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.)