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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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Defense Strategies for a Retail Theft Charge

 Posted on February 16, 2019 in Criminal Law

Defense Strategies for a Retail Theft ChargeA shoplifting charge has serious consequences for what may seem like a basic crime. In Illinois, a first-time conviction for retail theft is a class A misdemeanor if the items are valued at $300 or less. There is a maximum prison sentence of one year, but offenders can qualify for court supervision instead. A second retail theft conviction is a class 4 felony and punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. If the items in a first offense are valued at more than $300, it is a class 3 felony and punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. The store owner may also file a lawsuit against a shoplifter, seeking civil damages. It is important to contest a retail theft charge instead of accepting your punishment.

Forms of Retail Theft

The typical image of a shoplifter is someone who conceals an item and tries to leave the store with it. However, Illinois includes several other methods of stealing in its definition of retail theft, such as:

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Defending Against a Hit-And-Run Charge

 Posted on January 21, 2019 in Criminal Law

Defending Against a Hit-And-Run ChargeFleeing the scene of a vehicle accident is a criminal charge that can compound the consequences of your case. Whether you are being charged with a traffic violation or driving under the influence, adding a hit-and-run charge implies that you were trying to evade responsibility for the incident. It can be difficult to contest a hit-and-run charge because the facts are usually unambiguous. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows strategies to cast reasonable doubt on the charge or minimize its effect on your case.

  1. Mistaken Identity: Your best defense against a hit-and-run charge is if the prosecution cannot prove that you were involved in the incident. There must be a reliable witness that identified your vehicle's appearance and license plate number. Even if it was your vehicle at the scene of the incident, you would not be criminally liable if someone else was driving it.

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Probable Cause, Arrest Required Before Taking DUI Blood Sample

 Posted on December 23, 2018 in Criminal Law

Probable Cause, Arrest Required Before Taking DUI Blood SampleIllinois’ implied consent law puts you at a disadvantage when you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the law, all drivers have consented to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test by providing a blood or urine sample. A police officer cannot physically force you to provide a sample, but refusing may lead to additional charges. Police do not need your permission to take a blood sample from you while you are unconscious if there is probable cause that you were involved in a DUI incident. Despite these legal advantages, police may still skip the required steps in obtaining a BAC test sample, which allows you to request that the test results be dismissed from evidence.

Recent Example

In People v. Pratt, an Illinois court determined that the BAC test results from a fatal crash were inadmissible in a DUI case. The defendant had crashed his vehicle into a tractor-trailer, killing a passenger in his vehicle and injuring himself. An officer at the scene testified that the man was incoherent when responding to questions and an open bottle of alcohol was in the back seat of his car. A police chief contacted an off-duty detective, asking him to obtain a blood sample from the defendant at the hospital. The detective asked a nurse to draw the blood sample because the defendant was unconscious.

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Law Enforcement Needs Warrant to Seize Digital Data

 Posted on November 21, 2018 in Child Pornography

Law Enforcement Needs Warrant to Seize Digital DataYour digital devices may hold crucial evidence in a criminal case against you. Your data is the key evidence if prosecutors are accusing you of committing a computer crime, such as:

  • Possessing or distributing child pornography;
  • Soliciting sex from a sex worker or minor; or
  • Stalking or harassing someone electronically.

Other digital records can be evidence of your intent to commit a crime through your communications with others. The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects your digital devices and data from illegal search and seizure. Law enforcement must have a valid warrant in order to access your digital records as evidence for the prosecution.

Contesting a Warrant

In order to receive a warrant, law enforcement must establish that there is probable cause that you committed a crime and that searching your property may uncover evidence of the crime. For computer crimes, probable cause may come from alleged illegal activity that can be traced back to your Internet Protocol address. For other charges, law enforcement must show that there is a high probability that your digital devices contain evidence related to your charge. You have multiple grounds for contesting the validity of a warrant, such as:

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How States Restrict Recreational Marijuana

 Posted on October 17, 2018 in DuPage County criminal defense attorney

How States Restrict Recreational MarijuanaIllinois laws treat marijuana differently as compared to other illegal substances. Medical marijuana is legal, and lawmakers have decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana. With several states having already legalized recreational marijuana, Illinois seems likely to follow suit at some point. However, these states heavily regulate recreational marijuana use because of the perceived public safety risks associated with being high. Marijuana-related arrests continue as the public and law enforcement figure out the new laws. Here are five restrictions that states use when they legalize recreational marijuana:

  1. Possession Limits: States put limits on how many grams of marijuana you can have, which can vary depending on whether it is in flower, liquid, or edible form. The amount you can possess in public is much less than what you can possess at your private residence. Being caught with an ounce more than the legal limit is usually a petty offense, but possessing large amounts of marijuana can be a misdemeanor or felony.

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Courts Correct Police Error on Left Turn Law

 Posted on September 17, 2018 in Criminal Law

Courts Correct Police Error on Left Turn LawMany drivers have learned that they should stay in the left-most lane after making a left turn at an intersection and onto a different street. A wider left turn that puts you into the far lane of traffic could be dangerous if an oncoming vehicle decides to make a right turn into the same lane. However, do you know whether this is a traffic law or a safe driving practice? The answer is consequential if a police officer stops you for making an illegal left turn and finds other violations that result in your arrest. An Illinois appellate court recently upheld a circuit court ruling that said that such left turns are not illegal under Illinois law.

Case Details

In the case of People v. Walker, an officer stopped the defendant for making an improper left turn because the defendant had turned into the far right lane instead of the near left lane. As a result of the stop, the driver received a ticket for driving while his license was revoked. The defendant asked the court to suppress the evidence because the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion that the defendant had committed a traffic violation before the stop. The sides were not arguing about the facts of the case but the interpretation of the Illinois traffic law, which states:

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