Archive for May, 2014

Should Perjury Laws Always be Enforced?

May 29th, 2014 at 7:15 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, Christopher M. Cosley, Cook County rape case, criminal caes, perjury laws, perjury prosecutionIn criminal cases, prosecutors generally offer numerous types of evidence in order to prove their case in court. One type of evidence is the testimony of witnesses to or victims of the crime in question, who are sworn in prior to testifying, which symbolizes their promise to be truthful in their testimony.

However, such truthfulness is not always the case. Illinois, along with other states, has perjury laws for the purpose of deterring witnesses from providing false testimony as well as providing a means of punishment for those who decide to lie on the witness stand. However, a recent news article examines whether that law should be enforced in every situation.

Seeking the Truth

While some may argue the purpose of perjury being considered a crime is to maintain truthfulness within the court system, others say there are situations where it may prevent the truth from being told. According to the Illinois law, it is also considered perjury if a person admits that his or her earlier testimony was a lie, even if the witness testified years ago. This produces a problem by discouraging people to come forward to correct an injustice that may have occurred from false testimony given under oath. If they do so, they risk going to prison.

Declining to Prosecute

In a well-known rape case from Cook County in the 1980s, the victim came forward and admitted to lying years earlier when she accused the defendant of raping her. DNA testing proved the defendant’s innocence, and he was eventually pardoned after spending years in jail. Even though the state’s attorney could have prosecuted the victim for perjury at the time, he decided against it, which some say was a good decision.

That case was not an isolated one. A new case in Cook County, involving the perjury prosecution of a Mr. Johnson, has the attention of prior esteemed judges and prosecutors because of the potential “chilling effect” the case could have on future witnesses who want to tell the truth about prior false testimony.

Mr. Johnson testified in the early 1990s in a double murder case against the defendants. In 2011, he admitted to lying during his testimony because telling the truth would have placed him and his family in danger. Despite his recantation, he was charged with perjury.

Concerns

Those judges and prosecutors against the perjury prosecution are warning the state’s attorney that the charges are contrary to the interests of justice. The next step may be to rewrite the perjury law in Illinois. The current law makes two contradictory statements a crime, even if the latter one is truthful and given after the three-year statute of limitations on perjury has expired.

Essentially, this criminalizes the act of righting a prior wrong. This undoubtedly affects the number of wrongly convicted defendants who are eventually exonerated and freed from prison because of witnesses who admitted to lying at trial. Perjury laws that reinforce the need for witnesses to take oaths seriously are necessary, but when the law goes too far and discourages recantation, the truth is stifled.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Illinois, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley are prepared to assist in your defense. Contact us today for a consultation. We serve clients in Cook County as well as surrounding areas.

Age of Consent: Does it Need an Increase?

May 27th, 2014 at 7:06 am

age of consent, Chicago juvenile crime lawyer, Cook County criminal defense lawyer, statutory rapeLegal Inconsistencies

There is not a universal approach to the legal age of consent across the country. Rather, states take different approaches to declaring what the age of consent is within their borders and the enforcement of such according to law. Some suggest a national age of consent of 18 to clear up these inconsistencies. In general, the ages of consent range from 16 to 18 years of age. In Illinois, the age of consent is 17 years old.

Arguments against Young Age of Consent Laws

One of the main arguments against a younger age of consent is the disparity between a state saying a 16 or 17 year old can legally have sex with an adult, but are not considered adults in the eyes of the law in any other situation. Opponents of such young ages of consent say the states that have such laws place too much responsibility on young people and put them at a higher risk for negative consequences of being sexually active with adults.

Further, a considerable age difference between sexual partners can be emotionally damaging, especially when one of them is still a teenager. If a teen has a negative sexual experience with an adult, they may be more likely to have negative sexual experiences as adults and suffer from anxiety, depression, and contract STDs and STIs.

