Monday, November 28, 2011

CAN THE POLICE USE LICENSE READING CAMERAS TO CATCH CRIMINALS? IN ONE ILLINOIS COMMUNITY, THEY ALREADY ARE

Your mobile phone isn’t the only thing getting more technologically sophisticated. So too are police crime-fighting techniques. In October, the Belleville, Illinois police department began catching criminals by using an automated camera to read license plates.

The $17,000 automated license reader is placed on top of an unmarked car. As drivers pass by, the reader checks for matches against plates associated with arrest warrants or other criminal activity. When a match is found, nearby officers move in for the arrest.

In its first four hours, the Belleville reader captured seven local and eight out-of-state warrants, led to 56 stops and one arrest for violating an order of protection.

From a civil liberty point of view, this new use of technology is pretty alarming. A casual trip to the mall can turn into a trip to jail even if you did not give police probable cause to stop you.
If you are stopped because of a camera, what can you do?

As with any police stop, the less said the better. If you are taken into police custody, you should specifically say “I wish to remain silent and I want an attorney,” in order to trigger your Miranda rights (or the officers can keep questioning you). Any attempt to explain yourself could unwittingly give police the evidence they need to convict you.

If you are arrested, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Even if an automated reader made it easier to catch you, the state must still prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case in hopes of winning a dismissal. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, the attorney may be able to obtain a better plea bargain for you than you could get on your own.

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

ILLINOIS AGGRAVATED BATTERY LAW

In Illinois, you commit simple battery if you knowingly, without legal justification, physically hurt another person or cause contact of an offensive nature, such as grabbing at them. Simple battery is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

But there is a whole host of ways in which simple battery can be upgraded to a more serious aggravated battery charge. Aggravation can be based on the type of injury, the type of victim or the place of the offense. Charges can range from a Class 3 to a Class X Felony with a penalty range of 3 to 60 years in prison. If guns are involved, you could face a minimum prison term of 20 years and have up to 25 years added to any sentence if you harmed a child under the age of 13.

You can be upgraded to aggravated battery if you knowingly strangle someone or cause great bodily harm, disfigurement or severe and permanent disability. This includes injury from a bomb, flammable gas, poison or throwing a caustic substance such as lye at someone.

Even if the injury was not severe, aggravation can be based on the victim’s status. It is aggravated battery to harm a child, mentally retarded or handicapped person, pregnant woman, senior citizen over age 60 or a teacher. The charge is also enhanced if you harm a State of Illinois or school district official, police officer, firefighter, community policing volunteer, prison official or security guard when they are performing their duties or if you are retaliating against them because of those duties. Persons protected also include taxi drivers while on duty or a merchant detaining you for retail theft. And as of January 1, 2014, the Illinois legislature added nurses in the performance of their duties to the list.

You can be charged with aggravated battery if the offense took place in a public place, a sports venue or a domestic violence shelter.

There are also enhanced penalties for shooting someone with a gun or machine gun.

If you are charged with battery or a similar offense, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. Do not speak to the police or anyone else about your situation either orally or by electronic media such as texting or Facebook. Just like in the cop shows, anything you say may be used against you. A criminal law attorney can carefully review the law and the evidence against you to help devise the best strategy for your defense. Maybe you were acting in self defense. Maybe the firefighter you hurt was off duty.

Even if the evidence is overwhelming, an experienced attorney may to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

“I HIT A COP!:” AGGRAVATED ASSAULT OR AGGRAVATED BATTERY TO AN OFFICER IN ILLINOIS

You must have been really drunk because you don’t remember what happened. But apparently, you went berserk and hit a police officer. The officer even ended up in the emergency room. Now, you are charged with aggravated battery.

What is the law? What can you do?

In Illinois, you can be charged with aggravated assault if you knowingly cause a police officer to reasonably fear that you are going to cause bodily harm while the officer is performing their duties. For example, maybe you threatened to hit the officer or you pointed a gun at them. Aggravated assault is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If you used a gun, blackjack, shotgun or other weapon in threatening the officer, you can be charged with a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail.

If you actually harm the officer or make contact of an insulting nature such as grabbing at them, you can be charged with aggravated battery. If you did not cause great bodily harm, disfigurement or permanent disability, the charge is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. If the police officer was seriously harmed, you can face a Class 1 Felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years. If you hurt the officer while shooting a gun, you are now eligible for a Class X felony, with a mandatory minimum prison term of 15 years. If you used a machine gun, the minimum prison term increases to 20 years.

As you can imagine, prosecutors and judges take attacks on police officers very seriously, but your situation may not be hopeless.

If you are charged with aggravated assault or aggravated battery to an officer, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with other crimes, the State must still prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can help review your options for a defense. For example, Illinois law requires that you knew the person was an officer and that they were engaged in their official duties. If the officer was off duty or in plain clothes, you may have a defense.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney, familiar with the judge and prosecutors, may be able to negotiate a more beneficial plea bargain than you could on your own.

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

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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

IMPERSONATING PUBLIC OFFICIALS: BIG TROUBLE

Pretending to be someone you are not may bring you applause on stage and screen, but in real life, impersonation can be a serious criminal offense.

