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Archive for the ‘Illinois’ tag

Understanding Diversion Programs

July 5th, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Diversion ProgramsDiversion programs are alternative prosecution programs that are available to many first-time offenders who have committed nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors and are being prosecuted in Cook County. These programs are designed to help first-time offenders avoid criminal convictions and jail time by participating and completing diversion programming. Through participation in the program, those first-time offenders who otherwise would have become convicted criminals are given the opportunity to receive treatment and to contribute to their communities. Additionally, upon the successful completion of their diversion programming, the criminal defendant’s criminal charges will be dropped.

Eligibility for Diversion Programming In Cook County

The Assistant State’s Attorneys identify criminal cases where the defendant may be a good candidate for the diversion program. These defendants are notified and offered an opportunity to participate in the program. If the defendant is interested in participating in a diversion program then the Assistant State’s Attorneys will determine if the remaining eligibility criteria can be satisfied.

There are certain eligibility requirements for Cook County’s diversion programs. These requirements include:

  • The criminal defendant must be an adult charged in Cook County;
  • The criminal defendant must be a first time offender, meaning that he or she cannot have any previous felony or misdemeanor convictions for a crime involving violence.;
  • The charges pending against the criminal defendant must be nonviolent felony or misdemeanor charges. Eligible criminal charges include:
    • Retail theft;
    • Theft;
    • Fraud, credit card fraud, and ID fraud;
    • Forgery;
    • Counterfeiting;
    • Disorderly conduct;
    • Burglary; and
    • Drug possession;
  • The charges cannot be for:
    • DUI;
    • Weapons offenses; and
    • Domestic violence charges;
  • The victim of the crime must consent to the criminal defendant’s participation in a diversion program.

How Does the Program Work?

The Cook County diversion program places certain conditions and requirements on the criminal defendant based on their offense and their particular situation and the program lasts for 12 months. For instance, one participant in the program might have been a first-time drug possession offender. This criminal defendant’s diversion program might require that the defendant participate in and complete a drug rehabilitation program.

Some other examples of conditions of a diversion program include:

  • The requirement that the criminal defendant get a job;
  • The requirement that the criminal defendant earn a GED;
  • Participation in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program;
  • Restrictions on the criminal defendant’s possession of weapons, drugs, or firearms while participating in the program; and
  • Refraining from reoffending.

First Time Offenders Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are a first-time offender it is important that you pursue a diversion program if you are eligible. Participation and completion of a diversion program will result in your charges being dropped, meaning that you will not have a criminal record. An experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for diversion programming, can work through the pros and cons of applying for a diversion program, and can assist you with the application process.

Source:

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nwsba.org/resource/resmgr/imported/
Cook%20County%20States%20Attorneys%20Office%20Deferred%20Prosecution%20Program.pdf

 

Zero Tolerance in Illinois

April 10th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

zero tolerance, DUI, driving under the influence, Chicago criminal defense lawyer, DUI defense attorney in IllinoisAccording to United States law, no person under the age of 21 is allowed to consume alcohol and no person of any age is allowed to drive while intoxicated. Many times, adults will have a couple drinks and drive home safely, with a blood alcohol content below the legal level of 0.08. If a person under 21, however, is pulled over and is found to have a blood alcohol content of anything above 0.0, he or she can be charged.

This is called the zero tolerance policy of Illinois for underage drinking, says  CyberDriveIllinois.com. If a person under 21 is caught driving with even a trace of alcohol in his or her system, he or she will lose all driving privileges. Police officers can only pull over a person if he or she has probable cause.

Probable causes can include:

  • Driving over the speed limit;
  • Running a red/yellow light;
  • Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign or four-way stop;
  • Not driving straight in the traffic lane.

The zero tolerance law says:

  • No person under the age of 21 can purchase, accept, possess, or consume alcohol. Penalties may be suspension/revocation of driving privileges;
  • Any person under 21 who receives court supervision as penalty will receive 3-month suspension of driving privileges;
  • Certain exemptions include religious and medical reasons;
  • All states have zero tolerance laws;
  • Other penalties may be fines, jail time, high insurance costs, mandatory alcohol evaluation and treatment, negative effects on driving record, and negative effects on job opportunities.

If you are caught with alcohol in your system while driving and you are under 21, your driving privileges will be suspended for 3 months. The suspension will be lengthened to one year for a second offense.

Although you can refuse to take a test to determine your blood alcohol level, you can be charged for refusal or failure to complete the test if you are under 21. The first time you refuse, your driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months and as a second offense, they will be suspended for 2 years.

Keep your driving record clean by not drinking and driving. If you have been caught drinking and driving, especially if you are under the age of 21, contact an Illinois criminal attorney to help you in court today.

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.

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.

Decrease in Speeding Tickets in Cook County

December 22nd, 2013 at 8:24 am

speeding ticketOver the last few years, there has been a decrease in the number of speeding tickets issued in and around Chicago.  Based on data from 2010 to 2012, there was a quarter fewer tickets both in the city and in segments of the surrounding counties.

