cyberbullying, Wheaton criminal defense attorneyIn this brave new digital age of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and countless other social media apps and websites, bullying is no longer just an in-person way for a kid to get some lunch money at school. It is now a global issue that, under many circumstances, has the potential to be as harmful as it ubiquitous—sometimes even involving adults.

Schools are not the only organizations taking notice of this modern type of bullying. In fact, there is computer crime legislation in place across the nation, including Illinois, that sets forth rules to legally punish those who engage in cyberbullying. If you are accused of cyberbullying, consider these tips.

DO NOT:

  • Close or deactivate online accounts used to propagate the cyberbullying or open new accounts. This is a bit like hiding the murder weapon if accused of murder, only the hiding place is in plain sight. Social media sites and cell service providers often can retrieve data regardless of account status. More importantly, suspicious major online account actions can backfire and make you look guilty from the start.
  • Reach out to the accuser. Of course, you would like to civilly handle things without intervention from the law, but if the accuser is already getting the law involved, communicating without legal representation could create a host of legal issues for you as the case progresses.
  • Threaten those who could offer evidence or testimony against you. As with most criminal cases, the slightest tinge of a warning directed toward acquaintances and even your friends or family who might be able to give the prosecution help with their case could give the court all the evidence it needs to find you guilty.

DO:

  • Delete the messages, images, or other content that is causing harm. Unlike deactivating accounts, which is usually only helpful if keeping those accounts open would cause harm to the person being bullied, removing the content if posted publicly online will prevent further damage to the person’s reputation and psychological state. And, of course, do not post anything new about the situation, and do not persist with cyberbullying.
  • Hire a criminal defense attorney. Do not think you can handle this on your own. The penalties for cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and cyberbullying, are steep, including up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Do not think being a minor makes a difference, either. Earlier this year, two teen girls in Ohio were charged criminally for telecommunication harassment.  You will need an experienced attorney to help guide you through this challenging process.
  • Communicate with your children and/or lawyer. Be open and honest about the situation. If your child is being accused, have a talk with them about why what they might have done would be wrong and why they have been accused of it. Get their side of the story and then offer guidance. If you are the one being accused, be open and honest with your lawyer. Your lawyer is your ally throughout the process. Give him or her all the facts so he or she can better defend you. 

Contact a DuPage County Computer Crimes Attorney

Do not let cyberbullying ruin you or anyone else's life. Call a Wheaton, IL, cyberbullying lawyer at (630) 260-9647 for a free consultation. Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, offers valuable legal representation that is responsive to the needs of you or your child if accused of cyberbullying. He will use his prior experience in law enforcement as a police officer and commissioner to anticipate the prosecution’s arguments and properly prepare your defense. With the help of experts in computer forensics and other Internet-savvy professionals, he will do everything possible to develop a winning defense for you.

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self-defense, Wheaton violent crimes defense attorneyThe use or threat of force can be a criminal offense in Illinois. Threatening someone with violence is assault while committing an act of violence against someone is battery. However, Illinois allows actions that would normally be assault or battery if you were acting in defense of yourself, another person, or your property. The difference between battery and self-defense can be murky and heavily depends on the context. Your belief that you were acting in self-defense may not be enough to prevent an assault or battery charge if your response was unreasonable or excessive.

Establishing Self-Defense

There are four key components to proving that your actions were in self-defense:

  • You must have reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of harm.
  • The threat must be unlawful, such as someone assaulting or committing battery against you.
  • You must show that force was necessary in order to protect yourself.
  • The force you used must not exceed the threat against you.

These considerations allow you to protect yourself, others, or property against criminal actions without punishment but set strict parameters that may make your actions fall outside of self-defense.

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theft, Wheaton criminal defense attorneysThere are multiple factors that determine whether a retail theft conviction is a misdemeanor or felony, which is an important distinction for the offender. A felony conviction has stricter penalties, sometimes including mandatory prison time, and causes more limitations for people who have one on their criminal record. The value of the stolen items is one of the primary differences between a misdemeanor and a felony retail theft charge. Unfortunately for Illinois residents, the state has one of the lowest monetary thresholds for a felony retail theft charge, which puts defendants at greater risk of a felony conviction.

Illinois Retail Theft Law

In Illinois, the cutoff between misdemeanor and felony retail theft charges is a mere $300. A first-time retail theft conviction involving $300 or less is a Class A misdemeanor, while a first-time conviction involving more than $300 is a Class 4 felony. To put that number into perspective:

  • The felony threshold for standard theft in Illinois is $500.
  • Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony retail theft charges for first offenses involving less than $500.
  • Fifteen states require the value of the items to be at least $1,200 before mandating a felony charge.
  • Some states have set the threshold as high as $2,500.