Illinois prohibits impersonating a police officer, firefighter, emergency management worker, attorney, veteran, parent/legal guardian or airplane pilot. The State takes these offenses so seriously that some laws were toughened in 2006 with unanimous House legislative approval in response to a Chicago Sun-Times series reporting that more than 1,000 police impersonations had taken place in Illinois within a three year period.

In Illinois, falsely and knowingly impersonating a peace officer is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Besides police, a peace officer includes U.S. Marshals, Internal Revenue Service, postal service, drug enforcement and immigration employees. If you were using a vehicle with flashing or oscillating lights, the charge is upgraded to a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years and a $25,000 fine. If you were carrying a deadly weapon, the charge is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years and a $25,000 fine. If you were engaged in a felony, you could be charged with Aggravated False Personation of a Peace Officer, a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, depending on the nature of the crime. The impersonation charge would be in addition to any charges brought for the underlying felony.

Even duplicating a law officer’s badge is illegal. You can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year and $2,500 for making, selling or distributing false law enforcement badges, unless they are used for a memento or collection, exhibition, decoration or dramatic purpose such as for a play.

Impersonating a firefighter is also a Class 4 felony, upgraded to a Class 3 if you were carrying a deadly weapon and to a Class 2 for Aggravated Personation if you were committing a felony at the time.

Impersonating an emergency management or American Red Cross worker is a Class 4 felony, unless you were engaged in a felony, in which case it is Aggravated Personation and a Class 3 felony.

Anyone who pretends to be a pilot, airline employee or a contractor to gain access to restricted areas of the airport can be charged with a Class 4 felony. Impersonating an attorney is also a Class 4, while falsely presenting yourself as a parent or legal guardian to a public or school official is a Class A Misdemeanor.

If you were thinking that pretending you are a veteran will help you get a job, you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

If you are charged with impersonation, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately for help. Do not discuss your case with the police or anyone else. Any statements you make can be used against you and may complicate your defense. Remember, the state must prove you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal law attorney can review your situation for weaknesses in the state’s case and help devise the best possible strategy for your defense.
If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(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, September 21, 2011

BIGGER TROUBLE: FLEEING AND ELUDING POLICE IN ILLINOIS

You’ve seen it in all the cop shows. The police take off on a high speed chase after the fugitive. Of course, you never dreamed you would be starring in your own action movie, but when you saw the police, you just panicked.

So, what exactly is fleeing and eluding an officer, and what can happen to you?

In Illinois, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by jail time of up to one year and losing your license for up to six months, if you flee or attempt to elude a police officer. (625 ILCS 5/11-204.) If you are charged with aggravated fleeing, the penalties are even stiffer. Aggravated fleeing is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in jail, your license could be revoked and your car seized. (625 ILCS 5/11-204.1.) If this is a second or higher offense, the penalties increase.

And all this is on top of whatever other crime you may have committed. Plus, you may be convicted for fleeing and eluding even if the underlying offense is dropped.

To flee and elude, you must have received a visual or audible signal by a uniformed officer directing you to stop. If the officer is in their police car, they must activate their lights as well as their siren. If you willfully fail to pull over or you speed up or turn out your lights, you could be convicted.

Fleeing and eluded is upgraded to an aggravated offense if you speed more than 21 miles over the limit, cause bodily harm to a person, cause more than $300 in property damage or run more than two traffic control signals.

If you are charged with fleeing and eluding as with any other offense, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. The attorney can assist at your bail hearing to petition the judge to set a reasonable bond. An attorney can also analyze your case to present your best possible defense. As with any offense, the state has the burden of proving the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did the officer properly signal? Was he or she in uniform? Did they properly activate their lights and siren? Did you know they were trying to pull you over?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney can help negotiate a better plea bargain than you might receive on your own.

As with any other criminal offense, do not make statements to the officer or any third party about your case. Attempting to explain yourself might end up giving the prosecution exactly the evidence needed to convict. Do not talk about your case on any social media such as texting, email or Facebook. The prosecutor could get copies of your statements and use them against you.

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

(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, September 14, 2011

I HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME IN ILLINOIS:. COULD I GO TO JAIL?

We hear this question from clients all the time. Naturally, if you are charged with a crime, the prospect of serving time is frightening. Whether you will be sentenced to jail, however, depends on a variety of factors. The good news is that while many crimes carry possible prison sentences, courts frequently do not impose jail time for misdemeanor first-time offenders.

In Illinois, beginning with a Class C Misdemeanor, you can be sentenced for up to 30 days in jail. A Class B Misdemeanor carries a possible 6 months penalty, and Class A can mean confinement for up to a year. In Cook County, if you are a first time misdemeanor offender, it is highly unlikely that you will receive any jail time. Instead, you may have to take classes, pay a fine or do community service.

On a second offense, however, your chances of jail time increase substantially, but even then, your sentence depends on the nature of the offense, your background and the judge. An experienced attorney can present your case to the judge in the most favorable light, highlighting positive facts about your background. In some cases, the attorney can still successfully negotiate a plea agreement where you would perform community service, receive treatment and/or pay fines in lieu of jail time.

