Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WHAT A CRIMINAL LAW ATTORNEY CANNOT DO

In most criminal cases, an experienced attorney can help you make the best strategic choices for your defense. But no attorney can guarantee that you will fully escape punishment.

When you are charged with a crime, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defense attorney generally knows what the state will need to meet that burden. Did the police officers have probable cause to stop you? Did the police give you the appropriate warnings at the appropriate time? Can the state prove each element of the crime? Should a judge or jury disregard some evidence based on Illinois case law? For example, is some evidence more inflammatory than helpful in to proving the charges against you?

A qualified attorney can look at the evidence and advise you about your best options. Do you have a fightable case? Will you need to accept a plea bargain? Is there something you can do, such as attend a drug rehabilitation program, to get a more advantageous plea bargain?

What an attorney cannot do is change the facts of your case. If you are caught red-handed with narcotics, an attorney can look for loopholes in the state’s case but cannot change the fact that you were caught with the evidence.

An attorney cannot guarantee an outcome in a case. The attorney can help navigate the case in order to obtain a more favorable outcome, but can never fully guarantee that “you will get off.”

An attorney cannot make decisions for you. An attorney can advise you on the pros and cons of various options, such as whether to plead guilty or go to trial. But only you can decide the risks you are willing to take.

An attorney cannot select or control the judge. By having familiarity with a particular judge, an attorney may strategize the most persuasive way to present your defense. But ultimately, the judge makes any decision based on what the judge thinks is important.

The bottom line is that sometimes if you are guilty of a crime and the evidence is loaded against you, you may have to take the consequences. Sometimes that can mean going to jail. An attorney can help make sure that procedures are correctly followed and that your rights are protected. An attorney can look for ways to fight your case or help you get a better deal. But if the state can meet its burden of proof, an attorney cannot wave a magic wand and make your case go away.

If you have questions about a criminal law matter, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or 847-568-0160.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NEW ILLINOIS CRIMINAL LAW ADDRESSES SEXTING OFFENSES

Illinois will have a new sexting law as of January 1, 2011. Governor Patrick Quinn signed this new section of the Illinois Criminal Code last summer. The new law tries to address the problems that arise when the development of technology outpaces the development of the adolescent brain.

Sexting is the electronic transmission of nudity or obscene photos to another party. Recent cases include teenagers who texted nude pictures of a girlfriend or boyfriend to their other friends. Even texting nude pictures of yourself can be a crime. Before the new law, prosecutors were forced to charge young offenders under stricter pornography laws that could have resulted in a lifetime designation as a sex offender.

Under the new law, any minor under age 17 who knowingly electronically transmits materials depicting nudity or other sexual conduct is subject to a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,500 fine. If you are under 17 and you knowingly request another minor to sext for you, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If you post the image on the Internet or a website for at least 24 hours with the intent of injuring another’s reputation or causing emotional distress, the charge stiffens to a Class 4 felony, punishable by imprisonment for 1 to 3 years.

The new law also permits a Judge to order an offender into a diversion program, such as counseling, that would look at the problems, which led to the sexting offense. If a minor commits a second violation, the Court can forbid the defendant the use of any electronic telecommunications device for up to six months other than for emergencies.

If you have questions about sexting or know someone who is facing sexting charges in Illinois, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.com.

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

'I DON'T HAVE CAR INSURANCE!": DRIVING WITHOUT INSURANCE IN ILLINOIS

Money is tight so something had to give. As a result, you didn’t pay your car insurance. Next thing you know, the police stopped you for speeding and also cited you for driving an uninsured motor vehicle.

What are the penalties, and what can you do?

In Illinois, if you actually had valid insurance the day you were stopped but simply didn’t have the proof on you, then you can show the judge your insurance card at court. The driving without insurance portion of your case will likely be dropped, although you may still need to fight any other violations.

If you did not have insurance and this is a first offense, you may be eligible for late compliance. You must then provide proof that you have valid insurance as of your court date. You may still be subject to a fine and court supervision.

If you had no valid insurance and do not qualify for late compliance, the penalties become more severe. Besides a fine of at least $500 for a first offense, you can lose your driver privileges for three months. Should you continue to drive, you can face greater fines and penalties. If you continue to drive on a license that was suspended for no insurance, you could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a jail term up to 6 months. You are best advised to consult an attorney regarding whether you have a defense. Even if you don’t, an experienced attorney may be able to obtain a more favorable plea bargain than you could on your own.

If you are considering faking your insurance card to get out of hot water, think again. If you show police a falsified card, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. To convict you, however, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you either knew you had no valid insurance or you knew that the evidence your presented had been illegally altered or otherwise invalid. An attorney can help you fight these charges.

