Monday, December 17, 2012

“I DIDN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING”: HOW YOU CAN BE CONVICTED UNDER ILLINOIS ACCOUNTABILITY LAW

You were at a party and a fight broke out. You got involved and even threw a punch or two. But you hardly touched the victim, and it was someone else who landed the victim in the hospital. Now you are charged with aggravated battery.

Can you face the same charges as the guy who did the real damage?

Yes. Under Illinois accountability law, you can still be convicted even if you weren’t the one who really hurt the victim. If you engaged “in a common criminal design,” you can be responsible for anything that happens in carrying out that design. People v Boguslaw Czapla.

To convict you, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: 1) you solicited, aided, abetted, agreed or tried to help someone commit a crime 2) either before or during the crime and 3) that you intended to do so. This is how a defendant who solicits a murder can be convicted of that murder even if he or she wasn’t near the crime scene.

If you are charged with a crime, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case for the best possible defense. Did you intend to help commit a crime? Can the state prove you were involved? Even if the evidence is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse can often 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.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SIGN!" THE LAW ON FORGED CHECKS IN ILLINOIS

Your boyfriend asked you to cash a check for him. He signed the check over to you, and you endorsed it at the bank. It turned out the check was stolen, and you are now facing criminal charges.

Can you be convicted if you didn’t know the check was a fraud? What can you do?

In Illinois, forgery includes when a person knowingly and with intent to defraud “makes a false document or alters any document to make it false and that document is apparently capable of defrauding another” (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/17-3). Your boyfriend clearly has broken the law. He made the check knowing it was false with the intent of defrauding the bank—and maybe even yourself.

But what about you? All you did was sign. Are you now facing conviction for 2 to 5 years in jail for a Class 3 felony?

Under Illinois law simply endorsing a check is enough to make or alter a document. The key element is whether the forgery “was made for the purpose of and is capable of defrauding.” People v Brown. Your endorsing the check made it capable of defrauding, since without the endorsement, the bank might not have cashed it.

Is your situation hopeless? Not necessarily. If you are charged with forgery, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with other criminal offenses, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact you cashed the check without knowing it was false or having an intent to defraud the bank may be a defense.

Forgery is not limited to bad checks. It can include falsifying an academic degree or some other document. Forgery also includes 1) issuing or delivering a document that you know is false, 2) possessing an altered document that you intend to deliver, 3) unlawfully using someone else’s digital signature or signature device.

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, December 3, 2012

"I DIDN'T KNOW THE GUN WAS THERE!": UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF A FIREARM IN ILLINOIS

The police came after your roommate, and in the process, found a pistol in your closet. You didn’t even know the gun was there, but now you are charged with a felony.

Can you be convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm? What can you do?

As of January 1, 2012, Illinois law prohibits possessing a firearm or ammunition if a) you are under 18 and have a weapon that could be concealed; b) you are under age 21 and have been convicted of a misdemeanor, c) you are a narcotics addict; d) you have been mentally disabled or e) you possess an explosive bullet. (720 ILCS 5/24-2.1) Unlawfully possessing a firearm under these circumstances is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year, unless you have a handgun, which is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 4 years.

In Illinois, a convicted felon can also be charged with a Class 3 Felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years. A street gang member can be charged with a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 10 years.

As with other crimes, the prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They must show that you either actually or constructively possessed the gun. Actual possession is easy to prove. Finding the gun on your person could be enough.

But what if the gun was in your car or your home and its ownership is unclear? To prove constructive possession, the state must show that you knew about the gun and that you had immediate and exclusive control where the gun was found. Therefore, if the gun was buried in the back of your closet, and your boyfriend regularly used that closet, you might be able to prove the gun wasn’t yours.

If you are charged with illegal possession of a weapon, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your case in the best possible light. Did the police have grounds to stop you or search you? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney, who is respected at the court house, can often work out 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.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

BIG TROUBLE: THE CRIME OF ARSON IN ILLINOIS

It seemed like a good idea at the time. You spread some gasoline inside a house or maybe it was an abandoned building or a car. In any case, the fire department figured out pretty quickly that the fire was intentional, and the police came knocking at your door.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

Arson is among the most serious crimes that you can commit in Illinois. Setting fire to someone’s property, be it a building, a car or some other personal property, without the owner’s consent is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in jail. If you torch someone else’s residence or a church, the charge is bumped up to a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years.

Arson can be particularly complicated if other crimes are caused by the original act. For example, if someone was injured as a result of the fire, you could be charged with attempted murder.

