Monday, June 29, 2015

THE INTOXICATION DEFENSE IN ILLINOIS

Under limited circumstances, being drunk or drugged can be a defense to a crime in Illinois.

Intoxication is only a defense when 1) it was involuntarily produced and 2) it deprived you of the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of your conduct or conform your conduct to the law.

Intoxication may be involuntary where it is produced by fraud, artifice or deceit. If someone slipped drugs into your punch, you might not be responsible for what happens next. Intoxication also includes the unexpected or unwarned side effects of prescribed medication. For example, a doctor prescribes an antidepressant without warning you that it can cause sleep walking. In one Illinois case, the court held a defendant was entitled to have his intoxication defense reviewed by the jury where he had killed his wife and her lover after having taken Zoloft. People v Hari. But even when involuntary, your intoxication must deprive you of all reason. You can’t use intoxication as a defense if you otherwise knew what you were doing.

Legal intoxication should not be confused with diminished capacity, a defense no longer available in Illinois. The fact you committed the crime when you voluntarily became too drunk or drugged to think straight will not excuse your conduct.

Because the defendant has the burden of proving the intoxication defense, it is critical to present the most compelling evidence possible. A criminal law attorney can review your case to determine if the defense applies and how best to prove it.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.).

Monday, June 15, 2015

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON THEFT BY DECEPTION

In Illinois, theft by deception means obtaining control of another’s property through deception. For example, you pretended you were authorized to collect money on behalf of a creditor or charity.

Theft by deception can include making false statements to obtain a car loan or induce others to invest in a nonexistent venture. In one Illinois case, the defendant pretended to be an attorney, collected legal fees and bond money but never bonded the “client” out of jail.

To convict you, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the victim was induced to part with money; (2) the transfer of the money was based upon deception; (3) you intended to permanently deprive the victim of the money; and (4) you acted with the specific intent to defraud the victim. (See People v. Reich.)

The degree of your offense may depends on how much you took, where, what and from whom. For example, less than $500 is a Class A misdemeanor. Between $500 and $10,000 is a Class 3 felony, $10,000 to $100,000 is a Class 2 felony and $100,000 to $500,000 is a Class 1 felony. However, if the theft was at a school or place or worship or involved governmental property, your charges can be kicked up a notch so that the misdemeanor would now be a Class 4 felony and the Class 1 felony would be a Class X.

There are also increased charges if your victim was at least 60 years of age or you pretended to represent a landlord.

If you are charged with this or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk about your situation to the police or a third party. Any attempts to explain yourself may give the state the evidence they need to win a conviction.

An experienced attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the state cannot prove all the elements of the crime, for example, that you deceived or specifically intended to defraud the alleged victim. Maybe the charges result from a misunderstanding about the work you had agreed to undertake. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: Illinois Theft by Deception law.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, June 1, 2015

THE LAW ON CONCEALED CARRY IN ILLINOIS

In 2013, Illinois was the last state to enact a Concealed Carry law. But that doesn’t mean you can bring your gun just anywhere, even with a Concealed Carry license.

Under the Concealed Carry Act 430 ILCS 66/65: Prohibited Areas, you may not bring your firearm into the following places:

1) The building, real property or parking area for an elementary or secondary school, preschool or child care facility.

2) Any facilities under the control of a public or private community college, college or university.

3) Any buildings or parking areas under the government control including the legislative, executive and judicial branches as well as local government facilities, juvenile detention centers, prisons, jails and courthouses.

4) Any public or private hospital, mental health facility or nursing home.

5) Any bus, train or other form of public transportation as well as any facilities under control of that public transportation entity, for example, a train station or parking area.

6) Any place serving alcohol if more than 50% of gross receipts over the past three months is from the sale of alcohol.

7) Any public gathering requiring a governmental permit such as a parade.or any gathering which required a Special Event Retailer’s License.

8) Public park or athletic facility except on a bike path if only part of the path goes through the public park. You also may have a gun in a designated hunting area or on a bike path or trail in an area owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

9) Play areas or playgrounds.

10) Cook County Forest Preserve property

11) Gaming facilities, sports stadiums or arenas.

12) Where firearms are barred by federal law.

13) Libraries, airports, amusement parks, zoos, museums or nuclear energy facilities.

14) Private property owners may prohibit firearms but must clearly and conspicuously post a standardized sign.

If you violate the concealed carry law, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. For later offenses, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year and a $2,500 fine. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the penalties increase to a Class A Misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison, for later offenses.

If you are charged with this or another offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Did the owner of the private business post the required sign? Did the place serving alcohol get less than 50% of its gross receipts from alcohol sales? Were you in the process of properly stowing your gun into a locked container within your car as permitted under the law?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CAN POLICE USE A NARCOTICS DOG TO SNIFF OUTSIDE YOUR HOME IN ILLINOIS?

If you’re stopped while driving a car, the police can use a dog to sniff for drugs around your car provided the search does not unduly prolong the traffic stop. But can the police use a dog to sniff around your house?

The answer is generally no. A dog sniffing outside your home is an intrusion within the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The area immediately surrounding and associated with your home is called “the curtilage.” The exact dimensions of the curtilage depend on the facts of each situation, but if something is inside the curtilage, it falls within Fourth Amendment protections. Therefore, the police must obtain a warrant before bringing a dog to sniff immediately outside your house.

In State of Florida v Jardine, police used a drug-sniffing dog on a homeowner’s porch to uncover marijuana plants. The U.S. Supreme Court held the search illegal because it came uninvited within the curtilage of the home.

Following the Jardine rule, an Illinois Appellate Court refused to uphold a search where police had entered an apartment building through a common locked door that had been left partially ajar. The police used a dog to sniff for drugs outside the defendant’s apartment. (The state acknowledged the search was illegal after Jardine, but believed a doctrine known as the good faith exception applied because the officer relied in good faith on the law prior to Jardine. The Illinois court disagreed. See People v Brown.)

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case for your best possible defense. If the police search was illegal, an attorney can bring a motion asking the judge to suppress the results of the search. Even if the police followed procedures correctly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement then you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, May 4, 2015

THE LAW OF PUBLIC INDECENCY IN ILLINOIS

You were walking in the forest preserve, when that coffee you drank ran right through you. As it turns out, the preserve is a cruising area, which you may or may not have known. You start to unzip, thinking you are unobserved, when an undercover officer spots you.

Now you are charged with public indecency. What can you do?

In Illinois, the crime of public indecency (720 ILCS 5/11-30) applies to persons over the age of 17 who perform in a public place a sexual act or a lewd exposure of a body part with intent to arouse. A public place is defined as anywhere that someone would reasonably expect to be observed.

Public indecency is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a $2,500 fine. Repeated exposures or exposure within 500 feet of a school when children are present can upgrade the charge of a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.

Public urination is not considered public indecency under state law. However, some municipalities such as Chicago have specific ordinances concerning such conduct.

