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Archive for the ‘non-violent crime’ 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.



Influx of Mentally Ill Being Imprisoned

August 15th, 2014 at 7:21 am

Cook County criminal lawyers, illegal street drugs, mental health hospital, mental health prison, mental health system, mental illness, mental illness treatment, mentally ill imprisoned, non-violent crime, The Law Offices of Christopher M. CosleySome may be aware of the problem that links mental illness with crime in this country, but many likely do not realize the significance of the problem. The seemingly constant rise in the number of mentally ill individuals who are arrested for non-violent crimes poses a multitude of problems. On the societal level, jails are becoming more overcrowded as taxes are spent to house countless inmates, some of whom arguably are improperly imprisoned. On the individual level, mentally ill people are being punished for committing acts that they may not have otherwise committed if they were well. They often are not getting proper treatment for their condition in prison. A recent news article examined this problem further as it exists in Cook County.

The Statistics

The Cook County Sheriff’s website supposedly posts numbers regarding new arrivals daily on their website. In one week, a single day saw 36 percent of all new arrivals reporting a mental illness. Two days later, that number jumped to 54 percent. Many argue that these numbers are more reflective of a mental health hospital than a prison. The fact remains that the jail has become an accidental treatment center for the many prisoners it houses with a mental illness. This problem is not one that is isolated in Cook County, but rather one that plagues jails across the country. The unfortunate part is that these jails and their staff are not equipped to handle the huge task placed upon them.

The Prisoners

The mentally ill who are imprisoned suffer from anything from bipolar to post-traumatic stress disorder. They may participate in criminal activity when off of their medication, or they may self-medicate with illegal street drugs in an effort to cope with their condition. No matter the path they take, they end up in jail for their offense. Jails have seen a rise in this type of prisoner in cities across the United States, and usually the inmates suffer from serious mental illnesses but have been arrested for non-violent crimes.

Many of the prisoners are housed at jails for relatively short amounts of time, either awaiting trial or to serve shorter prison sentences. However, these short stays further complicate the effort in properly screening and treating those with a mental illness as it limits the time within which to manage medications and provide care. In that way, longer prison terms may be more beneficial for providing better treatment. However, the fact remains that there is a shortage of mental hospitals equipped to handle the mentally ill population in the U.S., and so the job is being improperly left to prisons to handle.

Criminal Defense Attorney

The experienced Cook County criminal lawyers at The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley have successfully represented clients in a wide range of criminal matters. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We serve clients in Cook and DuPage counties, as well as the surrounding area.

Indirect Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

April 17th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

mandatory minimum sentenceDefendants who are convicted of certain types of crimes – including murder, sex offenses, and drug crimes – face sentences that often include mandatory minimum incarceration time. These are minimum periods of incarceration that leave very little room for judicial discretion or leniency in their imposition, and can amount to decades spent in jail for the defendants.

The intended purposes that are achieved by such mandatory minimum sentences include deterrence, protecting the public, and punishment of the perpetrator. However, such lengthy mandatory sentences also have indirect effects that ripple outward from the defendant. As a recent article discussed, mandatory minimum sentences involve collateral damage to children of defendants who are forced to parent from prison.

A Wave of Incarcerated Parents

Just before the year 2000, there were almost 1.5 million minor children who had a parent that was incarcerated. That number represented an approximate 50 percent increase from the same statistic in 1991. The significant increase is arguable directly correlated to the emergence and imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, which caused an influx of incarcerated individuals as judges’ discretion was severely limited in handing out prison terms.

Mandatory minimums were a response to the rising crime rates and drug problems of the 1980s. The new sentencing structure applied to a wider array of crimes and increased penalties associated with them. This not only caused prison populations to dramatically rise over the next number of years, but also made costs significantly rise as well. The effects on children and families of those incarcerated were occurring simultaneously.

The Effect on Children and Families

Families are more vulnerable as the result of the policy shift towards mandatory minimums. Further, the opportunities and life chances that children of incarcerated parents may otherwise have are greatly reduced. This is not surprising, considering the fact that in cases such as these, the parent-child relationship is almost exclusively limited to phone interaction, if at all. While many credit the current low crime rates as a direct benefit of mandatory minimums, there is a detectable, however slight, shift in thinking when it comes to the harsh penalties.

Society seems to be viewing the policy and considering who should really be behind bars. One problem with mandatory minimum sentences is the ability to abuse them, especially in drug cases. Prosecutors often bolster the facts and weight of the illegal substances, which is directly tied to the length of a mandatory minimum sentence, in order to gain additional information, implicate others, and produce confessions. This could lead to extreme penalties for low-level associates with minor involvement in the drug trade, while other offenders, including rapists, kidnappers, and even murderers, serve just a fraction of the sentence.

Alternatives to Prison

The change in societal thinking toward mandatory minimum sentences is reflected in the formation of non-profit groups and organizations that focus on promoting alternatives to prison and organizing families of prisoners in order to advocate change. Such ideas are gaining popularity among politicians from both sides. The discussion is directed more toward being smart on crime as opposed to being unnecessarily tough on crime. The ideas are most relevant to non-violent offenders who do not have a long criminal history. Bills are being passed to lower mandatory minimums, even making the change retroactive.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Although the public seems to be increasingly in favor of once again giving judges discretion in imposing sentences, others argue that mandatory minimums are still appropriate in cases involving hardened criminals and the most serious crimes. If you are charged with a crime in the Chicago area, it is best to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today and schedule a consultation. We will work diligently to protect your rights.

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