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Controversy Surrounds Illinois’ Felony Murder RuleFive teens have been charged with first-degree murder in Lake County for the death of another teen, despite the fact that none of them pulled the trigger on the gun that killed him. According to numerous reports, the six teens were allegedly attempting to burglarize a car at a private residence when the owner shot at them, killing one of them. The owner was licensed to carry the gun and claims he was acting in self-defense because he saw one of the teens move toward him with an unidentified object in his hand. The five teens are being charged as adults, although four of them are younger than 18. Prosecutors are allowed to charge the teens with first-degree murder because of Illinois’ controversial felony murder rule.

What Is Felony Murder?

Illinois law states that a death qualifies as a first-degree murder when a suspect:

  • Intended to kill or cause bodily harm to the victim;
  • Knew that their actions caused a great risk of death or bodily harm; or
  • Were committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony other than second-degree murder.

The third condition is known as the felony murder rule, in which a person committing a violent crime may be charged with first-degree murder without needing to prove that they intended harm to the victim.

Why Is It Controversial?

Most states have a felony murder rule, but Illinois is in the minority in its broad application of the law:

  • A majority of states use the agency theory, which states that the defendant must be directly responsible for the death in order to be charged with murder; but
  • Illinois uses the proximate cause theory, which states that the defendant is responsible for any deaths that occur while committing a violent felony if they should have known that their actions put others at risk.

Thus, the teens have been charged with murder despite the fact that someone else killed their companion. The case may hinge on whether the court believes that the teens’ actions at the time of the shooting were a forcible felony, which is usually offenses such as robbery, arson, vehicular hijacking, and rape.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Illinois has criminal laws that advocacy groups have identified as archaic or in violation of a defendant’s civil liberties. The state government occasionally abolishes or revises these laws, but you cannot count on legal changes to save you from a seemingly unjust law. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will work to get a just decision for your criminal charge. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Juvenile Offenders, New Illinois Law | Tagged , , ,

The Flaws in Field Sobriety TestsAfter stopping someone on the suspicion of driving under the influence, a police officer may ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests, which are meant to gauge the driver’s physical and mental responses. As a driver, you have the right to reject the tests or any other questions about your sobriety. If you believe you are sober, it is tempting to participate in the tests in order to prove your sobriety. However, you would still risk displaying signs that the officer will misinterpret as intoxication. There are three standardized field sobriety tests, each of which can pose challenges to sober drivers:

  1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: For the first test, the officer will likely ask you to look at and follow the movement of a pen or finger. The officer is watching for signs of nystagmus, which is a condition that causes your eyes to make involuntary jerking movements. Eyes with nystagmus may be unable to smoothly follow the movements of an object. Intoxication is one possible cause of nystagmus, but some people have nystagmus when they are sober. Officers are supposed to check for signs of natural nystagmus, which would make the test unreliable.
  2. Walk-and-Turn: For the next test, the officer may ask you to exit the vehicle and walk along a real or imaginary line. The officer will tell you how many steps to take, after which you will turn around and repeat those steps. This tests both your ability to walk in a straight line and follow instructions. However, there are flaws in this test. Walking straight can be difficult, depending on where you are walking. More importantly, you are more likely to make a mistake in following instructions when you are nervous. If you ask the officer to repeat the instructions, they may misinterpret that as a sign of intoxication. The truth may be that you are distracted because you are upset.
  3. One Leg Stand: For the final test, the officer may ask you to stand on one leg while counting. You are expected to raise your foot at least six inches off the ground, keep your arms to your sides, and stay in that position while counting to 30. Some people would have difficulty completing this test in normal circumstances, let alone when under the pressure of a field sobriety test.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

Field sobriety tests are not always reliable indicators that a driver was intoxicated. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can argue that the results of your field sobriety test are misleading. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, DUI, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer | Tagged , ,

How Federal Laws Can Conflict with State LawsIllinois abolished the death penalty as a punishment in 2011, largely due to alarming research showing that people have been wrongly convicted for violent crimes. Does this mean that an Illinois resident who commits a crime in Illinois could never face the death penalty? Only if the case is tried at the state level. Federal law still allows the death penalty, which is just one example of how federal and state laws can contradict each other in important ways.

Federal Crimes

Federal and state laws exist simultaneously and can both apply, depending on the details of a case. State prosecutors are the ones to bring criminal charges against a defendant in most cases, but federal prosecutors may have jurisdiction over a case if:

  • The alleged crime took place on federal property or involved a federal official;
  • The alleged criminal activity crossed state lines; or
  • The alleged crime involved immigration or customs violations.

You can be charged with both a state and a federal crime for the same alleged offense, but double jeopardy rules prevent you from being convicted for both. When state and federal laws contradict each other, jurisdiction can become an important issue for a defendant.

Death Penalty

There is an ongoing criminal trial involving an Illinois man who is accused of kidnapping and murdering a visiting Chinese college student. Though the alleged crime is supposed to have taken place in Illinois, the case is being heard in the U.S. District Court Central District of Illinois. Federal prosecutors have the option of seeking the death penalty in the case. However, federal murder trials involving the death penalty are rare. The last federal execution took place in 2003.

Recreational Marijuana

Illinois residents are more likely to experience the difference between federal and state laws when the state legalizes recreational marijuana at the start of 2020. It is illegal under federal law to possess marijuana. Being caught transporting marijuana across state lines will still be a federal crime, even if a state bordering Illinois also decides to legalize recreational marijuana. Possessing marijuana on federally owned land in Illinois will also be a crime.

Contact a DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney

Whether facing state or federal charges, you need an experienced attorney to defend you. A Wheaton, Illinois, criminal defense lawyer at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can help you defeat the charge against you or minimize your punishment. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.



Posted in Criminal Law, Death Penalty, Drug Crimes, DuPage County criminal defense attorney, Illinois criminal defense lawyer, Marijuana | Tagged , , , , ,