Arson includes damages caused by fire or explosives. Even if you own the property you burned, it is still arson if you intended to defraud an insurance company or if you lacked authority to damage the property.

If you are charged with arson, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. You should not talk about your case with anyone, and you should refuse to answer questions from police. An attorney can review your case to determine the best possible strategy for your defense.

As in most crimes, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Can they prove it was you who set the fire? The law requires that you acted knowingly. Was the fire an accident? Did you have a right to set it?

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: 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/20.

(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 29, 2012

WHEN DO I GET MY MIRANDA RIGHTS? POLICE CUSTODY DEFINED

You’ve seen the police shows. After cornering the suspect, the cop begins to read the Miranda rights: “You have the right to remain silent…. You have the right to an attorney….”

But when is the officer required to read you your rights? Before asking your name? When you are stopped for a traffic ticket? When you are handcuffed and put in a squad car?

The Miranda Supreme Court case requires that these warnings be given when an individual is in custody and before questioning begins. In other words, if a reasonable person in your circumstances would believe that they are not free to go, then the police must read the rights before further questioning. So, how do you know if you are free to go?

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules, but there are guidelines. Whether the police have you in custody can depend on the facts of your case. Illinois statute defines custodial interrogations as “any interrogation during which (i) a reasonable person in the subject's position would consider himself or herself to be in custody and (ii) during which a question is asked that is reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.” 725 ILCS 5/103-2.1(f).

The Illinois Supreme Court further defined whether a person would feel free to go:

“1) the location, time, length, mood and mode of the questioning; 2) the number of police officers present during interrogation; 3) the presence or absence of family and friends of the individual; 4) any indicia of a formal arrest procedure, such as the show of weapons or force, physical restraining, booking or fingerprinting; 5) the manner by which the individual arrived at the place of questioning and 6) the age, intelligence and mental makeup of the accused.”

(People v Harris citing People v Slater).

If you are stopped by the police and unsure if you want to answer questions, ask “Am I free to go?” If the answer is no, then it’s time for the officer to read your rights. Once you are in custody, be sure to say: “I want to remain silent. I want an attorney.” Otherwise, the questioning can continue. See our related post: Your Right To Remain Silent Under New Supreme Court Law.

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 8, 2012

"THE OFFICER JUST SAW IT!": PLAIN VIEW EXCEPTION TO POLICE SEARCHING WITHOUT A WARRANT

You failed to use your turn signal so the police officer pulled you over. After making the stop, the officer noticed some spoons and straws sticking out of your visor. The officer opened the visor. As it turns out, you stashed a little cocaine up there too. Now you are under arrest.

Can you fight the results of the search?

In Illinois, the police generally need a warrant to search you, your home or your car unless they spot evidence in plain view. The police must be somewhere they have a right to go. They cannot barge into your bedroom and look around. But if they stop you for speeding and notice a bag of pot on the front seat of your car, the police may have grounds to search.

While courts usually find a reason to uphold a search, not everything a cop does is permitted. In a recent Illinois appeals case, the officer stopped a defendant for throwing a can out his car window. When the officer ordered the defendant out of the car, she noticed a knotted plastic baggie sticking out of his pocket. The baggie turned out to contain drugs. Nevertheless, the appeals court held that spotting the baggie did not justify the search.

The court noted that objects such as spoons, straws, mirrors and baggies are often used in drug dealing. Allowing police to search based on the presence of one of these items would lead to the type of random searching forbidden by the Constitution. The police have a basis to search only if the incriminating nature of the baggie or spoon is immediately apparent, for example, some of the powder is visible in the baggie.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If the officer’s search is questionable, an attorney may be able to bring a motion before the judge to have the results of the search thrown out.

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: People v Cesar Garcia.

(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 1, 2012

MY GIRLFRIEND LET THEM IN! WHEN A VISITOR LETS POLICE SEARCH YOUR HOME

You had some errands to run so you left your house. Your girlfriend often stays with you. She even has a key. Or maybe it was a visiting relative or a housekeeper or someone who watches your child. In any case, the police knocked on your door, and that person agreed to a search. The police found the drugs, and now you are charged with possession/dealing.

Can you get evidence from the search thrown out? After all, the person who consented doesn’t live in your home.