For a first time DUI with no injuries, there is a strong possibility that you will not serve time in jail. For a second DUI offense, your chances of a jail sentence increase substantially, but even then it depends on the circumstances of your case. If you are driving on a suspended license due to an underlying alcohol-related offense, Illinois law does require jail time, although you may be able to do community service instead of jail on a first offense.

Felonies are punishable by at least one year in state prison. Felony offenses range from Class 1 to Class X, with Class X being the most severe. Class X felonies are punishable by a minimum of 6 years. Your chances of receiving jail time are much greater than with a misdemeanor, but you may be eligible for probation under certain limited circumstances.

If you violate a sentence of supervision or probation, you have a very high risk of receiving jail time, and you should contact an attorney immediately. Showing up for a violation hearing without legal counsel sounds a signal to the judge that you are not taking the process seriously. In cases of this sort, it is not unusual for judges to conclude that only a trip to county jail will help you focus on your problem.

In all cases, you should consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to discuss the best strategy for your situation. Depending on your particular circumstances, an attorney may succeed in getting your case dismissed, such as through a motion to quash a search due to inadequate probable cause. An attorney can also help determine if your case is winnable at trial.

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

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

Thursday, September 8, 2011

PARDON ME!: CLEMENCY PETITIONERS NOW HAVE A CHANCE IN ILLINOIS

It’s tough enough to find a job these days. The last thing you need on your record is that felony shoplifting hit you took for stealing that expensive dress or that domestic violence misunderstanding where you pled to supervision. Crimes such as these may not qualify for expungement, a process where your record is wiped clean. You may not even be eligible for sealing, a process where only law enforcement can see your record.

So what’s left? Your last chance at a clean start may be to apply for a pardon. Luckily, in Illinois, that just got easier.

Under former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, clemency petitions sat gathering dust in state file drawers. One group of petitioners even sued the governor for taking too long to address their cases, in some instances as long as five years without a response. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92905086) Add to that, between 2003 and 2008, Blagojevich granted only 67 pardons, while denying 1,160. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-06-23/news/0806230096_1_pardon-clemency-petitions-executive-clemency)

But Governor Pat Quinn has been actively working through a 2,500 case backlog, and at least one-third of those petitioners have had cause to celebrate. As of September 2, 2011, Governor Quinn pardoned 591 out of 1529 clemency petitioners.

To apply for a pardon, you must complete a Petition for Executive Clemency with the Illinois State Prisoner Review Board, and you may need to request a hearing. In the Petition, you will need to provide supporting documentation and a personal narrative about why you deserve the pardon. An experienced attorney can be invaluable in helping you present your situation in the best possible light.

Once you file the Petition, the Prisoner Review Board checks to see if it is complete. If not, they will notify you that you need to provide more information. Once the petition is completed, it is placed on the Board’s docket. Currently hearings take place twice a year in Chicago and twice a year in Springfield, depending on when you file. You may choose to have a public or nonpublic hearing. After the Board has reviewed your case, it makes a recommendation to the governor, who then decides whether to grant the pardon.

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

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

REGISTERING YOUR CHILD FOR SCHOOL CAN BE RISKY BUSINESS

It’s back to school time for many families, and along with it comes the hassle of registration. But as financial pressures on schools increase, so does the pressure to ensure that only residents of a school district are attending the school.

This means stiffer requirements on parents to prove residency in their school district. Worse still, more and more schools are suing parents for tuition and pressing criminal charges.

If you lie about your residency status to a school district in Illinois, you can be charged with providing false information, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. One Ohio mother was jailed for 9 days for tampering with official records, according to the Chicago Tribune. In Illinois, Orland Park successfully prosecuted a father for providing false information about residency to its district and is now suing to recoup $24,208 in tuition costs.

Because a criminal case has a higher burden of proof than a civil case, it is critical that you fight the criminal case. Once you are found guilty of lying in the criminal case, that finding might be binding in the civil case. You may not be able to reopen the question of your guilt. Parents can be liable for 110% of the cost of educating their child.

Of course, not all parents accused of wrongfully registering their children are guilty. There can be some very good reasons why you don’t appear to live in the district when you actually do. Maybe you can no longer afford your home in your old district, but have been unable to sell it. Maybe you don’t have a lot of personal belongings, so that your home doesn’t look “lived in” enough. Maybe you have a unique parenting arrangement.

In any case, if you are presented with the notice from the school that your child is wrongfully enrolled, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the matter yourself. Schools, at times, look for what they want to hear and may use your statements against you. An attorney can assess what evidence is necessary to prove you are a resident. Even if you are in the wrong, an attorney may be able to work out a deal with the school on your behalf.

If you have questions about this or another criminal or school law matter, contact Matt Keenan at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160. See our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.com.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

'IM WANTED IN ANOTHER STATE!": THE LAW OF EXTRADITION

Things went sour in the state where you lived. You got into a little trouble with the law, so you came to Illinois. Now the Governor of your old state is asking Illinois to return you for trial on the charges you left behind.

What is extradition? What are your rights?

Extradition is the process in which another state can demand that Illinois return you for trial if you fled from justice after you were charged with treason, felony or some other crime. (725 Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 225/2.) Fleeing justice may mean that you left the state after you were charged with a crime, violated bail or probation or escaped from jail.