If you are charged with public indecency, do not try to explain yourself to the police. What you think is a reasonable explanation may give the prosecutor the evidence needed to convict you. Contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most crimes, the prosecution must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Can the police really prove your intent was sexual? Were you really in a public place?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

CAN RUNNING FROM POLICE BE GROUNDS FOR ARREST IN ILLINOIS?

You like to walk at night. A police officer thought your presence late at night was suspicious so he stopped you. You didn’t want him to find the concealed weapon or the cocaine in your pocket, so you ran. Now you are charged with possession of a controlled substance as well as obstructing justice.

Can they do that? What can you do?

Whether your flight gives police grounds for arrest may depend on if you fled an arrest or a lawful investigatory stop rather than an unlawful investigatory stop. The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures. You are not required to answer police questions. If the officer does not have a lawful reason to stop you at the beginning, your flight alone cannot justify an arrest.

However, if the officer had a lawful reason to stop you or the officer was arresting you. your flight may then raise grounds for suspicion and justify a later arrest. The evidence uncovered after your arrest may be admitted even if the officer’s original basis for arresting you was not legal.

For example, an officer stops you because you are in the park at night looking nervous. Nervousness by itself is not lawful grounds for a stop. The police must first have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing at the time he stops you. If the officer merely wanted to frisk you because you seemed nervous, your flight does not justify a later arrest.

Now let’s say the officer wants to stop you because he sees you carrying items that were just reported stolen or he had a tip that someone matching your description just fled the scene of a crime. The officer now has a legal reason to stop you, and your flight gives him or her grounds for arrest.

But let’s say the officer starts arresting you without a reason other than that you look nervous. You run. The arrest is now justified by your flight. Even though the original arrest was illegal, your flight can be used against you. Instead of being able to suppress the original unlawful arrest, you must now deal with an arrest lawfully based on your flight.

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. If your flight was the basis of an unlawful arrest, an attorney can petition the court to suppress the arrest along with any resulting evidence.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: People v Shipp.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

CHANGE OF HEART: A PUBLIC'S DEFENDER'S JOURNEY TO FORGIVENESS

“Are you a real lawyer or are you a public defender?”

This is a question that I hear repeatedly at court as a private defense attorney, and it comes loaded with implications. Anybody who is a veteran of criminal law practice knows that public defenders are real lawyers, and that private attorneys often scurry to seek out their advice.

Jeanne Bishop is one of the very best public defenders in Cook County. She recently published Change of Heart, a personal memoir based on her searing experiences within the criminal justice system. I generally advise young attorneys to turn off the TV, drop the smartphone, and read books. Especially books about topics other than the law. For once, here is a story of the legal system that has volumes to say about justice and personal courage.

As a young student, Jeanne volunteered years ago to help fight egregious human rights violations against the people of Northern Ireland. At the time, she was a young attorney with an exceptional background, boundless possibilities, and a stable family life. Then Jeanne’s sister Nancy and her husband were murdered in their home, along with Nancy’s unborn child. Since the murder had happened in a wealthy town and nothing of value seemed to be missing, a frantic investigation was launched. The FBI intervened, outlandishly suggesting that the murders might be linked to Jeanne’s civil rights work in Ireland.

Unbelievably, Jeanne was investigated by the FBI. Allegations that she was obstructing investigators aired recklessly in the media as her depression over Nancy’s murder deepened. While this investigation is briefly noted in the book, Jeanne shows little interest in recounting her own mistreatment at the hands of media and law enforcement. Then the case broke wide open. A young informant led police to David Biro, a troubled local high school student.

The murder weapon was found in Biro’s room, along with scribblings that implied his guilt for the murders. Eventually, Biro was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile defender. Meanwhile, Jeanne had left a lucrative job with a corporate firm to work as a public defender. As a long-time advocate against the death penalty, she began questioning the propriety of life sentences for young offenders. After intense soul-searching, she decided she had to meet her sister’s killer. What follows may surprise many readers.

A lesser writer might have crafted a profoundly different book out of these horrendous experiences. The brutal elements of the story are not minimized, but sensationalism and self-pity are absent from these pages.

This is a story of justice, the abuse of justice, and the power of forgiveness. Many will disagree with some of Jeanne Bishop’s conclusions, and some will suggest that her religious faith has blinded her. In truth, here is a work of profound vision. The words are etched from pain, but they recount an inspiring act of mercy. This is an unforgettable story.

Jeanne Bishop’s book, Change of Heart, is published by WJK books. Visit www.wjkbooks.com.

If you have questions about Illinois criminal law, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

THE INSANITY DEFENSE IN ILLINOIS

Sometimes a defendant commits a crime without being truly responsible for his or her actions. Illinois recognizes this concept as the insanity defense. There are, however, many misconceptions about how it works.

Legal insanity does not mean just any type of mental illness or inexplicable behavior. A serial killer’s actions sound insane, but the killer can still appreciate what they are doing is wrong and have the capacity, if not the desire, to conform their conduct to the law.

Legal insanity does not mean diminished capacity, a defense no longer used in Illinois. The fact you committed the crime when you were too drunk to think straight will not excuse your conduct.

Illinois law does recognize the verdict of guilty but mentally ill, where your judgment was impaired by mental illness, but you still knew what you did was wrong. This verdict, however, does not relieve you from punishment.

Under the Illinois Insanity statute, a person is not criminally responsible for their acts if at the time, as a result of mental disease or mental defect, he or she lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct. (See Insanity.)

Insanity does not mean a person is innocent. In fact, the state must prove you guilty of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Then you must prove your legal insanity by clear and convincing evidence.

Because the defendant must prove insanity, it is critical to present the most compelling evidence possible. A criminal law attorney who is experienced in this defense knows that a credible doctor’s testimony can make or break a case. Your acquaintances may testify about how they saw you immediately before or after the crime, but their testimony is no substitute for an expert’s.

The court will pronounce you guilty of the offense before finding you “not guilty by reason of insanity.” The benefit of such a verdict is that you will likely avoid prison. You can instead be committed to a mental hospital until you are considered well enough to be released.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

ILLINOIS GETS NEW EAVESDROPPING LAW

After the former law was struck down as unconstitutionally broad, Illinois has enacted a new eavesdropping statute.

Under the new law, it is illegal to use an eavesdropping device to record private conversations unless all parties consent. (See Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.) A private conversation is defined as oral communication between two or more parties, whether in person or through wire or other means, and where one or more of the parties intended the communication to be private under circumstances reasonably justifying that expectation.

A person commits the crime of eavesdropping when he or she knowingly or intentionally uses an eavesdropping device to surreptitiously overhear, transmit or record a conversation to which he or she is not a party unless all parties to the private communication consent. It is also illegal to disclose any information obtained through that eavesdropping.

Police are not permitted to eavesdrop without a court order unless they were unaware that the communication was privileged.

Eavesdropping as a first offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. A second offense is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years. Eavesdropping on law enforcement or the state’s attorney while in the performance of their duties is a Class 3 felony for a first offense, and a Class 2 for subsequent offenses.

