Friday, November 20, 2020

CAN I BE CHARGED WITH A CRIME WHEN I WASN’T EVEN ON THE SCENE?

The answer is yes--if the prosecution can prove you intended to help with the crime.

Under one definition of Illinois accountability law: A person is legally accountable for the conduct of another when either before or during the offense, and with intent to facilitate the offense, you solicit, aid, abet, agree, or attempt to aid another person in the planning or commission of the offense. 720 ILCS 5/5-2.

The State must prove your intent to facilitate by establishing either that (1) you shared the criminal intent of the principal offender; or (2) you and the principal offender had a common criminal design—i.e., you both intended to commit some other crime that was advanced by the crime charged. The state may infer common design from the circumstances surrounding the crime. The state need not show that you said words of agreement or that you actively participated.

Whether there is enough evidence to prove you were in on the crime is highly fact specific and may depend on the viewpoint of your particular judge. In one Illinois case, the court rejected evidence that defendant’s presence at the crime scene, knowledge that a crime had been committed and his subsequent flight amounted to accountability. (People v. Johnson, 2014 IL App (1st) 122459-B.) In People v. Ramos, the appellate court rejected a lower court’s interpretation of events, that the defendant had advance knowledge of a gang-related shooting, overturning his conviction.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt? Is there clear evidence of your involvement? 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.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

WHAT IS THE CRIME OF STALKING IN ILLINOIS?

In Illinois, you commit stalking when you knowingly engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and you knew, or should have known, that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for their or a third person’s safety or cause them to suffer other emotional distress.

Stalking also means that you knowingly and without legal justification followed another person or placed that person under surveillance at least twice, and you threatened or caused the person to reasonably fear a threat of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint. The threat must be directed at that person or their family member.

A course of conduct means two or more acts, “including but not limited to acts in which a defendant directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, engages in other non-consensual contact, or interferes with or damages a person’s property or pet. A course of conduct may include contact via electronic communications.” (See: 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3).

In People v. Ashley, the Illinois Supreme Court defined the term “threatens” to mean “true threats” of unlawful violence such as bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement and restraint. The court rejected the argument that the law was unconstitutional, finding the term “threatens” was not overly broad and thus did not infringe free speech.

Stalking is a Class 4 felony, but a later offense is a Class 3 felony.

If you are charged with stalking or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not try to talk yourself out of your situation. What seems like a reasonable explanation to you might instead give the state the evidence needed to convict you. An experienced attorney can instead review your case for your most favorable defense. Can the state prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Did you know the victim was in the area? Were the statements you made actually threats? Is the victim’s fear of harm reasonable?

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, October 23, 2020

CAN I CLAIM PTSD AS A DIMINISHED CAPACITY DEFENSE IN ILLINIOS?

The answer is no. Diminished capacity is not recognized as a defense in Illinois. However, you might instead consider whether you were not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill.

In the that recognize diminished capacity, a legally sane defendant may present evidence of mental illness to negate the specific intent required to commit a particular crime. Diminished capacity may be caused by intoxication, trauma or disease.

For example in People v. Frazier, the defendant, an Iraq military veteran, claimed his PTSD prevented him from forming the intent necessary to commit aggravated discharge of a firearm. In that case, the court rejected this defense.

In contrast, under the insanity defense, you may not be criminally responsible for your offense as a result of mental disease or defect where you lack the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of your conduct. The terms "mental disease or mental defect" do not include abnormalities manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct. In other words, you would not likely have an insanity defense if you were a serial killer without some other form of mental illness.

If you are mentally ill, but not insane, you may still be held criminally responsible for your conduct. This is known as guilty but mentally ill. In this sense, “mentally ill” means you had a substantial disorder of thought, mood or behavior which impaired your judgment, but not to the extent that you were unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of your behavior.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to arrest you? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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, October 16, 2020

CAN I BE ARRESTED FOR SOMETHING FOUND UNDER THE PASSENGER SEAT OF MY CAR?

You were driving around town with your friend. You stepped a little too heavy on the gas, so the police stopped you for speeding. At first, you weren’t too concerned, but then the officer pulled a plastic baggie out from under your friend’s seat. Can you be arrested for that?

The answer depends on whether the state can prove the contraband was yours. Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means you basically had the item on your person. Constructive possession means you knew the drugs or weapons were present, and you exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area in which they were found.

If the baggie was under your seat or you were the only person with access to the car, the state may prove constructive possession. If instead the baggie was hidden from you and out of your reach but not your friend’s, you may be able to raise a reasonable doubt that the item was yours.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most criminal offenses, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case.

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.

Reference: People v. Thomas.

(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, October 8, 2020

WHAT IS “LEGAL INSANITY” UNDER ILLINOIS CRIMINAL LAW?

Under Illinois law, you may be legally insane if, at the time you committed a crime, you suffered from a mental disease or defect such that you lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of your conduct. (See 720 ILCS 5/6-2(a)). Generally that means you didn’t understand you were doing something wrong. As such, efforts to cover up your crime may undermine an insanity defense.

If you raise the defense, you have the burden of proving insanity by clear and convincing evidence. The state need not put on expert testimony to prove you are sane, but may rely on existing evidence to counter your case. The state must still prove you guilty of the crime itself beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mental illness, bizarre behavior or delusional behavior do not necessarily mean legal insanity but may be factors to consider in determining your capacity to appreciate the criminality of your conduct.

For example, in People v. Plackowska, the defendant stabbed two children and two dogs to death. The court found that while defendant had a mental illness, her efforts to put the knife down the garbage disposal, discard her cell phone and make up a story about an intruder proved that she knew she was committing a crime.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If your sanity may be at issue, an attorney can help select and prepare any mental health experts on your behalf.

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, September 28, 2020

CAN I BE ARRESTED WHEN GETTING HELP FOR A DRUG OVERDOSE?

With some exceptions, the answer is generally no.

Illinois law grants limited immunity from prosecution for drugs found where the evidence against you was discovered because you sought emergency help in good faith, and the amount of the substance was within certain limits (See 720 ILCS 570/414 for limits.) Police may not arrest you based on evidence obtained as a direct result of getting help. Therefore, if someone is having an overdose, you generally need not fear calling 911.

In People v. Markham, the defendant’s companion called 911 when defendant was having an overdose. Before leaving for the hospital, defendant asked for his wallet and house keys. A rolled up dollar bill containing heroin was sticking out of his wallet. Because the heroin was found as a result of the emergency help, the court said the defendant was immune from prosecution: “We hold that the Act provides broad and unconditional protection from the prying eyes of law enforcement present at the scene of an overdose, regardless of whether that location is a personal residence, a business, a vehicle, and so on.”