If you have any questions about driving without insurance or other traffic or criminal matters, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.


SOURCE: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=062500050HCh%2E+3+Art%2E+VII&ActID=1815&ChapterID=49&SeqStart=52100000&SeqEnd=53500000

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“BUT I JUST WANTED TO TALK TO HER!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH TELEPHONE HARASSMENT

You had a fight with your girlfriend, and she broke up with you. You know you could clear up any misunderstanding, if only she would listen. So you dialed her number repeatedly hoping she would finally answer her phone. Next thing you know, the police are at your door, and you are being charged with telephone harassment. What did you do wrong, and what can you do about it?

In Illinois, you may be guilty of a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a $1,500 fine, if you cause another person’s phone to ring repeatedly with the intent of harassing them. You may also be charged with telephone harassment if you called someone intending to threaten them, whether or not a conversation actually took place. You also cannot make obscene or indecent comments intending to offend another person. You may be charged even if you did not make the calls yourself, but simply allowed someone else to use your phone.

A second offense of telephone harassment can boost your charge to a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year and a $2,500 fine. If guilty, the Court must sentence you to a mandatory minimum 14-day jail sentence or 240 hours of community service.

If you have three or more prior violations within the last 10 years, your charge can increase to a Class 4 Felony, punishable by one to three years. Likewise, you can be charged with a Class 4 Felony if 1) you harass the same person or a member of their family more than once, 2) you threaten to kill your victim or someone in their family, 2) you have a prior forcible felony conviction, 3) your victim was a minor, or 4) you were on bail or you violated probation or supervision at the time.

If you are charged with Telephone Harassment, you should immediately contact an attorney. If you are in police custody, tell the police specifically: “I wish to invoke my right to remain silent” and “I wish to have an attorney.” Do not discuss your case with anyone either in person or by electronic means, such as email, texting or on a Facebook-type page. Whatever you do, do not try to contact the victim! Trying to explain yourself may instead help the prosecutor seal their case.

How can you defend your case? First, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Was it you who actually made the calls? Can the state prove you did? If someone else was using your phone, did you knowingly permit them? Did you have the required intent to offend or harass the victim when making the calls? Keep in mind that using obscene language creates a presumption that you meant to offend, but that presumption might still be challenged. Even if the evidence against you is strong, an experienced attorney may help you work out a more beneficial plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have any questions about the criminal offense of telephone harassment, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

HOW TO DEFEND YOUR COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS DUI

Last night, you went partying on the town and had a few too many with friends. After leaving the bar, the police stopped you. Now you are charged with drunk driving. How can you defend your case?

In Illinois, the first offense of Driving Under the Influence may be punishable with up to one year in jail or up to a $2,500 fine. If you are charged with DUI, the State must prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) Drinking and 2) Driving.

To prove drinking, the State must show that you were over the legal limit of .08, and that this impaired your driving. The first question is whether you took the breathalyzer. If you were wise, you may have refused. If you refused, did you then perform any field sobriety tests? If not, you could still be charged with a DUI based on what the police observed, but it may be that much harder for the State to prove your impairment at trial.

Suppose you turned down the breathalyzer but you performed the field sobriety tests? You may still have a defendable case. Many police cars now video their encounters with potential offenders. After watching the video, how well did you perform? Some defendants manage to hold their leg up fairly steadily and to walk a fairly straight line. If you did well, the state might have a tough time proving you were guilty of DUI.

What if you took the breathalyzer and blew over the limit? If you did not blow too far above .08 legal limit and/or your field sobriety tests looked good, you may still be able to defend your case. The state must show that your driving was impaired. If everything else looks good including your driving when the police pulled you over, then you might still win. Furthermore, in the State of Illinois, a breathalyzer machine is considered accurate if it registers within .009 of the actual result. Therefore, if you blew a .087, there may be some question about whether you or the breathalyzer device were over the limit.

What if your breathalyzer result was way over the legal limit? Then, you may still have a defense based on the element of driving. How were you pulled over? Did the police have probable cause to stop you? If you were obeying all traffic laws and you were the target of a random stop, you may be able to quash your DUI based on a lack of probable cause.

What if you were in an accident and the police were summoned after the crash? Someone has to testify that you were behind the wheel of the car. The state will have a harder time proving your DUI if no one actually saw you driving the car.

But what if the police legitimately followed you and observed you commit a traffic offense such as blowing a stop sign or weaving all over the lane? And then you blew a high breathalyzer and trashed your field sobriety tests? At this point, your case may no longer beatable. A skilled attorney, however, may help you negotiate a more favorable plea agreement.