Extradition is a two-way street. Perhaps you committed a crime in Illinois, and then left to escape punishment. The Illinois Governor also has the right to demand your return.

For extradition, the demanding state must meet certain legal requirements. The demand must show that you were present in the demanding state when the crime was committed except you need not have been present if your actions in Illinois intentionally resulted in a crime within the demanding state’s borders. (725 ILCS 225/3 and /6.) In other words, if you ran a conspiracy from Illinois to embezzle funds and the actual crime took place in Missouri, Missouri could still demand extradition even though you never set foot in Missouri.

Except as above, the extradition demand must show that you fled the state and must contain either 1) an affidavit from the other state’s judge along with a copy of the document charging you with a crime, or 2) a judge’s affidavit along with a copy of the arrest warrant. If you fled after conviction, the demanding state must provide a copy of your conviction or sentence along with a statement that you escaped jail or violated your bail, probation or parole. (725 ILCS 225/3.)

Any demand must “substantially charge” you with having committed a crime under the other state’s laws. However, this does not mean that an Illinois judge can look into whether the demanding state has probable cause to arrest you.

If the Illinois governor decides to grant extradition, the governor can have an arrest warrant issued. A judge can also issue a warrant on the oath of any credible person. The arrest can be made without a warrant, however, upon reasonable information that you are accused in another state, but you must then be speedily brought before a judge.

If you are facing extradition, you have certain rights. You must be taken before a judge and informed of the demand for surrender and the charges against you. You have a right to an attorney. You may also apply for habeas corpus relief. This means that you can request a hearing to the test the legality of your arrest. (725 ILCS 225/10.) You may also appeal any Court order.

A judge may keep you in jail pending your return to the demanding state. However, the judge may also allow you to post bail provided the charges against you are not punishable by death or life imprisonment.

If you are facing extradition either into or out of Illinois, you are best advised to consult an experienced attorney as the rules can be very tricky. An attorney can help make sure the rules are followed, file petitions to test the legality of your arrest where necessary and argue for your release on bail.

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'CAN I LEAVE THE STATE?" AND OTHER BOND VIOLATIONS

You were really looking forward to that great vacation you had planned in the tropics. Unfortunately, when you were leaving a party, you got pulled over by the police. You took your vacation anyway, and now you have violated the conditions of your bail.

What are the rules and what can you do?

When you are charged with an offense, the Court can release you on your own recognizance or in exchange for paying a bond. Either way, the Court imposes certain conditions on your bond. You must appear at all court dates, you cannot break any criminal laws, and you cannot leave the state without court permission. Sometimes, the Court requires you to turn in all weapons along with your Firearm Owner’s Identification Card. Sometimes you must submit to a psychological evaluation or undergo treatment. You may be restrained from contacting certain people or appearing at certain places. You may not be allowed to drink or take drugs.

If you break a condition of your bond, you can be held in jail until your case is over. For example, if you miss a court date, the court can issue a bond forfeiture/warrant, meaning any money you paid is forfeit to the court and if you are picked up, you can be placed in jail. Another problem is if you have to leave the state either for a family emergency or to attend school or simply to take a vacation.

But the good news is there may be a solution. If you need to leave the state for any reason, an experienced criminal law attorney can petition the court to grant you permission to make your trip. If you inadvertently miss a court date, an attorney can ask the court to vacate the warrant against you so that you can remain free pending the resolution of your case. If you committed another crime, the State may petition to violate you on your bond. An attorney can help defend the underlying violation.

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

Source: 725 ILCS 110-10. See: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=072500050HArt%2E+110&ActID=1966&ChapterID=54&SeqStart=15600000&SeqEnd=18000000

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'MY CHILD WAS OUT TOO LATE!": CURFEW LAW IN ILLINOIS

Your son was at a school party. After the party, he and some friends went to the park and hung around until after midnight. That’s when the police arrived. Now your son is charged with violating curfew, and you may be penalized as a result.

In Illinois, a child under the age of 17 violates curfew when he or she lingers or stays in a public place or even a private business during curfew hours. Curfew hours are from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings. Violating curfew is a petty offense carrying a fine up to $500, and a judge can order the parent to perform community service. A parent or guardian can also be charged with a curfew violation if they knowingly allow a minor to violate curfew.

Fortunately, there are many exceptions to this rule. Your child can be out during curfew hours if they are with you. Your child can stand on the sidewalk next to your or your neighbor’s house (provided the neighbor doesn’t call the police if it’s by their house). You can send your child to the store or on another errand and your child can keep a job, provided they do not detour in route. Other defenses include riding in a motor vehicle in interstate travel; being involved in an emergency; attending an official school, religious, civic or recreational function supervised by adults or exercising First Amendment rights.

When it comes to driving, the curfew applies to licensed drivers under the age of 18, as opposed to 17. You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights. However, many of the same exceptions to curfew apply to your driver’s license as well. You may drive if 1) you are accompanied by your parent or guardian or running an errand at their request, 2) involved in an emergency, 3) driving to or from a religious, recreational or school activity without making stops, 4) driving on the interstate, 5) going to or from work, 6) are exercising First Amendment rights or 7) you are married or otherwise emancipated.