There are a couple of possible reasons for this decrease.  An analysis completed by reporters from the Chicago Tribune has shown that the state police department is very lenient on the state’s expressways.  Most tickets are written when a motorist is going at least 20 miles over the posted speed limit of 55.  Provided that high threshold, it is not likely to find people to give speeding tickets.

Another reason for the decrease in speeding tickets is state-wide budget cuts.  There are fewer troopers on the road which means there are fewer people to give out tickets.

Illinois State Police Commander Patrick Murphy, who is in charge of training troopers, has his own theories.  He said that there are fewer drivers on the road.  In fact, from 2007 to 2011 there was a near 4 percent decrease in miles driven by vehicles in Illinois.  There was also an almost 2 percent decrease in the number of registered vehicles on the road.

Murphy also said that the fines for speeding have increased so much that drivers are taking notice.  The current fee for speeding up to 20 miles over the speed limit is $120. If a driver is caught driving between 20 to 30 miles over the limit, the fee increases to $140. Over that speed and drivers can face fees of $160. In 2014, those fees are set to increase although the penalties are yet to be settled.

Although the amount of tickets has decreased over the years, that doesn’t mean that it is safe to speed.  Law enforcement agencies are looking at other ways to police highways.  They are using air details that hover over traffic and communicate vehicle speed and license plate numbers to local squad cars.  Parked vans are also placed on roads to catch speeders and mail tickets to their homes.

Speeding tickets are very serious.  If you have more than three moving violations during a year, then you can have your license suspended.  If you have been accused of a crime, then seek legal assistance.  Contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Cook County today.

Miranda Rights: What They Mean to You

December 13th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Any television program involving crime will undoubtedly include a scene in which, upon apprehension of a suspect, law enforcement will begin to recite the familiar verse, “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law…”  Many viewers can likely repeat the Miranda rights from memory, but may not be aware of their legal significance.

miranda rightsThe Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides protection against due process violations for defendants charged in a criminal matter.  This includes the right to protection against self-incrimination. In Miranda, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the protection against self-incrimination to include statements, including confessions obtained outside the courtroom, provided certain circumstances exist. According to the Court in Miranda, officers need to apprise a suspect of his or her rights before custodial interrogation occurs in order for any statements made by the suspect to be admissible as evidence in a future court proceeding.  An officer may not interrogate a suspect until after warnings have been given and the suspect knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waives those rights, usually in a signed writing.

The Miranda rights, which must be recited to the suspect, include the following:

  • The right to remain silent;
  • Anything the suspect says can and will be used against them in court;
  • The right to retain counsel and have them present during questioning by law enforcement;
  • The right to have counsel appointed by the court if the suspect cannot afford it.

After these warnings are given, the suspect is free to waive them, or invoke them and request an attorney before any police interrogation takes place.  If they are invoked, questioning must cease. If a suspect initially waives his or her rights and then later invokes them, any questioning must be stopped immediately. Further, a written, valid waiver may be withdrawn at any time if the suspect wishes to continue with interrogation without the benefit of counsel.  The police have the burden of establishing that a suspect has waived his or her rights.

In order for the Miranda warnings to be required, a suspect must be in custody and interrogated by police.  In other words, if police question a suspect who is not in custody, Miranda warnings are not required.  Likewise, if a suspect in custody voluntarily makes an incriminating statement without being questioned by law enforcement, that suspect will probably not be able to invoke the protections afforded by Miranda.

In addition to determining whether a criminal defendant was under custodial interrogation, an additional potential Miranda violation occurs when a suspect’s waiver of his or her rights was not made knowingly, voluntarily, or intelligently.  An experienced criminal defense attorney can listen to the facts of a particular case and explain the implications of Miranda.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago, Illinois area, contact us today.  We can discuss your case and advise you of your constitutional rights.

Date Rape is Still Rape

November 29th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Many people believe that date rape is not as serious as other kinds of rape.  However, the only reason for the differentiation between the two terms is to specify the status of the involved parties.  For example, the term “rape” generally happens between two strangers, while “date rape” or “acquaintance rape” happens between two people who previously knew each other on some level.  Date rape can happen on a date, between two friends, between two people in a relationship, or between members of a former couple.  Furthermore, because date rape regularly occurs after a date or a party, the term often indicates that alcohol or drugs played a role in the conduct.

Date Rape is Still RapeSome offenders believe that accusations of date rape are not as serious as other types of rape charges, and that they will face less severe consequences if they force sex with someone they already know.  This belief is mistaken, as Illinois law does not differentiate between types of rape.  Prosecutors charge any rape act, regardless of the status of the parties, under 720 ILCS 5/11-1.20 for criminal sexual assault or 720 ILCS 5/11-1.30 for aggravated criminal sexual assault.

What constitutes criminal sexual assault?

The charge of criminal sexual assault is a Class 1 Felony and applies to anyone who allegedly commits an act of sexual penetration by using force or the threat of force.  The charge also applies to sex when the accused knew the victim would be unable to give knowing consent or is unable to understand the nature of the sexual act.  Therefore, this statute applies directly to many date rape situations in which the accuser claims to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs and therefore was unable to protest.

