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The Legal Consequences of Underage Drinking

 Posted on April 28, 2020 in DuPage County criminal defense attorney

The Legal Consequences of Underage DrinkingUnderage drinking is a common activity among teens in social situations. Even those who do not enjoy drinking may feel pressured to fit in with their peers. Parents understand the dangers of underage drinking but may think of it more as a matter of parental discipline than legal punishment. Possession or consumption of alcohol by someone younger than 21 is a crime in Illinois with serious consequences. The penalties become harsher if the drinking is combined with other offenses, such as driving or using a fake ID.

Possession and Consumption

Underage possession or consumption of alcohol is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and as long as a year in jail. Jail time is highly unlikely for this offense. The biggest consequence for the teen may be the loss of their driving privileges:

What Makes a DUI an Aggravated Offense in Illinois?

 Posted on March 13, 2020 in Criminal Law

What Makes a DUI an Aggravated Offense in Illinois?Any conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will come with serious consequences, but the punishment can be even more severe if you are convicted for an aggravated DUI. Unlike a standard DUI, an aggravated DUI is certain to be at least a Class 4 felony and may come with mandatory prison time, larger fines, and longer driver’s license suspension periods. What constitutes an aggravated DUI in Illinois? There are several ways that your DUI charge can become aggravated:

  1. Third DUI Conviction: If you have been convicted for DUI twice before, a third or fourth conviction will be a Class 2 felony. There is a minimum 90-day jail sentence if you also had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 percent or greater and a minimum $25,000 fine if you also had a passenger who was younger than 16. A fifth DUI conviction is a Class 1 felony, and a sixth DUI conviction is a Class X felony, which is the highest class of felony.

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What Happens If You Violate an Order of Protection?

 Posted on February 17, 2020 in Criminal Law

What Happens If You Violate an Order of Protection?One of the likely consequences of being accused of domestic violence is having an order of protection against you. Also known as a restraining order, it can prohibit you from:

  • Being within a certain distance of the petitioner
  • Attempting to contact the petitioner
  • Entering your shared home
  • Seeing your children without supervision

The court may grant your accuser an emergency order of protection before you have been charged with any crimes if the court is convinced that you may be an immediate threat. You will get the opportunity to defend yourself against the accusations before the court decides whether to grant a long-term order of protection. Regardless of your opinion of the order, it is important that you comply with its terms. Violating an order of protection will result in criminal charges and possible jail time.

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Using Discovery to Obtain Evidence in a Criminal Case

 Posted on January 10, 2020 in Criminal Law

Using Discovery to Obtain Evidence in a Criminal CaseOne of the most important steps when gathering evidence for a criminal defense trial is the discovery process, which is obtaining evidence that the prosecution possesses. A law enforcement agency conducted an investigation into your case, which the prosecution will use as evidence in trying to prove the criminal charge against you. Some of the prosecution’s evidence may be impossible for you to obtain on your own, such as a police officer’s bodycam video footage from a DUI stop. You have the right to see that evidence before your trial in order to potentially use it as part of your defense strategy.

Sharing Requirements

The defense is responsible for requesting the evidence from the prosecution, and the prosecution must comply in a timely fashion. The prosecution does not have to provide evidence to the defense without a request unless it is material exculpatory evidence, meaning evidence that clearly shows that the defendant is innocent. The court may deny a discovery request if it believes that disclosing the evidence may put someone at substantial risk of harm or the usefulness of sharing the evidence does not justify the burden it would cause someone. A discovery violation happens when the prosecution willfully or unreasonably impedes the defense's access to evidence by not responding to discovery requests or tampering with evidence. If the court determines that a discovery violation has occurred, it can order that the related evidence be excluded from the trial or dismiss the case.

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Five Important Facts About Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

 Posted on December 29, 2019 in Criminal Law

Five Important Facts About Recreational Marijuana in IllinoisStarting Jan. 1, recreational marijuana will officially be legal in Illinois. The state had previously allowed medicinal marijuana use and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana by issuing fines instead of criminal charges. Now, it will be legal for anyone age 21 and older to possess marijuana, whether in leaf form or infused in an edible. However, Illinois will heavily regulate the use of marijuana in exchange for legalizing it. It will still be possible to be arrested or fined for violating the state's laws regarding marijuana use and possession:

  1. Possession Limit: Illinois residents are allowed to possess as much as 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and 500 milligrams of cannabis-infused products. The possession limit is half that amount if you are a non-resident visiting Illinois.
  2. Use Restrictions: You are allowed to use marijuana products only in private residences and commercial properties where use is expressly permitted. You cannot use it in public places or in a vehicle. If you are renting your home, the property owner can forbid you from smoking marijuana or eating edibles in a common area. It is illegal to knowingly use marijuana products in the presence of someone who is younger than 21.

