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Archive for the ‘attorney’ tag

Could Marijuana Possession be Decriminalized?

March 18th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

marijuana decriminalization, marijuana possession, Illinois criminal law, criminal defense, laweyr attorneyIn an effort to address the problem of ever-growing prison populations, a recent article reported that an Illinois lawmaker is proposing lower penalties for offenses involving small amounts of some drugs. The proposal includes decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession in favor of punishing the offense with a citation comparable to a traffic ticket.

The Proposal

The proposed change, coming from Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, is part of a recent interest in realigning the criminal justice system in order to decrease the population of inmates in prisons across Illinois. He said his plan would also include lessening the penalty for possession of small amounts of other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The proposal as it relates to marijuana would impart a $250.00 fine for the first such offense.

According to Zalewski, the plan would not only reduce prison populations, but would also lessen the burden for law enforcement labs to test substances related to criminal cases that may get dismissed anyway. He has been a recent advocate of a number of bills aimed at reducing sentences for certain criminal offenses, in spite of his previous efforts at tougher penalties for violations of gun control laws.

Committee Approval

Although the Judiciary Committee heard Zalewski’s proposals, they did not take a vote. Zalewski is beginning to gauge support for the proposals by speaking with colleagues, and has not yet stated when he will ask for panel approval.

Prison Overpopulation

Currently, there are 49,000 individuals imprisoned in Illinois’ correctional system, which was built to hold just 32,000. State prisons regularly house about 4,500 more inmates than they are suited to hold. The proposals outlined above, as well as other similar measures, take aim at those crimes that account for a large number of inmates in state prison. Not only would the measures allow for the reduction of the prison population, but would also pave the way for harsher penalties to be enforced for more serious crimes, such as gun offenses, something Zaleski also supports.

Not only does the overpopulation of prisons pose the realistic problem of space, but also the financial and budgetary problem of overspending on the prison system. Some estimate that the amount spent is about $1.3 billion – which is a great sum, but not even enough to adequately meet the needs of the inmates currently in the system.

Working out the Details

Zaleski refrained from describing the measure as the decriminalization of marijuana, the details of which are still being defined. He said it was more of a restructuring of the criminal justice system as it related to these offenses.

Even though the proposal has not been put into legislation yet, representatives from the narcotics bureau of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said those arrested for possession of about an ounce of marijuana would face a $250.00 fine for their first offense. Previously, they would have faced up to one year of incarceration. Possession crimes involving heroin, cocaine, or other drugs will have a three-year prison term associated with them instead of four.

Drug crimes can be serious offenses. It is beneficial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in Illinois to protect your rights. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today for a consultation about your specific matter.

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.

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.

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.

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