Archive for March, 2014

Do Crime Dramas Promote Police Violence?

March 31st, 2014 at 7:00 am

crime shows, Criminal Defense Attorney, Illinois criminal defense attorney, Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosle, promote violence, television violence, criminal justice, Chicago Police Department, Chicago PD, police violence, crime dramasThere is no shortage of crime dramas on television today. On almost any day, at almost any hour, you are practically guaranteed to find such a show being aired on at least one network. Most of these shoes involve any variety of law enforcement officers solving a crime and apprehending a suspect before the hour is up. And in many instances, the officers depicted use whatever means necessary to catch the perpetrator to or get a confession. The overarching theme suggested is that police violence, even when extreme, is an acceptable way to battle crime.

Recently, an interesting article explored this idea in depth as it specifically related to a particular crime show, “Chicago PD.” While not every idea posed by the article is mentioned here, a handful of topics the article discussed are especially relevant to criminal defense and criminal defendants in the Chicago area.

Shifts in Public Opinion

The popularity of such crime dramas seems to indicate that the public at large is accepting of police abuse. Social events in past decades have perpetuated the threat of crime to the forefront of  an individual’s mind across the nation. As a result, the media responded by promoting crime dramas that feature severely predatory criminals against noble police officers. The reality is that these shows provide much of the public’s knowledge about crime and criminal justice. Not only do the shows often fail to depict an accurate picture of the reality of criminality, but they also serve to shield the police from having their actions inspected and held accountable by the public in real life.

The Real Chicago PD

No matter how virtuous police characters in crime dramas are portrayed, the reality is that in the last 14 years, there have been 102 criminal convictions of Chicago police officers. While this number may seem staggering, it represents only a small fraction of those incidents that were investigated where charges were filed and pursued. Between 2002 and 2004, not even two percent of complaints against the police for excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, and false arrests against civilians led to any type of legal action.

It is well known that in the 1970s and 1990s, officers of the Chicago Police Department regularly used torture tactics on suspects to elicit confessions, tactics that their authority figures knew about and ignored. Since the news broke in 1990, there have been attempts made to give victims justice, but this was not achieved in all cases. Many blame the systematic torture and later cover-up by a “Code of Silence” that seems to be ingrained into the department as a whole, which allows officers to behave in any way they wish without threat of being sanctioned. While the show of the same name denies attempting to reflect violence as it exists in Chicago or how the Chicago PD deals with it, the problem lies in the fact that many viewers may see the show as doing just that.

Viewer’s Perception of Criminal Justice

According to the article, a study revealed that those who regularly watch crime dramas are overall more likely to fear crime. This corresponds to a perception of police effectiveness and a tendency to cause a desire for punishment in sentencing against criminal perpetrators. The logic is that the punitive sanctions will reduce the number of offenders of certain crimes, which also reduces the fear of crime in general. In short, the research suggests that even if the public realizes that media is not reality, it still works to shape its worldview.

Crime dramas mostly encourage the idea that crime is an individual choice without recognizing that in reality, the majority of crime stems from social, structural, and economic factors that influence people into situations in which crimes occur. But instead, the public at large believes that evil people are the root of all crime, as evidenced by the current system of mass incarceration that reflects the idea of harsh penalties when it comes to imposing punishment on those convicted of a crime. Crime dramas act to validate the notion that the only solution to crime is to allow the police to have more power, which is neither realistic nor desirable in society today, and has the capability of leading to serious civil rights violations.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

Many social topics are at play here, and history has proven that social opinion and thinking is an ever changing notion that evolves over time. However, regardless of societal views, there are laws and protections afforded to criminal defendants and suspects of a police investigation. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights is imperative. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation. Our offices are located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and we handle cases in Cook County.

New App Designed to Combat Bullying

March 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am

combat online bullying, CombatHate App, cyberbullying, Simon Wiesenthal Center, empower adolescents, bullying, online bullying, combat bullying The issue of bullying and cyberbullying has increasingly become a hot topic of discussion among members of the public. And while technology has become so ingrained in our everyday lives, it also plays a huge part in making young people the victims of bullying. However, as reported recently by the Chicago Tribune, technology is now being employed to combat bullying as well.