The answer depends on the particular facts of your situation. Illinois law considers how much authority the non-resident had over your home. Is the person more like a neighbor with a key or more like someone who spends a lot of nights? If it’s your girlfriend who has the run of your house, then the search is valid. If it’s a neighbor with a key or a house cleaner, the court would be less likely to uphold their consent. The neighbor or the house cleaner are generally only authorized to invade your privacy to perform their particular purpose. For example, a housekeeper does not have a general right to invade your privacy except as necessary to clean your house. A neighbor with a key is not an invitation to search your drawers.

Illinois courts suppressed a search where a former roommate no longer lived with Defendant even though she sometimes stayed overnight. However, the Court recently upheld the consent of a niece who babysat the defendant’s child and had authority to go into the closet where the cocaine was found.

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to see if the search can be overturned and the evidence suppressed. Even if the search is valid, there may be other avenues for your defense. Perhaps the police lacked probable cause to search in the first place. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney respected in your courthouse may obtain 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.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

THE CRIME OF COMPUTER FRAUD IN ILLINOIS

You’ve always had a knack for technology. So when you needed a little cash, it was just too tempting to hack into the company computer and help yourself. You figured you’d never get caught, but now the police have charged you with computer fraud.

In Illinois, you commit computer fraud when you knowingly access a computer intending to defraud someone or take their money. This could be as simple as emailing a scam. Computer fraud can also be committed through destroying someone’s computer or altering or deleting their programs while intending to deceive or defraud someone.

If you accessed the computer as part of a scheme to defraud, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail. If you destroyed or deleted programs, you can face a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail. Stealing money via computer is a Class 4 felony if you take less than $1,000, a Class 3 felony if you take $1,000 to $50,000 and a Class 2, punishable by 3 to 7 years, if you take more. The State may also seize your property. There is also a substantial risk of federal charges if interstate fraud is alleged.

If you are charged with computer fraud, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone in person or in cyberspace. Anything you post can be used as evidence against you.

An experienced criminal law attorney can evaluate your case in order to present the best possible defense. The computer fraud statute requires that the crime be committed knowingly and with intent to defraud. As with other crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps you lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime. This is a relatively new area of law, and prosecutors may be reluctant to bring a case to trial when confronted with an aggressive 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.

Source: 720 ILCS 5/17-50. See: Computer Fraud Statute.

(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, August 20, 2012

NEW ILLINOIS LAW CRACKS DOWN ON SPEEDERS ONCE AGAIN

A new Illinois law has cracked down on speeders even more.

Speeding first became criminalized as a misdemeanor in 2011. Driving more than 31 miles over the limit was upgraded to a Class B Misdemeanor, while speeding 40 and over became a Class A. While a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail, a Class A is punishable by up to one year. Both carry maximum fines of $2,500.

In a bid to crack down on lead-footed drivers further, the new law bars you from receiving supervision if you speed over 25 miles in an urban district and more than 30 miles over on a highway. Supervision is essentially a warning to stay out of trouble and is not considered a conviction for criminal law or insurance purposes. Now, if you plead or are found guilty of speeding over 25 miles in an urban area, the judge must convict you.

If you are charged with a speeding or other traffic or criminal offense, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case to see if you have a defense. Even if you do not, an attorney who enjoys a good reputation in the court house may be able to obtain a better plea arrangement than you can 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, August 13, 2012

HOW LITTLE PROBLEMS BECOME BIG PROBLEMS: WHEN A PETTY OFFENSE TURNS INTO A MISDEMEANOR OR FELONY

A man was walking down the middle of a road instead of the sidewalk or shoulder. In Illinois, you must use a sidewalk where provided or at least walk on the shoulder. The man was arrested for a petty offense, comparable to a minor traffic violation. Back at the police station, the man was searched, and the police found cocaine in his sock.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently upheld the arrest and search of the man in this case, even though the arrest was for a mere petty offense, punishable only by a fine. The Court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the results of the search, that is the cocaine, and the man went to jail on felony charges for 3 years. People v Fitzpatrick.

More commonly, you could be stopped for blowing a stop sign or failing to signal. In one Illinois Supreme Court case, a driver was stopped because she did not have a rear registration light. The officer brought a drug-sniffing dog to the scene, and drugs were found. Under a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision, police are allowed to change the nature of a traffic stop as long as it does not unduly delay the length of the traffic stop. In other words, police can stop you for going through a red light and then question you about drugs or weapons as long as the stop doesn’t last too long.

In the Illinois case, the Court held that the 15 minutes it took to get the drug sniffing dog did not unreasonably prolong the traffic stop. That means in 15 minutes, your blown-out tail light could turn into serious felony charges if officers find the wrong kind of drugs.