Municipalities are allowed to enact their own regulations. The Village of Winnetka simply adopted the state’s law. In Evanston, however, the fine can be as much as $750. Curfew hours have also been tightened by one hour from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Evanston law allows a parent to delegate someone over age 21 to accompany their child. In Kenilworth, the parent-approved companion need only be 18. Glencoe allows a minor to attend any assembly activity “for which a permit has been lawfully issued.”

While under Illinois law, the parent commits an offense if they knowingly allow a minor to violate the law, the Village of Wilmette also penalizes a parent or guardian who “knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows,” the minor to violate the law. Furthermore, if you are the owner or an employee of a business and you knowingly allow a minor to remain on your premises during curfew hours, you can be charged with a curfew violation. However, it is a defense if you notified the police when a minor is refusing to leave your premises.

If you are approached by police for a curfew violation, the officer must first ask your age and why you are out. Think carefully before responding. If you have a legitimate defense, the officer might not charge you. An officer may only charge you if they reasonably believe, based on your response, that you have no defense. However, without a defense, it may be better if you do not answer. An experienced attorney can better assist you if you have not already made admissions of guilt. Even if you have committed a curfew violation, an experienced criminal law attorney can help navigate the best strategy for your defense. If you are the parent, did you “knowingly” allow your child to violate curfew? At worst, an attorney may help negotiate a more beneficial plea agreement.

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

Also see our related school law blog at http://northshoreschoollaw.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, May 25, 2011

WARRANTLESS SEARCHES: THE U.S. SUPREME COURT MARIJUANA EVIDENCE CASE AND ILLINOIS LAW

You may have heard it on the news: U.S. Supreme Court rules that police can enter home because of marijuana smell. While this statement oversimplifies the court’s decision, Kentucky v King deals with the law of exigent circumstances, or when the police can enter your home without a warrant.

Under the Fourth Amendment, warrantless searches of a home are presumed unreasonable. Police may enter without a warrant, however, under exigent circumstances. In Illinois, these circumstances include: 1) recentness of the crime, 2) severity of the offense, particularly if it involved violence, 3) whether the suspect is armed, 4) likelihood of the suspect’s escape, 5) whether there was time to get a warrant, 6) a strong reason to believe the suspect is on the premises, and 7) hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect. Under federal case law, another exigent circumstance is the fear that evidence will be destroyed. This is the issue at the heart of Kentucky v King.

In Kentucky v King, undercover police set up a controlled buy of cocaine from a suspected drug dealer. After making the deal, officers moved in on the defendant who ran into an apartment off a breezeway. The officers followed and smelled marijuana burning from the apartment on the left. (The suspect was later found in the apartment on the right, but the Court does not address the issue of whether officers entered the wrong apartment.) Fearing evidence was being destroyed, the officers knocked on the door and announced they were police. The officers thought they heard people moving around, so they kicked in the door. Once inside, they spotted drugs in plain view and arrested the people in the apartment.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the officers created the exigent circumstance by knocking on the door and announcing their presence. Police cannot rely on exigent circumstances to avoid getting a warrant if they themselves create the circumstances. The Supreme Court held that knocking and saying “Police, police, police” was proper and does not create the exigency. Justice Ginsburg disagreed stating that the police had time to get a warrant and that police may now “knock, listen, then break down the door, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”

Rightly or wrongly decided, the Supreme Court case will likely have little impact on Illinois law. Illinois courts already apply a multi-pronged test for exigent circumstances, and the outcome will vary with the facts of each case.

If you are the subject of a warrantless search or have been charged with a crime, contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.. An experienced criminal law attorney can help evaluate your case to see if there are grounds to suppress the results of a police search.

For the complete Supreme Court case, see http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-1272.pdf

(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 13, 2011

'BUT IT'S HIS GUN!": WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH POSSESSING A FIREARM

The police are at the door. Your boyfriend was involved in some kind of criminal activity—maybe it was drug dealing or robbery. Somehow the police found a gun, either in your home or in your car. Now both you and your boyfriend are charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

What is the law on gun ownership these days? What can happen to you? What can you do? The answer partly depends on whether your offense took place in the City of Chicago. While Chicago was forced to throw out its 28-year old handgun ban after a 2010 Supreme Court ruling made it uneforceable, the City instituted a new law. This new law has been challenged, but for now remains on the books.

In Illinois, you may be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, if you carry in your car or concealed on your person a taser, stun gun, pistol, revolver or other firearm unless you are on your own property. You may transport your guns if they are broken down in a non functioning state, are not immediately accessible or are unloaded and enclosed in a case. (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4).) You also may not possess a silencer or sawed off shotgun, which is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail and up to $25,000 fine. Possessing a machine gun is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. Penalties are even more severe if you had your gun in a bar or liquor store, a government building or a school.

In Chicago, each registered gun owner may have one gun which is assembled and operable in their home, but you may not take it outside your home such as on your porch or in your back yard or garage. Each offense carries a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and a 20 to 90 day jail term. Each day of possession is a separate offense. Subsequent offenses carry fines of $5,000 to $10,000 and 30 days to 6 months in jail. All firearms must be registered.