CombatHate App

Chicago officials recently encouraged the use of a new app that could be used to combat online bullying. The app is called CombatHate, and is available for teens to install on their cell phones. It allows the user to take photos or write descriptions of hate speech they find online and send the information anonymously to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is an international Jewish human rights organization. The Center then takes the lead in reporting any information to law enforcement that could be the basis of an online crime. The app also enables patterns of hate that appear online to be tracked, whether the actions rise to the criminal level or not.

The Center’s Associate Dean praised the app, saying it was a way to empower adolescents who are exposed to this type of behavior online every day. Other proponents say the app is especially effective because it works with teens within the world of technology as a way to address the problem of online bullying. It is a means of hope for victims and witnesses to hate crimes.

CombatHate in Chicago

Although the app was introduced in other cities in the past, a news conference was held in Chicago specifically to push its use within the city. This is likely due in part to the use of another app, Yik Yak, which allows teenagers to anonymously post statements to other nearby users of the app. Chicago-area school leaders and educators warned of the use of the app, and said that some students have used it to threaten others. This caused many schools to block the app on their networks and schools also encouraged parents to uninstall the app from their child’s mobile device.

Other Features

CombatHate does more than just curb the incidence of cyberbullying. The app offers tips to victims on how to deal with bullying and get help, and also features recent examples of hate speech and other incidents that users can see within the app. It lists online sites and games which encourage hate, and suggests users avoid them. In addition, the app only encourages teens to use it in serious cases. Users are instructed to upload information only if they believe the incident rises to level of hate speech or terrorism.

Bullying is a serious issue faced by teens today. While not all bullying rises to the level of criminal behavior, it is important to understand your rights if you are accused of such conduct. If you or someone you know has been charged with an incident involving bullying, you should consult with an attorney in the Chicago area who is experienced in juvenile matters. Contact an Illinois juvenile crime attorney today and schedule a consultation to discuss your rights.

 

Cracking Down on Sex Trafficking in Chicago

March 24th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

sex trafficking, sex crimes, lawyer, attorney, Chicago criminal law, Illinois criminal law

It goes without saying that sex crimes of any nature are very serious cases that should be handled with special care and attention. Sex crimes can involve a variety of incidents leading to criminal charges, but the government and law enforcement in the Chicago area are focusing their efforts on human trafficking, and the organizations involved in promoting it. A recent article explained the city’s actions in relation to targeting those culpable of such crimes.

Government Action

United States Senator Mark Kirk and Anita Alvarez, a Cook County State’s Attorney, called for the partnering of local and federal officials to put an end to sex trafficking across the country. One of their efforts includes preventing websites from contributing to the trafficking. They even went so far as to say human trafficking was really just modern day slavery. The Senator said that just as Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment, which put an end to slavery, the state was in a unique position to put a similar end to human trafficking. He said a good place to start would be to stop the publication of sex ads on websites, many of which are also responsible for prostitution advertising.

The Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) and Safe Children’s Acts

In keeping with his call to action, Senator Kirk plans on introducing the SAVE Act in the Senate this week. The legislation will allow the federal government to prosecute websites, like backpage.com, that contribute to children being victimized via commercial advertising. On the state level, the state’s attorney said her office passed the Illinois Safe Children’s Act, which was drafted to protect child victims of sex trafficking. Since the law was passed, 93 defendants have been charged with crimes related to trafficking in state court.

The Internet’s Role

According to the article, the internet has played a huge role in promoting human trafficking and sex crimes. It makes such offenses easier, and often facilitates the commission of the crimes for pedophiles and sex traffickers, who have access to advertising for such acts at any time. Proponents of the legislation described above say it is necessary to stop websites from profiting from criminal activity that victimizes children. They also claim that current law operates to protect sex trafficking websites and their owners from prosecution because they only exist on the internet.

