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Archive for December, 2013

2014 Brings Change to Concealed Carry Law in Illinois

December 30th, 2013 at 8:38 am

In the New Year, Illinois residents who legally own a firearm will also legally be allowed to carry the weapons on their person. As reported by Chicago Tonight, the change in the concealed carry law in Illinois will translate to changes for business owners, property owners, and police who may come into contact with citizens carrying weapons. When the law becomes effective next month, the state of Illinois expects tens of thousands of applications for a concealed weapon permit to be filed by citizens within the first six months of the change.

Concealed Carry Law in IllinoisChange in Police Conduct

Prior to the law taking effect, it was illegal for Illinois citizens to carry a firearm on their person. Any time police came into contact with an individual carrying a weapon, in violation of the law, they acted according to their training in handling the situation. Now, they will have to change their mindset when dealing with a member of the public carrying a gun, since they may be doing so legally.

The Sheriff of Cook County and the state’s training board are working on a formal training program to address police procedure in light of the change in the law, but most of the battle will be changing the police officer’s train of thought in addressing these scenarios. Since they could be dealing with a law-abiding citizen carrying a weapon, they want to ensure that any further police conduct and contact with the public is done with a respectful and sensible approach.

The Effect on Business Owners

While many government buildings and schools will still be off-limits for possessing a weapon on the premises, the law will extend to concealed weapon possession in private buildings and businesses. Private property owners can decide if they will allow individuals to carry a concealed weapon on the property. If they decide against it, they will be required to post a sign approved by the state police at all entrances to notify the public. Currently, the law is not definitive on the consequences of failing to post the approved signage. It is expected that any changes or clarifications to the law will likely come from the courts or state regulations.

Like any change, the concealed carry law in Illinois will take time for the public to get used to and be aware of changes in the law. Illinois’ new concealed carry law follows suit with the majority of states across the country, and reflects a significant change in Illinois’ citizens’ rights regarding gun possession.

In other scenarios, even with the law change, possessing a weapon in Illinois could still be an illegal act.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicagoland can help. Contact us today for a consultation.

New Legislation Pending for Driving with Google Glass

December 26th, 2013 at 8:29 am

drivingGoogle Glass is being tested by a select number of people in anticipation of a roll out in 2014.  The concept of device is that it is a smartphone display that is worn on your face and looks like a pair of glasses.  It allows you to take pictures, view social media, make phone calls and even get directions by the sound of your voice.  While it is not for sale to the general public, legislators in Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia have introduced legislation that seeks to ban driving while wearing Google Glass frames.

Lawmakers in Springfield are also interested in stopping distracted driving on the streets of Illinois.  Certain laws are already in place to accomplish this gial.  Currently, it is illegal to text while operating a vehicle.  Another law which will be effective in 2014 will outlaw the use of any handheld device behind the wheel.

Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein, a Democratic representative from Chicago, recently filed a new bill that extends the law banning handheld devices.  Silverstein said that using these new Google Glass is “another way people will be distracted.  People’s attention to the road should not be interrupted.”

Detractors of this legislation point to the possible use of Google Glass which gives you turn by turn directions similar to a GPS device.  Even if your eye would drift to the small screen on your face, it is no different than checking other instruments in your car.

But the debate centers on the capabilities of Google Glass which has the ability to cause distractions to drivers with Facebook or YouTube videos.  The author of a similar bill in West Virginia, state Delegate Gary Howell, said that “it is incredible technology, but it doesn’t belong on the road.  There’s no way law enforcement officers can tell whether you’re watching a cat video or using your GPS system.”

If you have been accused of committing a crime behind the wheel, then it is important to seek legal representation.  Receiving too many moving violations can even result in the suspension of your license.  Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Rolling Meadows who can protect your rights.

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.

