Archive for December, 2014
December 30th, 2014 at 8:18 am
After generations of taking a hardline stance on the War on Drugs, Congress finally effectively ended the federal government’s ban on medical marijuana, at least for now. This extraordinary news can provide comfort for those involved in Illinois’ medical marijuana program. Rather than facing potential federal drug charges, nationwide users, growers, and sellers who comply with state laws regulating medical marijuana will finally be able to relax when it comes to the fear of federal prosecution.
Congress Cuts Funding for Medical Marijuana Prosecutions
While Congress did not actually “legalize” medical marijuana on a federal level, it did the next best thing. The Los Angeles Times reports that Congress included language in its massive spending bill that cut funding for prosecuting these crimes. So while operating a medical marijuana dispensary is still technically a violation of federal law, federal agents and prosecutors will not be able to prosecute these crimes because they will not have the money to do so, so long as the so-called criminal is complying with state laws regarding medical marijuana. Congress’ action comes on the coattails of the Obama administration’s efforts to follow a similar policy over the last year, but Congress’ action is the first time that the federal government has actually codified any type of decriminalization of marijuana since criminalizing it in the first place.
What this Means for Illinois Medical Marijuana
It is a little unclear whether Congress’ action will have any immediate practical effect in Illinois. This is because while our legislature has authorized the use of medical marijuana, we currently don’t have any legally authorized medical marijuana dispensaries. Illinois is preparing to authorize the first dispensaries, and state officials are expected to announce who will receive the first licenses in the state to sell medical marijuana some time before the end of the year. Ultimately there will be 21 grow centers and 60 dispensaries spread across the states. Once these businesses are actually licensed and up and running, they will have a much easier road than dispensaries in other states like California faced when they opened for business only to be subjected to raids by the FBI and DEA. But until these businesses actually are up and running, there will be no one lawfully dispensing medical marijuana under Illinois law, so the new federal law will have no effect here.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you find yourself accused of a drug crime you will need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and schedule a consultation today.
December 23rd, 2014 at 6:57 am
In the past the Illinois legislature passed a law that, among other things, made it illegal for law abiding citizens to record on-duty police officers doing their job. Fortunately, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down this terrible law, which was obviously unconstitutional. Illinois legislature has now passed another eavesdropping law, and while it does not have the exact same problems as the first law, it is still deeply troubling to anyone who cares about civil liberties or the rights of criminal defendants.
The New Eavesdropping Law
NBC Chicago reported on the new law, which passed the state Senate by a margin of 46 to four and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. It is supposed to focus on protecting “private” conversations. The prior law in Illinois made it illegal to record any conversation without having the consent of all of the parties involved. That is how prosecutors used it to prosecute citizens who recorded cops behaving badly. This new law will keep the ban on recording a conversation without every party’s consent, but will supposedly only apply to private conversations. However, that is not all the law does. It also dangerously expands the power of police to record citizens without seeking a warrant.
Law Expands Police Power
The new law would allow police to secretly record a suspect’s conversations for 24 hours without getting a warrant. Instead they would only have to get the permission of a prosecutor. In other words, they only have to get the permission of someone who is already on their side. This differs wildly from the previous requirement that they get a warrant to do such a wiretap. Getting a warrant requires that they prove to a magistrate (a neutral judge) that they have probable cause before they can start spying on a citizen. The old law allowed this sort of behavior under certain emergencies, like in a hostage situation, but the new law would allow much broader recording.
What About Body Cameras?
The new law, if it passes, will also make creating a comprehensive body camera plan for police officers more complicated. Unless police officers are required to consent to being recorded at all times in order to be officers, then they could argue that they should be allowed to turn the cameras off when they are having “private conversations.” These private conversations could include the very conduct and attitudes that the body cameras are designed to detect in the first place.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a crime, you will need the assistance of a trained and experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and schedule a consultation today. We can discuss your case and determine what we can do to help you. If you are not charged with a crime, but a loved one is, please also feel free to call.
December 19th, 2014 at 7:20 am
In the wake of public outrage over the police killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri, some, including President Obama, have called for the use of body cameras by police. The hope is that requiring officers to use these cameras may prevent or provide proof of the behavior of bad officers while protecting those who do their jobs correctly. These cameras may also be extremely useful in criminal defense cases as they could provide an actual record of what happened or was said rather than jurors being forced to guess at which witness is more credible. It appears that Chicago police officers may be amongst the first to use these cameras, perhaps within the next couple of months.
