Archive for July, 2014

Potential Revised Criminal Sentences in Illinois

July 28th, 2014 at 11:01 am

Chicago criminal defense attorney, criminal justice reform, criminal sentences, Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney, prisoner rehabilitation, revised criminal sentencesAccording to a recent news article, lawmakers in Illinois may soon be considering a reduced criminal sentencing structure. While lawmakers are reconsidering the criminal sentences imposed on certain offenders who are convicted of crimes of a lower level in favor of shorter sentences, they maintain the state is not easing up on crime. Rather, the state legislator who is behind the idea to form a committee tasked with reconsidering the sentencing guidelines says it is more about acting more effectively, and less about letting criminal offenders get off scot-free for their offense.

Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee

The legislator who is behind the possible revision is Representative Michael Zalewski, who reportedly sponsored a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would create a Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee. The committee would be asked to examine options in an effort to improve the chances a prisoner could be rehabilitated while also decreasing the amount of time they remain incarcerated. The group would use research conducted by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (SPAC) as a foundation for their revision suggestions. Zalewski allegedly advocates for a broader approach to sentencing in the criminal courts, one that involves acknowledging the difference between a drug offenders of a lower level and a felon who possesses a gun.

The Resolution

Zalewski’s resolution recounts some alarming facts about the current system of criminal justice in Illinois. Illinois supposedly spends about $1.3 billion annually to house adult prisoners in the state. It costs approximately $86,861 per year to incarcerate a single juvenile offender. Further, there is a constant problem of prison overpopulation, while crime rates remain relatively high in communities across the state. The information contained in the SPAC’s report addresses some of these issues, and also includes the recidivism rate, parole violations, and the effect of criminal sentencing enhancements on the state’s bottom line.

The committee is expected to take the SPAC’s report into account in determining whether to lower time in prison for defendants convicted of certain minor offenses. It follows other national research, which reveals that prison may act as a deterrent, but offers little rehabilitative value for those who commit minor nonviolent crimes. A portion of the focus of the committee will also include minimizing the effect the sentencing guidelines have on minority groups.

The suggestion to form such a committee comes after Illinois has taken other steps in revising its approach to crime. This includes the requirement of videotaping interrogations, the reduction of the crime of prostitution to a misdemeanor, and making expungements easier to obtain for those criminal defendants who have been successful at rehabilitation.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is advisable to consult with an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successfully defended clients in many types of criminal matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Chicago and the greater surrounding area.

The Use of Stingrays: Lines between Public and Private Life Unclear

July 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am

Christopher M. Cosley, citizens’ rights, constitutional rights, Cook County criminal lawyer, private life, Stingrays, violation of citizens’ rightsTechnology is expanding and being developed at a more rapid pace than ever. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that numerous instances involving police searching practices are presenting issues about the violation of citizens’ rights. More specifically, the argument centers around whether the police tactics are an invasion of privacy or whether the information would otherwise be available to the public. A recent article discussed this issue within the context of law enforcement use of a specific type of surveillance technique.

The Use of Stingrays

Illinois State Police allegedly began using devices called Stingrays around 2008. This is only one of the law enforcement agencies in the majority of states across the country that have decided to employ the use of such devices. Stingrays are mobile devices that obtain and record information from cell phones when the phones connect to mobile towers. The practice is considered by many to be less than ethical in conducting surveillance. Even more troubling is that this information was supposedly previously unknown until it was discovered through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

The Stingrays essentially work as hacking devices by appearing as if they were a base station, which causes any cell phone in the area to disable its encryption, allowing the Stingray to gather a large amount of data from the phone, excluding communication content. Not all cell phone companies or wireless providers use networks that would be compatible with Stingray technology, but some popular wireless providers may be making the switch in the near future.

Violation of Rights?

According to the article, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are employing the use of Stingray devices. Despite this growing use, there is an issue as to the violation of civil liberties since the activity is essentially a warrantless search of targeted individuals, and an acquisition of all signals within a certain area, including those of innocent bystanders. Surveillance techniques can also include downloading a specific mobile tower’s entire activity over a set period of time, which would include information related to every mobile device that connected to the tower during that time period.

In some instances, the acquisition and use of the Stingray devices has been tied to anti-terror grants and the overall war on terror effort. While this connection may be authentic in some cases, it is questionable whether anti-terrorism efforts are the true reason behind the use of Stingray devices, particularly when such use is increasing and widespread.

Court rulings on the issue of whether rights are violated by law enforcement’s use of these devices are split. The practice involves unwarranted mass surveillance, but the use of the Stingray devices usually involves a high level of secrecy. Both the manufacturer and police agencies have a history of being uncooperative with requests for information from different groups and organizations. They have attributed this, in part, to the desire not to compromise ongoing or future investigations. The concern of many is for courts to determine what the parameters of reasonable use is involving such surveillance devices, along with clearly defining personal versus public space.

Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney

All U.S. citizens have a certain expectation of privacy and deserve protection from infringement on those rights. If you have been charged with a crime and believe your constitutional rights may have been compromised in the process, please contact an experienced Cook County criminal lawyer at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation. Our office is located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Proposed Law Regarding Accessibility of DNA Testing

July 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am

DNA testing, criminal charges, DNA evidence, innocent person, criminal justice system, Christopher M. Cosley, legal representationThe Chicago Tribune recently published an article that discussed a proposed law in the state of Illinois that would allow inmates who have previously pled guilty to have access to DNA testing that would prove their innocence.

The Legislation

The proposed law, which many are speculating that Governor Pat Quinn will sign into effect, represents a small but substantial change in the current law regarding DNA testing. The proposal would give inmates new access to DNA testing in order to prove their innocence after they have previously pled guilty to criminal charges. On the national level, exonerations are overall on the decline as inmates’ appeals based on DNA evidence are moving through the court system. Illinois would follow in the footsteps of 44 other states that have allowed inmates who pled guilty to seek DNA testing.

The legislation is meant to recognize the fact that some of the defendants who end up pleading guilty in a criminal case are actually innocent of the charges, and at times take this action just to avoid a harsher penalty than if they took the matter to trial. The law contains a requirement that there be a reasonable probability that a favorable DNA testing result would have led to an acquittal at trial; the inmate must establish this before being granted access to DNA testing.

Supporters of the law say that it is worth implementing even if it leads to just one exoneration of an innocent person being released from prison. This is especially relevant in cases where a confession was never made and there is a lack of physical evidence linking a defendant to a particular crime. In addition, cases based on events that occurred decades ago before DNA testing was widely available may have questions answered and issues resolved that were previously impossible to do. The changes in the law and in the science gives individuals new access to techniques that could produce important exculpatory evidence.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Many believe that the criminal justice system in America was founded on the proposition that it is better to let guilty men go free than imprison even a single innocent man for a crime he did not commit. This new proposed law would not only be pivotal and potentially life changing for some prisoners, but seems to echo the same beliefs that shaped our criminal justice system.

It is important for anyone who has been charged with a crime to contact an experienced Chicago criminal attorney. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, contact The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case and obtain legal representation in order to protect your rights. We serve clients in Cook County, DuPage County, and the greater surrounding area.

Illinois’ Marijuana DUI Law Not Changed by Legislators

July 18th, 2014 at 7:58 am

Chicago DUI lawyer, Cook County criminal defense lawyer, DUI charge, illegal drug, Illinois’ marijuana DUI law, marijuanaAccording to an article recently published, state legislators in Illinois will likely not address issues brought up by the inclusion of marijuana in the state’s DUI law until next year. Currently, the law allows law enforcement to charge drivers with a DUI who were driving under the drug’s influence, even when no evidence of impairment exists. Many are joining in an effort to change this portion of the DUI law in Illinois.

A Bill to Change the Law

A bill was drafted to address the issue and was sponsored by a Senator from Chicago. Although it was recently returned to the Senate committee, likely for the rest of the General Assembly’s current session, supporters are adamant that it will not be forgotten. The plan is to reintroduce the bill next session. Many supporters of the bill are saying the reason for the delay is due to the perception that the bill may be moving backwards in DUI enforcement. Because of this perception, it may take some time for the proposal to gain support.

The bill would seek to change the DUI law by not imposing a DUI charge if any amount of illegal drug is found in a person’s system, but instead imposing a separate criminal offense if the presence of a drug was detected in a person’s system. Many are supporting the bill, but acknowledge that it may require some minor changes to gain enough support to pass. One such change may be to focus the proposed change only on marijuana and not any other illegal drug.

Current Law

Under the relevant Illinois DUI law currently, a driver can be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if any trace of the drug is detected in his or her blood or urine. The problem is that traces of marijuana can be found in a person’s system several weeks after they actually used the drug. The law does not require prosecutors to prove that a driver was impaired by the drug that he previously ingested, only that traces of the drug were found in his system at the time he was operating a vehicle.

This law is having profound and sometimes tragic outcomes for those charged with a DUI. Numerous defendants have been charged with aggravated DUI causing death under the marijuana portion of the DUI law, and have been sentenced to years in jail as a result.

DUI Defense Attorney

While the bill has not yet passed, many supporters are considering the simple discussion of the issue a positive step towards addressing it. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI in Illinois, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. The lawyers at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successfully represented clients in DUI cases. Contact our experienced Cook County criminal defense lawyers today for a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Cook and DuPage Counties.