If you have questions about a DUI or other criminal matter in the Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood or other Chicago-area courthouse, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or by emailing matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. Also, visit our website at http://www.mattkeenanlaw.com or our DUI blog http://duilawyerskokie.com

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

HOW TO CHOOSE A CRIMINAL LAW ATTORNEY

You just got nailed on a DUI or maybe it was a felony or a misdemeanor. You’re a little shaken, and you know you need help. You searched for attorneys on-line and most of them sound capable. How do you pick the right one for you? Here are some guidelines:

1) Be clear about your own priorities. Are you only looking for a low price? Do you just want to “get it over with” quickly? Or do you worry about your reputation? The type of punishment you may face? The effect on your future? After setting your priorities, you should seek the attorney most likely to match your goals.

2) Cheaper is not always better. The old saying “You get what you pay for” can still be true. If you are looking to get things over in one court date, you may easily find a low-cost attorney to show up and plea you out in one court date. However, an ill-considered plea may cause you future pain. Many a time, a client has come in with their second DUI arrest. A look at their record often shows they might have beaten their first case. Now the client is faced with greater penalties because of the quick plea on the earlier case.

3) Look for experience. In these hard times, many attorneys who used to practice in other areas are now taking criminal cases. While many still do a fine job, sometimes an inexperienced attorney can be tripped up by what they didn’t know that they didn’t know.

4) Choose an attorney who knows the players. An attorney who knows something about the judges and opposing counsel can better recommend a successful strategy for your case. If you know a judge rules well from the bench but slams defendants in jury trials, then you know not to request a jury in that courtroom.

5) Look for knowledge. Does the attorney seem to know what they are talking about? One way to tell is whether they ask you intelligent questions and seem knowledgeable about the procedure and consequences for your case.

6) Communication is a two-way street. You should pick an attorney with whom you can openly communicate. An attorney cannot successfully represent you unless you disclose all the facts. At the same time, your attorney should also communicate well with you. If you don’t understand something, ask them to explain.

7) Pick the one you trust. While you should certainly ask questions and take an active role in your defense, you should have enough confidence in your attorney not to constantly second guess them. After all, you are paying them because they know something about the legal system that you don’t know. If you don’t feel that’s true, then you should find another lawyer.

If you have questions about a criminal law issue, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'WHAT IF I DON'T SHOW UP FOR COURT?": BOND FORFEITURE WARRANTS

Recently you were arrested under Illinois criminal law. That was bad enough, but now you figure there is no point in going to court. After all, you would miss time at work, and since you’re guilty anyway, why should you bother? Or maybe you have been going to court, but something came up and you couldn’t make the last court date or you simply forgot about it.

What can happen to you and what can you do?

In most Cook County criminal cases such as at the Skokie, Rolling Meadows and Maywood courthouses, attendance at court dates is mandatory. Failing to show up for court is a serious matter with serious consequences. The judge can issue a “bond forfeiture warrant.” That means any bond you may have posted will now belong to the State. Additionally, the court has now issued a warrant for your arrest.

If you did miss court, however, there is still hope. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can bring a motion before the court to vacate the bond forfeiture/warrant so that the new arrest warrant will be quashed and you can continue to defend your case under the old warrant. Be warned, however, that judges only have so much patience. If you continually miss court dates, it may be difficult to vacate a warrant if it becomes a habit.

If you missed a court date for a speeding ticket or other traffic offense, the court can find you guilty in your absence. You may be able to get the judgment against you vacated and make an appearance on your ticket. An experienced attorney can greatly assist you.

If you have an outstanding warrant for a criminal offense or if you missed a traffic ticket date, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for assistance.

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

Monday, August 9, 2010

YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT UNDER NEW SUPREME COURT LAW

If you have watched enough TV police shows, you have heard the Miranda warning given to suspects, time and time again. “You have a right to an attorney. You have a right to remain silent. Any statements you make can and will be used against you….” But now under new Supreme Court case law, if you wish to remain silent, you must say so as clearly as possible.

In Berghuis v Thompkins, the Defendant invoked his right to remain silent by simply not saying anything under questioning for a long period of time. When police continued to question him, he eventually made a statement to the police, which he tried to suppress based on the police violating his right to remain silent.

The Court held that the Defendant’s actions were not sufficient to invoke his right to remain silent. The statements the Defendant made were admitted against him. The Court said that any invocation of Miranda must be “unambiguous” so that the police will not have to guess regarding whether they should have cut off questioning. (A previous case ruled that if a Defendant wants an attorney, he or she must also do so clearly.)