Statutory Rape

The crime of statutory rape occurs when an adult has sex with minor who is under the age of consent. While this crime is important to protect young people from predators and sexual abuse, it may also come into play in a less threatening situation. Consider a scenario where an 18-year-old high school student has sex with a 16-year-old high school student. Such activity is against the law, but it seems unjust to punish someone on the other side of the age of consent who is so close in age to the other as severely as an older offender. In cases such as these, some laws may reduce the punishment for violations of statutory rape, as the purpose behind the laws regarding age of consent and statutory rape are less relevant when applied to couples so close in age.

Criminal Defense Attorney

The crime of statutory rape is a serious one that deserves attention. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can advise you of your rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation in our Rolling Meadows office.

Can Police Search Cell Phones without a Warrant?

May 22nd, 2014 at 7:30 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, search cell phones, search warrant, right to privacy, warrantless police searches, privacy protectionsThe law of warrantless search and seizure and other limits on police activity has been argued and debated in criminal cases for over a hundred years. Now, that argument is extending to the use of technology in modern times. According to a recent news article, the United States Supreme Court is considering two cases about warrantless police searches of defendants’ cell phones and the legality of such actions.

What is a Cell Phone?

Each case currently before the Court portrays a cell phone in completely opposing lights. Whether the Court considers a cell phone a criminal’s tool or an individual’s virtual home will directly affect their decision and the outcome of the cases in question. The defense is arguing that warrantless searches of cell phones upon arrest violates the right to privacy in the digital age.

The government is arguing that the searches are constitutional, reasoning that cell phones are no different than any other possession found on a person when they are arrested, and that search incident to arrest in the absence of a warrant has long been upheld in high court cases. Taking it a step further, the government is also saying that cell phones act as critical tools in the commission of a crime.

The Right to Privacy

In the broader legal world, some are urging the Court to consider a broad view on privacy protections that are implicated by police having access to powerful devices that are capable of storing volumes of personal information. Cell phones are powerful, and are only becoming more so as technology advances.

Those on the privacy side of the argument are saying that cell phones should be afforded the same protections as citizens’ homes when it comes it police intrusion, requiring a warrant that is supported by probable cause. However, the legal analysis is more complicated than that, due, in part, to the numerous exceptions that have been identified over the years for police behavior when arresting a suspect. Police generally have more leeway for warrantless searches in these situations in order to ensure officer safety and to prevent evidence from being destroyed.

A Resolution is Expected

Both state and federal courts have struggled with this issue, in some cases coming to opposing rulings. The impending rulings from the Supreme Court are expected to provide a resolution regarding whether cell phones will receive special protection. It is also possible for the Court to come up with a narrow ruling that applies in some circumstances but not others. One thing is certain: the rate at which technology is developed and changes will be a key consideration in reaching a decision in these cases.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Although the Supreme Court has yet to extend privacy protections to cell phones, there are numerous other safeguards in place to protect a criminal suspect or defendant from police intrusion. If you have been charged with a crime and believe your privacy protections may have been implicated, an experienced criminal defense attorney can discuss your case with you and protect your rights. Contact the Law Office of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Cook County and surrounding areas.

Minorities Affected by Illinois Juvenile Law

May 20th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

juvenile offense, minorities and crime, Chicago juvenile crime lawyer, repeat offender, pleading guilty, juvenile court, Illinois juvenile lawAccording to an article recently published, a study shows that the Illinois law, which required juveniles charged with certain serious crimes to be tried as adults, may be discriminatory.

The imposition of the law also takes away judges’ discretion in these cases while also increasing the likelihood that the same juveniles will become repeat offenders in the future, according to the study.

Juvenile Justice Initiative

As part of the study, the Initiative considered 257 juvenile cases heard in Cook County between 2010 and 2012, in which juveniles were charged as adults in keeping with the law. All but one of the cases involved a defendant who was considered a minority. Out of these juveniles, over half of those that were transferred ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge in adult court, which would not have caused the case to be transferred out of juvenile court had they been originally charged with the lesser offense.

The conclusion of the study found that by transferring a juvenile case to adult court, the offender’s chances at rehabilitation are seriously diminished. Also, the juveniles instead spend their time in adult jail, which correlates to a higher risk for reoffending and taking part in a violent crime. One of the contributing factors to this is that juveniles involved in the adult court process can remain in prison for up to a year before their case is heard, while their counterparts who have pending cases in juvenile court may spend just a month or so in detention.