If you are charged under the new law or for another criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to determine your best possible options. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you intentionally eavesdrop? Did the complaining witness really have a justified expectation of privacy?

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

ILLINOIS ENACTS NEW LAW TO PREVENT "REVENGE PORN"

Before the modern digital era, jilted lovers would exact revenge on their unhappy exes by mailing those compromising photos. Once the photos or negatives were destroyed, however, the images were gone. End of problem.

But in these times, things are not so simple. Photos taken by cellphone during an unguarded moment may be impossible to eradicate. And transmitting a damaging image has never been so simple.

As a result, Illinois has enacted a law to ban the dissemination of private sexual images without the subject’s consent. Starting June 1, 2015, it is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years to intentionally disseminate an image of another who 1) is at least 18, 2) engaged in a sexual act or where intimate parts are exposed and 3) is identifiable from the image or information with the image.

If you are charged with this offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your situation to determine your best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state has the burden of proving all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you intentionally send the photos? Is the victim identifiable? Were the photos in fact sexual? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you are charged with this offense, do not speak about your situation with police or third parties. Any efforts to explain the situation could result in giving the state’s attorney the ammunition they need to convict you.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: Non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TAKING THE PLEA IN CRIMINAL COURT IN ILLINOIS

In my practice, making a plea agreement is a last resort, not a first option.

When a client comes to me, I first review all the evidence against him or her for any possible defense. Was the arrest based on probable cause? Was the search proper? Can the state prove all the elements of the crime?

But sometimes, the state’s case is very strong, and the client is best served by making a plea agreement.

Depending on the jurisdiction or the courtroom, I will negotiate a plea with either the state’s attorney or village prosecutor. In some cases, the judge will hold something called a 402 conference. In a 402 conference, the prosecutor and defense attorney meet in the judge’s chambers to discuss the case. At that time, I will present any evidence in your favor as to why you deserve a more lenient sentence. The judge will then make a recommendation regarding the charges and sentencing.

If the prosecutor’s offer or the judge’s recommendation is agreeable, you may accept the plea. This means you are giving up your rights to confront witnesses, go to trial or present evidence in your defense.

Or you can reject the offer and take your chances at trial.

In negotiating a plea, it helps to have an attorney who is respected at the courthouse and knows the players involved. The prosecutor does not have an incentive to make a good offer to an attorney who never takes cases to trial. An attorney who is familiar with the prosecutor and judges also has a better understanding of what to say on your behalf—or what will backfire.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

STAYING PAST YOUR WELCOME: HOW RETAIL THEFT BECOMES BURGLARY IN ILLINOIS

In Illinois, you can be charged with burglary if you 1) enter or remain in a building without authority 2) with intent to commit a felony or theft.

Under recent Illinois case law, you can lose the authority to enter or remain in a building even when that building is open to the public during business hours. Once you form the intent to shoplift or steal, your authority to be there disappears. The court held that a defendant who develops an intent to steal after his entry into a public building may be found guilty of burglary by unlawfully remaining.

In People v Bradford, the court upheld the conviction of a defendant who entered a Wal-mart and stole several items. The defendant was charged with burglary rather than retail theft. Unlike shoplifting, burglary requires the state to prove that the defendant remained without authority. The defendant argued that the state failed to prove he lacked authority to remain inside the Wal-mart, which was open for business. The court, however, held that once he formed the intent to steal, he lost the authority to remain.

If you are charged with burglary or another criminal matter, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case for the best possible defense. Even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against you, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See also: 720 ILCS 5/19-1 Burglary.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

NEW ILLINOIS LAW PENALIZES KRATOM USE BY MINORS

As of January 1, 2015, children under age 18 may not sell or possess any product containing the herbal drug Kratom.

Kratom is derived from the Mitragyna speciosa, a tree native to Thailand. Its effects are similar to morphine or opium.

The new law makes it a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by 180 days in jail, for a minor to knowingly purchase or possess the substance. Other persons may not knowingly sell or distribute Kratom to a minor or buy the drug on their behalf. Minors may also be penalized for using fake identification to obtain the drug.

If you are charged under the new law, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not speak with the police or other third parties about your offense. Your attempts to talk your way out of the situation may end up digging you in deeper and limiting any defense you might otherwise have.

An experienced attorney can review your case for your best options. Perhaps you did not knowingly possess the drug. Or perhaps the police acted improperly when they arrested you. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

THE POLICE ARE AT MY DOOR: KNOCK AND TALK DOCTRINE IN ILLINOIS

When you answered the doorbell, you were surprised to see the police. The officer said he had a few questions and wanted to know if he could come in. The officer did not have a search warrant. Do you have a right to refuse?

Generally, the answer is yes. While police have the same right to “knock and talk” as a private citizen, what happens after that can be somewhat different. “Knock and talk,” allows police to investigate or ask for consent to search your home. Police cannot use “knock and talk” to raid your home, show force or make demands upon you. Once you tell police you do not wish to talk or let them in, the encounter should end.

When refusing entry to your home, you should say as little as possible. Do not try to argue about your rights. Be polite and the to the point.

If the encounter does not end and police discover evidence of a crime, you should consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence based on the illegal search.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See People v Kofron.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

ILLINOIS TOUGHENS LAW ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDERS

Starting January 1, 2015, Illinois law gives the Court new tools to discourage offenders from violating an order of protection.

Known as “Diane’s Law,” the new law enables the court to keep tabs on an offender’s whereabouts through electronic or GPS surveillance as a condition of bail. The court may also order the defendant to obtain a risk assessment and may require the offender to pay the cost of both the surveillance and the assessment.

The law is named for Diane Kephart who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend three days after renewing an order of protection.

The law protects intimate partners defined as a spouse or current or former partner in cohabitation or in a dating relationship. The law applies to defendants beyond those who have violated an order of protection including those charged with attempted first degree murder as well as both regular or aggravated forms of domestic battery, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and stalking.

The fact you stalked or harassed someone from your computer is no defense. The law also covers cyberstalking and harassment through telephone or electronic means.

If someone is seeking an order of protection against you or you have been charged with one of the above crimes, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not speak to the police or third parties about your situation. What sounds like a reasonable explanation to you might give the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An experienced attorney can review your case to determine your best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See: 725 ILCS 5/110-5(f).

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

CAN POLICE SEARCH YOUR GARBAGE WITHOUT A WARRANT?

Whether police need a search warrant for something like a garbage can generally depends on whether you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place or thing being searched.

When it comes to garbage, your expectation of privacy can depend on where the trash is located. If your garbage is awaiting pick up in the alley, police will likely have a right to investigate. If your garbage was still within “the curtilage” of your home, however, police may first need a warrant.

Generally, police cannot enter a private residence unless they have emergency or exigent circumstances, consent or a warrant. The curtilage of your home is included in this Fourth Amendment protection. The curtilage is defined as the land immediately surrounding and associated with your home. The scope of the curtilage is generally determined by whether you reasonably expect the area to be treated like your home. For example, the area within your fenced-in yard would be a curtilage. The case law in this area is complex and depends a great deal on the specific facts of each situation.