Not all sex crimes involve human trafficking. Sexual assault, prostitution, indecent exposure and possession of child pornography are also sex crimes that can bring with them serious consequences. As such, it is critical that those charged with crimes such as these consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you or someone you know has been charged with a sex crime in Chicago or a surrounding area in the state of Illinois, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley are prepared to assist in your defense. Contact us today to discuss the facts of your particular case.

Law Enforcement Prepared for St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

March 20th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

underage drinking, holiday, St. Patrick's Day, Illinois, DUI, MIPSt. Patrick’s Day means ham and cabbage for some, and imbibing substantial amounts of alcohol for others. Particularly for the college-age students, it seems that law enforcement in Illinois is aware of, and cracking down on, those who choose to participate in the latter.

 Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day

According to a recent article, law enforcement agencies met with representatives from the University of Illinois to discuss ways to mitigate the risks that are commonly associated with the celebration of unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. Even though both groups have tried to discourage people from participating in the event, they realize that some partake nonetheless.  According to police, the event promotes both underage and binge drinking, and results in injuries and even fatalities in years past.

 Breaking the Law

Both law enforcement and University offices and agencies planned ahead of time to work together during the event to enforce laws relating to underage drinking, private parties, and drunk driving, among other hazards. They discussed holding tenants responsible for the conduct of any party attendees, including limiting the number of people on balconies and refraining from throwing objects from them, as required by local ordinances. Hosts of parties who violated any laws, including allowing alcohol consumption by those under 21, will face criminal charges and not solely a city ordinance violation.

However, if a life-threatening situation exists, such as in the case of alcohol poisoning, individuals were urged to call for help and to not avoid doing so for fear of criminal prosecution. These extraneous circumstances likely caused law enforcement to use discretion and choose not to assert the full extent of criminal penalties. As long as there is cooperation, citations from either law enforcement or the University will not be issued to those who call 9-1-1 for help in a dangerous situation.

 Preparing for Unofficial

In light of the holiday, many organizations participated in Walk as One, a program that is meant to spread alcohol safety information to students. Participants knocked on the doors of students to distribute the information directly. In addition to the walk, law enforcement also gave safety presentations to a number of student groups during the last several weeks, and plan on using social media to spread safety information as well.

However, it seems as though some of this preparation may be in vain. Law enforcement recognized that much of the problem lies with people who come to celebrate the holiday from outside communities and have no ties to the University. In fact, over half of the arrests made last year were of students who were not attending the University of Illinois. In that case, the University said it is prepared to contact other schools regarding student’s actions during the event.

Despite the effort of law enforcement and the University to create a safe environment, it is up to the participants of the event to be responsible. If participants choose not to be safe, it is clear that they should be prepared to face action by law enforcement resulting in criminal charges, and action by the school ranging from sanctions to dismissal.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI or alcohol related crime in the state of Illinois, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

Could Marijuana Possession be Decriminalized?

March 18th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

marijuana decriminalization, marijuana possession, Illinois criminal law, criminal defense, laweyr attorneyIn an effort to address the problem of ever-growing prison populations, a recent article reported that an Illinois lawmaker is proposing lower penalties for offenses involving small amounts of some drugs. The proposal includes decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession in favor of punishing the offense with a citation comparable to a traffic ticket.

The Proposal

The proposed change, coming from Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, is part of a recent interest in realigning the criminal justice system in order to decrease the population of inmates in prisons across Illinois. He said his plan would also include lessening the penalty for possession of small amounts of other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The proposal as it relates to marijuana would impart a $250.00 fine for the first such offense.

According to Zalewski, the plan would not only reduce prison populations, but would also lessen the burden for law enforcement labs to test substances related to criminal cases that may get dismissed anyway. He has been a recent advocate of a number of bills aimed at reducing sentences for certain criminal offenses, in spite of his previous efforts at tougher penalties for violations of gun control laws.

Committee Approval

Although the Judiciary Committee heard Zalewski’s proposals, they did not take a vote. Zalewski is beginning to gauge support for the proposals by speaking with colleagues, and has not yet stated when he will ask for panel approval.