Future Legislation

As a result of the study’s findings, the Initiative is pointing to legislation that would amend the current Illinois law to avoid an automatic transfer of certain juvenile cases to adult court. Instead, the group wants to focus on legislation that would allow judges to exercise their discretion in determining which cases should be transferred in light of the circumstances and the individual defendant. Advocates tout the inherent advantages of having a judge, who is sitting in the best position to determine the circumstances of a person and a crime and make the decision to transfer a case, instead of a blanket approach instituted by the General Assembly.

Current Law

Illinois is not the only state to keep such a law on its books. The law was enacted in the early 1980s and requires juveniles between the ages of 15 and 17 years old to be automatically transferred to adult court when charged with serious offenses including murder, armed robbery, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm. Once a juvenile is tried as an adult, future charges will also be heard in adult court, no matter the severity of the offense.

Often, the problem is that juveniles are interrogated by officers without a lawyer present, are charged as an adult. They then plead guilty to a lesser charge as the result of bargaining. There is never an opportunity for the juvenile to be heard in court or have the case tried, which results in a situation in which the juvenile’s fate is essentially sealed at the point of arrest.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While some may consider the need for this change to be obvious, it may take a while to be put into practice if it approved at all. In the meantime, those charged with any criminal offense as a juvenile, but especially those who likely face a transfer to adult court, should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Cook County and the surrounding area.

Prevalence of White Collar Crime Higher than Perception

May 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Rolling Meadows criminal lawyer, white collar crime, credit card fraud, identity theft, price misrepresentations, street crime, mobile devices and crimeThere are numerous examples of white collar crime in popular culture. Box office standouts like American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street are two hugely popular films just released in the last year whose plots revolve around the crime.

Often, celebrities and other notable figures who find themselves in trouble as the result of white collar crime remain fodder for news reporters and other media outlets long after their cases have made their way through the courts.

Yet despite the seeming prevalence of white collar crime on our television sets, movie screens, and newspapers, many people simply consider themselves far removed from such criminal offenses, and are likewise mistaken about the rate at which they occur in real life. Unfortunately, many studies and statistics prove that these perceptions are simply not true.

Troubling Statistics

A study performed in the recent past showed that white collar crime affected more individuals in the United States than every other type of crime combined. In fact, in 2010, the National Public Survey on White Collar Crime found that approximately 25 percent of households in America had been affected by white collar crime that year.

The survey was performed on just over 2,500 adults and included questions about their experiences with common sources of white collar crime, including mortgage and credit card fraud, identity theft, losses due to less than honest advice from stockbrokers, Internet scams, and price misrepresentations.

The study helped show the staggering number of people affected by white collar crime, and also tended to prove that this type of crime is not victimless or far removed from actual people. That survey also noted that people are far more concerned with white collar crimes they feel are more serious, like identity theft, than others.

The study found that the most common white collar crimes were credit card fraud, the misrepresentation of prices, and repairs that were unnecessary. It was also found that despite the acts being considered at law to be criminal, individuals were far more likely to report the incidents to their financial institutions than they were to report the incidents to law enforcement.

A Shift in Crime

In years past, data has revealed that what is considered “street crime” has been waning, perhaps for decades, while white collar crime is on the rise. Some suggest that the increase in white collar crime is due to the fact that there is often a higher return on investment for such crime. Also, it takes advantage of the increase in information and the current economy; the internet’s popularity produces greater profits. Finally, it exploits the widespread use of consumer electronics and mobile devices.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a white collar crime, hiring a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in such matters is crucial to the success of your case. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley for a consultation with one of our attorneys who has successful experience representing clients charged with white collar crime. Our offices are located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Mentally Ill Arrested Instead of Treated

May 12th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, Crisis Intervention Team, mentally ill, mentally ill arrested, severe mental illness, Urbana police department, Illinois criminal defense, social workers in Illinois, Cook County criminal defense lawyerIt seems that so many of the tragic news stories involving shootings at schools, military bases, and other public arenas often trace back to a perpetrator with a history of some degree of mental illness. Not every person who suffers from a mental disease commits such horrific acts. Likewise, some of those who are diagnosed as mentally ill participate in lesser acts of criminality. However, situations like these beg the question, “How can we more appropriately and properly treat the mentally ill to avoid criminal acts?”

