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.)