A charge may be escalated to aggravated criminal sexual assault, a Class X Felony, under certain circumstances such as the accused used any time of weapon or caused any bodily harm to the victim.  It is not uncommon for some harm to occur in forceful date rape situations, so this charge is not reserved for stranger rape.

If convicted of criminal sexual assault, you may face mandatory prison time of four to fifteen years or six to thirty years for an aggravated charge.  Additionally, you will have to register with the Illinois Sex Offender Database, where information such as your name, address, and criminal conduct will be publicly available.  Therefore, date rape can result in very severe penalties that may affect your freedom, future employability, and life in general.

What should I do if I have been accused of date rape?

If you have been arrested or charged with any type of sexual assault, it is highly important that you contact an experienced Illinois criminal attorney as soon as possible.  Do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today.

The Theory of Constructive Possession in Criminal Matters

November 25th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

There are multiple criminal offenses in Illinois that include the concept of possession as a basis of criminal liability.  Perhaps criminal offenses involving contraband, such as weapons or illegal narcotics, are those crimes involving possession with which we are most familiar.  The law extends the definition of possession to include both actual possession as well as constructive possession.

The Theory of Constructive PossessionThe Possession Rules in Illinois

In order to impose criminal liability on the basis of constructive possession in Illinois, the facts of the case must support the finding that the defendant knew of the existence of the contraband, and also was in a position to exercise control over it despite the fact that the defendant may not have had physical control of the contraband. In other words, the theory of constructive possession involves demonstrating that the defendant has both the intent and the capability to maintain control and dominion over the illegal item. Cases involving constructive possession typically include owners or tenants of a home, car, or apartment where contraband is found. This definition has been interpreted and applied in different ways by courts in Illinois.

In People v. Schmalz, the Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after she was discovered by a police officer in a room with three other people.  The officer saw three clear plastic bags of leafy substance (later identified as cannabis) and three bongs on the floor, within the defendant’s reach.  Defendant was arrested, and the officer discovered additional cannabis and additional paraphernalia in other areas of the house.  It was established that Defendant neither rented nor regularly stayed in the apartment where the contraband was found.  The Circuit Court returned a guilty verdict and Defendant appealed.  The Circuit Court reversed the decision, finding that while the Defendant had knowledge of the contraband, the State failed to establish that the defendant had any physical control over it, nor did the State prove that the Defendant attempted to exercise dominion over the contraband by trying to hide or conceal it.  Further, the Court found that the State presented no evidence, including a lack of fingerprint evidence, that the Defendant had brought the contraband into the apartment or how long it had been there. No contraband was found on the Defendant’s person or in her belongings.  As a result, Defendant’s conviction was overturned.

It is important to note that while the appellate court in Schmalz did not find evidence sufficient to establish constructive possession, many cases exist in Illinois where courts have convicted the defendant under different facts and circumstances.  An experienced criminal defense attorney in Illinois can help you to understand the law as it applies to the facts of your specific case, while also providing valuable insight according to their experience in criminal defense.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving possession of contraband in the Chicago area, contact us today to discuss your options and preserve your rights.

Family Files Suit for Lock up Death in Drug Arrest

November 11th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

jail timeMay Molina was a community activist for many years in the city of Chicago.  Even with her diabetes, asthma, and inability to go anywhere without a wheelchair, she still voiced her opinion against the Chicago Police Department.   She was especially adamant her son’s wrongful lockup for a crime he did not commit.  In 2004, her voice was silenced after being locked up for drug possession.

For 24 hours in lockup at the police station, Molina was without her medicine.  Other inmates at the time as well as her attorney notified the police on duty that Molina was becoming breathless and confused.  No one acted on their warning and within a few hours, Molina was found dead in her cell.

Recently, the surviving family of May Molina has decided to filed a civil suit against the Chicago Police Department.  When May was arrested, she had asked the officers to bring her medicine but she was denied.  May’s family is claiming in the suit that the city normally denies medical requests of inmates at holding cells of Chicago police departments.

During the trial they had an expert corroborate their claim.  Former assistant police chief of Seattle Michael Brasfield is an expert in police practices.  He told the jury that Chicago departments hold people longer than other cities, permits unqualified officers make medical decisions neglects calling in a medical staff even when those who were arrested were in critical condition.  Brasfield said that as a department “you are supposed to err…unequivocally on the side of overresponding, on the side of well-being and safety.”

The police offered a counterclaim that Molina never asked for medical attention.  The fact is that Molina’s autopsy showed that there were tinfoil packets of heroin in her throat that she may have swallowed prior to arrest.  The medical examiner’s office ruled that the death was accidental.  Proving that the police department is responsible for the death of Molina may change the care for others being processed in the system.

Another way to protect yourself in the judicial process is to have the support of a legal professional.  A lawyer who will look out for your best interest.  If you need that kind of a lawyer, reach out to an experienced Cook County criminal attorney today.

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