A recent article says there is a sharp incline in the number of mentally ill people who are charged with a crime or otherwise dealt with by law enforcement in situations that would call for social workers or other community resources. This suggests that the answer to the question posed is more pressing that one might think.

Lack of Resources

Across the state of Illinois, the resources that are available to the mentally ill on a community level are on the decline. As a result, much of the burden is shifted to law enforcement, forcing officers into roles they are not necessarily prepared to handle. The numbers speak for themselves. In Urbana, the number of documented police calls regarding those with mental or behavioral problems has tripled in the last two years. This statistic does not take undocumented encounters into account.

Despite the obvious need, the options officers have in dealing with such calls are decreasing in large part due to funding issues. This is causing mental health facilities to close, and community-based resources to be limited. The result is a gap in the system that forces police officers to act as social workers.

Solutions

Urbana’s city council held a session focused on discussing the gaps in the system and providing an overview of the city’s Crisis Intervention Team. The problem was further discussed, with officials stating that of the approximate half a million people in Illinois suffering with a severe mental illness, only about 19 percent of them were provided with services.

While a more permanent and effective solution remains to be implemented, the Urbana police department has trained about 20 of its officers to deal with calls that involve psychological issues as opposed to criminal issues when a crisis intervention officer is not available. Some would like to see that number grow, which would likely go a long way in avoiding a situation where a mentally ill individual is arrested in a situation which would not otherwise call for such action.

Others argue that the training, despite being a step in the right direction, falls significantly shy of solving the problem. Besides the discussion the council meeting started, the point of the meeting was also to highlight the lack of resources and support available to help those with psychological issues. Not only does the lack of funding pose obvious problems for those who suffer from mental illness, but it also poses problems for officers who are forced to deal with the individuals as the result of a call. In those situations, the officer can bring the person to a hospital, bring them to jail, or choose not to act.

Often none of these options are ideal, and legal issues in some cases may prevent a hospital from admitting a person against his or her will. Likewise, incarceration is generally only a short-term solution, since those who are mentally ill will likely engage in the same conduct upon their release in the absence of proper treatment.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring an experienced attorney is highly beneficial to every individual charged with a crime, but especially to those who may have engaged in criminal behavior or been arrested due to mental illness. An attorney can not only protect your rights, but may be able to ensure you are treated appropriately in light of your mental condition. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley in Rolling Meadows today for a consultation.

Higher Speed Limit Ushers in New Work-Zone Safety Rules

May 7th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Higher Speed Limit Ushers in New Work-Zone Safety Rules | Illinois LawThe beginning of 2014 brought a change in the speed limit posted on interstates in Illinois to 70 miles per hour from the previous limit of 65 miles per hour. In light of the increased speed limit applicable to roadways across the state of Illinois, a news outlet recently reported that extra safety measures will also apply to Illinois construction zones, including reduce-speed signs and speed-indicator posted signs.

The Effect on Work-Zone Speeds

Studies indicate that on average, a car going 70 miles per hour needs 470 feet to come to a complete stop, while cars traveling at 65 miles per hour need just 405 feet to stop safely. Heavier cars, including trucks and semi-trailers, require even more distance. The safety measures for work zones, including the signs mentioned above, are used in areas where workers are present in an effort to get drivers to pay attention and slow down.

With the new speed limit in effect for just a few months, it is hard to determine what the effect the speed limit has had on work-zone speeds. The short time the change has been in effect is only one factor; this winter’s severe weather and the cool and rainy spring have pushed construction back significantly, making it difficult to measure the overall impact of the change in speed. It is worth noting that the Illinois Department of Transportation opposed the increased speed limit due to safety concerns.