If you are charged with having an illegal gun, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your case. Do not discuss your case with anyone else either in person, by telephone or by electronic means. Any statements made to police or a third party can be used against you. “I told my boyfriend not to leave that thing lying around our living room,” may seem reasonable to you but may be interpreted as an admission of guilt by the State.

An experienced attorney can evaluate the evidence in your case to help prepare your defense. As in most criminal cases, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the state prove that you possessed the gun? Did you have permission to have the gun in someone else’s home where it was found? Do you work in security and have a legitimate reason to carry the gun?

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

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

'BUT I WAS JUST VISITING!": WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH BRINGING CONTRABAND INTO A PRISON OR JAIL

Your loved one is in trouble. You went to see them at the police lockup or in the jail. Or maybe it’s just visiting day at the prison. You knew you couldn’t bring in drugs or weapons, but all you had was your cell phone. Unfortunately, you also let your loved one make a call. Now you are charged with bringing contraband into a penal institution, a Class 1 Felony.

What is contraband under the law? What can you do?

Recent changes to Illinois law have made it a Class 1 Felony to bring into or even possess electronic contraband at a penal institution such as a jail, prison, police lock up or even a halfway house. Electronic contraband is defined as “any electronic, video recording device, computer, or cellular communications equipment, including, but not limited to, cellular telephones, cellular telephone batteries, videotape recorders, pagers, computers, and computer peripheral equipment brought into or possessed in a penal institution without the written authorization of the Chief Administrative Officer.” ( See 720 ILCS 5/31A-1.1. or http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/072000050K31A-1.1.htm. )

In one recent Chicago case, a volunteer legal aid attorney was charged with a Class 1 Felony for bringing in a cell phone to a police lock up. (See http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-02/news/ct-met-lawyer-charged-phone-0403-20110402_1_police-interview-police-stations-criminal-defense-lawyers .)

Besides electronic equipment, you cannot bring in alcohol, drugs, hypodermic syringes, firearms, devices that defeat security mechanisms such as handcuff keys or lock picks and tools that can cut through metal. Bringing in drugs, syringes, weapons, lock picks, metal cutters and electronic devices are Class 1 Felonies punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. Alcohol is a Class 4 Felony (1 to 3 years), while cannabis or marijuana is a Class 3 (2 to 5 years). Firearms, ammunition or explosive devices carries the stiffest charge with a Class X Felony (minimum of 6 years).

To prove that you brought in contraband, the State must show that you knowingly and without authorization brought the contraband into a penal institution or caused someone else to do it, or left the contraband where an inmate could get it. To prove possession, the State need only show that you had the contraband regardless of your intention. Whether you are charged with possession or bringing in, the penalties are the same. Therefore, even if you inadvertently brought your cell phone into the lock up, you could be charged with the Class 1 felony.

Do you have a defense? As with most criminal charges, the State must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal attorney can assess the evidence against you to probe for holes in the State’s case. As an element of bringing in contraband, the state must show that you did it knowingly. With possession, the intent is not required, however, you may still have a defense if you had authorization either by regulation or court order.

If you are charged with bringing in or possessing contraband, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. Do not make any statements to the police or to anyone else. Any attempt to defend yourself could backfire. Do not discuss your case on any electronic media.

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

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

RESISTING ARREST: BIG TROUBLE

You and your spouse were fighting again. Your spouse called the police. When the police came, you lost your head and struggled with them, actually causing one officer to sprain themselves. Although your spouse dropped the original complaint against you, you are still charged with resisting arrest.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

Resisting arrest is never a good idea. There are few offenses that enrage a prosecutor or a judge more. In Illinois, a person who knowingly resists a peace officer, fire fighter or correctional institution employee is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Unlike the vast majority of other misdemeanors, the mandatory sentence for this charge is a conditional discharge rather than a supervision. As such, a finding of guilty is a criminal conviction, one that cannot be expunged or cleaned from your record. A charge of resisting arrest may not sound as ominous as many other criminal offenses in Illinois, but it is difficult to think of another misdemeanor charge that can create such a permanent blot on your criminal record.

If this weren’t enough, any sentence against you must be enhanced by a penalty of at least 48 hours in jail or 100 days community service. And you can be convicted of resisting arrest even if the original reason for your arrest gets dismissed.

If you injured an officer while resisting arrest, you can be in even bigger trouble. In Illinois, if you are the proximate cause to an officer’s injury, you may be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

If you are charged with resisting arrest, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can help work out the best strategy to defend your case. The State must still prove that you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you know these were police or were they undercover? Were you actually resisting or are the reports of your behavior exaggerated?

Even if the evidence against you is rock solid, an experienced attorney may help work out a better plea bargain than you could do on your own. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances and your prior record, an attorney can get a dismissal in exchange for time served or community service.

If you are charged with resisting arrest or another crime, you should not speak about your case to anyone other than your attorney. Any statements you make to an officer or a third party can be used against you and can harm any future defense. You should also refrain from communicating electronically about your case, either through texting, email or Facebook-type pages.

If you are in police custody, a recent Supreme Court ruling requires that you say “I wish to remain silent. I wish to speak to an attorney,” in order to protect your Miranda rights. Otherwise, the police can continue to question you, and any statements you make can be used against you.