Chicago Police Could Wear Body Cameras Within Two Months
Chicago’s ABC7 reports that Chicago police could be wearing body cameras within two months, according to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. This comes after some police in Elgin have been testing the cameras for a year. The details of the Chicago program are not yet finalized. However, McCarthy told reporters that a number of officers have volunteered to use the cameras and that some sort of program should be up and running within 60 days.
Cameras and Conversations
While the use of cameras may seem like the obvious step forward to protect citizens from bad cops and to protect good cops from unfair complaints, not everyone supports their use. The Chicago Tribune reported on the discussion of body camera usage back in September. In that report the president of the union that represents Chicago police officers said that while he sees advantages of the body cameras, he has concerns that officers’ private conversations should not be recorded because their moments of dark humor could be misconstrued. While it is reasonable that a police officer, like anyone who sees horrific things in their line of work, may develop a harmless dark sense of humor, recording these conversations may be very important to detect officers who go beyond humor and slide into racist statements or other concerning behavior. Recording these conversations could tip off superiors that a problem is brewing so it can be addressed before it escalates into the use of excessive force or worse.
Destruction of Footage Should Not Be Allowed
The Tribune report also indicates that some are proposing that the body camera footage should be destroyed after three months unless there is a citizen complaint about the officer’s conduct or there is a criminal investigation into his or her conduct on that day. Destroying these recordings would be a huge mistake. First of all, the routine destruction of this footage would prevent investigators from examining an officer’s pattern of behavior if a complaint is filed against him or her in the future.
Second, destruction of these tapes would, in some cases, be the destruction of evidence in criminal cases. Since the statute of limitations for any crime is much longer than three months, a prosecutor who is slow in charging a defendant might not charge him or her until after the vital evidence on that tape has been destroyed. This regularly happens in some states, like Missouri, with dashboard camera footage in drunk driving cases.
Finally, routinely destroying this footage may lead to the accidental destruction of footage that is not supposed to be destroyed, which also has been known to happen with dashboard camera footage. While it’s true that storing this footage will take up electronic storage space, we are no longer in the days of VHS tape. Storing data is easier now than it has ever been. While destruction may be necessary at some point, it needs to strictly regulated and footage relevant to criminal investigations must be kept at least until the statute of limitations expires or all appeals in a criminal case are exhausted.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a crime, it is important that you obtain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you protect your rights. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and schedule a consultation today.
December 16th, 2014 at 8:19 am
Recently, national news coverage has been focused on decisions made by grand juries not to charge police officers with crimes related to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. These cases bring up a whole host of important issues facing our society revolving around race relations and police use of force. But they can also act as a teaching tool. Regarding the grand jury proceedings that happened in these cases, they demonstrate what does not happen in the vast majority of criminal cases.
Grand Juries for Most People
In Illinois, like in most states, people can be charged with crimes in two different ways. The first way, under the Illinois Constitution, is by a grand jury indictment. Like in these high profile police cases, the grand jury’s job is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed, and whether there is probably cause to believe the defendant is the one who committed the offense. That is really where the similarities end. While extremely complex cases can sometimes require extended evidence to be presented to a grand jury, in the overwhelming majority of cases brought before them only one or two witnesses will testify. At least one of those witnesses is often a police officer. The witnesses are usually lead through their testimony by the prosecuting attorney who usually then requests that the grand jury indict on some particular charge. Criminal defendants almost never testify in grand jury proceedings because they are not allowed to have a defense attorney present when they do so. For criminal defendants who are not police officers, and thus are not in any way on the same side as the prosecutor, testifying in a grand jury proceeding could be extremely harmful to their case.
The other major difference between the Michael Brown grand jury and most grand juries for regular people relates to the records that were kept and the information that has been released. Most grand jury proceedings are kept secret, and most of the time no transcript is made of the proceedings. So while society as a whole can examine the evidence that was presented in the Michael Brown grand jury proceeding, in normal cases that would never happen. Not even the defendant or the defense attorney is usually allowed to know what happened in front of the grand jury.
The Other Alternative: Preliminary Hearings
A constitutional alternative to a grand jury indictment is the preliminary hearing. In cases handled this way, a hearing is held in front of a judge in which the prosecutor presents evidence to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed that crime. The defendant does not testify. Like most grand jury proceedings, these hearings are usually very brief. Probable cause is a very low standard of proof, and if the state has any sort of case at all then the prosecutor will likely be able to get the case past a preliminary hearing.