Harsher Penalties

Since 2003, fines have increased in Illinois for traffic citations, including speeding in a work zone, and crashing in a work zone causing injuries or fatalities. First time offenders of work-zone speeding will incur a fine of $375, with a $1000 fine for the second such offense, in addition to a possible license suspension for additional violations. Car accidents that result in work-zone deaths may involve felony criminal charges for reckless homicide.

Despite the increased speed limit, the posted speeds in work-zones are 55 miles per hour, and 45 miles per hour if workers are present. Photo-radar vans are one tool law enforcement uses across the state to ensure speed limits are followed in work-zones. The vans are capable of capturing images of both the driver of a vehicle and the vehicle’s license plate, record the vehicle’s speed, and post the time and date. There are signs to warn drivers that such vans are being used, and the vans are distinguishable by their markings. Troopers send tickets to offenders through certified mail.

Additional Safety Measures

The Illinois Department of Transportation continues to use electronic message boards to alert drivers of construction zones and traffic, and is exploring other ways to inform drivers of traffic patterns through technology. However, frontline flaggers remain as a basic early warning system to identify erratic drivers, get drivers’ attention, and warn of a backup in traffic or other events motorists should be aware of while approaching a work zone. The Department plans on exploring other safety measures and making changes as necessary when the effects of the higher speed limit can be more accurately measured.

If you have been charged with a traffic offense…

It is advisable to contact an attorney experienced in traffic ticket cases. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley in Rolling Meadows today for a consultation. We have successful experience representing clients charged with traffic offenses ranging from speeding tickets to accident related fatalities.

 

Illinois Senate Reforms Rape Law

May 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Illinois Senate Reforms Rape Law | Cook County Criminal Defense LawyerA crippling backlog of rape kit testing is a problem in different counties and states across the country. Unsurprisingly, the state of Illinois is no exception. Backlogs in rape kit testing – due to numerous factors, ranging from the mishandling of kits to understaffing of testing labs – often caused rape cases to go without being prosecuted, essentially victimizing the one assaulted for the second time. Now, an important change in the law seeks to prevent situations like that from occurring.

Cases Influencing Change

In one case, a woman was beaten and raped in a south suburb of Chicago in 1977. After the incident, the local police department failed to follow through on her case, losing evidence crucial to apprehending a suspect. As a result of their failure to follow through, enough time passed for the statute of limitations to run out on the case, which prevented charges from ever being filed. Despite the failure and the victim’s loss of confidence in the justice system, she continued to fight for change in the law.

Senate Action

This case, in addition to countless others, made the argument to win Senate approval for a law that would allow more than 10 years, the previous applicable statute of limitations that began running the day the crime was committed, to bring charges for rape. The Senate unanimously passed the measure, which now makes the clock begin on the statute of limitations the day a rape kit is examined, and no longer on the day of the crime.

This is an important and significant change, especially in light of the known problems with the backlog of rape kit testing. Prior to 2013, more than 4,000 rape kits from agencies across the state were forwarded to Illinois State Police due to a law passed in 2010, which required all old evidence in sexual assault cases to be sent to state police. The legislation extending the applicable period of the statute of limitations is now set to go to the House.

The Failure to Investigate

Despite officers’ assurance to the victim of the 1977 case that the incident would be investigated, it likely never was. The officers who took the victim’s statements were, in fact, part-time employees. Moreover, there is a strong indication that rape crimes simply were not being investigated by law enforcement at the time this victim was raped. Still, the victim was able to obtain her attacker’s name three years after the crime and presented it to police; her rape kit had been misplaced by that time though.

At that point, the decision not to prosecute such cases was a conscious one. Later, staffing issues and a lack of capacity may have prevented such cases from being investigated. Today, the situation seems to be improving. Officers are being trained in the context of investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults and rape cases.

Criminal Law Attorney

This change represents an important shift in the law that can affect the rights of both victims and defendants. Sexual assault crimes are serious charges, and it is imperative to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you or someone you know is charged with such a crime. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today and schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Chicago and the surrounding area.