Therefore, if your garbage was still in your garage or next to your back door, the police may require a warrant before they can poke through it. (However, if the police are otherwise lawfully within the curtilage of your home and happen to see something in plain view, they can investigate the object.)

This protection in garbage applies even if you are a guest in someone’s home. Therefore, if you are staying at a friend’s and you threw contraband in their garbage, you have a privacy expectation until about the point the garbage is set outside for pick up.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See People v Kofron.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

"I CLICKED ON THE WRONG SITE!": THE ILLINOIS LAW ON CHILD CYBER-PORNOGRAPHY

You were browsing some adult content sites on your computer when you came across some links to other photos. You clicked on the links and to your horror, they were photos of children in suggestive poses. Somehow, the police found out and now you are charged with child pornography.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

The Illinois Child Pornography law prohibits the obscene use of children ranging from taking the photos to soliciting the models. But what if you came across the photos accidentally online?

Illinois law specifies that it is illegal to knowingly possess any “film, videotape, photograph or other similar reproduction or depiction by computer of any child” whom you reasonably should know was under age 18. (This offense also includes depictions of severely intellectually disabled adults.) Each separate photo or computer depiction can be charged as a separate offense.

You may have a defense if you reasonably believed the child in the image was over age 18 after you made diligent inquiry. Your possession of the images must also be voluntary. However, possession is considered voluntary if you had the image long enough that you could have terminated your possession.

If the computer image you possessed was a photo, you can be charged with a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. If the child was under age 13, the offense is upgraded to a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. The offense is also a Class 2 felony if the images were a film or video.

Besides prison and fines, the Court may order you to register as a sex offender, which can bar you from many normal activities such as choosing where you live, who you visit or where you work.

If you are charged with child pornography, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not make any statements to a third party or the police. An attorney can review your options and help you determine the best possible defense.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See: Illinois Child Pornography Law.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

SECOND CHANCE PROBATION IN ILLINOIS

You’ve never done anything wrong before, but when you did, the crime was a big one. Maybe the cost of the designer jeans you shoplifted upgraded you into felony territory. Or you had just a little too much pot or narcotics on your person to qualify for a misdemeanor.

Under certain circumstances, second chance probation might allow you to avoid the stigma of a criminal record following you for the rest of your life.

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois allows second chance probation to be offered for certain felony offenses. To qualify, you cannot have a past felony conviction or a criminal record involving a violent crime which includes domestic battery, possessing a firearm, sex offenses, stalking or DUI. If your current felony involves violence, a sex offense or DUI, you also would not be eligible. However, for certain Class 3 and Class 4 felonies involving drugs, retail theft or criminal damage to property, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Like coupons, you cannot combine these types of leniency programs. If you’ve had second chance probation or a similar program, you may not be eligible again.

Second chance probation is not given automatically. You should still consider retaining an attorney to help you qualify. An attorney can help present your situation in the best possible light to demonstrate that you deserve that second chance.

If you get second chance probation, the judge must sentence you to at least two years of probation. During that time, you cannot violate any criminal statutes or possess a firearm or dangerous weapon. You may also have to repay the victim, pay fines and court costs, perform at least 30 hours of community service, get a job, graduate from high school and submit to drug testing.

If you do complete the program, the case against you will be dismissed, which will enable you to avoid that felony conviction on your record.

If you have questions about this or other related Illinois criminal or traffic charges, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See Illinois Second Chance Probation Statute.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE NOT HIRED AN ATTORNEY FOR YOUR FIRST CRIMINAL OR DUI COURT DATE IN ILLINOIS

You were recently charged with a crime, and your first court date is coming up fast. You intended to hire an attorney, but haven’t been able to do so yet—either because of time or money or you just haven’t picked which one.

How should you handle your first court date?

Many people come to court at some point without an attorney. In most cases, the judge will require you to come back with someone. Playing your own lawyer may make exciting TV drama, but in most cases, the judge will not allow it. If you are truly indigent, you may be entitled to the public defender. Otherwise, you must hire your own private counsel.

If you don’t have an attorney on your first court date, you must still appear. Some courtrooms will allow a defendant to check in with the court clerk to have your case called sooner. Most courtrooms, however, do not allow this practice and require you to wait until your turn on the docket. By Supreme Court rule, defendants with private attorneys are called first.

Once your case is called, answer “here” and step up before the bench. Explain to the judge that you will be hiring your own attorney and politely request a continuance. The judge should give you a new court date. It is best if you have an attorney by this second court date or you may try the judge’s patience.

When attending court, be sure to appear on time even though you may have to wait. You should dress in clean, pressed, conservative clothing.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

DO THE POLICE NEED A WARRANT TO SEARCH A CELL PHONE? THE U.S. SUPREME COURT SAYS 'YES!'

Police generally do not need a warrant to search a suspect as part of a lawful arrest. Such a search may be limited to the person of the arrestee and the area immediately within their control. However, most of us carry cellphones on our person. Can the police look at all the personal information stored in our phone?

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has said the answer is no. See Riley v California. While officers may search the arrestee to prevent destruction of evidence or protect the officer from harm, searching a cell phone serves neither purpose. Instead the intrusion to a defendant’s privacy far outweighs those concerns. And an officer can protect the phone’s contents from being remotely erased by following certain procedures.

According to the court, cell phones differ from other physical objects because of their immense storage capacity. Cell phones “could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps or newspapers,” the Court wrote. In this digital age, the person who doesn’t carry a “cache of sensitive personal information with them” is the exception.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"BUT I JUST TEXTED!": THE LAW ON CYBERSTALKING IN ILLINOIS

You broke up with your girlfriend. You still had something you wanted to say. But she wouldn’t talk to you so you kept instant messaging her. Finally, you IMed that she better talk to you “or else.” Now you are charged with cyberstalking.

What is cyberstalking? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you can be charged with cyberstalking if you use electronic media to harass someone else on at least two separate occasions. Electronic media includes texts, emails and voice mails. You must also have knowingly and without lawful justification transmitted a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, confinement or sexual assault against that person or their family or you must have caused that person or their family to reasonably fear immediate or future harm.

And your stalking need not be one on one. It is still cyberstalking if you solicit someone else to do the harassment for you. Additionally, you can be charged if you knowingly and without legal justification maintain an internet page accessible to more than one person for at least 24 hours that 1) threatens someone, 2) causes them or their family to fear immediate or future harm or 3) solicits others to harm that person or their family.

Cyberstalking on a first offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison. Further offenses are a Class 3 felony punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison.

If you are charged with cyberstalking, consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk about your case with the police or third parties. Do not try to explain yourself. You may just end up digging yourself in deeper. What you think is justification might give the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An experienced attorney can review your case to help you present the best possible defense. As with most criminal charges, the state must prove you guilty of all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you act knowingly? Were your actions without legal justification? Did your statements go beyond harassment? Was the victim’s fear of bodily harm reasonable? Was the internet page posted without your knowledge?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See: 720 ILCS 5/12-7.5: Cyberstalking.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"I DIDN'T STEAL IT!": PROVING BURGLARY IN ILLINOIS

You bought a couple I-phones from an acquaintance. You thought they were his, but it turned out he had recently stolen them from a store and then he disappeared. Now the police have charged you with the burglary.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

The crime of burglary in Illinois involves stealing from a place. (720 ILCS 5/19-1.) If you knowingly enter or remain in a building without permission with the intent to commit a felony or theft, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison. If the building was a day care, school or church, your charges can be upgraded to Aggravated Burglary, a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

But you didn’t steal the phones and you were never in the store. Can they still convict you? As with most other crimes, the state must prove you guilty of every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact you have the recently stolen I-phones may not be enough to convict you of their burglary unless 1) there is a rational connection between your possession of the stolen property and your participation in a burglary, 2) your guilt of the burglary more likely than not flowed from your recent, unexplained and exclusive possession of the proceeds, and 3) there was corroborating evidence of your guilt.

In a recent Illinois Appellate case, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction because the evidence was insufficient to infer that the defendant had committed the burglary based on his unexplained and exclusive possession of some auto parts. The prosecution could not prove that the items the defendant possessed were the same as the recently stolen parts or that he even entered the store where they had been taken. (See People v Terrance Smith.)

If you are charged with burglary or a related crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review the evidence for weaknesses in the state’s case and help you put on the best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON HOT PURSUIT

When you saw the siren, you panicked. You knew you were near the city limits or the state border and you thought if you crossed it, the police would have to stop just like in the movies.

Can police follow you across jurisdictional lines? For the most part, they can although the rules for out of state and in-state police are somewhat different.

Police from outside Illinois have the same authority to arrest you inside Illinois as an Illinois officer if they are in hot pursuit. (725 ILCS 5/107-4). Hot pursuit is defined as the immediate pursuit of a suspect who is avoiding arrest. The officer need not have you in view the entire time, but must have uninterrupted knowledge of your whereabouts and must proceed without unreasonable delay. The officer’s jurisdiction must share a border with the place where you fled.

Once arrested, the officer must bring you before the circuit court in the county where you were arrested in order to determine whether the arrest was lawful.

Inside Illinois, police may arrest you anywhere in the state for a crime committed inside their jurisdiction. (725 ILCS 5/107-5). Illinois case law has held that police may make an arrest in an adjoining jurisdiction where the officer has probable cause to believe that the accused committed an offense in the officer’s jurisdiction. This is true even though the officer merely entered the adjoining jurisdiction because of some suspicious activity and was not then in fresh pursuit of the offender. People v Carraher.

Police, however, cannot arrest you for a crime committed outside their jurisdiction. A recent Illinois case held that Chicago police could not arrest a Maywood defendant where the criminal act, police surveillance, search and arrest all took place in Maywood. People v Harrell.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY IN ILLINOIS: WHEN A HOME IS NOT A DWELLING

A person commits residential burglary in Illinois when he or she knowingly without permission enters or stays within someone else's dwelling intending to commit a felony or theft. Residential burglary in Illinois is a Class 1 felony.

If your burglary is not within a dwelling, then you may be eligible for the lesser charge of simple burglary, a Class 2 felony. So how do you know whether the home you were in was really a dwelling?

The residential burglary statute defines a dwelling as "a house, apartment, mobile home, trailer, or other living quarters in which at the time of the alleged offense the owners or occupants actually reside or in their absence intend within a reasonable period of time to reside." (720 ILCS 5/2-6(b), 19-3(a).)

Under Illinois case law, a home is not a dwelling if the owners have moved away and do not intend to return, even if the property is up for sale and may be occupied at some later time. See People v Brett Roberts. Further, a building owned by a real estate developer was not a dwelling even though the developer visited the premises and planned on remodeling. See People v Marcello Moore. In either case, there were no specific individuals who lived there or intended to move in.

If you are charged with burglary, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to help you present the best possible defense. As with most criminal charges, the state must prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. With residential burglary, the state must prove that the building is a dwelling. Otherwise, at the very least, your charges must be reduced.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Also see: Illinois Burglary Statute.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON CRIMINAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Illinois law punishes those who have a “common design” in committing a crime.

Under Illinois accountability law, you can be charged with another’s crime when either before or during the offense, you solicit, aid, abet, agree or attempt to aid, such other person in the planning or commission of the offense” while intending to promote or facilitate the crime. (720 ILCS 5/5-2).

To prove a defendant intended to aid a crime, the State must show either (1) the defendant shared the criminal intent of the main defendant, or (2) there was a common criminal design. Under the common design rule, if “two or more persons engage in a common criminal design or agreement, any acts in the furtherance of that common design committed by one party are considered to be the acts of all parties to the design or agreement and all are equally responsible for the consequences of the further acts.” (See People v Fernandez). In other words, you can be charged with any crime your co-defendant commits even if you were nowhere in sight. The state may also prove you had a common purpose if you voluntarily joined a group that you knew intended to commit a crime.

One example of accountability law is People v Kessler. A defendant and two other men planned to burglarize a bar. The two men entered the bar while defendant waited in the car. Surprised by the bar owner, the men shot and wounded the owner, then fled on foot. Police chased them and one man shot at police. Although defendant remained in the car the whole time, he was convicted of the burglary and the attempted murders. (See People v Kessler).

If you are charged because of another’s crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your situation with the police or third parties. Any attempt to explain yourself might give the prosecution just the evidence they need to convict you as well as limit any potential defense.

As with most crimes, the State must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you know what was going on? Maybe you gave the co-defendant a baseball bat because they told you they were going to play ball. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse, may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

CAN THEY SEARCH MY STUFF IN SOMEONE ELSE’S CAR?

You were a passenger in a friend’s car. You had your suitcase in the backseat. Your friend got pulled over by police, and police searched your bag and found drugs or weapons.

Can the police search your bag if you don’t own the car? What can you do?

Whether police can search your belongings in another’s car without a warrant turns on whether you had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car or your bags. To determine whether you can challenge a search, the court weighs several factors including:

1) Do you own the car?

2) Do you have control of the car or a right to exclude others from using it?

3) Are you legitimately in the car yourself? If you stole the car, you would not have a right to prevent a police search of your belongings.

4) Do you have a subjective expectation of privacy in the car?

5) Have you previously used the area that was searched?

In general, passengers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a car they don’t own, but may still have privacy rights in their own belongings. However, the court has found a privacy right where the passenger was given the keys to the car or was on a long road trip and stored their belongings in the car.

If you had a reasonable privacy expectation in the car, you may be able to challenge the search and any evidence that was seized. If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for the best possible defense and petition the court to suppress the results of any illegal search.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Resource: People v Ferris.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON STALKING

You can’t get her out of your mind. So you’ve been following her thinking she didn’t see you. But she called the police and now you are charged with stalking.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you can be charged with stalking if you knowingly: 1) Engage in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their or another’s safety or cause them emotional distress. 2) Follows or places someone under surveillance at least twice and threatens that person or their family member with harm. 3) After a conviction for stalking, follows or places that same person under surveillance or threatens them with harm even if it is just once. 4) Direct a third person to do your stalking for you.