This brings up the other major difference between how most people are charged with crimes and how these high profile police cases have been handled. In the case involving the death of Michael Brown, the prosecutor presented testimony that supported Officer Wilson’s defense. This simply would not happen in a regular case. Occasional information helpful to the defense might be presented, but it would not be presented to the degree that it was presented in that case.
Criminal Defense Attorney
For most criminal defendants, particularly in state court, prolonged grand jury proceedings are not how they find themselves charged with crimes. Instead they find themselves facing a completely different process that is not often covered by the media, and which can be confusing, especially for first time offenders.
If you or someone you know is facing a possible criminal charges, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation.
December 11th, 2014 at 9:28 pm
Day after day we hear the rhetoric about how bad crime is today and about how much worse crime is now than it used to be. Stories pop up about Chicago being the murder capital of America. Citizens are left to believe that there is some mass criminal class that is much worse than it has ever been before. The problem with all of this is that it simply is not true. In fact, violent crimes rates are the lowest they have been since the 1970s.
Violent Crime is Down
The Chicago Tribune reports that violent crime in the United States fell 4.4 percent in 2013, bringing the violent crime rate to its lowest level since the 1970s. Fewer violent crimes were reported last year than have been reported in any year since 1978. This trend rings true for all types of violent crimes including but not limited to murder, rape, and robbery. The violent crime rate has fallen every year since 1994 and has fallen by roughly 50 percent since 1994. Property crimes were also down last year.
Decreased Prison Populations Lead to Even Greater Violent Crime Rate Decline
Some tough-on-crime law and order types point to our nation’s extraordinary levels of incarceration as the cause of this decrease in crime. However, the evidence indicates that violent crime is dropping in spite of, not because of, our over-imprisonment problem. The Pew Charitable Trusts compiled data over the last five years regarding states’ imprisonment rates and crime rates. They found that over the last five years the majority of states have decreased imprisonment rates while seeing a decrease in crime at the same time. Hawaii decreased its imprisonment rate by 23 percent and saw a whopping 14 percent decrease in crime. In the 33 states where imprisonment rates decreased, crime fell on average by 13 percent. While crime also fell in the states where imprisonment rates increased, crime only fell 11 percent in those states.
This Means We Need Solutions Other than Prison
This data demonstrates that we need to use tools other than imprisonment if we want to minimize crime. Rather than focusing solely on punishment, it is high time our justice system focused on rehabilitation. Drug treatment, mental health treatment, and education need to become our primary tools of corrections, rather than oft ignored side programs. For those criminal defendants who do wind up serving sentences in jail or prison, we need to focus substantial efforts into supporting reentry programs. Reintegrating into society with a felony conviction can be extremely difficult and our society needs to work to make it possible for people to make it in society after incarceration. People who serve long sentences for violent crimes especially need assistance reintegrating into a world that has changed dramatically during their incarceration.
Criminal Defense Attorney
Being accused of committing a violent crime is terrifying. These crimes carry stiff penalties, but even just being accused can have a profound and permanent effect on your life. If you or someone you know has been accused of committing a violent crime, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley. We can schedule a consultation where we can discuss your situation and see what we can do to help you.
December 9th, 2014 at 11:04 am
According to a recent article published by a national news source, there is a significant difference in races represented when considering arrest rates in the United States. USA Today reportedly analyzed arrest rates of police departments across the country and found that many law enforcement agencies arrest and charge African Americans with crimes at significantly higher rates than other races. In fact, in many locations, the rates were at least three times higher and up to 10 times for African Americans. These statistics were not isolated to small towns or suburban areas, but included larger, more diverse cities as well, including Chicago.
Why the Disparity?
While the numbers may be relatively easy to measure and report on, the more difficult and more relevant concern is why they are so. Experts say the mere fact the the racial disparities in arrests exist does not address what causes them. The reasons could range from anything to police bias to being a result of the socioeconomic gaps that exist between people in many areas of the country. Regardless of the source, the mere fact that such a significant disparity exists in the high number of black people that are arrested, stopped, searched, and imprisoned compared to individuals of other races suggests a problem that deserves attention, especially in current times.
Some, including black citizens in certain towns across the country, are convinced the police are targeting their race over others. In those same communities, police and other law enforcement agencies have denied that allegation. They point to the fact that many criminal suspects who are arrested do not even live within the city, and some are even detained before police arrive on the scene of an alleged crime, which is evidence that police would have no hand in targeting the individual in question.