So if you are arrested and taken into police custody, what should you do? After signing your Miranda warning form, you should tell the police “I want to remain silent,” and “I want an attorney.” Only by making these unambiguous statements will your Miranda rights be protected under the new case law. Whatever you do, do not give up your Miranda rights by signing a “Waiver” form.

Even if you assert these rights, the police could try to make you sufficiently uncomfortable to want to start talking even if they are not doing anything illegal. You might have to wait a long time in a relatively cold room. While statements made after a Defendant invokes his right to remain silent may not be admissible in Court, the best chance for your defense depends on your continued silence until you have an attorney present.

If you or a loved one have been arrested and are in police custody or if you have any questions, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1470.pdf

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

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

“BUT I’LL LOSE MY JOB!:” TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS AND THE COMMERCIAL DRIVERS LICENSE

If you drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), then getting stopped for a DUI or even a simple traffic violation can cost you your livelihood.

In Illinois, you can lose your commercial driver’s license (CDL) for at least one year if you are stopped for certain driving-related offenses, even if you weren’t in a CMV at the time! You may be penalized for refusing a breath or blood test, having blood alcohol of at least .04 when driving a CMV or at least .08 when driving a non-CMV. Furthermore, your CDL can be suspended if you knowingly leave the scene of an accident, commit a felony when driving any vehicle or if you drive a CMV on a revoked or suspended license. If you were driving hazardous materials when any of the above happened, you can lose your CDL for at least 3 years.

If you are convicted a second time, you can say good bye to your CDL for life, although the Secretary of State can under certain circumstances reduce the suspension to a period of 10 years.

Even less severe traffic offenses can play havoc with your CDL. You can lose your CDL for at least two months if you receive convictions for two serious traffic violations (such as speeding) within three years, and for at least four months if you have three convictions in three years, even though you weren’t driving a CMV at the time

If you continue to drive a CMV after the Secretary of State has issued an “out of service” order suspending your CDL, you can receive additional suspension penalties.

If you are stopped for any traffic-related offense, you should not speak about the incident to the police or anyone else, and you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your options. It is critical that you rigorously pursue any defense you might have if you wish to maintain your CDL. The State still has the burden of proof to show that you were guilty of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can help expose weaknesses in the state’s case. Even if your case seems hopeless, an experienced attorney may be able to work out a plea arrangement for a lesser offense, with a shorter suspension time.

If you are threatened with the loss of your CDL or have other questions, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

OPEN ALCOHOL CONTAINERS AND YOUR CAR: KEEP IT IN THE TRUNK!

You just left a friend’s house and you hadn’t finished your beer. You screwed the cap back on and left the half-full bottle on the floor of your car. Just your luck, on the way home, you blew a stop sign and got pulled over by police. Then they saw the beer bottle. Now you are charged with possession of alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle.

In Illinois, no driver or passenger may transport, carry or possess any alcoholic beverage in the passenger compartment of their car unless that alcohol is in its original container and the seal is unbroken. There are exceptions for passengers of limousines and charter buses, provided the driver does not drink.

Open alcohol is generally considered a petty offense, meaning you are most likely to receive a fine and a term of supervision. If you are convicted of carrying open alcohol for a second time within one year, however, you could have your driver’s license suspended. Additionally, any driver under the age of 21 convicted of this offense can automatically lose their driver’s license under Illinois’s Zero Tolerance policy.

If you have questions about this or another criminal law issue, do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan by phone 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“I DIDN’T DO IT!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED AS AN ACCESSORY TO A CRIME

One night, you were driving your buddy around town. You stopped at a convenience store. Your buddy ran in and next thing you knew, he had a wad of money in his hand and some beer. You didn’t know he was going to rob the store when he went in, but now that he did, you figured you might as well have some beer and anyway, he owes you some cash. Now you are charged with robbing the store.

In Illinois, if you help someone commit a crime, even if your help took place before or after the event, you can be charged with the same offense. Helping is legally defined as soliciting, aiding, abetting, agreeing or attempting to aid the other person in the planning or commission of the offense. This can include driving someone to or from the scene or even loaning them your car as long as you had the intent to facilitate the commission of the crime.

Furthermore, if you help plan a crime or conspire to commit a crime, and there is one act taken by any of the conspirators to further the crime, you are now liable for everything that happens even if someone else did it. For example, if you plan to rob a store and your buddy shoots the store clerk, you can now be charged with the shooting even if you weren’t in the room.

If you are involved with a crime and may have aided or abetted the offense, it is critical that you make no statements about the situation to the police or anyone else. You may not think your conduct amounted to criminal involvement, but your statements may be enough to guarantee your conviction. Furthermore, if you do attempt to minimize or lie about your involvement in the crime, any statements you make may trap you later. The best policy is to say nothing without the advice of an attorney.