Federal Drug Offenders May Have Shorter Prison Terms

July 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am

criminal history, drug offenders, fair criminal justice system, federal drug offenders, overcrowded prison, Rolling Meadows drug crimes lawyerStrict sentences for drug offenses have recently been debated, in addition to the problem of overcrowding at prison facilities across the country and the associated cost to house so many inmates. Not only are states struggling with these problems, but the government on the federal level is seeking ways to address the same issues as well.

A recent news article revealed that Attorney General Eric H. Holder supported a proposal to reduce the incarceration time for some of those in prison in an effort to achieve a more fair criminal justice system for minorities as well as lower costs for taxpayers.

The Proposal

Under the proposal, about 20,000 out of 215,000 federal inmates would be eligible for reduced sentences. The potential reduction in sentence would be available to nonviolent low-level drug offenders who do not have strong criminal ties. The new sentences would apply retroactively and the U.S. Sentencing Commission is currently reviewing the proposal. Just a few months ago, the Commission decided to reduce the base offense for possession of specific quantities of controlled substances, which ultimately reduced average sentences by just under a year.

The proposed plan would act to make that guideline retroactive, effectively applying to inmates who were already sentenced and are serving time under the old guidelines. The retroactive sentencing would only be available to those defendants whose crimes were not violent, who did not use a weapon, and who do not possess a long criminal history. Not all inmates could apply for a lowered sentence though, and not all of those eligible would be granted one.

Striking a Balance

The bill’s supporters believe that the proposal strikes a good balance between ensuring the safety of the public while also addressing the pressing issues presented by the criminal justice system. The issues include the problem of overcrowded prison systems, which has been made worse by extremely long incarceration sentences. Mr. Holder has a strong history of advocating for sentencing reform, aiming to more appropriately align penalties with the seriousness of the associated crime and to make the criminal justice system a more fair system for minorities. He is also attempting to speed up clemency requests, especially those coming from low-level offenders.

Criminal Defense Attorney

There are mixed positions on the issue of reduced sentences, and the current proposal by no means has universal support. However, it will be interesting, if the proposal is passed, whether the same changes will translate to the state level regarding drug offenses.

The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successful experience representing clients who have been charged with drug crimes. Contact an experienced Rolling Meadows drug crimes lawyer today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Chicago and the greater surrounding area.

Gun Violence Seen by Some as Public Health Concern

July 10th, 2014 at 7:43 am

gun violence, mental health, mental health system, public health crisis, Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney, fatal shootings, felony, Christopher M. CosleyIn light of the many recent fatal shootings in the media, not to mention the countless mass shootings marring our nation’s recent past, it is perhaps not surprising that many are trying to pinpoint the true root of the problem of gun violence, and attempt to come up with ways to address it. A prior blog post discussed the treatment of the gun problem as more of a mental health issue. Now, according to an article published by CBS News, experts are suggesting the mass violence is more properly considered and treated as a public health crisis.

Gun Violence as a Disease

The article suggests that it is essentially a waste of time to continue debates about gun reform and a flawed mental health system. Rather, a more effective way of ending the cycle of gun violence is to treat it as a disease and enlist the help of healthcare workers in fighting it. Experts say that a health-based system is necessary for gun violence prevention.

Research from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health shows that violent behavior usually exhibits the characteristics of an epidemic disease in that it clusters and spreads. It not only directly impacts the health of those involved, but also negatively impacts the well-being of those exposed to it. Many medical organizations agree that the healthcare community is imperative to treating the issue of gun violence.

Getting Physicians Involved

Some groups who are advocating treating gun violence like a disease are even encouraging physicians to counsel patients in gun safety and to join efforts to restrict the sale and ownership of guns. This idea has been met with some resistance, however. The prospect of including a gun violence prevention course in the American Medical Association’s Continuing Medical Education program was met with mixed opinions and an ensuing debate. Some support the idea of integrating medical professionals into combatting violence, while others say it puts too much of a social worker role on doctors who should be focused on attending to patients. There is also ongoing debate about how involved a physician should get in asking a patient background questions regarding firearms.

Federal Health Agencies

These groups are also encouraging federal health agencies to join in on tackling the issue. This includes the Surgeon General and the CDC, among others. Supporters of treating gun violence like a disease say that these agencies and others should be working to protect the public from deaths and injuries from gun, just as they do from other dangers. Many gun rights activists are opposed to this, as it would involve federal health officials in gun control efforts.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While the specific ways to address this issue from a disease perspective are continuing to be argued, some are simply pointing out that those healthcare workers with access to the population should be part of the effort in educating communities about the dangers of gun violence. However, in many ways, the problem of gun violence continues despite the efforts aimed at curtailing it.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a felony crime involving a firearm in the state of Illinois, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley for a consultation.

An Opportunity for Expungement

July 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am

opportunity, Chicago criminal defense attorney, Cook County Circuit Court, criminal records sealed, expungement, Illinois law, law-abiding citizensUnder Illinois law, those convicted of certain crimes may be able to clear their criminal record. While this is a positive thing for many eligible people, the problem is that many are not aware of their option to do so. This often puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to education and employment opportunities after completing their sentences. However, according to a recent article, the clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court is working to spread awareness about the law so that people can take advantage of the benefits it offers in having their records expunged.

Expungement Summit

The clerk has been running a campaign for the last ten years aimed at educating offenders about their options to get their criminal records sealed or expunged. While she has made progress, there is still room for improvement, particularly among juvenile offenders. An educational summit will be held to continue the campaign. The goal is to let people know if they have an opportunity to expunge their court records, and to take advantage of the second chance it affords them to be law-abiding citizens and productive members of society. The law is aimed at removing as many obstacles as possible for people who are trying to better themselves and the life of their family. Many agencies and organizations from Cook County will be involved in hosting the event.

Criminal Convictions

After the tragedy of 9/11, the number of background checks performed on job applicants drastically increased from 20 percent to 80 percent. This statistic presented obvious difficulties in securing employment for those with a criminal record. Perhaps more problematic is that even those charged with minor infractions in the past were denied jobs and other opportunities because of the charges.

Employment opportunities are not the only thing with which a criminal record can interfere. Prior criminal charges in court records can affect education opportunities, bank loan applications, eligibility for military service, and housing or rental applications, just to name a few. Another important piece of information to keep in mind is that even if a defendant was later found innocent of a charge or never charged with a crime, he or she may still have an arrest record.

Juveniles

Although the number of juvenile applications for expungements have increased in recent years, it is believed that only a fraction of those eligible apply. Part of the problem may be that since juvenile cases are confidential, those charged with juvenile crimes mistakenly think no one can access their record anyway, so there is no need to get the case expunged. This likely causes many juvenile offenders to never think they need to seek an expungement.

Criminal Defense Attorney

There is a legal process involved in applying for and successfully obtaining an expungement. If you are interested in petitioning the court to clear your criminal record, the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can assist you. Contact us today for a consultation. We serve clients in Cook County and the surrounding area.

Teen Drinking Targeted by Officials

July 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am

Christopher M. Cosley, high school graduation, juvenile law attorney, Rolling Meadows criminal lawyer, teen drinking, The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley, underage drinking, Chicago juvenile crime lawyerThe end of a school year brings graduation and all of the celebrations that go along with the occasion. Many high school students are undoubtedly eager to enjoy the milestone and excitedly look forward to the next part of their lives. However, it is an unfortunate fact that many event celebrations for  teens involve underage drinking, or at least the opportunity to do so. A recent article discusses law enforcement officials’ response in Pontiac, Illinois.

Underage Drinking

Police officers are aware of a correlation between the incidence of underage drinking and warmer weather in the summertime. Their concern, however, is that teens do not appreciate the fact that choosing to participate in underage drinking and risking an arrest can have long lasting and damaging effects on their lives in the future.

School officials also side with law enforcement, saying that students partaking in celebrations is to be expected. But, it is also important that such celebrating be done in a responsible way. School representatives encourage students to enjoy their graduation with friends and family in a smart and safe way. The local school in Pontiac offered a safe and legal alternative celebration that they hosted, called Operation Graduation. It was an all-night event allowing teens to celebrate in a drug and alcohol-free environment.

Consequences

Potential consequences of an underage drinking arrest include suspension of the individual’s driver’s license for at least six months due to the state of Illinois’ zero tolerance policy. Other consequences include a probationary sentence, community service, the imposition of a curfew, and potential ramification from school administration, like restrictions on extracurricular activities.

If convicted of a higher graded Class A misdemeanor, an individual faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Both the age of the individual and whether they have any prior criminal history are factors that are considered in order to determine whether the person will be sentenced to a period of incarceration, a period of probation, and/or any fines imposed.

Other criminal offenses involved with teen drinking could include an arrest for driving under the influence. Minors are subject to the same testing as adults, including breath, blood, and urine screenings. In addition to losing their license, teens could be sentenced to probation time or fines.

Of course, some may argue that the legal consequences of underage drinking pale in comparison to the personal tragedy that can occur. Poor judgment and decision making that results from underage drinking could have potential life-long consequences if such behavior results in a crash, death, or other significant injury.

Juvenile Law Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with underage teen drinking or any other criminal offense as a juvenile, the experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can assist in your defense. Contact us today for a consultation. We serve clients in DuPage and Cook Counties and surrounding areas.