No Easy Explanation
The review conducted by USA Today reported seemingly telling statistics regarding police contact and corresponding racial disparity. It should be noted that their review did not include certain areas with only a small black population, or police agencies in certain states that had not reported complete arrest data to the FBI. The review did tend to show several other pieces of information, including that blacks are more likely to be arrested in almost every community for any crime, from serious to minor offenses. In addition, arrest rates show a more significant disparity in certain identifiable areas of the country, but the rates are uneven almost everywhere.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney who can protect your rights. Contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter. We serve clients in the Chicago area.
December 4th, 2014 at 10:59 am
Considering some of the tragic events that occur in the world today, it is perhaps not surprising that citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms also may choose to travel with their firearms. Whether they anticipate using the weapon for self defense or protection, or just simply to gain some peace of mind, it is important for those individuals choosing to do so to realize that there are usually laws regulating weapon possession by which they must abide. If not, violators of weapons laws may face serious criminal charges, including felony crimes. Visitors to this area should also be aware that they need to follow Chicago gun laws, as well.
Gun Laws in Chicago
According to a recently published news article, gun owners who visit Chicago should familiarize themselves with the city’s gun laws before deciding to take their weapon with them to the city, or to the state of Illinois. There are three main laws governing possession of firearms that are applicable throughout the state, including in the city of Chicago: one in the Criminal Code, one in the Wildlife Code, and the Firearm Owner’s Identification Act. These laws are in addition to any local regulations or ordinances put in place by smaller communities within the state of Illinois. Even those who are not residents of Illinois are subjected to these laws and are expected to abide by them while in the state.
Nonresidents who are in possession of a firearm in Illinois are expected to have their weapon properly registered in their home state. They would also likely do well to meet any other requirements imposed by their home state regarding the legal possession of the firearm. In addition, nonresidents who want to transport their weapon into Illinois must carry it in a closed case, and the weapon must not be immediately accessible or otherwise must be broken down so that it is not in functioning condition. Chicago does not recognize concealed carry permits from other states, but nonresidents from states with concealed carry laws that are substantially similar to Illinois’ law can apply for a permit here.
Criminal Defense Attorney
There have been many changes to Chicago gun laws in the recent past, including how they apply to nonresidents. As a result, legal issues regarding this area of law can get complicated quite quickly. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the most recent gun laws in Illinois and how they affect your rights is the safest way to ensure the laws are followed and criminal conduct is avoided.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a weapons offense in the Chicago area, contact the Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter. Our office is located in Rolling Meadows.
December 2nd, 2014 at 10:37 am
In areas of criminal law dealing with children, some punishments are particularly harsh when the law is violated. Such is the case with matters involving child abuse allegations. Not only does the perpetrator face potentially serious criminal charges, but additional laws also act to place responsibility on other adults in the child’s life who may have had a reason to believe the abuse was happening. In light of some recent event happening in a local county, a recent news article was published by the Chicago Tribune to help explain the Illinois law regarding mandated reporting.
Reporting Child Abuse
There is a criminal case pending in a local Chicago-area county involving allegations against teachers who reportedly failed to report suspected child abuse. The criminal case is ongoing. The relevant law in the case is the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, which is rarely used in the state but has been active for almost 40 years. The Act includes a section defining those who are considered mandated reporters, and teachers are included in the law’s definition. According to its terms, mandated reporters have an obligation to contact law enforcement officials if they have reasonable cause to believe a child is the victim of abuse.
Consequences of Violation
Violation of this law can result in either criminal charges or civil suits being filed against an individual who fails to report suspected abuse. Those who have experience with the law say that criminal charges are much less likely to result from such failure to report than a civil lawsuit is to be filed in court. The most serious criminal charges that can be filed as a result of a mandated reporter failing to contact police would generally involve an allegation that the defendant knowingly and willfully failed to report suspected abuse. Such a charge is graded as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum one-year jail term, plus possible probation and fines.
Although the law has been in effect in Illinois for almost 40 years, it has been changed in the more recent past. For example, in 2002, the law was amended so that clergy members were included within the definition of mandated reporters. In all, seven job categories are included in the definition of mandated reporters, including medical, educational, social service and mental health, law enforcement, coroner and medical examiner, child care workers, and clergy. Employment in these areas usually involves signing a statement of acknowledgement of the mandated reporting status. Teachers are now even required to complete mandated reporting training.
Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation.