Monday, December 28, 2009

'I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE THE MONEY": WHEN YOU BOUNCE A CHECK DUE TO INSUFFICIENT FUNDS

You have never been very good about managing money, but somehow you have always put enough money in your checking account in time for your checks to clear. Until now. You just wrote some checks, figuring you’d have the money in the bank before they went through, but somehow it just didn’t happen. Now you are being charged with a Class A Misdemeanor or possibly even a Class 4 Felony for issuing bad checks.

In Illinois, you may be guilty of a deceptive practice if you issue a check exceeding $150.00 in payment for credit, property, labor or services, knowing that you have insufficient funds, and if you failed to make the check good within seven days of receiving actual notice that your check has bounced. You are presumed to have the necessary intent to defraud if your check bounces two times at least seven days apart, or if you didn’t have enough funds to cover your check when the check was delivered. When you are hit with a Class A Misdemeanor, you face a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A Class 4 Felony is punishable by 1 to 3 years in state prison and a larger fine. Plus, the person who received the check can still sue you in civil court.

What can you do? First and foremost, do not make any statements to anyone, especially police. Any attempt to explain or justify your actions may be used against you and jeopardize your defense. What sounds like a reasonable excuse to you may only dig you in deeper with police.

Once at court, an experienced attorney can help you weigh your options. Under some circumstances, you may be able to prove that you lacked the intent required under the statute. Maybe someone bounced a check to you putting your own account in the hole.

But what if you really knew your checks would bounce? An attorney can still help you negotiate a plea agreement. In some cases, a number of individual counts may be dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to one of the charges. In any event, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and an attorney can help assess whether the state has enough evidence to do so.

In this job market, a deceptive practices charge on your record could cost you a lot more than a fine or some jail time. You might lose a great job opportunity as well. It is imperative that you explore your options with a qualified attorney. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I HAVE A FELONY. WHAT CAN I EXPECT?

You saw some designer jeans that you couldn’t resist, so you stuffed them into your bag. When store security stopped you, the merchandize you had shoplifted cost more than $150, enough to make your offense a Class 3 felony in Illinois, punishable by a prison term of 2 to 5 years. Or maybe your crime involved an offense such as carrying drugs, concealing a weapon, committing a battery, burglarizing or even getting stopped for DUI one time too many.

These offenses and more can result in your being charged with a felony. In Illinois, a felony can range from a Class 1 to a Class 4. In addition, Class X felonies are reserved for particularly severe offenses such as murder and sexual assault on a child. Penalties for a first offense in many cases may still result in probation, but some felonies carry mandatory minimum prison terms. If convicted, a Class X felony calls for a mandatory minimum term of 6 years.

If you are charged with a felony, what kind of legal procedures can you expect? In the Circuit Court of Cook County, such as the Skokie or Maywood courthouses, after going into custody, you will be granted a bond hearing. At the bond hearing, the court will set the amount of bail necessary to permit your release from jail. In all likelihood, the State will argue for the Court to set the highest bond possible, or in some cases, to deny bond altogether. An experienced attorney can help present those factors most likely to persuade a particular judge to set a reasonable bail.

About a month after the bond hearing, your case will be set for a preliminary hearing, that is a hearing to establish whether the police had probable cause to charge you. An experienced attorney can help by asking the right questions to create doubt about whether the police had a valid reason to stop you. A successful preliminary hearing can result in the charges being dismissed.

At the next court date, you will be brought for arraignment, where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will automatically give up many of your rights, such as the right to test the evidence against you. Your case may then be over, but you may end up with a stiffer penalty than if you fight the charges. If you enter a not guilty plea, the process of discovery begins. Your attorney will ask to see any evidence against you. After assessing this evidence, the attorney may negotiate a plea agreement or take your case to trial.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a felony, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. It is important that you not speak about this case with anyone other than an attorney, so as to avoid jeopardizing any defense you may have. Any communications about a case on Facebook or similar web pages should be removed.