If you are charged with this type of crime, there may still be hope. Your involvement in the crime may have been too minimal to convict you. The state still has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to participate in the crime.

If the crime has not yet taken place and you now want out of the conspiracy, you might still avoid criminal responsibility if you do one of three things: You can warn law enforcement or be sure to undo any help you provided or make a proper effort to prevent the offense. An attorney can help you determine your best strategy.

If you have any questions or wish to talk to an attorney, do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. If the matter is urgent, a phone call will insure a more timely response.


Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=072000050HArt%2E+5&ActID=1876&ChapterID=53&SeqStart=7100000&SeqEnd

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'I CAN'T GET A JOB!": CLEARING YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD - PARDONS & EXPUNGEMENTS

(Updated 2/20/13)

In today’s tough job market, you are at greater risk of losing out on that job opportunity you wanted because of an undesirable criminal record. But there may still be hope.

If you were charged with a crime and your case was dismissed, you may be able to expunge your record immediately. Even if you were charged with a misdemeanor and received supervision, you may still be able to expunge your record after a certain period. Most eligible criminal charges have a waiting period of two years. However, retail thefts prior to 1/1/12 must wait 5 years. (Newer law shortened that period to two years for retail thefts after 1/1/12.) You may not qualify to expunge your record if your crime falls into certain categories, such as violent crime or criminal sexual conduct.

To petition for an expungement, you must file at the Circuit Court in the county where your case was heard and pay a fee (currently $120.00). In Chicago, you should obtain a copy of your criminal history from the Chicago Police Department. The Court will notify the State’s attorney’s office, the Illinois State Police and the arresting police department of your Petition. If any of those agencies object to your Petition within 60 days, you may be given a court appearance to defend your request. As of 2013, the Cook County Circuit Court is now automatically setting hearings for Chicago cases.

If your record is successfully expunged, then you need not reveal your criminal history to anyone. You can then answer “no” when that criminal history question crops up on a job application.

But what if instead of supervision, you were convicted or you had a felony? In some cases, you might still be able to seal your conviction, and still answer that awkward employer question with a “no.” When all else fails, you might qualify for a pardon.

In Illinois, you can appeal to the Governor and the Prison Review Board for executive clemency. Your petition must state a brief history of your case and present the reasons you believe you merit a pardon. You may request a hearing to further present your case when filing the petition. An experienced attorney can assist greatly in preparing your petition and presenting your case in the very best light. A reason for clemency, that might seem convincing to you, might seem insufficient or even self-serving to the Governor and the Prison Review Board.

See our related post on Pardons at Pardon Me: Clemency Petitioners Now Have A Chance.

If you have questions or would like an attorney’s assistance in preparing an expungement or pardon, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'I'VE BEEN STOPPED FOR SHOPLIFTING!": STORE SECURITY AND YOUR RIGHTS

You were browsing at a department store and had just left, when suddenly store security approaches you. They ask you to come with them. What are your rights?

If a merchant believes you have been shoplifting, they may detain you if they reasonably believe that you have unpaid merchandise. The detention can be made in order to 1) request your identification, 2) verify it’s authenticity; 3) reasonably ascertain whether you have stolen merchandise in your possession, and 4) surrender you to a peace officer. If you are a minor, the store must attempt to inform your guardian and surrender a minor to either the guardian or the police. (Authority: 720 ILCS 5/16A-5.)

According to the statute, the store is presumed to have reasonable cause to detain you if you possess a theft detection shielding device or a theft detection device remover.

Any detention must be for a reasonable length of time and conducted in a reasonable manner. And the store must have reasonable cause to stop you. Of course, what is considered reasonable is a matter of opinion. You probably cannot be chained to a desk or held for hours at a time. But whether an hour is too long may be open for debate.

The store may have a right to check your receipt or look in your bag, but you may still request an attorney and you can refuse to answer questions. In Illinois, some silent videotaping of premises, such as the dressing rooms, may be permitted for the limited purpose of preventing theft. Usually, there should be warnings that the dressing rooms are monitored.

If you are detained by store security, you should refrain from making a confession. Later, you may be taken into police custody and released on bond, or alternatively, brought to court the next day so that a judge may set bond.

No matter what the case, you should not discuss this matter with the police or anyone else. You may be able to win the case at court if you do not damage your chances by trying to explain yourself to the police or by making a statement.

If you have any questions about your situation, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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

"I HOSTED AN UNDERAGE DRINKING PARTY!": YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT

You left your otherwise responsible 17-year-old son home for the weekend. While you were gone, your son and his friends held a party, taking advantage of your liquor cabinet. When your son’s friend drove away drunk from your home, he hit another car and now, under Illinois’s social hosting statute, you are charged with criminal penalties for providing the alcohol.

