kits were sent back to the appropriate local police departments for further action. The results made 927 matches in the national DNA database, giving law enforcement promising leads.

That law in Illinois gives police 10 business days to transfer completed rape kits to the state crime labs. The labs, in turn, have six months to process the kits. While the law is considered to be a step in the right direction, the conditions under which it must be followed are flexible: police compliance is voluntary and the time limit only applies to labs if they have enough staff and resources for administering the testing. State officials are monitoring the law and looking into how the process can be improved.

In the meantime, backlog problems will likely still exist because of cost, lab staffing, and tracking issues. This means some offenders may never be prosecuted, either because the kits were not tested or the relevant statute of limitations had expired by the time they were. The article reports a statistic echoing this fact. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says that 97 percent of rapists are never incarcerated, due in large part to victims’ failure to report. They estimate that 40 of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to police.

Sexual assault crimes, including rape, are serious offenses that usually involve complicated legal issues that arise within the context of a criminal case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

New Police Procedure to Battle Heroin Addiction in DuPage County

February 3rd, 2014 at 12:09 pm

DuPage Narcan Program IMAGEThe popularity of TV shows involving illegal drugs as a central theme could be seen as an indication of the issue’s presence in the everyday lives of many Americans. While not all people suffer from or are necessarily predisposed to drug addiction, the fact is that the use and abuse of illegal substances also carries with it an indirect effect on those people around the user. Those people affected may include friends and family, and can even extend so far as law enforcement, as is evidenced in a change in their procedure recently reported by a media outlet.

It was announced this week that the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office will now be carrying Narcan (Naloxone), a drug known to prevent heroin overdoses, in their squad cars. In doing so, they will become the first sheriff’s office in the state of Illinois to do so. The Sheriff’s Office is just one of the DuPage County’s Law Enforcement Agencies participating in the new DuPage Narcan Program (DNP).

Now, Sheriff’s Deputies will carry Narcan, which can reverse the process of a drug overdose and save the life of a drug user who may otherwise die. The logic is that often, deputies arrive on the scene of a reported incident before the paramedics or EMTs, and having them prepared to use the drug on a potential overdose victim could save a life. The change in procedure is, in part, a response to the 45 heroin related deaths that occurred in DuPage County in 2013.

While the Sheriff’s Office is still working to battle the presence of the drug in the community, the new Program serves to fulfill another aspect of their approach in directly helping those individuals who continue to struggle with addiction. Eventually, the idea is for the pilot program to prove successful enough to support the implementation of the new procedure in law enforcement agencies in all counties in the state of Illinois.

While this new procedure is ultimately meant to address a pressing issue faced by law enforcement when dealing with drug addicted individuals, the fact remains that that person will still have a host of other issues to deal with. Depending on the circumstances, they may be charged with multiple criminal offenses involving the possession of illegal drugs. In addition to fighting their addiction, they will have to also fight a legal battle in criminal court.

An experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago can be invaluable in defending a client with drug charges. Our attorneys have a successful reputation of doing just that. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Illinois involving illegal drugs, contact us today for a consultation.

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