A group of Illinois state legislators is attempting to address the state's strict retail theft law by introducing a bill that would raise the felony threshold to $2,000, which would be one of the highest thresholds in the country. Since the law was introduced in January 2019, it has yet to move past short debates at the committee level.

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A Useful Guide for Understanding Illinois Traffic ViolationsAt some point in your life, you have likely been pulled over by a police officer. Maybe the violation was minor, like rolling through a stop sign or going five miles per hour over the speed limit. Perhaps the officer suspected that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In order to measure the severity of your traffic violation, Illinois has instilled a point system that is connected to your driver’s license. This is what the officer looks at, among other things, when they ask for your license and registration and then go back to their vehicle. It is important to understand the basics of the Illinois point system and your rights as an Illinois driver to have a general idea of what your record looks like in the eyes of the law.

The Point System

Maybe you remember learning about the traffic violation point system while you were sitting in your driver’s education class as a teen, but more often than not, drivers are oblivious to how these violations are tracked and what they can do to your record. Every traffic violation that you can think of has a certain number of points assigned to them. Minor offenses have lower points while more severe penalties hold more weight in points. Common examples include:

  • Speeding 1-10 miles per hour over the speed limit is 5 points.
  • Disregard for a traffic light is 20 points.
  • Driving with an open (alcoholic) container is 25 points.
  • Reckless driving is 55 points.

As you can see, the point allocation varies greatly depending on the violation that you have been accused of. Your total points become relevant if your driver’s license is suspended. In Illinois, your license will be suspended if you are convicted for three moving traffic violations within 12 months. If you are younger than 21, you are allowed only two violations. Some violations result in an immediate suspension, such as a DUI. Your points will determine how long your suspension will last. For instance, having 15 to 44 points will result in a two-month suspension.

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What is Sexting and How Can it Lead to Criminal Charges?With the mass use of cellphones by teenagers and young adults, laws have had to be modernized to stay relevant and effective. Pornography involving people younger than 18 has long been banned in the U.S. Such content has become even more easily created and accessible now that cellphones are in the hands of adolescents. The convenience of built-in cameras and instant messaging has paved the way for a modern phenomenon known as sexting. Taking and disseminating sexually explicit photos is common among today’s teens. On average, one in five teens has sent or posted semi-nude or nude videos or pictures of themselves. Unsurprisingly, many of these teens do not realize the serious allegations and penalties that come along with this explicit content.

Guilty Parties

The consequences for possessing sexually explicit content of minors extend to a number of individuals, including the photographer, the sender, and the recipient. The following are possible charges that one could face in Illinois:

  1. The Photographer: It is fairly obvious that whoever is the one taking the photos or videos can face serious consequences because they are the initiating party. A person who knowingly videotapes or photographs a minor who is engaged in a sexual act or is in a compromising position, nude or semi-nude, is committing the offense of child pornography. In some states, if the content is captured by the individual themselves, commonly known as a selfie, they are protected by law. Illinois does not recognize this exception and thus sexually explicit selfies can be self-incriminating. Anyone who has created child pornography has committed a Class 1 felony, punishable by at least four years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
  2. The Recipient: Many believe that those on the receiving end of such content should not face punishment since they are not responsible for the creation of the content. Those on the receiving end of things may have committed one or more felonies under the Illinois Pornography Act, depending on the circumstances. For instance, if a minor’s significant other entices or solicits them to send a sexually explicit photo or video, they have committed a child pornography offense. Possessing such photos or videos, knowing that the person is a minor, is a common offense, though claiming that the possession was involuntary may be used as a defense tactic.
  3. The Forwarder: Unfortunately, many of these pornographic photos do not stay between the sender and the recipient. It is common for such content to be sent to friends and other students. No matter how distant the connection between the photographer, initial sender, and continuous forwarding parties, anyone who disseminates this content to others violates child pornography laws.

Call a Wheaton Sex Crime Defense Lawyer

Child pornography charges are some of the most serious sex crimes that one can commit due to the inclusion of a minor in the explicit content. Those involving sexting are often committed by adolescents who are ignorant of the potential legal ramifications that they could face. This ignorance can greatly affect their futures, making it difficult to get into college or find a job later in life. Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, has assisted numerous clients in fighting against sex crime accusations and has tried-and-true defense tactics for such charges. If your child is facing child pornography charges as a result of sexting, contact our DuPage County juvenile defense attorneys at 630-260-9647 to schedule a consultation.

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