What is the law?
Under Illinois law, you may be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine, if you knowingly provide alcohol to someone under the age of 21 other than your own child. If serious injury or death occurs, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If injury or death occurs, you can also be civilly liable for having provided the alcohol.

You are considered to have knowingly authorized the use of alcohol if you fail to control access to the liquor cabinet in your residence. Therefore, under Illinois law, you could be at fault simply for leaving your liquor cabinet available while you were away.

What can you do? If you are charged with providing alcohol to minors, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. Do not give any statements to the police or anyone else. What you think is a reasonable explanation might be enough to convict you later. Refrain from discussing this matter in person or electronically via texts, email or any Facebook-type pages.

Because you may also be civilly liable for any injuries, it is critical that you vigorously defend any criminal charges. A guilty verdict in a criminal case can become a foregone conclusion in a civil matter, which has a lower burden of proof. An experienced attorney can help develop a strategy for your defense. Maybe you did not knowingly provide the alcohol. Maybe the alcohol did not come from your home, or your enterprising son picked the lock of your liquor cabinet. Under many village statutes and state law, there is also a limited exception for religious services.

Municipal Penalties. In addition to state penalties, many municipalities have their own penalties. For example, in Skokie, you may not allow an underage person who has drunk alcohol in your home to leave except in the care of their guardian. In Wilmette, you may allow your own child to drink in your home, but you may not allow that child to leave while still under the influence of alcohol. Furthermore, in Wilmette, you cannot allow someone else’s child to remain on your premises while possessing or drinking alcohol.

In Evanston, you may not knowingly permit a gathering of two or more minors to possess or drink alcohol. You cannot intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently give or deliver alcohol to a minor or invite someone under age 18 to have alcohol on your premises. If you know there is a substantial probability that your child may drink, you must restrain him or her from driving or from committing other illegal acts, such as theft or vandalism.

The City of Park Ridge has taken the issue of underage drinking parties so seriously that police have formed a Parent Party Patrol to assist police with reports of underage drinking.

If you have any questions about your situation, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

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

Friday, May 7, 2010

IN TROUBLE AGAIN: WHEN YOU HAVE VIOLATED YOUR PROBATION OR SUPERVISION

You figure you have the worst luck imaginable. You received a supervision on your first-time misdemeanor or DUI, or maybe you received probation on a felony. All you had to do was stay out of trouble. But now you’ve been called in for random drug testing, and you know the drop won’t be clean. Or maybe you were pulled over for running a stop sign, and the cop smelled that little bit of beer you had.

Now you have a double whammy: A new criminal case along with the reopening of your prior case.

Often on first offenses, a court will sentence defendants to a term of supervision or probation for a set length of time. This term may have certain conditions such as random drug testing. Probation or supervision, however, always requires that you stay out of trouble with the law. Therefore, even if you are suspected of committing a crime or if you have committed a relatively minor offense such as a retail theft, the court can now re-sentence you on the first offense, which can mean significantly stiffer fines or even a jail term. And that still doesn’t take care of your new arrest.

What can you do? If you violated supervision or probation, you should contact an attorney right away in order to protect your rights as much as possible. Do not speak to police or anyone else, either in person or electronically, about your case. Any explanation you might try to give may only land you in more trouble and may eliminate a possible line of defense. Do not discuss your case through texting, email or on any Facebook-type pages.

An experienced attorney can help you with the delicate balancing act between the violated case and the new case. Sometimes, an attorney will attempt to delay completing the violation case until the new charges can be resolved. If the attorney can get the new charges dismissed, you might receive a substantially reduced penalty in the prior case or the prior case might even be dropped. Even if the evidence on the new case is overwhelming, an experienced attorney can help obtain a better deal for you in both cases.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

'IT JUST POPPED OUT!": WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED OF HATE SPEECH

You really can’t stand this one student at your school. You think he is obnoxious. One day, the two of you got into a screaming match. In the heat of the moment, you called him a certain stereotypically derogatory name. The next thing you know, your college or high school has notified you that you are being charged with hate speech and might be suspended.

If the alleged hate speech occurred while committing a crime, you may even be liable for increased penalties as a hate crime. Maybe you spray-painted a name on the side of someone’s door, or you repeatedly called or texted someone, while using derogatory terms about that person’s race, religion, disability, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Under Illinois law, you can be charged with a felony, receive additional fines and still be sued in civil court.

What can you do?

First and foremost, do not make any statements to the police or the school, before consulting an attorney. Any attempt to explain or justify your actions may be used against you and jeopardize your defense. What sounds like a truthful explanation to you may only dig you in deeper.

