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A Violation of Scott’s Law Is A Serious Traffic Offense: Fight The Charges

July 7th, 2016 at 9:00 am

Illinois traffic violations, Rolling Meadows Traffic Offenses Lawyer, Scott's LawIllinois drivers are required to respect and protect emergency workers while driving on roadways. This means acknowledging and respecting an emergency vehicle’s need to get somewhere much faster than your average driver and getting out of the way so that emergency vehicles and personnel can get to where they need to go as quickly as possible. It also means moving over on the highway to give a stationary emergency vehicle as much room as possible.

Codified at 625 ILCS 5/11-907, the law that protects emergency vehicles and emergency personnel is referred to as Scott’s Law, after Scott Gillen, a Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant who was killed by a passing motorist while trying to do his job. The law is necessary because emergency workers face many dangers when responding to accidents and trying to save lives.

Getting To An Emergency

Other drivers on the road are supposed to get out of the way for an emergency vehicle that is using its flashing lights and/or its audio signal. Drivers are supposed to pull over and move out of the way so that an emergency vehicle has a path to maneuver through traffic. A driver that does not get over reasonably can be reported by the emergency vehicle, and the driver could end up with a ticket.

It is possible that the driver was unable to get out of the way quickly, or that it would have been unsafe for the driver to yield the right of way to the emergency vehicle. Perhaps a mechanical failure caused the driver’s car to stall out, and the driver was unable to get out of the way. There may be reasonable defenses for not having yielded to the emergency vehicle, and these reasons or defenses should be raised when fighting the ticket.

Responding To An Emergency

Under Scott’s Law, drivers are also supposed to attempt to get over as far as possible when passing a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road. This is to protect the emergency responders. Whether the emergency vehicle is an ambulance, fire truck or police vehicle, when and if possible, other drivers should get over as far as safely possible.

A driver could be issued a ticket if, for example, the driver approached a police vehicle that was stationary on the right-hand side of the road, and remained in the right-hand lane, although there was plenty of room for the driver to move to the left-hand lane safely while passing the stationary officer vehicle. Law enforcement officers take the safety of other officers and emergency workers very seriously and will issue you a ticket if you do not move over for stationary emergency vehicles.

Let Us Help With Your Ticket

Any traffic ticket can be challenged, even tickets issued for a violation of Scott’s Law. If you have been cited for a traffic violation, you should contact an experienced Rolling Meadows traffic offenses lawyer as soon as possible after receiving your ticket to help protect your rights.

Source:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K11-907

Illinois Prosecutors Taking Aim at Truancy

September 17th, 2014 at 7:33 am

truant juvenile, truancy prosecution, Illinois criminal defense attorney, Chicago juvenile crime attorney, Cases involving juvenile criminal offenses deserve special consideration, especially since many of these cases present an important opportunity to get a child or adolescent back on track. Truancy cases involve a particular set of concerns, mainly because they not only implicate a juvenile and his or her actions, but could implicate the juvenile’s parents or guardians in criminal liability as well. Prosecutors in several counties in the state of Illinois are charging an increasing number of parents with the crime of truancy.

Criminal Charges for Parents

Both St. Clair County and Madison County in Illinois have been focusing on charging a juvenile’s parents with the crime of truancy if their children are offenders. This is apparently part of a larger movement across the country to address the issue of truancy. According statistics, officials in St. Clair County have charged 13 parents so far this year with truancy because their children are chronically absent from school. This number has increased from eight in 2013, and just one parent in 2012. Madison County has charged a surprising 30 parents so far this calendar year with the crime, up significantly from 10 last year and seven parents in 2012. The offense is graded as a misdemeanor and can result in imprisonment of up to 30 days, imposition of a fine, or both. According to Illinois law, a child is considered truant if he or she has nine days of unexcused absences in the previous 180-day period.

The Focus on Truancy

Prosecutors are saying that the renewed efforts at truancy offenders are part of a larger plan of combating crime. In addressing truancy issues, they believe they are taking a step in crime prevention since truancy is often the first step in a pattern of later criminal activity, often resulting in prison time when such truant juveniles become adults.

Most times, there is an effort to intervene in the truancy process long before any criminal charges are filed. This includes communication to parents after just a few absences, and implementation of a corrective action plan if the truancies continue. A hearing is scheduled if a student reaches nine unexcused absences. If such a problem remains uncorrected, the case is referred to a Regional Office. If a truancy problem persists at this stage, a state attorney is likely to get involved. Some offices even have a policy of criminally charging both the student and the parent if the child is in middle or high school.

Criminal Defense Attorney

The knowledgeable Illinois criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have vast experience in representing juveniles who are charged with crimes. If you or your child needs representation in a juvenile matter, do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What Is an Expungement and How Can You Get One?

November 22nd, 2013 at 3:30 pm

If you have a prior conviction on your record and have ever tried to get a job, you understand the problem: the employer is going to ask you if you have any convictions and you are obligated to disclose that you do. For many employers, this is a deal-breaker, and upon seeing a prior conviction, they will move on to the next candidate. This leaves you in the precarious position of not being able to obtain gainful employment, no matter how hard you try, because of a past mistake.

Expunging your record gives you a clean slate.Both conviction and arrest records are public, so potential employers can actually see if you have been arrested for an offense; even if you were not charged. Those of us who work in the field of criminal law appreciate that there is a huge difference between being charged for a crime and being convicted–police officers make errors all of the time. But potential employers are far less forgiving.

However, there is some good news. The State of Illinois understands this dilemma and has come up with a way to seal arrests and certain criminal convictions, making it so employers (and anyone who runs a background check) cannot see them. This is what an expungement is. Basically, an expungement erases your criminal records and lets you start off fresh again.

Do I Qualify for an Expungement?

Not all applicants can qualify for an Expungement based on the severity of their criminal history and the crimes contained therein. Generally, expungements are for misdemeanors and non-violent felony convictions that were committed a long time ago. To find out specifically whether you might qualify for an Expungement you should contact an expungement attorney today.

 Also, if you would like to learn more on your own, the Illinois State Appellate Defender’s website provides some helpful resources that shed light on this issue.

I Want an Expungement, What Should I Do?

If you are interested in starting fresh and getting your criminal record expunged, you should contact an experienced criminal defense firm. Here at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley, we have experience in successfully getting records expunged involving DUI offenses, traffic offenses, license reinstatement, drug charges, domestic violence, and all juvenile matters.

Click here to contact The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today, or call 847-394-3200 to schedule a free initial consultation and to determine if you are eligible for an expungement.

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