Stalking on a first offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Later offenses up the ante to a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years plus a fine.

The stalking conduct may include harming another person’s property or pet, following them, monitoring them or other nonconsensual conduct. Stalking includes electronic communication, potentially including images sent via Snapchat or other similar servers.

If you are charged with stalking, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your situation with the police or third parties. Any statements you make could be used against you at trial and could limit your potential defenses. Often, people trying to justify their conduct just dig themselves in deeper.

An experienced criminal law attorney can review your case for the best possible defense. As with other criminal charges, the state must prove you guilty of all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The stalking law requires that you acted “knowingly” or that the conduct be “nonconsensual.” Did you know the alleged victim was going to be where you saw him or her? Did he or she tell you to stop by or email? Was your conduct really bad enough to cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress or fear for their safety?

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT HOLDS EAVESDROPPING LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Two recent Illinois Supreme Court decisions have put nails in the coffin of Illinois’ controversial Eavesdropping statute.

Under the law, a person is guilty of eavesdropping when he or she “knowingly and intentionally uses an eavesdropping device for the purpose of hearing or recording all or any part of any conversation or intercepts, retains, or transcribes electronic communication unless he does so (A) with the consent of all of the parties to such conversation or electronic communication.” 720 ILCS 5/14 2(a)(1)(A).

Prior well-publicized cases have involved individuals recording their encounters with police. A jury acquitted one such defendant and a judge deemed the statute unconstitutional in another defendant’s case. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held the law unconstitutional.

Now, the Illinois State Supreme Court has agreed in both Kane and Cook County cases. In People v DeForest Clark, a Kane County defendant recorded conversations involving himself, his ex-wife’s attorney and a judge. The Clark court stated that the law was overbroad, and in a world of smart phones, went too far to protect an individual’s privacy in their communications.

In the Cook County case, the defendant recorded conversations with a court reporter regarding a court transcript’s accuracy. Defendant posted the conversations on her website. (See People v Melongo.) The court held that the eavesdropping statute substantially burdens more speech than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interest in protecting privacy. In other words, enforcing the statute too often criminalizes otherwise innocent conduct.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

IT WAS JUST A PRANK!: ILLINOIS CRIMINAL DAMAGE TO PROPERTY LAW

You thought it would be a really good joke. You and your buddies spray painted your team’s logo on a rival school’s bus. Or maybe you set off some fireworks in the neighbor’s yard one night. But instead, you blew up his bushes.

Now you are charged with a crime. What is criminal damage to property? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you commit criminal damage to property if you knowingly damage any property of another. This includes setting fire to or setting off explosives on another’s property, injuring their animals or depositing something with an offensive smell. Criminal property damage also includes shooting guns at a railroad train, and tampering with fire hydrants or fire equipment. You may also be charged with knowingly damaging property with the intent of defrauding an insurer.

The charges and punishment depend on what you did, where you did it and how much damage it caused. For most categories, charges range from a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail) for damage under $300 to a Class 2 Felony (3 to 7 years in prison) for damages over $100,000. Messing with fire equipment or a hydrant is a Class B Misdemeanor (up to 6 months). Your charges can also be upgraded if the damage involved a school, place of worship, a farm, or to a memorial for police, firefighters, National Guardsman or veterans. Shooting at a train is a Class 4 felony and so is injuring animals if the damage is under $10,000.

If you are charged with criminal damage to property, do not speak to a third party or the police about your case. Trying to explain yourself may end up giving the state’s attorney the proof they need to convict you as well as restricting any potential defense.

Contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney will review your case for the best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you act knowingly? Did you have permission from the owner to create the damage? Can the state prove it was you? Can they prove the value of the damage?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: Criminal Damage to Property.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

SIX WAYS TO DEFEND AN ILLINOIS SHOPLIFTING CASE

As with most criminal charges, the State has to prove you guilty of all the elements of retail theft beyond a reasonable doubt. Retail theft is a tough crime to defend because often someone is caught in the act on video or by store personnel, and merchants are aggressive about prosecuting these charges.

However, your case may not be hopeless. Here are six ways you may be able to defend your retail theft charge:

1) Can the store prove it was you? In one Illinois appellate case, the store was able to prove that the person in a driver’s license had committed the crime but could not prove that the defendant was the person in the driver’s license.

2) Did you take the items knowingly? Maybe you were shopping with a “friend” who handed you the merchandise, but you honestly believed your friend had already paid for the goods. Or maybe the item appeared to be a free sample.

3) Can they prove you took possession of the goods? Maybe the shoplifted items were found in your car or even your shopping cart, but can the State prove you put them there? Did someone else have access to the area where the items were found?

4) Were the items actually offered for sale by the store? Maybe the items the store accuses you of stealing actually came from somewhere else. In one Illinois Appellate case, a defendant was seen dragging aluminum three lots away from the store that accused him of stealing. Defendant’s conviction was reversed because a store employee merely guessed that the alumnimum must have belonged to the store.

5) Did you intend to take the items permanently? This should be the easiest defense to prove but can be the hardest. Often, a shopper is distracted and forgets something in their cart. But the fact you walked past the last pay station can be used to infer that you intended to take the item. However, you may be able to show the circumstances were such that you really didn’t mean to walk out with the watch or the baby formula.

6) When all else fails: You may qualify for a special deferment program that will result in getting your retail theft charges dismissed along with a chance to clear or expunge your record.

If you are charged with retail theft, contact an experienced criminal law attorney at once. Do not speak of your situation to the police or third parties. Any statements you make can be used in evidence against you and may rule out a potential defense. An experienced criminal law attorney can review your case for the best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: ILLINOIS IDENTITY THEFT EXPUNGEMENT

Your name is Jack Smith, but you’re not THAT Jack Smith, the one who stole your identity and misused a credit card or embezzled from a bank account or got a DUI using a license with your information. Perhaps you were even arrested for those crimes, but were able to prove it wasn’t you. Still, the other guy’s crimes keep showing up on your background check.

What can you do?

Under Illinois law, you can file a Petition for Expedited Judicial Determination of Factual Innocence to clean up your record based on identity theft. You must attach all supporting documentation that demonstrates that someone misused your identity in committing any crimes, and you will likely have to appear at a hearing to answer questions. Once the Petition is granted, the records linking the crime to your identity will be cleared.

While you can file the Petition yourself, an experienced criminal law attorney can help you present the most relevant evidence in its best possible light. If the court is not convinced that you were a victim of identity theft, the judge could deny your petition.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

TELEPHONE HARASSMENT: WHAT IS INTENT?

Illinois law prohibits someone from using the phone to make obscene comments with the intent to offend another or to make a call, whether or not one speaks, with the intent of abusing, harassing or threatening someone.