You should also not discuss this situation with anyone either in person, on the phone or electronically. Any texting or Facebook discussions of the event could end up as evidence in a suspension hearing or in a court of law.

To fight the suspension, an experienced attorney can help review your school’s policy manual. How is your offense defined in the policy manual? Does the school distinguish between events on and off school grounds? Did the school follow its own procedures in citing you? Are the proposed sanctions against you too severe under the school’s own guidelines?

In a criminal case, the State has to prove that you are guilty of a hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the State prove that it was you who spray-painted the house or sent the text messages? Was your crime really based on the perceived or actual race, gender, religion, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the victim?

Are your words really even hate speech? One person’s idea of hate speech might be constitutionally protected expression in another context. The very definition of hate speech can be vague and elusive.

Even if the evidence against you seems overwhelming, an attorney may help you work out a reduced punishment or a plea to a lesser charge.

A qualified attorney can best help you evaluate your options and develop a strategy for your case. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

Also see our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.com.

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"THEY SUSPENDED MY LICENSE!": ALCOHOL AND THE UNDERAGE DRIVER

Now that you have your own set of wheels, you feel really cool. So after school, you thought you’d take your friends for a night on the town. You were watching the road, so you didn’t realize your buddy in the back seat had popped open a beer. You yourself had a beer, but you figured you were way under the state’s .08 alcohol limit.

Unfortunately, an officer pulled you over. Now, you are charged with an alcohol-related driving offense and face the suspension of your driver’s license.

Under the Zero Tolerance policy, the Illinois Secretary of State will automatically suspend the license of any driver under age 21, who has been caught drinking or even carrying open alcohol in the passenger compartment of their car. You need not be anywhere close to the .08 breathalyzer limit to lose your license. Any trace of alcohol in your system is enough, even a .01 reading.

You may also lose your license for having open alcohol in the passenger section of your car, even if the bottle wasn’t yours. If it is your bottle, you face a charge of illegal possession. But if it is not, you can still be charged with illegal transportation, causing the loss of your license for 12 months on a first offense.

If you are under the age of 21 and have been charged with an alcohol-related crime, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney. You may be able to contest the charges against you. Maybe the officer lacked the probable cause to pull you over. Maybe you can negotiate a plea to a lesser offense.

Even if you are convicted of an alcohol-related offense, you may be able to obtain a restricted driving permit. The Secretary of State allows you to request a hearing to determine if you have a sufficient hardship to grant the permit. Primarily, permits are granted to allow you to go to work or to obtain medical care.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is essential that you not speak about these charges with anyone, either in person or through electronic means such as twitter or Facebook. Any statements you make to the police or a friend can come back to hurt your defense.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

“I JUST PANICKED!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT

You honestly just never saw him until you heard the thud. Maybe you struck a pedestrian, or maybe it was another car. Startled, you drove away instead of stopping like you knew you should. Now, somehow the cops have found where you live. And what might have been a routine traffic ticket is now elevated to a misdemeanor or even a felony. What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injury or death, you must immediately stop at the scene of the accident and remain there until you have provided your name, address and registration to the person you struck. Furthermore, you must provide reasonable assistance to the injured, including, if necessary, carrying them to a doctor. You also must file a police report within one half hour of the accident or of being released from a hospital.

If you have only damaged the other person’s car, you must still immediately stop and provide your information to the other driver.

In accidents involving injury or death, a failure to stop can result in a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison. If you fail to file a police report, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. If the other party died, you are now subject to a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years. When the accident only involves property damage, you may still be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail plus a fine.

If you are charged with leaving the scene, you must not speak about your situation to the police or anyone else. You should also refrain from discussing your problems through any electronic media such as Twitter, email or Facebook. Even though the police may have tracked down your vehicle, the state still has the burden of proving that you were the one driving beyond a reasonable doubt. Without your statements, the State may not be able to meet this burden.

If police are looking for you, contact an attorney immediately to help protect your rights. If you are in custody, ask to speak with an attorney and do not make any statements. Police may try to persuade you to confess by promising that they will give you a break. However, the police may not be authorized to reduce or drop the charges, and your statements can still be used against you.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'BUT I WASN'T ON CAMPUS!": WHEN YOU ARE DISCIPLINED AT COLLEGE FOR AN OFF-CAMPUS CRIMINAL CHARGE

You had a little too much fun one night at the pub downtown. As you struggled to drive home, you blew a stop sign and next thing you knew, you were pulled over for DUI. Or maybe you were involved in some off-campus drug sales, or you shoplifted at the local grocer’s. In any event, you now face criminal charges, but still you hope to continue your studies and get on with your life.