The Defense of Entrapment in Illinois

December 17th, 2013 at 8:20 am

Some criminal defendants find themselves charged with a crime as the result of police “encouragement,” which may involve an undercover officer or confidential informant interacting with the defendant in the commission of the crime. When a defendant in this situation discovers the extent of the circumstances surrounding his or her arrest, there are usually serious concerns and questions that arise almost immediately concerning the legality of the police conduct.  Illinois law provides guidance on this issue.

entrapmentThe law in Illinois provides for the affirmative defense of entrapment, which is meant to provide protection against law enforcement’s use of aggressive or reprehensible tactics in inducing criminal conduct. According to the relevant statute, a person is not guilty of a criminal offense if his or her conduct is incited or induced by the police or their agent for the purpose of obtaining evidence against them. See 720 ILCS 5/7-12.  However, this defense is not available if the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime and law enforcement’s actions merely afforded the defendant the opportunity or ability to commit the offense. Typically, the defense of entrapment is relevant in “vice” crimes, such as prostitution or drug deals, since these crimes are committed privately with willing victims who will not otherwise report the crime, which makes normal detection exceedingly difficult.

It is the defendant’s burden to raise the defense of entrapment and prove it to the necessary degree in order to be successful in getting the charges dismissed by the court.  Essentially, in raising the affirmative defense of entrapment, the defendant is admitting to the crime, but arguing to the court that the reason they did so was because law enforcement induced them into committing the illegal act.  On the other hand, if the government suggests the defense should not apply due to defendant’s predisposition, they must prove the same beyond a reasonable doubt in order to overcome the affirmative defense of entrapment. In order to prove disposition, the government may attempt to introduce evidence such as prior convictions or prior conduct, readiness of acceptance, admissions made by the defendant, and evidence as to the defendant’s reputation.

Properly and successfully arguing the defense of entrapment requires thorough legal knowledge and skill. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in connection with government involvement, speaking with an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney about the facts of your case is critical. We can provide expert guidance in the defense of your charges, and advise you of and protect your rights while fighting for your best interests. Contact us today for a consultation.

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.

Changes in Illinois Law Meant to Curb False Confessions

December 10th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Stories of wrongful convictions seem to be more popular as we make advancements in technology that was previously unavailable.  Oftentimes, DNA or other forensic evidence serves to exonerate a defendant that was previously convicted of a crime, despite the fact that enough evidence was presented to support a guilty verdict.  Even more surprising, the individual may have confessed to the act during police interrogation even though they were actually innocent.   The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange recently ran a series of articles regarding false confessions and filmed interrogations.  The latest addition focuses on Illinois’ new interrogation law, and its intended effect on reducing wrongful convictions.

false confessionThe article discusses the case of Juan Rivera, who was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder he did not commit due to coercive interrogation methods.  He was charged with the crimes, even though he had been under electronic monitoring which showed he was at his home more than two miles away when the crime occurred, and there was no physical evidence connecting him to the scene. However, Rivera ended up signing a confession that police prepared and placed in front of him after four days of intense questioning that broke him down to the point of being in tears and speaking incoherently.  Because of that confession, he spent 19 years in prison before he was finally freed in January 2012. Many people blame this, and other similar cases, on corrupt police tactics under the supervision of Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.  Rivera’s interrogation was not recorded, despite the availability of the equipment.  This meant it came down to Rivera’s word against the word of the police. The new law, which requires police to record interrogations in the investigation of certain violent crimes, is meant to safeguard against such police tactics and avoid tragic outcomes like Juan Rivera’s.

The new law is an extension of one sponsored in 2003 by then-senator Barack Obama.  The 2003 law mandated the recording of homicide investigations.  The new legislation, which one of Rivera’s attorneys helped to draft, expands the 2003 law to include eight more violent crimes, which will be phased in over the next three years, and requires police to audio or video record any statement made by a suspect being interrogated for any of the specified felonies, or such statement will be inadmissible.  The purpose of the law is to bring transparency and accuracy to the criminal justice system.