A caller’s intent is a specific element of the offense. Therefore, the state must prove you had the required intent beyond a reasonable doubt. You act with intent when your conscious purpose is to engage in the conduct or to accomplish the purpose that is barred by law. For telephone harassment, you must intend to offend, abuse or threaten the other person.

Besides being intentional, your conduct must be voluntary. Your actions are not voluntary if they result from a reflex, are done while sleeping or under hypnosis, or are otherwise not your will.

In an interesting new Illinois case, the Illinois Appellate Court found that a defendant who suffered from Tourette’s syndrome did not act voluntarily in making phone calls to the victim. The defendant could not control a complex series of tics that resulted in the offensive phone calls. People v Nelson. While Defendant was not taking required medication, the State did not prove that his failure to take his medication was voluntary. Otherwise, defendant could have been held responsible for his acts.

If you have been charged with telephone harassment or another criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk to the police or third parties about your case. Any attempt to explain your actions could end up constituting an admission of guilt.

An attorney can review your case to present the best possible defense. Can the state prove that you acted with the required intent? Perhaps you suffer from an involuntary condition like Tourette’s. Or perhaps you reasonably believed your conduct would not be offensive to the other party. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

“THEY ASKED ME TO PAY!”: THE RETAIL THEFT CIVIL DAMAGES LETTER

You’re already on edge after you were charged with shoplifting. Now you have received a letter or a phone call from a collection agent or a law firm asking you to pay money for the merchandise that you took.

Will paying the money demanded in the letter make your criminal case go away? Generally, the answer is no. In most cases, even if you pay, you have still committed a crime, and the retailer will still press charges.

If you have been charged with retail theft, do not talk about your case with third parties, especially not the police, the store or the firm demanding the civil damages. By attempting to explain your situation, you could be inadvertently admitting guilt.

If you are charged or think you may be charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to determine the best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney, who is respected at the court house, may negotiate a better plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

HOW TO CHOOSE A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

No matter how great they are, not all attorneys are right for all clients. So how do you choose the criminal defense attorney that will best represent you? Here are some pointers:

1) Communication: This factor would likely be at the top of any client’s list. You need an attorney who will communicate well with you. This does not necessarily mean that your calls are immediately returned every time, although an attorney should not leave clients hanging. But the attorney should answer your questions and explain your options in a way that you understand.

2) Trust: Choosing an attorney can be like choosing a doctor. You need to have confidence in their judgment. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your attorney, then you may need to find someone else. You should not, however, assume that how you think a case should be handled would actually work in the courtroom. An experienced attorney knows how the justice system really works, which is why you need someone you trust to guide you through it.

3) Personality: While not strictly the most important factor, finding a good fit for your personality can increase your peace of mind. Perhaps you’ve never gotten in trouble before, and you are terrified. A compassionate attorney with a warm and caring manner might work better for you than the more coldly, clinical type. If you are all business yourself, you might prefer a more detached lawyer.

4) Knowledge and Experience: Has the attorney worked on this kind of case before? Does your attorney ask the right questions? Are they knowledgeable about the law and procedure? How about the players in the courthouse? An attorney’s main job is to formulate the best strategy to defend your case. A knowledge of what the prosecutor is likely to offer or how the judge is likely to react can be invaluable when making important decisions such as whether to take a case to a jury.

5) Reputation: An attorney who enjoys a good reputation at the courthouse is more effective. An attorney who is respected and/or liked may get a better deal than one who is rude and does sloppy work.

6) Location: While not essential, it can certainly help to get someone located relatively close to the courthouse. I have an office in Skokie, and so I do a lot of my work at the Skokie Courthouse. But this is not the most important factor. I do work in many other Chicago-area courthouses equally effectively. A conscientious attorney can make a good impression anywhere. <8>7) Price: This is the least important factor except in terms of your budget. It is possible, although difficult, to find an excellent attorney who charges the bare minimum. Many of these attorneys are only interested in pleaing out your case as soon as possible. They generally will not bother to review the evidence to see if you have a defense. Many times, I have had a difficult second offense with a client because they hired a cheap attorney to plea out a fightable first offense. Even where a plea agreement is best, attorneys who automatically plea out cases may not get you the best possible deal. A prosecutor has no incentive to give a good deal to an attorney who won’t fight for you anyway.

By the same token, the fact an attorney charges top dollar is not a guarantee of quality. You really need to evaluate each attorney based on the above factors.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"BUT I DIDN'T START IT!": THE ILLINOIS LAW ON SELF-DEFENSE

He just came at you.

To protect yourself, you pulled out a knife or maybe a gun. He turned to run away. Pumped with adrenalin, you couldn’t stop yourself from going after him. Now, he’s in the hospital, and you’re charged with an aggravated battery. Can you claim self-defense?

Under Illinois law, you may use force against an aggressor when you reasonably believe it is necessary to defend yourself or another. You may use deadly force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another, or that such force is necessary to prevent a forcible felony such as a burglary.

However, you can go too far. You may not become the aggressor. If the person who attacked you withdraws from physical contact and indicates they want to stop fighting, you can’t keep going. Once they’re lying on the ground, you can’t keep beating them. When self-defense crosses the line to retaliation, you become the aggressor. Self-defense is also not a defense when the aggression is mutual.

And despite what you may have heard in some news stories, you may not sue someone for injuries where they acted in self-defense unless their conduct was willful and wanton. Thus, the stories about the burglar suing the homeowner for shooting him are unlikely to occur in Illinois.

If you are charged with a battery or other violent crime but believe you acted in self-defense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not try to justify yourself to the police or discuss your offense with third parties. What you think is a reasonable explanation may give the police the evidence needed to convict you. You may unintentionally come across as self-serving or self-pitying. Instead, an experienced attorney can present evidence of self-defense on your behalf in its best possible light.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

For more information see 720 ILCS 5/7-1.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TAPING AN ASSAULT OR BATTERY TO BE AN AGGRAVATED OFFENSE IN ILLINOIS

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois has taken a step into modern media times by adding a video/audio component to its aggravated assault and battery laws.

The changes in Illinois law upgrades assault or battery to an aggravated offense if you knowingly video or audio the offense with the intent of disseminating the recording. The video/audio restriction applies if your offense is based on the use of a firearm, device or motor vehicle. Using a video or audio with intent to disseminate can also be grounds for the judge to impose an extended sentence, not only for assault or battery, but in committing any felony.

Generally, assault is defined as causing someone to fear they are about to suffer a battery. Battery is defined as causing bodily harm or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature. Assault can become aggravated based on the status of a person, the use of a firearm or motor vehicle, or whether a person is in a public place. Battery can be upgraded based on the degree of the injury, the status of the person harmed, the location of the conduct, or if a weapon is involved. While simple assault or battery is a misdemeanor, aggravated conduct is a felony.

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois has added nurses in the performance of their duties to the list of battery victims with special status. Other victims with enhanced status include children, mentally retarded or handicapped persons, pregnant women, senior citizens over age 60, teachers, State of Illinois or school district officials, police officers, firefighters, community policing volunteers, prison officials or security guards performing their duties or if you are retaliating against them because of those duties, taxi drivers while on duty, or merchants detaining you for retail theft.

