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.)