The police may still search or arrest you if they have a reasonable suspicion based on information that they obtained independently or prior to your call. For example, the state could prosecute a woman that officers found sleeping in a car as she had not called for help and the officers noticed drug paraphernalia before they realized she was suffering from an overdose.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Were you seeking emergency help? Do the police have a separate basis from the emergency for charging you with a crime? If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence stemming from your emergency call.

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, September 11, 2020

WHAT IS ‘INTERFERING WITH PERSONAL LIBERTY’ UNDER ILLINOIS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW?

You have just been charged with domestic violence based on interfering with your ex’s personal liberty. What does that mean? What can you do about it?

Under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, "'interference with personal liberty' means committing or threatening physical abuse, harassment, intimidation or willful deprivation so as to compel another to engage in conduct from which she or he has a right to abstain or to refrain from conduct in which she or he has a right to engage."

In a 1994 Illinois case, In re Marriage of Healy, the court declined to find interference with personal liberty where the complainant believed the respondent had an alcohol problem, he had muttered swear words under his breath, and he had awakened the children early in the morning to go on a trip on which the complainant feared they might have an accident.

If someone is seeking an order of protection against you or you have been accused of violating an order of protection, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not try to talk your way out of your situation. What you may think is a reasonable explanation may give the state the ammunition they need to enforce an order against you. An attorney can help present your situation to the court in its most favorable light.

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, September 1, 2020

WILL I HAVE TO TESTIFY IN MY DCFS APPEAL?

You have been indicated for child abuse from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). You want to appeal but you recall from TV that criminal defendants usually don’t take the stand. You are afraid you could say the wrong thing out of sheer anxiety and confusion.

Do you have to testify before the DCFS? Under certain circumstances, the hearing officer could compel you.

Under DCFS rules, the agency has the burden of showing by a preponderance of evidence that you are guilty of the offense charged by a preponderance of the evidence. (This is a dramatically lighter burden than the one used in criminal cases, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”) In all cases, a hearing officer—-there is no right to a jury--will judge whether DCFS has met its burden of proof against you.

At the hearing, DCFS may call you to testify on the record. Your attorney may object, but there is a good chance the testimony will come in regardless. Testifying, however, can be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you might inadvertently corroborate some of the evidence against you. But, you might also cast doubt on other aspects of the case. For example, are you able to offer an alternate explanation for any marks on the victim’s body? Can you explain any apparent inconsistencies in your statement to DCFS? Do you have an alibi? How did DCFS learn about the allegations? Through a vengeful ex-paramour? An experienced defense attorney can be critical in preparing you to testify.

If you have questions about a DCFS 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.)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

CAN POLICE SEARCH MY MOUTH DURING A STOP?

According to Illinois law, the answer is probably not--especially if the police used force.

In People v. Augusta, defendant was stopped for failure to signal when turning. The officer asked defendant if he had something in his mouth, which defendant denied. The officer ordered defendant to open his mouth, but then began to choke him. Defendant had in fact been concealing bags of drugs.

The trial judge denied defendant’s motion to suppress the drug evidence, stating that the officer had probable cause to believe the contraband was in defendant’s mouth.

The appellate court disagreed. The court found that the officer’s actions violated a law barring a peace officer from using a chokehold, or any lesser contact with the throat or neck area of another, in order to prevent ingesting the evidence. (See Prohibited Use of Force by A Peace Officer). A chokehold is defined as any direct pressure intended to reduce or prevent the intake of air. The officer’s conduct met the definition of “lesser contact.”

The court further held that the drugs were not in plain view. An officer may seize an object without a warrant if it is in plain view as long as: (1) the officers are lawfully in a position from which they can view the object, (2) the incriminating character of the object is immediately apparent, and (3) the officers have a lawful right of access to the object. The court stated that the incriminating nature of the object was not immediately apparent as the officers only saw a piece of plastic and a bulge in defendant’s cheek. While plastic in the mouth is unusual, the court did not find it was inherently incriminating.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Was the police stop and search legal? If not, an attorney may be able to bring a motion asking the judge to suppress the evidence. Bear in mind that different judges weigh the facts quite differently. Therefore, an attorney who is familiar with the courthouse may best present your particular situation in its most favorable light.

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.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

ILLINOIS CRIMINALIZES ATTACKING MERCHANTS WHO ENFORCE COVID-RELATED SAFETY RULES

As of August 7, 2020, Illinois has made it a Class 3 felony to attack any merchant who attempts to enforce COVID-related safety guidelines.

The new law amends the aggravated battery statute. Section (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(12)) applies when you commit battery (other than with a firearm) against a merchant who is performing his or her duties, including relaying government or employer-related health/safety guidelines, during and for six months after a government-declared state of disaster due to a public health emergency.

If you are charged with aggravated battery or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most criminal offenses, the state must still prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under Illinois law, battery is defined as knowingly and without legal justification causing bodily harm or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature. Did you make physical contact or were you simply arguing? Was the merchant performing his or her duties? Even if you clearly went off the rails, 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, August 7, 2020

HOW WILL MY BAIL BE DETERMINED?

If you are arrested for a criminal offense, you may be released from the police station on personal recognizance, that is, without paying bail. If not, however, you may appear before a judge who will set bail and/or determine any other conditions of your release that are necessary to reasonably assure 1) your appearance, 2) the safety of the community, and 3) the likelihood of compliance with all conditions of bail.

Based on available information, the court looks at

  1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged,
  2. Whether the offense involved the use or threats of violence,
  3. The likelihood the state will upgrade the charges against you,
  4. The likelihood of conviction,
  5. The potential sentence upon conviction,
  6. The weight of the evidence against you,
  7. Whether you have the motivation or ability to flee,
  8. Your past conduct,
  9. Whether the evidence shows that you engaged in significant possession, manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, either individually or with others, and
  10. Whether you were already on bond or pretrial release pending trial.

The court must use the least restrictive conditions of bond necessary to insure your appearance and protect the integrity of the judicial system from threats to third parties. Any conditions of release should be nonmonetary. The court must also consider your socio-economic circumstances.

Conditions can include electronic home monitoring, curfews, drug counseling, stay-away orders and in-person reporting.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney may be able to bring favorable information to the judge’s attention in hopes of reducing your bail.

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.

(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, July 24, 2020

AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR A CRIME IF I WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A PRESCRIPTION DRUG?

The answer is that you may have a diminished capacity defense if you were involuntarily intoxicated because you were not warned about the side effects of a prescription drug. Beyond that, diminished capacity and/or voluntary intoxication is not recognized as a defense in Illinois.

To prove diminished capacity, you must show: 1) that your conduct was involuntary because of the unwarned side effects of prescription medication; and 2) these side effects made you so intoxicated that you lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate that you were committing a crime or to conform your behavior to the requirements of the law. See 720 ILCS 5/6-3.

A defendant’s burden to prove diminished capacity is very high and mostly unsuccessful. For example, in People v. Taliani, the defendant argued that he had not been warned about the side effects of taking Buspar and Desyrel simultaneously. As such, he suffered from heightened irritability, confusion, altered consciousness and increased ideas of suicide, which he claimed led to killing his girlfriend and shooting her mother. The court found that while the defendant may have shown he suffered from involuntarily produced side effects, it was not apparent that those side effects deprived him of the substantial capacity to know that shooting the victims was a criminal act or to refrain from engaging in that conduct.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Do the police have probable cause to arrest you? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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, July 17, 2020

WHAT IS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY UNDER ILLINOIS CRIMINAL LAW?

Under Illinois law, you may not photograph, film or depict any minor child in a pose involving a lewd exhibition of the child’s unclothed or transparently clothed private parts. You also may not possess such depictions of a child you know is under age 18.

But how do you know if the photo you have is pornography? A recent Illinois case reviewed that topic.

In People v. Van Syckle, the court used an objective standard in weighing the following six factors: 1) whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child’s genitals; (2) whether the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity; (3) whether the child, considering its age, is depicted in an unnatural pose or in inappropriate attire; (4) whether the child is fully or partially clothed or nude; (5) whether the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity; and (6) whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer. As to the sixth factor, the court looks at whether the image invites the viewer to perceive the image from some sexualized or deviant point of view.

In the above case, the defendant was a high school pool equipment manager who secretly videotaped a 14-year-old student as she was changing out of her swimsuit. The lower court dismissed the case finding that the images did not meet the definition of lewd. However, the appellate court said this issue needed to be reconsidered and sent the case back for further review.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police search your computer and was that search legal? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Whether a photo is seen as pornographic can depend somewhat on your particular judge or jury. Even if the evidence is clear, an attorney, who is respected in the court house 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, July 3, 2020

CAN A MURDER SENTENCE IN ILLINOIS BE COMMUTED?

The answer is yes. Given the right circumstances, you can petition the governor to reduce a life sentence, and such petitions have been granted.

The governor of Illinois has full power to commute any sentence or issue a pardon for any petitioner he or she deems is worthy. Current governor J.B. Pritzker has already commuted sentences of convicted felons in a number of cases, including some that were very serious. During the COVID-19 crisis, some requests have even been expedited.

After filing a petition with the Prisoner Review Board, you will have an opportunity to present witnesses at a hearing, although prisoners are not be permitted to appear. These hearings are held both in Chicago and in Springfield. The Prisoner Review Board then makes a recommendation to the governor.

The real question is: Can you make a strong case? What was the nature of your involvement in the offense? Were you in a barroom fight or did you take several weeks to plan the perfect crime? How many years have you served on your sentence? What is your prison record like? Have you shown genuine remorse and have you genuinely reformed? Do you have credible character references? Are there special circumstances? During the Covid-19 outbreak, some convicted felons are being released if they can demonstrate a history of significant health issues, such as serious heart trouble or emphysema

Realistically, a serial killer or the perpetrator of a particularly vicious act is not going to be considered for release. Short of that, an experienced attorney can assist in evaluating whether there are compelling reasons to proceed with a petition.

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.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

HOW CAN I HELP MY LOVED ONE EARN EARLY RELEASE FROM PRISON?

It’s been many years since your loved one was sent to prison. You believe that he or she has more than paid any debt to society. Is there anything you can do to help your loved get out early?

The answer is yes, depending on the circumstances. In Illinois, your loved one can petition the governor for executive clemency and request a commutation (or shortening) of their sentence. You can assist this process in many ways.

For starters, you can help select a qualified attorney, who you trust and feel you can work with. The attorney will likely meet with your loved one and prepare the Petition for Executive Clemency. This form requires a personal history along with exhibits. You can provide information about your loved one’s life and help gather documentation such as family photos and character reference letters.

Finally, the attorney may request a hearing before the Prisoner Review Board. While prisoners are not allowed to attend, you, along with other witnesses, may testify on your loved one’s behalf. An experienced attorney can help prepare this testimony.

If you have questions about commutation, contact an experienced attorney. You do not necessarily need an attorney to file a Petition for Executive Clemency, but an attorney can best help in presenting a strong case. Witnesses often say things they think are helpful that have the exact opposite effect. What seems like reasonable justification to you can sound self serving to the Prisoner Review Board. An attorney can help you and your loved one avoid these pitfalls.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois executive clemency 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 1, 2020

WHAT IS RESISTING ARREST UNDER ILLINOIS LAW?

You commit the offense of resisting arrest if you knowingly resist or obstruct someone you know is a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee in performing any authorized act within their official capacity. See 720 ILCS 5/31-1. Resisting arrest is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

To convict you, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew (1) the person obstructed or resisted was a peace officer, firefighter or correctional institution employee, and that (2) you were obstructing or resisting that officer’s authorized act. Further, the officer must be engaged in an authorized act within his or her official capacity.

If you are charged with resisting arrest, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your situation for your best possible defense. Did you know you were dealing with a peace officer? Did he or she identify themselves in some way? Was the officer acting in their official capacity or were they simply having a drink at the bar?

For example, in People v. Borders, the court reversed a defendant’s conviction because the officer did not tell the defendant that he was under arrest until after they had struggled and defendant was lying handcuffed on the ground. The court reasoned that “One cannot knowingly resist an arrest until one knows that it is occurring.”

Be aware that an officer need not say, “you are under arrest,” as long as he or she communicates the intention to arrest in some way. Further, even if an arrest is not lawful, you may not use force to resist. An unlawful arrest is still considered an authorized act under the law.

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.)

WHAT IS RECKLESS CONDUCT UNDER ILLINOIS LAW?

Events in the news have sparked public outrage, which has resulted in protests and civil unrest. Sometimes these protests get out of hand, and participants may find themselves arrested for an offense such as reckless conduct.

Under Illinois law, you commit reckless conduct when you, by any means lawful or unlawful, recklessly perform an act that (1) causes bodily harm or endangers the safety of another; or (2) causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another. (See 720 ILCS 5/12-5). The first type of reckless conduct is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The second type is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to four years in prison.

Reckless conduct can apply to a variety of actions from striking someone in the head to mishandling a gun.

If you have been charged with reckless conduct or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were your actions truly reckless? Illinois courts have held that negligence alone is not enough. Illinois law defines “acting recklessly” as consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a certain result will flow. Courts look at whether such disregard grossly deviates from the risks a reasonable person would take in the same situation.

In defining recklessness, the court reviews all the facts and circumstances of your case. An experienced attorney can help you present those facts in their most favorable light.

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.

Reference: People v. Gosse.

(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, May 27, 2020

HOW IS CHILD NEGLECT DEFINED BY ILLINOIS DCFS?

Under Illinois law, a neglected child is defined as:
  1. Children who are not receiving care necessary for their well-being, such as medical treatment, food, clothing or shelter;
  2. Children who have been abandoned;
  3. Children who have received crisis intervention services and cannot return home; and
  4. Infants born with controlled substances in their systems.

Before indicating you for neglect, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) considers the child's age; medical condition; behavioral, mental, or emotional problems; any developmental or physical disability; your physical, mental, and emotional abilities; and any history of your being indicated for abuse or neglect.

If you have been indicated for child neglect by DCFS, you have the right to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. You must request the hearing within 60 days. At the hearing, DCFS must prove neglect by a preponderance of evidence. While that burden is not very difficult, an experienced attorney may still be able to cast doubt on the evidence against you. How bad are the child’s behavioral problems, if any? Does the child have a history of falsehood or manipulation? Was the DCFS interview of the child taped? Is the child’s story consistent? Was the child pushed into giving incriminating answers?

For example, in Walk v. Department of Child and Family Services, the court overturned a finding of neglect against foster parents who placed each of two children in a “cage” at various times for brief periods for the children’s own protection. The children had a history of severe behavioral problems and would sneak out to kill animals on the farm or try to burn down the barn. The cage was large enough for the child to run in, bigger than many bedrooms and contained toys and a sandbox.

In Julie Q. v. Department of Children & Family Services, a mother was indicated for neglect based in part on the child’s allegations of alcohol abuse. The Court overturned the neglect finding as several witnesses had testified that the child had a history of untruthfulness.

If you have been indicated by DCFS, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not try to talk your way out of the situation as you may inadvertently trap yourself. An experienced attorney can review your case for your best defense as well as helping you present yourself to DCFS in a positive manner.

If you have questions about a DCFS finding, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Reference: 325 ILCS 5/3.

(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.)

IS IT REALLY A RELATIONSHIP UNDER ILLINOIS DOMESTIC BATTERY LAW?

If you have been charged with domestic battery, the prosecution must still prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under one definition, the state must prove you were in a dating relationship. But how much of a relationship is enough?

Under Illinois law, a defendant is guilty of domestic battery if he or she causes bodily harm to any family or household member. (See 720 ILCS 5/12- 3.2(a)(1). A family or household member can be someone who has or has had a dating or engagement relationship with you, but does not include a casual acquaintanceship or include ordinary fraternization between two individuals in a business or social context.

Illinois courts have considered a dating relationship to be a serious courtship that is at least an established relationship with a significant romantic focus. One court did not find a dating relationship where both defendant and victim engaged in random sexual encounters which were physical in nature and not romantic, and where both denied they were dating. However, another court did find a dating relationship where the parties had dated for six weeks and continued to have sex until the offense occurred.

The determination of whether you are in a dating relationship can be very fact specific. Different judges may perceive those same facts very differently. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney who is familiar with the courthouse and the outlook of your particular judge.

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.

References: People v. Wallace and People v. Irvine.

(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, May 15, 2020

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR A POLICE SEARCH OF MY COMPUTER?

The founding fathers likely never envisioned the challenges to the Fourth Amendment that storing your life on your computer would create. The courts, however, have developed some guidelines as these cases have come before them. The court in People v. McCavitt has spelled out these rules.

For starters, you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your personal computers and computer files. Therefore, police must obtain a warrant before searching your computer (unless some exception to the warrant requirement exists such as the evidence was in plain view). After obtaining a warrant, the police may create a mirror image of your hard drive for later analysis.

Once an item has been legally seized, that item is no longer private. The police may conduct further searches without a warrant as long as your computer or the mirrored hard drive remains in their continuous possession. There are no limits as to when a search must occur or how long it may last. However, the state must still complete the review of your electronic data within a reasonable time, and they may not hold onto your property indefinitely.

Courts determine reasonableness on a case by case basis. When it comes to computers, a search is reasonable if it takes several years to complete as long as it ends before trial and stays within the parameters of the original search warrant.

The state might still violate the Fourth Amendment if state fails to quickly return information contained in a mirrored hard drive that is not within the warrant’s scope or if the state retains all data in a mirrored hard drive regardless of whether a warrant authorized its seizure. All property seized must be returned to you once the criminal proceedings have terminated.

In People v. McCavitt, the defendant, a Peoria police officer was charged with child pornography. Police made an EnCase file to examine the defendant’s hard drive. The defendant was found not guilty. Police then opened a further investigation, reexamining the original EnCase file. The court found that this violated the Fourth Amendment. Once defendant’s trial ended, police could not retain any portion of the EnCase file and thus had no authority to search that file.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Was the search of your computer legal? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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.)

CAN A LIFE SENTENCE IN PRISON BE COMMUTED IN ILLINOIS?

Your loved one was a good student but had some tough friends. Eventually those friends were involved in a murder, and your loved one got stuck with the rap. After being convicted, he or she was sentenced to life in prison. Is there hope for a release?

In some circumstances, the governor could commute their sentence. Illinois permits offenders to petition the governor for clemency through the State of Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The various types of clemency include commutation of sentence, pardon, expungement or reprieve.

While an attorney is not required, it is well worth considering getting one on board. To apply for commutation, you must submit a Petition for Executive Clemency along with supporting documentation. While just about anyone can fill out the petition, knowing how to present your loved one’s case can be a bit tricky. Be aware that the state’s attorney will likely protest any leniency, and the victim’s family may attend any hearing to protest early release in full force. Furthermore, it is best to avoid protests of innocence, which are almost never successful. An attorney can evaluate your loved one’s case and present the most positive arguments for an early release.

Upon submitting the petition, you may request a hearing before the Prisoner Review Board in either Chicago or Springfield. If a hearing is selected, the defendant will not be allowed to attend. The board will likely have questions and they will listen carefully to any answers. In my practice, I have watched unrepresented parties damage their loved one’s chance of commutation through ill-considered comments. The son of one defendant even chastised a victim’s daughter. As such, an articulate spokesperson who can make the case for your loved one’s release is essential. An experienced attorney can help prepare the testimony of witnesses to make a good impression as well.

If your loved one accepts responsibility for what happened and has a clean record during his or her years of detention, you may have grounds for a successful petition to commute the sentence to time served.

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 17, 2020

CAN I APPEAL A CHILD ABUSE FINDING FROM DCFS?

You agreed to take care of your sister's children while she recovered from surgery. You knew your one nephew was a bit of a handful who doesn’t like the word, “No.” That same child sprained his ankle on the basement steps, and now he says you pushed him down the stairs. The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) investigated and has indicated you for child neglect or abuse.

Can you appeal?

An indicated finding by DCFS can have a dramatic impact on your entire life. Your name may be placed on a statewide registry of offenders, which could limit your ability to gain employment in some businesses as well as your ability to be around children. You may even have difficulty visiting grandchildren who live out of state.

Overturning such a finding may be tough but not impossible.

If DCFS does indicate you, you must request an appeal within 60 days from the date on the letter notifying you of that finding. If you miss this deadline, you are out of luck. However, once an appeal is timely requested, you may have a hearing.

If you do wish to appeal, an experienced attorney can be essential. An attorney can help raise doubts about the finding as well as help you put your best foot forward. How did the offense get reported? Did a doctor examine the child? Was a forensic interview with the child done in a fair and professional manner? Are there other witnesses? Is there an alternative explanation for any injuries that are observed? How are you coming across? Do you seem too angry and defensive?

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.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

CAN I GET MY LOVED ONE OUT OF PRISON BECAUSE OF COVID-19?

If you have a loved one in an Illinois state prison right now, there may be hope for early release.

The current coronavirus pandemic across the world is unprecedented in many ways. There is a general agreement that Illinois should try to control the spread by reducing the number of prisoners in custody. Governor J.B. Pritzker has indicated that his staff will be evaluating cases on an individual basis.

If your loved one has a history of respiratory or lung issues, he or she may be an excellent candidate for a medical release. Bear in mind that while such a release is unlikely to be granted to convicted murderers and rapists, among others, thousands of current inmates in state prison may qualify.

While you may be able to fill out the request form yourself, an experienced attorney can help present your loved one’s case in its most persuasive light. Among the many questions to be addressed: Will the inmate have a place to live? Do minor children live there? What is their criminal record? Is there medical documentation for their condition?

Even if your loved one does not qualify for a medical release, an experienced attorney may still be able to help. Under the right circumstances, your loved one could qualify for a commutation of their sentence. While this procedure is lengthier and more complicated, there may still be hope.

If you would like to petition for a medical release or other form of executive clemency such as pardon or commutationa, 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 3, 2020

THE CRIME OF THREATENING A PUBLIC OFFICIAL IN ILLINOIS

Frustrated by a traffic stop, you let the officer know exactly how you felt. Or maybe you took your frustration out on a judge who ruled against you. Either way, you are now charged with threatening a public official.

Can you be convicted? The answer depends on what you said and the context in which you said it.

In Illinois, you can be charged with threatening a public official or human service provider when you knowingly communicate a threat that would place the official or their immediate family in reasonable fear of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, restraint or damage to property. The threat may be communicated in any way. Further, the threat must be related to the official’s status or performance of their job.

For the state to convict, your statement must be a “true threat.” True threats are those where you intended to threaten violence, but not necessarily where you intended to act on the threat. To determine your intent, the court looks at the totality of the circumstances.

Threats to police, social workers, caseworkers, investigators or human service providers must contain specific facts indicating a unique threat to their person, family or property and not a generalized threat of harm.

One Illinois court held that the language “I’m gonna get you,” was not a true threat because the state did not show the context in which the threat was made. Illinois courts have also held that a defendant’s yelling at a prosecutor to “come back and say that to my face” and a defendant’s threat to a judge that he’ll “be hearing from someone” were also not true threats.

Threatening an official is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison, for a first offense and a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison for later offenses.

If you have been charged with a threatening an official or other crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. What exactly did you say? Can the state prove your intent? 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.

See 720 ILCS 5/12-9(a) and People v. Smith.

(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.)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

ILLINOIS CYBERSTALKING LAW DOES NOT VIOLATE FIRST AMENDMENT

You texted some things you probably shouldn’t have to your ex-fiancé. You knew the texts were nasty, but you were blowing off steam. And what about your right to free speech?

A recent Illinois court decision has held that certain comments, such as true threats, are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Under one definition of cyberstalking, the state must prove that you knowingly and without lawful justification harassed another person at least twice through electronic communication, and you transmitted a threat of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint which was directed towards that person or their family; or you placed that person in reasonable fear of such harm or you solicited a third person to commit cyberstalking for you. (See 720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a-3)).

In People v. Crawford, the court rejected the idea that the cyberstalking law violated due process or free speech. In that case, the defendant sent several text messages telling the victim she was “GONE DIE,” and “I WILL F*** MURDER U.” The defendant argued his statements were protected by the First Amendment. The court disagreed stating that the defendant’s messages were true threats, and thus not constitutionally-protected speech. True threats are statements where you intend to communicate a serious expression of your intent to commit an act of violence to a particular individual or group. You need not actually intend to carry out your threat.

If you have been charged with cyberstalking or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were your texts true threats or were they misunderstood? Were you just kidding around? Was the victim’s fear of harm reasonable? 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, March 20, 2020

WHAT IS THE CRIME OF AGGRAVATED STALKING IN ILLINOIS?

Under Illinois law, you commit aggravated stalking when you stalk another and either 1) cause bodily harm; 2) confine or restrain that person; 3) violate a court order; or 4) stalk a victim or their family when you were required to register as a sex offender because of an offense against that victim. (See Aggravated Stalking.)

Stalking means that you knowingly engaged in conduct directed at a specific person, that you knew or should have known would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress or fear for their own or another’s safety.

Stalking is also defined as knowingly following another person and/or placing them under surveillance at least twice, and threatening them or placing them in reasonable fear of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint. The threat must have been directed towards that person or their family member. Surveilling a person includes staying outside of their school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by them or their residence unless it is your own.

Aggravated stalking is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Would your conduct have caused a reasonable person to fear harm? Was your conduct even directed at the alleged victim? Did you violate the specific terms of any no-contact order? As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case in hopes of winning a not guilty verdict.

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.

Reference: People v. Taylor

(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, 2020

DO I STILL NEED TO COME TO COOK COUNTY COURT FOR MY CRIMINAL CASE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS QUARANTINE?

While the Cook County Circuit Court will be primarily closed from March 17, 2020 to April 15, 2020, you may still need to appear on certain criminal matters. Please be aware that the guidelines below may change. The best advice is to check with your attorney before your scheduled court date.

All adult criminal trials scheduled for the next 30 days are postponed and will be rescheduled. The court, however, will still conduct bail hearings, preliminary hearings and arraignments. Since these are the first three proceedings in a felony matter, you will likely need to appear if your felony is new.

The court will also enter plea agreements that conclude a case. A pretrial defendant may also request a bail review.

While high-risk adults on probation must still report to their probation officers, low and medium-risk adults need not meet in person, and a probation officer will contact them about a phone or video conference meeting.

Juvenile defendants in delinquency and criminal proceedings may still demand trial and the court shall still hold detention hearings to determine if a juvenile shall be held in custody while a case is open.

Most matters involving child abuse and neglect will move forward as well as orders of protection on domestic violence matters.

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: Cook County Circuit Court Information Regarding Coronavirus

(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, March 6, 2020

ARE STUN GUNS AND TASERS PROTECTED BY THE SECOND AMENDMENT?

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the answer is yes.

The court struck down the portion of the Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) law that banned carrying or possessing a stun gun or taser. See People v. Webb.

Under Illinois law, you can be charged with unlawful use of a weapon if you carry a concealed firearm in violation of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The Act allows you to carry a concealed firearm if certain conditions are met such as that you possess a valid Firearm Owners Identification card. Under the law, a concealed firearm is defined as “a loaded or unloaded handgun carried on or about a person completely or mostly concealed from view of the public or on or about a person within a vehicle.” A handgun is then defined as “any device which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas, or escape of gas that is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand.”

A handgun does not include 1) a stun gun or taser, 2) machine gun, 3) short-barreled rifle or shotgun or (4) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or B-B gun which expels a single globular projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter, or which has a maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second, or which expels breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors.

The Illinois Supreme court held that a stun gun or taser cannot be licensed under the FCCA because it is excluded from the definition of handgun, and that such a categorical ban violates the Second Amendment.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. If you were charged or convicted under a law that was later ruled unconstitutional, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to have the charges dismissed or your conviction vacated.

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, March 3, 2020

CAN I BE CHARGED WITH ESCAPE FOR RUNNING FROM POLICE DURING AN ARREST?

You’ve seen the movies. The prisoner busts out of jail and makes a run for it complete with searchlights circling, dogs barking and sirens blaring. Obviously, that sort of escape is a criminal offense.

But what if you simply panicked and ran away from police during an arrest? Under Illinois law, you could be charged if you intentionally escape while in the lawful custody of a peace officer for an alleged offense. If your arrest is for a felony, you can be charged with a Class 2 Felony. If your arrest is for a misdemeanor, the charge can be Class A Escape. If armed with a dangerous weapon, your offense can be upgraded to a Class 1 Felony. (See 720 ILCS 5/31-6). If you are in a penal institution, escape can include failing to report back from a work furlough or day release. You can also be charged with escape for violating a condition of probation or supervision.

In determining whether you were in lawful custody, Illinois courts look at how much control the officer had over you and how much restriction was on your freedom of movement. Merely announcing you are under arrest might not be enough to establish lawful custody. In People v. Garza, however, the court held the defendant was in lawful custody where officers told defendant he was under arrest, stood within two feet of him and escorted him throughout the house after defendant was given permission to put on his clothing and say goodbye to his family, then escorted him down the stairs and through the door.

If you have been charged with escape or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Were you in lawful custody at the time? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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.)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

CHILD ENDANGERMENT CAN LEAD TO MORE TROUBLE

You left your baby in the car while you were in the mall running errands. When you came out, a couple police officers had broken your window to check on your now-crying child. In the process, they found illegal medication on the back seat. Now you have been arrested for illegal narcotics and for child endangerment.

Did the police have a right to seize the drugs while dealing with your infant?

Under Illinois law, the answer is probably yes. As long as the officers were legitimately performing their community caretaking function, they need not ignore the evidence in front of them.

In People v. Woods, officers received a tip that the defendant had left her four-month old infant alone in the house. The officers knocked, listened for sounds of distress and peeked in windows to investigate. The officers entered the home after the defendant arrived. They found the infant had been alone and charged defendant with child endangerment. Defendant argued that once she arrived home, the officer’s community caretaking function ended, and thus, there was no need to investigate further. The court disagreed, finding it was reasonable for the officers to want to see that the infant was safe with their own eyes. Further, there was no evidence that the community caretaking function had been used as an excuse for a criminal investigation.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Was the seizure of evidence against you justified by the community caretaking function? If not, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to suppress the evidence from your arrest.

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.)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

DID YOU INVOKE YOUR RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY?

If you watch enough police shows, you know all about your right to an attorney when charged with a crime. But to exercise that right, you have to be specific.

Under Illinois law, you must clearly ask police for an attorney so that a reasonable officer under the circumstances would understand your statement to be a request for an attorney. Otherwise, the police can keep questioning you. Although no specific words are required, merely mentioning a lawyer to police is insufficient to stop the interrogation.

Courts have viewed the following language as not sufficient to invoke counsel: 1) “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer.” 2) “Am I going to be able to get a lawyer?” 3) “Do I need a lawyer before we start talking?” and 4) “I can’t ask for a lawyer?”

To protect your Miranda rights, you should say something like: “I invoke my right to remain silent and to have an attorney present,” or “I don’t want to answer any questions, and I want an attorney.”

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did you clearly ask for an attorney? If police continued to question you, your attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress any statements you made as a result.

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. Brickhouse.

(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 3, 2020

CAN MY FANTASIES OR INTERNET SEARCHES BE USED AGAINST ME IN A SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE?

You have been charged with criminal sexual assault of a minor child. After confiscating your computer, the state found your internet research on child pornography along with some stories you wrote. Can the state use these searches and stories to convict you?

Quite possibly. But like so much of law, it depends on the judge. The court could find your writings and/or your internet searches are relevant to show your intent to commit the crime.