After being charged with a DUI or other crime, many clients believe they will be extra careful and will avoid trouble. But the above cases show how easy it is to get trapped by law enforcement on a minor offense that leads to big trouble for you. Besides being charged with the new crime, you can also be violated on your existing offense, giving you a triple whammy.

If the new offense aggravates any of your old offenses, your misdemeanor could turn into a felony with more severe jail time.

If you are charged with a criminal, traffic or DUI offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate the facts of your situation to look for weaknesses in the state’s case and help you present the best defense possible. The state must still prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able 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.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

THEY'RE WATCHING!: HOW STORES COMBAT RETAIL THEFT

Retail theft can cost U.S. retailers about $10 billion a year. Because of that, stores use a variety of methods to stop you from swiping their merchandise.

Stores such as Whole Foods may use plain clothes security. You don’t realize that shopper down the aisle is really keeping an eye on your behavior. Are you watching the cashier more than you are shopping? Do you seem nervous? Are you wearing unusually warm or bulky clothes on a hot day?

Other stores, such as Macy’s, use security cameras. These cameras are not stationery. Store personnel zoom in on you if you seem suspicious, and they can pick up a surprising amount of detail.

Stores also rely on security tags to set off alarms if you leave the premises, two-way mirrors to prevent theft in the dressing room, and security alert codes to let store personnel know of a suspicious shopper.

No matter how you are caught, an arrest for retail theft can be embarrassing and scary. Illinois law takes retail theft very seriously. Stealing more than $300 in merchandise bumps you up to a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in jail. Less than $300 is still a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year for a first offense, and a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years for subsequent offenses. You can also get sued in civil court for the cost of the merchandise plus attorney fees.

If you are arrested for retail theft, call an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not attempt to explain yourself to store security or police. What you think sounds like a reasonable explanation may become a confession to the crime. Do not discuss your case with third parties, or they could be called in as witnesses against you.

An experienced criminal law attorney will review your case to determine the best strategy for your defense. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to get you 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.)

Source: http://retail.about.com.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NEW ILLINOIS LAW MAKES RECORDING DRUG CRIMES EASIER

Generally speaking, before undercover police can record their dealings with you, they must persuade a judge to issue a warrant. But a new Illinois law just made that process a little faster and easier. For certain crimes, police need only get an OK from the prosecutor.

Effective January 1, 2013, the new law only applies to the recording of drug crimes or felonies using force committed during a drug crime.

From the viewpoint of criminal defense attorneys, this change could make it much harder to protect the rights of clients. A judge is traditionally required to sign a warrant in order to ensure that an objective party has reviewed the facts and finds sufficient reason to intrude on your privacy. The new law removes that safeguard in favor of a prosecutor who values being tough on crime above all other interests.

On the other hand, recordings can at times help the defense. In numerous DUI cases, for example, the police videos of field sobriety tests may show a client speaking clearly and performing better than the officer reported. Extensive recordings may tend to raise doubts about the guilt of a client.

If you are charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to see whether police violated your rights and to formulate the best 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.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"I STAYED TOO LONG!:" CRIMINAL TRESPASS TO PROPERTY IN ILLINOIS

You went to a meeting or a party. Things got a little out of hand, and you were asked to leave. Since you weren’t the one making trouble, you refused to go. Next thing you know, you were arrested for criminal trespass to property.

Criminal trespass to property is a Class B misdemeanor in Illinois, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. You commit criminal trespass if a) you illegally enter a building, such as by sneaking into an empty house, b) you go onto someone’s land after the owner warned you to stay away, such as with a no trespassing sign, or c) you stay on someone’s property after you were asked to leave.

If your trespass takes place inside a car, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Farmers also have additional protection. Trespassing on fields with crops or potential crops, livestock areas, orchards or barns is also a Class A misdemeanor.

A recent well-publicized Skokie case (People v Gregory Koger) involved the Ethical Humanist Society Center. The defendant was asked to stop videotaping inside the Center. He continued taping and was asked to leave. Witnesses testified that he struggled with officers, and after warnings, was pepper sprayed. After hearing both state and defense witnesses, a jury found Defendant guilty on all counts. Neither party disputed that the Center was private property.

The Appeals Court dismissed defendant’s contention that he was not guilty because he intended to leave. A charge of Criminal Trespass only requires evidence that you remained on the premises after you were asked to go. Defendant also argued that another person was recording, and no signs warned against recording. The appellate court held that regardless, Defendant had been asked to go.