Prison Overpopulation

Currently, there are 49,000 individuals imprisoned in Illinois’ correctional system, which was built to hold just 32,000. State prisons regularly house about 4,500 more inmates than they are suited to hold. The proposals outlined above, as well as other similar measures, take aim at those crimes that account for a large number of inmates in state prison. Not only would the measures allow for the reduction of the prison population, but would also pave the way for harsher penalties to be enforced for more serious crimes, such as gun offenses, something Zaleski also supports.

Not only does the overpopulation of prisons pose the realistic problem of space, but also the financial and budgetary problem of overspending on the prison system. Some estimate that the amount spent is about $1.3 billion – which is a great sum, but not even enough to adequately meet the needs of the inmates currently in the system.

Working out the Details

Zaleski refrained from describing the measure as the decriminalization of marijuana, the details of which are still being defined. He said it was more of a restructuring of the criminal justice system as it related to these offenses.

Even though the proposal has not been put into legislation yet, representatives from the narcotics bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said those arrested for possession of about an ounce of marijuana would face a $250.00 fine for their first offense. Previously, they would have faced up to one year of incarceration. Possession crimes involving heroin, cocaine, or other drugs will have a three-year prison term associated with them instead of four.

Drug crimes can be serious offenses. It is beneficial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in Illinois to protect your rights. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation about your specific matter.

Proposed Law Targets Actions of Police Dispatchers

March 13th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

police, new law, Illinois, criminal defense, criminal lawyer, criminal attorney criminal defense lawyerIt is widely known that those who work in law enforcement are held to relatively high standards. Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, and for conducting themselves in an honest way in investigations and when communicating with suspects. While many may expect the same level of professionalism from those who work closely with law enforcement though, the fact of the matter is that most public employees whose positions overlap with law enforcement are not duty-bound to uphold the law.

 Different Legal Consequences

Police dispatchers regularly fulfill their duties, much like the police officers with whom they team, to serve and protect members of the public. However, they, unlike members of law enforcement, cannot be prosecuted for certain violations, such as revealing information to suspects regarding investigations targeting them. A recent article suggests that this may change if Illinois enacts a proposed law from Senator Dave Koehler from Peoria, which passed to the Senate last week.

 Proposed Law

Senator Koehler’s reasoning behind the measure is that it is inconsistent to hold the individuals who are responsible for supporting the police to a lower standard than the officers themselves regarding upholding the law. Under the proposed law, any dispatcher or other law enforcement agency employee who communicates information obtained through their employment, which delays or prevents the investigation of a crime or the apprehension or prosecution of a suspect, will be guilty of official misconduct. The crime will be considered a Class 3 felony.

 Past Actions have Gone Unpunished

Such a scenario played out a few years ago in a suburb of Chicago, when a dispatcher tipped off a local drug dealer that police officers were in the vicinity of his residence. Although the dispatcher was originally found guilty of official misconduct, the Illinois Supreme Court later overturned her conviction on the basis that no law covered the offense.

In another case, a former custodian in Pekin City was accused of collecting information from the police department regarding meth-related investigations in 2010 and 2011 during the course of her employment there and later sharing the information with suspects. She was charged in federal court for this, as well as for participating in a meth sales conspiracy, and is set to go to trial in May. She has not been charged on the state level, however, since no charge exists to address her actions.

It is the hope that the proposed law would effectively act to fill that gap in state law, and be enforced to cover the situations involving law enforcement employees and dispatchers described above.If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the state of Illinois, an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can defend your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.

Effects of Heroin Addiction in Illinois

March 6th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

heroin addiction, Illinois, drug abuse, lawyer, attorney, criminal defense, Chicago drug crimeAccording to an article recently published by the Chicago Sun-Times, the problem of heroin addiction in the state of Illinois has gotten to the level of requiring immediate attention in order to avoid more fatalities. While it seems that law enforcement is doing its part, as evidenced by the recent arrest of a notorious drug lord from Mexico, the problem is so large that law enforcement alone cannot be responsible for solving it.

The Problem is Everywhere

Heroin use is a problem throughout the state of Illinois. Last year, DuPage County reported 46 deaths related to heroin – a record in the county. Another incident in Madison County involved the discovery of three victims of likely overdoses, all discovered within five hours of one another. A couple in Riverside, who were thought to be using the drug, were found in a car stalled on railroad tracks.