The advantages of the law are pretty clear: it will be a reliable source of clarity in situations where police and suspects remember details of an interrogation differently; police will be less likely to employ aggressive or unethical interrogation methods, and suspects will be less likely to claim they were coerced into a false confession.  The biggest concerns surrounding the new law are financial and logistical ones involving outfitting police interrogation rooms with the recording equipment needed to fulfill the new requirements.  Illinois State Rep. Scott Drury, who is behind the bill, argues that over the long term, the cost of recording equipment does not compare to the cost of payouts related to a wrongful conviction.  In addition, the method of phasing in the requirements is likely an attempt to relieve some concerns over cost.  It is also important to note that the law does have exceptions for situations where a recording device malfunctions or certain outside circumstances make it impossible to record.

All in all, the statute is meant to provide protection to both criminal defendants and law enforcement, and is an important change in the criminal procedure law in Illinois.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and protect your rights.

City to send Police Patrols Overnight in Chicago Parks

December 6th, 2013 at 11:26 am

family in parkOfficials in the city of Chicago are aware of the prevalence of violent crime in Chicago parks.  Four days after the FBI claimed that Chicago was the murder capital of the United States, more violence broke out in the city.  An outburst of shooting occurred on September 20th at Cornell Square Park on the south side of Chicago.  Waves of gunfire left 13 people wounded including a couple of teenagers and three year old boy.  The shooting was considered to be gang-related as some of the victims were known gang-members.

In response to these violent crimes, the police department of Chicago started paying overtime to officers in high crime neighborhoods of the city for an initiative called “Operation Impact”.  Overtime pay for 2013 is estimated to be around $100 million.

More recently, the police department instituted a new plan to keep the parks safe through the night.  Off-duty police officers are to be paid overtime wages for patrolling 20 of the city’s most dangerous parks.  The names of the parks have not been released yet, but will be decided based on the last three years of crime statistics.   This new initiative started in November of 2013.  Paying overtime to existing officers seems cheaper than hiring a large amount of rookie officers according to a statement by Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed that the safety of Chicago’s parks is a top priority of his.  He even stated that “The parks in the city of Chicago belong to families of Chicago, the streets of the city of Chicago belong to families of Chicago, the front stoops of our homes belong to the families of the city of Chicago.  You go out there and enjoy our city.”

If you have been arrested for a crime then it is important to have a legal professional to protect your rights.  Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the effects can be life altering.  You could lose your job, be rejected by colleges, or worse spend time in prison.  Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Cook County today to review your case.

Use of Polygraph Tests in Chicago Crime Cases

December 3rd, 2013 at 11:05 am

police investigationWhen arrested for a crime in Chicago, the normal procedure is to be questioned by an officer.  Occasionally, a member of a department’s polygraph unit would examine the suspect with the help of a lie detector test.  Yet, a couple of convictions have been overturned lately, such as the murder charge against Nicole Harris.  Harris was convicted of murdering her four year old son in 2005 after being coerced into a confession with a false polygraph test.  In June of 2013, this conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court based on evidence uncovered by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The use of polygraph examinations has decreased significantly over the past couple of years.  In 2011, around 400 tests were administered to suspects of crime compared to only 50 over eight months in 2013. The reason that the Chicago Police Department gave for the drop was that polygraph units have been reassigned from forensics units to the human resources department.  Their new orders include interviewing potential officer candidates.  “The temporary detail was made to address the backlog in pre-employment screening needs.  There hasn’t been a move away from polygraphs as a part of criminal investigations,” according to police spokesperson Adam Collins.

This change seems to coincide with an investigation by the Chicago Tribune into false confessions obtained by polygraph departments.  It was uncovered that examiners did not follow the proper procedures for giving polygraph examinations.  Rather the polygraph teams saw the examination as an opportunity to coerce a confession with possibly false information.  These departments also did not follow the standards of administering or scoring the tests they received.  Polygraph tests are supposed to be scored based on a numerical scale, but one examiner even said that they scored the test simply by “eyeballing it”.

If you have been arrested for any crime, it is important to have a defense attorney review your case.  They can make sure that the investigation follows the proper guidelines without violating your rights.  Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Cook County today.

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