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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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How Federal Laws Can Conflict with State Laws

 Posted on June 21, 2019 in Criminal Law

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.

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Cyberbullying Can Have Criminal Consequences in Illinois

 Posted on May 22, 2019 in Criminal Law

Cyberbullying Can Have Criminal Consequences in IllinoisPeople going through adolescence are still learning the appropriate way to interact with and treat other people. Because of their immaturity, some children engage in harassing or bullying behavior. The ubiquitousness of digital communications has created a subcategory of bullying known as cyberbullying. A teenager who engages in cyberbullying may face more than school discipline if caught. Illinois classifies cyberbullying as a criminal offense, and a teen accused of cyberbullying can end up in court.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying falls under Illinois’ law against cyberstalking, which is electronic communication that causes victims emotional distress or to fear for their safety. Cyberstalking can take many forms, including:

Five Facts About Wrongful Convictions in 2018

 Posted on April 17, 2019 in Assault & Battery

Five Facts About Wrongful Convictions in 2018Illinois by far led the nation for having the most defendants who were exonerated of their crimes in 2018, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Of the 151 exonerations in 2018, 49 of them occurred in Illinois. The next closest states were New York and Texas, each with 16 exonerations. Thirty-one of the Illinois exonerations stemmed from a Chicago Police Department scandal in which officers framed defendants on drug and weapons charges. However, the 18 remaining exonerations would have still lead the nation. Wrongful convictions continue to plague the U.S. justice system, destroying lives in the process. The National Registry of Exonerations’ 2018 report shares several facts about wrongful convictions in the U.S.:

  1. Exonerees Spent an Average of 10.9 Years in Prison: The 151 exonerated defendants in 2018 lost a combined 1,639 years of their lives due to wrongful convictions, which was a record according to the report. Two defendants spent about 45 years in prison.

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Rescinding a Summary Suspension After DUI Arrest

 Posted on March 19, 2019 in Criminal Law

Rescinding a Summary Suspension After DUI ArrestBefore your case even goes to trial, Illinois can suspend your driver’s license after you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. A statutory summary suspension is a civil action that the Illinois Secretary of State's office will use if a DUI suspect failed a blood alcohol concentration test or refused to take the test. You may be able to rescind your suspension if you can prove that:

  • The officer did not properly place you under arrest;
  • The officer failed to warn you about the consequences of refusing the test;
  • The officer had no reason to believe that you were driving under the influence;
  • You did not refuse the test; or
  • The test results were not over the legal limit or were inaccurate.

Your suspension may be automatically rescinded if the state does not allow a hearing on your petition to rescind in a timely fashion. An Illinois appellate court recently granted a defendant’s petition to rescind for that reason.

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