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Excessive Force in a Traffic Stop Makes Evidence Inadmissible

 Posted on November 15, 2019 in Criminal Law

Excessive Force in a Traffic Stop Makes Evidence InadmissibleThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits police from conducting unreasonable searches and using excessive force during the search. When an officer violates the Fourth Amendment, the evidence that they find following the violation is inadmissible in a criminal case. Courts must analyze the circumstances of the search when determining whether it was reasonable and the force used by the officer was appropriate. State laws can help define which types of force are excessive depending on the suspect’s actions. A recent Illinois appellate court ruling on a drug possession case demonstrated how judges can have different interpretations of what constitutes a legal police search.

Case Details

In People v. Augusta, the trial court found the defendant guilty of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. According to the police officers' testimonies, they were following the defendant because they suspected that he was selling narcotics and performed a traffic stop after the defendant allegedly failed to use his turn signal. During the stop, one of the officers noticed a bulge in the defendant’s cheek and a piece of plastic sticking out of his mouth. The officer asked the defendant to remove the contents from his mouth, believing it to be a bag of crack cocaine. When the defendant did not respond, the officer grabbed the defendant’s throat to prevent him from swallowing the bag and another officer helped remove the bag from his mouth. The bag contained what appeared to be crack cocaine, and the officers arrested the defendant. During the trial, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence on the grounds that the officers used excessive force. In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate court overturned the trial court's ruling on whether to suppress the evidence, vacated the conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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Understanding the Burden of Proof in Criminal Cases

 Posted on October 28, 2019 in DuPage County criminal defense attorney

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Criminal CasesThe U.S. has a court system that is meant to protect the accused as well as the accuser. An accusation must have some merit in order for the court to allow the case, and the prosecutor or plaintiff must prove why the defendant is guilty of or liable for the accusation. The burden of proof is one of the key concepts behind innocent until proven guilty, but different levels of proof are required depending on the type of case, including:

  • A preponderance of the evidence
  • Clear and convincing evidence
  • Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt

Criminal cases require the highest burden of proof because defendants have the most at stake if they are convicted.

A Preponderance of the Evidence

In most civil cases, the plaintiff must prove their claim by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claim is accurate. The judge or jury may not have the evidence to dismiss either sides’ argument but only needs to determine which argument is more plausible. Courts allow this standard of proof in civil cases because the defendant is not faced with the threat of imprisonment. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant’s punishment will be financial, such as paying medical bills for an injury or replacing lost property or wages.

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Three Keys to Defending Against a Domestic Violence Charge

 Posted on September 11, 2019 in Criminal Law

Three Keys to Defending Against a Domestic Violence ChargePeople who are charged with domestic violence may feel like they are already being punished before their case goes to trial. Their accuser has likely received a temporary order of protection against them that may prevent them from returning to their home or seeing their children. Those who are falsely accused of domestic violence feel particularly hurt and confused about the sudden restrictions placed on them. Many domestic violence incidents do not have witnesses other than the accuser and the accused. The court will heavily rely on whether they believe each side's testimony about the incident. If you are facing a domestic violence charge, there are three keys to giving yourself the best chance to win your case:

  1. Obey the Order of Protection: Regardless of whether you are guilty of domestic violence, you can face criminal charges for violating an order of protection. That means you should not attempt to contact your accuser, either directly or through a third party. If your order prohibits you from entering your residence, you risk arrest if you sneak into your home to get your belongings. Talk to your attorney if you are concerned about properties at your residence. There are ways to secure your properties that do not violate the order of protection.

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Controversy Surrounds Illinois’ Felony Murder Rule

 Posted on August 16, 2019 in Criminal Law

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:

The Flaws in Field Sobriety Tests

 Posted on July 18, 2019 in Criminal Law

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.

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