Under the Illinois Rules of Evidence, your past acts are generally not admissible to prove you have bad character and thus, are more likely to commit a crime. However, such evidence can be used to show intent as well as motive, opportunity, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident. If your writings fall within one of those categories, they could be admitted.

In People v. Ressa, the defendant was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and child abduction. Both offenses require the state to prove intent. The trial court admitted into evidence “defendant’s delusional and fantastical writings, online searches relating to well-known cases involving children who had been murdered and sexually molested, and other items relating to children.” The court said this evidence was relevant to show whether the defendant touched the children for purposes of sexual gratification.

If you are charged with sexual assault or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As the court above noted, the trial judge must decide whether to admit such evidence on a case-by-case basis. An experienced attorney may be able to persuade the court that such evidence should be kept out at trial.

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.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

WHEN CAN A COURT DISMISS MY CRIMINAL CASE?

Criminal cases do not routinely get thrown out of court short of a plea agreement or trial. But the court can dismiss your case if it meets certain criteria.

A court may dismiss a case on any of the following bases:

  1. Your case did not go to trial within the time limits of the speedy trial act.
  2. Prosecution is barred by double jeopardy.
  3. You received immunity from prosecution.
  4. You were indicted by a grand jury that was not properly selected or certified, resulting in substantial injustice to you.
  5. The court does not have jurisdiction or the county is an improper place of trial.
  6. The charge against you does not state an offense. For example, the indictment omits an element of the offense charged.
  7. The indictment against you is based on testimony from an incompetent witness, for example, the witness is mentally ill.
  8. You are incorrectly named resulting in substantial injustice to you.
  9. Bail was not set or you were not indicted by a grand jury within certain time limits.

Apart from the above statutory grounds, the court may dismiss a case where there is a clear denial of due process which prejudices you. (See People v. Atchison and People v. Lopez.) Be aware, however, that whether a judge thinks your case meets the legal grounds for dismissal can be very fact specific and opinions can differ widely between judges. Therefore, an attorney who knows the courthouse may be better able to present your case in its most favorable light before your particular judge.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If your case meets one of the above criteria, an attorney may be able bring a motion before the court seeking dismissal.

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 5/114-1.

(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.)

Friday, January 10, 2020

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS “REVENGE PORN” STATUTE

The Illinois “Revenge Porn” statute does not require a vengeful intent, and the Illinois Supreme Court has said that is OK. In a recent decision, the court concluded the statute did not violate the First Amendment by unduly restricting free speech.

Under the law, it is a Class 4 felony to intentionally disseminate an identifiable image of another person over age 18 involved in a sex act or whose intimate parts are exposed where the image was obtained under circumstances in which a reasonable person would understand the image was to remain private and should know that the person in the image did not consent to the dissemination. See 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5.

An “image” includes photographs, films, videotape, digital recordings or other depictions of an object, including a human body. “Intimate parts” is defined as “the fully unclothed, partially unclothed or transparently clothed genitals, pubic area, anus, or if the person is female, a partially or fully exposed nipple including exposure through transparent clothing.” Under the law, sharing a nude drawing could potentially become a Class 4 felony.

The law contains certain exceptions such as if the image was disseminated: 1) for purposes of a criminal investigation, 2) for reporting unlawful conduct, 3) where the images involve voluntary exposure for commercial purposes or 4) for some other lawful purpose.

In People v. Austin, the defendant discovered the victim’s texts and nude photos on her fiancé’s phone. The defendant broke off her engagement. Her ex-fiancé then told friends and family that she was crazy. In response, the defendant wrote a letter explaining her side of the story and including four pictures of the naked victim. Because the Illinois law does not contain a mental intent element, it does not require a vengeful motive. In this case, the defendant was convicted for essentially defending herself against her fiancé’s statements. Nevertheless, the Court reasoned that the statute did not restrict speech of public concern, and thus did not violate the First Amendment nor due process.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you have reason to believe that the image was intended to remain private or that the victim had not consented to its dissemination? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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.)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

THE CRIME OF DEFACING A WEAPON IN ILLINOIS

Defacing a firearm in Illinois is serious business.

If you knowingly or intentionally changed, removed or obliterated the name of the importer's or manufacturer's serial number from any firearm, you can be charged with a Class 2 felony.

Simply possessing a firearm where the serial number has been changed or removed is a Class 3 felony. See 720 ILC 5/24-5. To convict you for possession, the State need only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed a firearm which was defaced. The state need not show that you knew the weapon was defaced.

The law exempts people who repair or replace parts on guns if they remove marks other than the serial number. The state has six years to bring charges against you for defacing or possessing a defaced gun.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to search the premises where they found the defaced weapon? Can the state prove that you knowingly possessed the gun? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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: People v Lee

(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, 2019

WHAT IS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN ILLINOIS?

Two officers were chasing a suspect down an alley. The suspect happens to be your cousin. The officers asked you which way you he ran and you pointed them in the opposite direction.

Can you be charged with a crime? The answer is yes.

In Illinois, you can be charged with Obstructing Justice if you intend to prevent the apprehension or obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person (including yourself), and you knowingly:

  1. Destroy, alter, conceal or disguise physical evidence, plant false evidence, furnish false information;
  2. Induce a witness having knowledge material to the subject at issue to leave the State or conceal him or herself;
  3. Leave the State or conceal yourself when you possess knowledge material to the subject at issue;
  4. or
  5. Provide false information to officials during the investigation of the death or disappearance of a child and you are a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker of that child who is under 13 years of age.

Illinois appellate courts are divided on whether the law requires that providing false information result in a material impediment to the administration of justice. The Fifth District Court of Appeals says it does not, but the Second District says that it does. See People v. Casler, People v. Gordon and People V. Taylor. The defendants in all three cases gave false names to police.

Obstructing justice is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison. If the obstruction is intended to further street gang-related activity, you may be instead charged with a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Do the police have probable cause to arrest you? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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, December 9, 2019

VIOLATING AN ORDER OF PROTECTION IN ILLINOIS

Your ex-spouse has an order of protection against you. You thought it was still okay to call her best friend, but now the police have arrested you for violating the order.

What is the law? What can you do?

You can be charged with violating an order of protection if you 1) knowingly commit an act prohibited by the order or fail to commit an act ordered by the order, and 2) you have been served notice or have actual knowledge of the contents of the order. To avoid trouble, you should read any order carefully and err widely on the side of caution before doing anything that could possibly fall within its terms.

For example in People v. Nelson, an order of protection barred the defendant from sending mail to his infant daughter’s mother. The defendant attempted to evade the order by addressing letters to his daughter. The letters, however, discussed subjects such as the couple’s sex life and the mother’s drug use. The court found the letters were intended for the mother so that the defendant had violated the order. For one thing, the infant daughter could not read. As a result, the defendant was sentenced to six years in prison.

In People v. Mortensen, the defendant violated an order by placing flowers and cupcakes on his estranged wife’s doorstep. The order had required defendant to stay 1000 feet from her residence. The court rejected defendant’s argument that this provision only applied when his wife was at home.

If you have been charged with violating an order of protection or similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Were you properly served with the order? If not, did you know about it? Did you knowingly commit the act that violated it? Through a careful reading of the order, an attorney may be able to make a good faith argument that your actions fell outside the order’s terms.

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

See Violation of an Order of Protection.

(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 22, 2019

CAN MY OUT-OF-STATE CONVICTION BE USED AS A PRIOR OFFENSE IN MY ILLINOIS CRIMINAL CASE?

The police arrested you for a felony in Illinois. The prosecution wants to use your prior conviction in another state to upgrade your charges or increase your sentence. Can they do that?

The answer depends on the specific law involved. An Illinois criminal or DUI statute may refer to whether you have been convicted under the laws of Illinois or any other jurisdiction. A court must look at your prior offense in the other state and compare it to the language of the charges against you.

In People v. Schultz, the court examined whether a defendant’s two Michigan convictions were forcible felonies for sentencing purposes in Illinois. Defendant was charged in Illinois with unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. In Michigan, he was convicted for assault with a dangerous weapon. First, the court looked at whether “assault with a dangerous weapon,” was specifically listed under the Illinois definition of “forcible felony.” The court found it was not. However, the Illinois definition further included “any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.” The court then examined the elements of the Michigan crimes to determine whether the use or threat of force was necessarily involved. The court found that it was. As a result, the defendant was sentenced as a Class 2 rather than Class 3 offender.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove your prior offense truly falls within the charges against you? An experienced attorney may be able to find a weakness in 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 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, November 18, 2019

CAN THEY PROVE I HAD A GUN?

After a car accident, you and the other driver started argueing. You grabbed your cell phone, but the other driver told police you had a gun. You did have a gun in your glove compartment, but you never removed it. Now you are charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

Is the other driver’s testimony enough to convict you? An Illinois court says not necessarily.

In People v. McLaurin, an officer testified that she saw the defendant, a convicted felon, carrying what appeared to be a silver handgun when leaving an apartment building. The officer could not describe the gun or say whether it was a revolver or semi-automatic. A gun was later found under a nearby vehicle.

The court held that where the sole basis of an offense is possession of a firearm, possession of that gun cannot be inferred from circumstantial evidence. Rather, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed a firearm as defined under Illinois law. The state failed to prove that the officer had in fact seen a firearm, and thus defendant’s conviction was overturned.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s evidence: Can the witness see well? How far away was the supposed weapon? Can the witness describe what they saw? 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, November 15, 2019

WHAT IS AGGRAVATED CRIMINAL SEXUAL ABUSE IN ILLINOIS?

In Illinois, a charge of criminal sexual abuse can be upgraded to a Class 2 felony if during the offense:
  1. You use a dangerous weapon or other object such that the victim reasonably believes you have a dangerous weapon;
  2. You cause the victim bodily harm;,/li>
  3. The victim is age 60 or older or has a physical disability or severe intellectual disability;
  4. You threaten or endanger the victim or some other person’s life;
  5. The sexual conduct is committed during the course of any other felony;
  6. You drugged the victim without their consent or by threat or deception;
  7. You committed a sex act with a family member under age 18;
  8. You are at least 17 and the victim is under age 13 or you used or threaten force on a victim who is at least 13 but under age 17;
  9. You are under age 17 and the victim is under age 9 or you use force or threaten force on a victim who is at least age 9 but under age 17;
  10. The victim is at least 13 but under age 18 and you are over age 17 and hold a position of trust or supervision such as a teacher or security guard.

See 720 ILCS 5/11-1.60 Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse.

If you have been charged with a sexual offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the underlying sexual offense as well as any aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the state accurately identify you? How reliable is the witness’s recollection of events? Is there any possibility you were falsely accused? Was the evidence against you properly handled? 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, November 1, 2019

CAN POLICE USE A DOG TO SEARCH OUTSIDE MY MOTEL ROOM WITHOUT A WARRANT?

UPDATED: August 4, 2020

You are staying at a motel. You heard some people with a dog outside your room, but you thought nothing of it. A little while later, the police were at your door. The dog you heard earlier was part of the canine unit, and now police want to search your room.

Can they do that? What can you do?

The Fourth Amendment of the constitution guarantees you the right to be free of unreasonable searches or seizures. The police need probable cause or a warrant to perform a search although there are some exceptions. When you are in a hotel or motel, you have the same expectation of privacy in your room as you would have in your own home. Therefore, the police must obtain a warrant in order to search.

But what about outside your home or hotel room? Police may still need to obtain a warrant depending on if the area searched is within the "curtilage" and whether you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

To determine if the area to be searched is part of the curtilage, the court looks at four factors: 1) the proximity of the area to the home, 2) whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home, 3) the nature of the uses to which the area is put, and 4) the steps you took to protect the area from observation by people passing by.

For example, in People v. Lindsey, police used a dog to sniff the door handle and seams of defendant’s motel room. The dog alerted police to the presence of heroin, and the police returned with a warrant. The appellate court found the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment and overturned defendant’s conviction. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision.

Applying the four factors, the Supreme Court found that: 1) the alcove was equally close to defendant's as well as a neighboring room; 2) the alcove was not within an enclosed area surrounding the room; 3) the alcove was not put to personal use by the defendant but was accessible to the motel's staff and public at any time; and 4) the defendant had taken no steps to shield the alcove from observation by other motel guests or the public.

The court next considered whether the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court considers: 1) the person’s ownership or possessory interest in the place, 2) the person’s prior use of the place, 3) the person’s exclusive control of the place or ability to exclude others from it, and 4) the person’s subjective expectation of privacy. The court concluded the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the area outside his motel room. Therefore, the dog sniff was legal.

If you are the subject of an unlawful search, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence found in the search. The results of an illegal search are known as “fruit of the poisoned tree.” If police have no other basis for your arrest, your case could be dismissed.

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. Lindsay.

(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.)