Then you receive an unpleasant surprise. The University is charging you with violating their student code. While it may seem that what you do off-campus should stay off campus, many schools have extended their reach to off-campus behavior. Some schools prohibit all alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes, no matter where you used them. Showing up for class under the influence may be enough to get you expelled. Some schools’ codes even contain a catch-all provision, which prohibits violating any state, federal, or local law

What can you do? First, you need to determine if your offense falls within the university’s guidelines. An experienced attorney can help navigate the language of the Student Code to determine if the school has grounds to charge you. Even if they do, perhaps the school failed to follow its own procedural guidelines. Did they give you the proper notice? Are you getting the safeguards promised in the student code? An attorney can also help evaluate the evidence against you. If the criminal charges are later dismissed or you are found not guilty, the school may lack the proof necessary to show that you actually committed the violation.

If you find yourself charged with a crime or notified of a discipline offense, contact an attorney immediately. Do not speak to anyone or discuss your situation electronically on any chat room or Facebook-type pages. Any statements you make can later be used against you or can lock you out of a possible defense in both the criminal and university cases. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.com.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

“MY LOVED ONE HAS BEEN ARRESTED!”: POLICE CUSTODY AND THE BOND HEARING

You just got a phone call from your loved one. Somehow, they were picked up by police and are now in custody. Your loved one is scared and begging you for help. What happens next and what can you do?

In Illinois, if your loved one has been picked up for a relatively minor offense and has a clean record, they may be eligible for an I-Bond. That means they can leave the police station on their personal promise that they will appear in Court.

But what if the situation is more serious? In that case, your loved one may be held over for a bond hearing until the earliest possible court business date. At the hearing, a Judge will decide how much money a criminal defendant must post in order to be released from police custody. If your loved one had the bad fortune to be picked up on a Friday night, they may have to spend the weekend in jail.

If you receive that distressed call, you are best advised to contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can visit your loved one in the police station, advise them not to talk to police and notify the police that they are represented by an attorney and will not answer questions. Timely intervention can help prevent your loved one from caving into police pressure and providing the evidence needed for a conviction.

An attorney can also play an important role at the bond hearing. At the hearing, the State will likely argue that a high bond or bail should be set. In Illinois courts, such as the Circuit Courts at Skokie, Rolling Meadows and Maywood, your loved one will have to post 10% of any bond that the Judge sets in order to be released. The bond may be set so high that your loved one has no hope of making it and must then remain in jail. An experienced attorney may be able to assess which arguments are most likely to sway a particular Judge to lower bail.

If you have questions or need immediate assistance, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"THE POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR ME": WHEN YOU ARE A SUSPECT OR FEAR ARREST

You just got a phone call from your roommate. Some police officer showed up looking for you. As it happens, you actually do know why they want to talk. Maybe you were involved in a crime like a robbery, hit and run, shoplifting or drug deal. Maybe you sexted someone or downloaded other inappropriate sexual materials. Or maybe you didn’t actually commit a crime but are afraid the police might view you as an accessory. You can’t skip town and you can’t hide out forever. What can you do?

For starters, you should probably contact an attorney immediately. A competent attorney may provide invaluable guidance that helps prevent you from incriminating yourself, while staying within the bounds of the law. In limited cases, this advice can help prevent charges from ever being brought.

Now maybe you’ve made that appointment to get legal advice, but fear you may be arrested before you can step into the attorney’s office. Whatever you do, don’t talk to the police or anyone else about your situation. When confronted with an accusation, most people feel the need to explain or justify themselves. What may seem like a perfectly reasonable explanation to you, however, may be exactly the grounds needed by police to charge you with the crime. Even comments made to friends can be used against you later. Witness statements that you admitted a crime are not necessarily hearsay and can dig you in deeply.

If you are picked up and held for questioning or charged with a crime, tell the police that you do not wish to answer any questions without an attorney present. It is even more imperative that you not discuss the circumstances of the crime with police before you have seen an attorney. This, at times, may be difficult. The police can legally leave you sitting for hours in a cold room after you have refused to talk. Or they might make promises of leniency if you will only open up. It is in your best interest, however, not to start talking. The state has to prove you guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Once you start talking, you may unwittingly remove any doubts about your guilt and severely limit the options your attorney has in defending you. And as to the promises of leniency, the police do not always have the final control over how you are charged or sentenced.

Due to the latest technology such as email, textng and Facebook, it is equally important that you not “talk” electronically. The state may be able to get copies of your text messages, email or Facebook account to see what you have posted. Likewise, they can get cell phone records and in some cases voicemail recordings. Any statements you make in these forums can come back to haunt you.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com