More than that, heroin use spans the country. The Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that there was a 21 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses across the nation between 2006 and 2010. Other states, including Vermont and Wisconsin, are attempting to create policies and procedures to deal with the epidemic and get it under better control.

DuPage County’s Response

Just days ago, officials in DuPage County attended an event to discuss the heroin epidemic in the state. A few weeks prior, county officials proposed a plan aimed at decreasing heroin use by addressing prescription drug abuse, and by adding penalties to statutes that enable the state to prosecute gang leaders. The plan would include using any additional revenue to help fund addiction treatment programs. Another proposal involved making the drug naloxone more readily available, which, if administered quickly enough, can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. An anti-heroin task force is planned that will hold meetings in the Chicago area in the spring.

Problems Posed by Heroin Use

The reality is that the current criminal system, which relies on criminal penalties alone, is not serving to address the underlying issue. Heroin use is rampant across all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Many people who had become addicted to prescription drugs and painkillers turned to heroin because the drug is often easier and cheaper to obtain than others.

The article states that heroin from Mexican drug cartels is saturating the market for the drug in Chicago. This version of the drug is able to be snorted, as opposed to injected, and has an increased risk of fatality associated with it since some of it is laced with fentanyl, which makes the drug stronger and more dangerous.

While it seems that officials in Chicago are working to address the issue of drug addiction, many would say there is much work to be done. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug-related crime in the state of Illinois, an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney can help defend your case and may be able to assist you in getting treatment. Contact us today for a consultation.

Should Ex-Felons be Able to Vote?

March 3rd, 2014 at 12:47 pm

criminal justice reform, new law, Illinois law, criminal justice system, Chicago criminal defense lawyer, Illinois criminal attorneyAn article recently published by MSNBC explored the possibility for formerly incarcerated individuals to have rights restored that were previously made unavailable to them.

Criminal Justice Symposium

According to a speech Attorney General Eric Holder delivered at a bipartisan criminal justice symposium, the attitude toward disenfranchisement of those previously in prison is starting to be considered unnecessary, unethical, and not productive at all. He said that the laws were based on outdated notions rooted in exclusion and fear and, more seriously, have a disparate impact on minorities. The symposium, hosted by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, is evidence of the push from civil rights groups for reform of the criminal justice system.

Issues Result from Current Criminal Justice System

Part of the problem is the large number, over 1.5 million, of people who are incarcerated in the United States. Almost six million have lost the right to vote as the result of laws that apply to those previously in prison. Legislators are working on laws to lower required minimum sentences at the federal level and grant judges more freedom in handing down extreme sentences.

On the state level, government leaders have made budget cuts by decreasing prison populations. Civil rights groups are hoping that current low crime rates are an indication that the time is right for changes to the criminal justice system.

Criminal Justice Reform a Bipartisan Issue

It seems that criminal justice reform is a subject both political parties can support. Last month, the Smart Sentencing Act was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is means to reduce the federal mandatory minimum sentences associated with certain drug crimes not involving violence, make certain defendants eligible for reduced sentences, and make the law retroactive which reduces the disparity in sentencing conditions for crack and powder cocaine. While the bill’s passing is positive evidence of bipartisan support, there is not as much agreement regarding increased punishment for crimes involving terrorism, domestic assault, and sexual violence against women.

Bipartisan Support may be Fragile

Still, given the current climate of combined low crime rates and economic concerns, this is seen as an opportunity to make changes that some considered long overdue. Not only will changes to the criminal justice system mean direct effects for the system itself, but indirect effects are also certain. For example, the article states that currently, the number of children in the United States with an incarcerated parent is about equal to the population of Chicago. There is a concern that the perceived agreement between parties regarding criminal justice is delicate and may be fleeting if other criminal matters are introduced and considered by Congress.

These and other changes in the criminal justice system and criminal laws in the state of Illinois are important and could affect your rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney is responsible for keeping informed about changes in the law and procedure. If you or someone you know is charged with a crime in the state of Illinois, contact us today for a consultation.