If you are charged with criminal trespass, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can evaluate your case for a defense. Were you in a public building that you reasonably believed was open? Were you attempting to clean up an abandoned property? Was there an emergency?

Do not discuss your case with police or a third party. What might sound like a reasonable explanation to you give the state evidence to convict 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.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

YOU SHOULDN'T TALK AND NEITHER SHOULD YOUR LAWYER!

A standard rule in criminal defense is that clients should not talk about their case to police or third parties. Anything they say can be used as evidence against them. But it’s surprising how many lawyers in high profile cases will ignore this rule to get a little extra publicity for themselves.

Whether you are as innocent as a baby or guilty as John Wayne Gacy, your lawyer has a duty to advocate for your best interests, not the lawyers’ own. Attorneys who make statements to the press could help seal their clients’ convictions.

Case in point: Jerry Sandusky. The Penn State coach was convicted of several counts of child sexual abuse. That might be the right verdict, but his attorney, Joseph Amendola, did not help his case. Amendola told the press he would be surprised if his client was acquitted of all charges: “I would die of a heart attack—shocked—if he was acquitted on all of the charges.” Sandusky’s Attorney Expects Him to Be Convicted on Some Counts. Even worse, Amendola allowed an unprepared Sandusky to appear on nationally televised Bob Costas, an interview that ended up as prosecution evidence.

George Zimmerman’s initial attorneys did him no favors. Before he was charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman’s attorneys held a press conference announcing that they could no longer represent him because they did not know where their client was, thought he had left the state of Florida, and that he wasn’t emotionally in control. Jeffrey Toobin on Zimmerman lawyers.

Almost every experienced criminal defense attorney has inherited cases from another lawyer who did not respect his or her client’s privacy and incriminated their client. If your lawyer seems more interested in press coverage than your best interests, it might be time to hire someone else. 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 12, 2012

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY FOR A BOND HEARING IN ILLINOIS?

The answer is yes. An experienced criminal law attorney can present your situation in the light most favorable to a judge, which could mean the difference between waiting for your trial inside the county jail or out.

If you are arrested for a crime in Illinois, there are three types of bonds, an I-bond, D-bond and C-bond. If you are charged with a lesser offense, you might be released on an I-bond at the time of your arrest. An I-bond means you do not have to pay money or wait for a court hearing. You are allowed to go on your own recognizance.

If your charges are more serious or you have a past criminal history, you may be held in jail until the next business morning for a bond hearing. At that hearing, you may be ordered to pay either a D- or C-bond, or the judge may refuse to grant bond at all so that you must remain in jail. A D-bond means you must pay 10% of whatever amount the judge sets as bond. For example, if the bond is $10,000, you must come up with $1,000 to be released from jail. There are no bail bondsmen in the State of Illinois, so you will need to get that money from your own resources.

If your crime or criminal history is particularly bad, you may have to pay a C-bond, which is the entire amount set by the judge. A C-bond can be set so high that is like having no bond at all.

If you cannot pay your C- or D-bond, you will be held in jail until the disposition of your case by trial or plea agreement.

While having an attorney does not guarantee that you will be set free, an attorney can help persuade the judge to set a lower bond or to allow some other arrangement such as home monitoring. An attorney who is familiar with the judges in your courthouse is likely to have a better idea than most clients on what arguments are likely to sway a judge. If you cannot afford an attorney, a public defender will be assigned for purposes of the bond hearing.

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

For information on posting bond, visit our website at Where to Post Bond.

(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, June 6, 2012

YOUR RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL IN ILLINOIS

Under Illinois law, you are entitled to a speedy trial within a certain time period if you are accused of a crime. However, this rule is subject to certain exceptions.

If you are held in jail, the State must try your case within 120 days of when you were taken into custody. However, the ticking on this clock is suspended during the time that you cause a delay such as if you need a continuance to find an attorney or if your attorney needs more time to investigate the evidence in your case. The clock is also suspended when you need an evaluation to determine if you are fit to stand trial.

If you have been released from jail, the State has 160 days to bring you to trial from the time that you formally demand a trial. Again, any delays caused by you or the need for a fitness evaluation are added to the 160 days. The State can request up to 60 more days as long as they are diligently trying to obtain important evidence, and they can have up to 120 more days if that evidence involves DNA. Be warned that if you fail to show up for a court date, you give up your right to a speedy trial, so it is critical that you appear at every date.