If you have a question about resisting arrest or another criminal matter, please 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.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"CAN I HELP HIM?:" WHEN YOU ARE ASKED TO CONCEAL EVIDENCE

Your boyfriend just called. He didn’t want to get into the details over the phone, but the police are after him. He wants to know if he can come over and give you something to hold. Or maybe he wants you to go to the trunk of his car and throw something out. You want to help him, but you’re afraid for yourself.

And with good reason. In Illinois, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine for obstructing justice. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/31-4.) A person obstructs justice when he or she “destroys, alters, conceals or disguises physical evidence, plants false evidence, furnishes false information….” Obstructing justice also means hiding or leaving the state if you have material knowledge about a crime or causing a witness who has material knowledge to hide or leave the state.

If your loved one does call for help, think carefully. Throwing out the drugs or hiding the money from a crime could land you in just about as much trouble as he or she is. The best way to help your loved one is through immediately consulting attorney. An experienced criminal law attorney can evaluate your loved one’s options. At times, it may be better to turn oneself in under an attorney’s guidance than to wait for the police to make an arrest. In that way, your loved one may time an arrest to avoid spending a weekend in jail waiting for bond court. An attorney can also best advise your loved one how to protect his or her rights during a police investigation.

If you are charged with obstructing justice or think you might be, you should immediately contact an attorney on your own behalf to obtain guidance on how to proceed. Do not speak with anyone other than an attorney about your situation. Any statements made to police or a third party can be used against you. Do not discuss your situation on any electronic media such as Facebook or email. If you are in custody, tell the police “I wish to remain silent. I wish to have an attorney,” in order to trigger your Miranda rights.

If you have questions about a criminal offense, 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, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Palatine, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

THE NEW ILLINOIS ORGANIZED RETAIL THEFT LAW

Starting June 1, 2011, Illinois will have tougher laws against organized retail theft rings. In addition to criminal penalties such as fines and jail time, the new law allows a judge to seize a defendant’s money or property.

The new law targets organized crime rings by expanding the definition of a “financial crimes enterprise” to include reselling or trading stolen merchandise.

To be guilty of a “continuing financial crimes enterprise,” you must knowingly commit three or more separate crimes against property (including computer, retail, wire or identity theft) within an 18 month period. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 5/16H-50.) For an organizer, you can be charged when you agree with another person to the commission of 3 or more such crimes within 18 months. (720 ILCS 5/16H-55.) The three separate offenses need not be committed with the same person.

If you are charged with organizing or committing a financial crimes enterprise offense, do not speak with anyone other than an attorney about your situation. Any statements made to police or a third party can be used against you. Do not discuss your situation on any electronic media such as Facebook or email. If you are in custody, tell the police “I wish to remain silent. I wish to have an attorney,” in order to trigger your Miranda rights.

As with any offense, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can help evaluate your situation to present a defense. Even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against you, an attorney may assist you in obtaining a more favorable plea bargain.

If you have questions about a criminal or traffic matter, 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, February 16, 2011

I HAVE A FELONY: THE PRELIMINARY EXAM

It was a nightmare. The police came to speak with you, they left, they came back and next thing, you were arrested for a felony. Fortunately, your family made bond. Now, your first court date is coming up. Your case is set for the preliminary hearing.

What is a preliminary hearing? Why is it important? What are your options?

The preliminary examination or hearing usually takes place about one month after your bond hearing. At that time, a judge will hear testimony, usually from police, to ascertain whether there was probable cause to arrest you. If the court finds probable cause, the case will then be assigned to the appropriate courtroom dealing with your type of offense. However, if the court finds the officers lacked probable cause, the case is dismissed, and you are probably home free.

A finding of probable cause does not mean you are guilty. The court will normally hear your plea of guilty or innocent on the next court date. The preliminary hearing is not a miniature trial. Your side need not present witnesses, nor is it generally desirable to do so. Usually, the less the state knows about your case the better: Any testimony from your side can be used to impeach your witnesses later. By the same token, your attorney may be able to use the officers’ testimony from the preliminary hearing to impeach them at trial.

The odds are rather high that the court will find probable cause. The burden of proof for probable cause is not a difficult one for the state to make. An experienced criminal law attorney, however, can still be critical even at this juncture. Your attorney can question the state’s witnesses in order to highlight weaknesses in their cse. On limited occasions, those weaknesses are enough to get the case dismissed.

An attorney can also help navigate the best strategy for your situation. For example, the state’s attorney may offer a plea agreement that is too good to refuse. Perhaps the evidence against you on the felony charge is very strong, but the state will reduce charges to an expungeable-type misdemeanor.

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.

(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 9, 2011

“BUT IT’S JUST A LITTLE WEED!”: WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH POSSESSING AND/OR DEALING MARIJUANA

You like to relax every once and while, and sometimes you even make a little money on the side selling pot. Unfortunately, one of your clients turned out to be an undercover cop. You are now facing charges for the possession and delivery of marijuana.

What can happen to you, and what can you do?