If you are charged with assault, battery or a similar offense, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. Do not speak to the police or anyone else about your situation either orally or by electronic media such as texting or Facebook. Just like in the cop shows, anything you say may be used against you. A criminal law attorney can carefully review the law and the evidence against you to help devise the best strategy for your defense. Under the revised law, the State must still prove you guilty of all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps you did not knowingly tape the incident or intend to share it. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, an experienced attorney may negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"I DIDN'T KNOW!": WHEN IGNORANCE IS A DEFENSE

As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Generally, that statement is true. All persons are presumed to know the law. There are rare occasions, however, when ignorance can be a defense.

In Illinois, ignorance can be a defense where it applies to the element of intent. When charged with a crime, the state must prove you guilty of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Certain crimes require that you acted knowingly. Ignorance can help disprove that element of the offense.

For example, ignorance can be a defense where you returned home after a fight with your domestic partner without knowing that an order of protection forbidding you from entering the residence was now in effect. Or ignorance can be a defense to retail theft where you did not know that the cashier had placed an object in your bag.

The laws have become more complicated and numerous than in olden days. Therefore, ignorance can be a defense when you are unaware of an administrative regulation that was not reasonably available to you. In rare cases, you may have relied on a statute that is later declared invalid or a court order that was later overruled. And have you ever asked an official whether certain conduct was legal, only to learn later that the official was wrong? Ignorance can be a defense when you are relying on that official’s interpretation of the law.

Even where ignorance is a defense, you may still may not get off scott free. The court can convict you of a lesser offense that did not require special mental intent, and you can still be found guilty of the law as you believed it to be.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

NEW ILLINOIS LAW ALLOWS MORE NON-VIOLENT FELONY OFFENDERS TO SEAL CRIMINAL RECORDS

Beginning January 1, 2014, certain types of felony offenders will now be eligible to leave their criminal record in the past.

Under the new law, offenders with convictions for non-violent Class 3 and Class 4 felonies may petition to seal their criminal records four years after the successful completion of their last sentence. Previously, only Class 4 felonies involving possession of marijuana or a controlled substance, prostitution or a violation of the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act or Steriod Control Act could be sealed.

The new guidelines do not however, permit sealing for felony convictions involving: 1) DUI, 2) reckless driving, 3) sex offenses, 4) dog fighting, 5) violating an order of protection, 6) violent crimes or 7) crimes requiring registration as a sex offender. Class A misdemeanors under the Humane Care for Animals Act are still not eligible for sealing.

To seal your record, you must file a petition with the court. The State’s Attorney, Illinois State Police and the arresting police department then have 60 days to object to your petition. In Chicago, a hearing may be set at the time you file your petition. Otherwise, your case may be set for hearing if there is an objection.

If you have questions about sealing or expunging your criminal record, contact an experienced criminal law attorney. Even with the changes in law, the rules for what can and cannot be expunged can be tricky. An attorney can help determine if you qualify and represent you in court if there is an objection to your request.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'VE NEVER BEEN IN TROUBLE BEFORE! DOESN'T THAT MATTER?

You’ve never been in trouble before. That retail theft or marijuana bust is your first arrest of any kind. You've never even blown a stop sign. Doesn’t that help?

The answer is yes and no. A first offender may be eligible for a lighter sentence than a repeat offender. However, your otherwise good character doesn’t really matter when it comes to determining your guilt or innocence.

We’ve all seen the TV shows where the defendant asks a friend to vouch for his good character in order to prove he couldn’t have committed the crime. But it doesn’t work that way in real life. In the legal system, the fact you are a good person does not make it any more or less likely that you committed a particular crime than if you were a bad person. The state still has to show whether you are guilty of a particular offense.

Contrary to TV law, a defense attorney will avoid the character issue until sentencing. At trial, putting on evidence of good character opens the door for the state to put on evidence of bad character. If you say you’re a good family person who goes to church and holds a job, the state can bring up the time you were suspended in high school or that you party a lot.

Good character can be relevant once your guilt is established. While Illinois law imposes certain sentencing guidelines, penalties often become stiffer with subsequent offenses. The court may be more lenient if your offense is clearly a one-time deal. At that point, it might help to talk about all that volunteer work you do or the fact that you always shovel the walk for your elderly neighbor.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

RETAIL THEFT: SECOND OFFENSE AND BEYOND

Retail theft the second time around can be a much more complicated affair than your first offense. Repeat offenses may lead to stiffer charges, violation of supervision, and a conviction that stays on your record.

For starters, a second offense involving property under $300 is upgraded from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony if you have a prior conviction. While the misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison, the felony could net you 1 to 3 years. (Offenses over $300 are Class 3 felonies for first or greater offenses, punishable by 2 to 5 years.)

The timing and disposition of your first offense could mean big trouble for your second. Did you receive supervision for the first offense or was your case dismissed? If supervision, then your second offense could land you a conviction. While a supervision may be cleared or expunged from your record entirely, a conviction may at best be sealed. As a crime of honesty, a retail theft can make you undesirable to employers.

If you were still serving a sentence or term of supervision on your first offense, a second offense could become a violation of that sentence. Now you can be resentenced on the first offense, charged separately for the violation, and still have to deal with the new charges. If you were not yet sentenced on the first offense, you may have violated the conditions of your bond.

Even if you are charged with a repeat retail theft, all is not hopeless. Contact an experienced criminal law attorney to review your case for the best possible defense. Retail theft is a crime of intent. The state must prove that you meant to keep the merchandise permanently. Maybe you were distracted by your children or just forgot the item was in your cart. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to work out a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own. Do not talk about your case to third parties, particularly the police. What you think is a rational explanation may give the prosecutor the evidence he or she needs to convict you.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

The retail theft statute can be found at Illinois Retail Theft Law.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ILLINOIS CRACKS DOWN ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDERS

As of January 1, 2014, those accused of domestic violence could face more severe penalties. A change in Illinois law stiffens the charges against repeat offenders.

Domestic battery is defined as knowingly and without legal justification causing bodily harm or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with a household or family member. A first offense is a Class A Misdmeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Subsequent offenses were a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years.

The change in the law, however, comes into play when you have more than two prior domestic battery convictions. If you have three prior convictions, your offense is now a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail. Four or more convictions is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. Illinois law already provided a mandatory 72 hours of jail time on a second or subsequent conviction.

If you are charged with domestic battery, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not communicate with others or the police about your case. Any attempt to explain yourself may come across as though you are trying to blame the victim and may give the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you. You should also make every effort to avoid direct or third-party contact with the complaining witnesss, since it may well exacerbate an already difficult situation.

An experienced criminal law attorney can review your case to determine the best possible defense. Was the physical contact truly insulting? Did you have legal justification? Perhaps you really were acting in self defense. Was the person a member of your household? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to work out a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

For more information, see Revised Domestic Battery Law and Governor Quinn Signs Law to Crack down on Domesric Violence in Illinois.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)