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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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Four Things to Avoid Doing During a DUI Stop

 Posted on August 15, 2018 in Criminal Law

Four Things You Should Avoid Doing During a DUI StopThere are several ways that you can contest a driving under the influence charge when you are in court. The officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are violating the law in order to stop you and probable cause that you are intoxicated in order to arrest you. A lack of a warrant to search your vehicle or evidence that you were intoxicated can lead to your acquittal or the dismissal of the charges. However, the prosecution can use your decisions during your stop and arrest as evidence against you. You can unintentionally incriminate yourself based on what you say or do. Here are four things that you should avoid doing during a DUI stop:

  1. Being Hostile Towards the Officer: You may be upset or frustrated that the officer stopped you, but refusing to cooperate from the start will make the officer more suspicious. You should remain calm, provide the documentation that he or she asks for and respond to his or her questions. Failing to cooperate with the officer could result in an obstruction of justice charge that also reflects poorly on your DUI defense.

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High-Profile Assault Case Becomes Hate Crime

 Posted on July 16, 2018 in Assault & Battery

High-Profile Assault Case Becomes Hate CrimeA Chicago man was recently charged with a felony hate crime and misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct stemming from his recorded confrontation with a woman wearing a shirt depicting the flag of Puerto Rico. Shot from the alleged victim’s perspective, the video showed the man approaching and berating her for her shirt, saying that she should wear a shirt with a U.S. flag if she is a U.S. citizen. The misdemeanor charges would be punishable by as many as 30 days in jail and a fine of as much as $1,500. The felony charge could result in two to five years in prison.

Assault Charge

The man never touched the woman, but prosecutors believed his actions qualified as assault. Illinois’ legal definition of assault is conduct that makes the victim reasonably believe that he or she may be at risk of bodily harm. The video shows the man to be:

Illinois Court Overturns Law for Weapon Possession Near Schools

 Posted on June 18, 2018 in Criminal Law

Illinois Court Overturns Law for Weapon Possession Near SchoolsIn the February case of People v. Chairez, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a state law banning the possession of a weapon within 1,000 feet of a public park was unconstitutional. Parks were part of a list of public places that have such a ban, and the supreme court stated that its decision did not affect the other properties on the list. However, criminal defense professionals predicted that the decision could be used as a guideline for similar weapon possession cases involving the other protected properties. It did not take long for this to occur, as an Illinois appellate court recently ruled that the 1,000-foot weapon ban outside a school is also unconstitutional.

Case Details

In People v. Green, a high school teacher observed a man in a security uniform who was allegedly wearing a holstered gun and standing outside a van across the street from the school. An assistant principal walked across the street to ask the man who he was and express his safety concerns. The man identified himself as a security guard. The teacher called the police, reporting that there was a man with a gun near the school. When the police officer arrived, the man was seated in his vehicle, and his holster was empty. However, the officer found the gun and ammunition after searching the vehicle. The man was charged and later convicted of two counts of unlawful use of a weapon for possessing a loaded weapon on a public street and within a vehicle. Because the incident happened within 1,000 feet of a school, the conviction was a class 3 felony, and the man was sentenced to one year of probation.

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Is Proposed Carjacking Law Too Burdensome?

 Posted on May 17, 2018 in Criminal Law

Is Proposed Carjacking Law Too Burdensome?Chicago area police departments are reporting an increase in carjacking incidents during the last two years, particularly amongst juvenile offenders. They believe that Illinois’ criminal laws are contributing to the problem because police often only have enough evidence to charge suspects with misdemeanor trespass to vehicle, instead of felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The suspects are usually released within 24 hours, which allegedly allows them to commit the crime again. The proposed legislation would make it easier for police to bring a felony charge against a suspect and detain juvenile suspects for longer periods. The Illinois Senate has already unanimously passed the bill. However, civil rights advocates fear the new law would lead to more felony charges against non-violent offenders.

Law Details

Whether a suspect is charged with vehicle trespass or possession of a stolen motor vehicle depends on whether police have any evidence that the suspect knew the vehicle was stolen. If there are witnesses to the theft, they may be unable to identify the offender because of how quickly the incident occurred or if the offender was wearing a mask. The new law would assume that a suspect is aware that a vehicle is stolen if:

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