While controversy abounds about whether marijuana is any worse than drinking alcohol, state law treats marijuana possession as a crime. The degree of the offense along with the penalty ranges with the amount of cannabis. If you have less than 2.5 grams of any substance containing cannabis, you can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days. From there, the offense level steps up a degree for each increase in quantity. For example, 10 to 30 grams is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, 30 to 500 grams is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years, and possessing more than 5,000 grams merits a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years. (Source: 720 ILCS 550/4.)

The charges stiffen if you deal or intend to deal cannabis. Then, under 2.5 grams is a Class B misdemeanor while 10 to 30 grams is a Class 4 felony, 30 to 500 grams is a Class 3 felony with a 2 to 5 year sentence and up to a $50,000 fine, and more than 5,000 grams becomes a Class X felony punishable by 6 to 30 years and up to a $200,000fine. (Source: 720 ILCS 550/5.) The charges also increase if this is not your first offense or if you should commit your offense within 1,000 feet of a school or any conveyance used by a school such as a school bus. (See 720 ILCS 550/5.2.)

So what can you do? As in other crimes, the state must still prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, the state must prove that you knowingly possessed or delivered the marijuana. Did you know what it was? Does it belong to someone else? Did someone else have access to the place where the marijuana was found? Case law on these questions can be very fact specific. An experienced criminal law attorney can help determine whether you have a viable defense.

As with other offenses, police must have probable cause to search your premises or make an arrest. Was an informant involved and how reliable was that informant? Did any search warrant properly describe the premises where the marijuana was found? Again, an experienced criminal attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your arrest to help prepare your defense.

Even if police followed proper procedure, and the evidence is strongly against you, an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement.

If you have questions about these charges or other criminal matters, please 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.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CAN THEY SEARCH MY CAR? YOUR RIGHTS DURING A TRAFFIC STOP (BEFORE AN ARREST)

You were a little preoccupied while driving home late one night and missed a stop sign. Unfortunately, a police officer spotted you and pulled you over. After taking your license, the officer asked you to step out of the car. Suddenly, he began questioning you and searching your car. At this point, he turned up some marijuana seeds, and you are now on your way to police lock up.

Can the officer do that? What are your rights?

Generally, police can search your car without a warrant and before an arrest as long as they have probable cause to believe your car contains illegal articles such as drugs, weapons or burglary tools. Police can search anywhere in your vehicle, even by opening containers. Be advised that making “furtive”movements may be enough to trigger that probable cause, particularly if you look like you’re trying to hide something.

Unfortunately, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have chipped away at the rights of drivers to guard against police searches. The Supreme Court recently held that you do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in contraband. For example, police are now allowed to have a trained dog sniff your car for narcotics during a traffic stop without your consent because you have no privacy right in possessing illegal substances.

Furthermore, under recent Supreme Court law, police do not need a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to question you about topics unrelated to your traffic stop as long as this questioning does not unduly prolong the time you are stopped. Before this decision, police could not change the fundamental nature of a traffic stop by questioning you on unrelated matters without this reasonable suspicion, but this protection was overturned.

If you are stopped by police, an officer should, but may not always, ask if he or she can search your car. You should always refuse any request to search. The officer may continue the search even without your consent. Your refusal, however, may later help your attorney bring a motion to quash the evidence turned up by the search.

You should also refrain from speaking to the police or answering any questions except about your name and address.

Once you have been arrested, the police may search the parts of your car that you could access if they reasonably believe they may find evidence related to the crime. If you are arrested for speeding, the police may lack the justification they need to search your passenger compartment, but if you are arrested for DUI, the police can search for alcohol.
If you have questions about this or another criminal law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related post on our DUI blog at Can the Police Search My Car? Your Rights During a Traffic Stop?".

(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, January 5, 2011

“THE POLICE ARE AT MY DOOR!”: WHEN THE POLICE HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT

You have just settled down to watch your favorite TV show, when there is a knock at the door. You ask who it is, and hear “Open up, police!”

Do the police need a warrant? What are your rights?

Under Illinois law, the police must request a search warrant from a judge to search your home for evidence except under certain circumstances. The police do not need a warrant if they have probable cause, and there are exigent circumstances, such as an emergency or the reasonable belief that someone inside needs aid. Other exigent circumstances include how recently the crime was committed, whether the suspect is armed or whether the suspect might escape if not quickly apprehended.

After police obtain a warrant, they must “knock and announce” their presence, unless they reasonably believe that doing so would be dangerous to themselves or others or would allow evidence to be destroyed.

Once the police knock at your door, you may ask to see the warrant. Any warrant must be particular and describe exactly what the police are looking for. The police are not allowed to go on a fishing expedition. Look to see what type of evidence they are seeking. For example, if they are looking for a stolen car or a suspect, they may not search your medicine cabinet, since the items they are seeking are too large to fit that small a space. The warrant must describe your premises reasonably correctly. If they have a warrant for your house and you have an unattached shed, they may not search the unattached shed.

The police, however, may take what they see in plain view. If they see drugs lying on the table, they can seize that evidence even if they were looking for a stolen TV or a person. One California case even held that police may look for marijuana plants growing in a fenced-in yard by flying over in an airplane!

If you have questions about a search warrant or other criminal matters, please 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.)