Posted by on 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:

  • Removing or altering a price tag in order to purchase an item at a lower price;
  • Placing an item in a container for discounted items, with the intention of deceiving the seller about its price;
  • Lying about being the lawful owner of an item; and
  • Using or possessing a device meant to remove a security sensor or shield the sensor from setting off an alarm.

You can aggravate your retail theft charge if you use an emergency exit when attempting to flee with the item. A first offense for items $300 or less will be a class 4 felony.

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Posted by on 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.
  2. Unaware of the Incident: You can claim that you did not knowingly flee the scene of the incident because you were not aware that the incident occurred. The court may find this difficult to believe if you were involved in a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian. You will need to give a reasonable explanation for why you did not notice the incident.
  3. Emergency Situation: There may have been an extenuating circumstance that prevented you from stopping, such as transporting someone to the hospital. The court may be more lenient with you if it knows that you were dealing with a medical emergency and under duress.
  4. Involuntary Intoxication: Though a rare situation, you may not be responsible for your actions while driving if someone drugged you without your knowledge. However, proving this defense can be difficult because you would need to identify when the drugging took place and explain how your intoxication affected your judgment.
  5. Not at Fault: You can argue that you did not commit the other traffic charges brought against you and were not the person responsible for the accident. This does not excuse you from fleeing the scene of the incident, but it will lessen your overall punishment if you are convicted.

Contact a Wheaton Criminal Defense Attorney

A hit-and-run charge is a class A misdemeanor if it involved property damage and a felony if someone was injured or killed in the incident. A felony hit-and-run carries a sentence of as long as five years in prison and a fine of as much as $25,000. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, will work to contest your hit-and-run charge or lessen the punishment. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.

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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.

Probable Cause and Arrest

Prosecutors argued during the trial that the detective did not need a warrant to obtain the blood sample because of the implied consent law. The court responded that implied consent did not apply in this case because:

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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 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.
  2. Age Minimum: An adult must be at least 21 years old in order to possess marijuana in states where it is legal. As with alcohol, teens will be charged with underage possession.
  3. Where You Can Use It: Every state that has legalized recreational marijuana has also banned people from using it in public places. Smoking marijuana in a public place is a petty offense or a misdemeanor if you possess more than the legal limit.
  4. Transporting Marijuana: As with alcohol, drivers are not allowed to have marijuana in an open container in the passenger area of a vehicle. Police officers may have their own interpretations of what is an open container, but they usually must observe evidence that the marijuana product has been used.
  5. Driving Under the Influence: Driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime, but states have not yet agreed on how to measure whether a driver is impaired by marijuana. Law enforcement uses THC levels as the equivalent to the blood alcohol concentration for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, THC levels may not indicate whether a driver was impaired by the substance because they can stay in a person’s blood for days. Without an objective test, police officers must rely on subjective observations when deciding whether to make an arrest.

Facing Marijuana Charges

Illinois does not appear to be close to legalizing recreational marijuana. Possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana is a criminal offense that could result in jail time and fines. A DuPage County criminal defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can help you contest your marijuana charge or receive minimal punishment. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-260-9647.

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