While it does not happen often, there are times when a case is dismissed because the State took too long to bring the matter to trial. An experienced criminal law attorney will keep their eye on the speedy trial clock.

Sometimes, however, a delay works to your advantage. Witnesses get tired of coming to court, and testimony starts to change. An experienced attorney may decide not to exercise your right to a speedy trial as part of your defense strategy. 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.

See: Illinois Speedy Trial Act. 725 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/103-5. (Rights of the Accused.)

(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 18, 2012

WHY IS MY CHICAGO FELONY CASE IN SKOKIE?

You seldom set foot out of the city. You live in Chicago, the crime you allegedly committed took place in Chicago, Chicago police arrested you, and your bond hearing was held in Chicago. But now, you’re heading for your first court date at some place in Skokie or Bridgeview.

Why isn’t your felony case being handled in Chicago?

In Cook County, Chicago felony cases are generally assigned to the Criminal Courts Building at 2600 S. California. However, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, and that means a comparably large number of felony cases that go through one relatively small building.

According to a 2007 study by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Chicago’s criminal court system handles more than 28,000 felonies per year. Probation handles 23,000 cases per year and the neighboring jail harbors 10,000 inmates awaiting trial. (A Report on Chicago's Felony Courts.) All this falls on the shoulders of the 29 judges currently listed for that courthouse. (Cook County Court Directory.) The 2007 study found that each judge had an average of 275 cases pending at any one time, with little time available for trials.

As a result, something had to give. Any felony case overflow is directed to two suburban courthouses. If your offense took place south of Madison Street, then you could be assigned to the Bridgeview Courthouse at 10220 S. 76th Street. If your offense was north, you may be appearing at the Skokie Courthouse at 5600 Old Orchard Road.

No matter where your case may be heard, it is essential to have an experienced criminal law attorney who is familiar with the judges in that courthouse. Many a defense strategy is based on gauging how a judge might react to your individual situation.

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, May 10, 2012

INTERFERING WITH VISITATION IS A CRIME IN ILLINOIS

You don’t like how your ex-spouse is treating your kids. Or maybe your ex-spouse owes you child support. When they came to pick up the kids for visitation, you simply told them the children were out. Next thing you know, the police are at your door.

In Illinois, Unlawful Visitation or Parenting Time Interference is a petty offense, punishable by a fine. Interfere repeatedly, however, and you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Interfering is defined as detaining or concealing a child with the intent of depriving someone of their rights in violation of a court order or judgment. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-5.5) If police have probable cause to believe that you are interfering, they can give notice for you to appear in court. If you fail to appear, the Court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

You can lawfully withhold visitation, however, if you reasonably believe you must do so to protect your child from imminent physical harm. For example, the other parent arrives completely intoxicated and tries to drive off with the children.

The crime of interfering with visitation is closely related to visitation abuse in the family law arena. Under Illinois law, you can be held in contempt by a family law court, or you can be criminally charged. If you are convicted for the crime, the family law judge cannot also find you in contempt. Because of the overlap, you may need to consult a family law attorney as well.

If you are charged with the crime of interfering, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case to determine if you have a defense. Did you intentionally deprive the other parent of visitation? Maybe you had an emergency. Did you have grounds to believe your children were in physical danger? Do not discuss your case with the police or third parties. What you believe is justifiable conduct may not seem reasonable to the judge.

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 For a Child Custody Lawyer's perspective, visit: Can I Deny Visitation If My Spouse Hasn't Paid Child Support or For Other Reasons

(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 2, 2012

CAN I BE ARRESTED FOR A MARIJUANA PIPE? ILLINOIS LAW ON DRUG PARAPHERNALIA

The police stopped you for a routine traffic offense. When giving you the ticket, they noticed a marijuana bong on the seat of your car. Or maybe they frisked you and found a couple syringes in your pocket, and you don’t have a medical condition. Now you are under arrest.

Under Illinois law, a person who knowingly possesses drug paraphernalia with the intent of using or preparing drugs is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum $750 fine. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 600/3.5.) The law does not apply to hypodermic syringes if you are authorized to have them under the Hypodermic Syringes and Needles Act. (720 ILCS 635.) Drug paraphernalia is defined as all equipment, products and materials to be used in planting, growing, manufacturing, converting, testing, injecting, ingesting, packaging or using drugs, except for methamphetamines which is a separate offense.

If you sell your paraphernalia, you can be charged with a Class 4 Misdemeanor, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Sell to a minor and it’s a Class 3 Misdemeanor punishable by 2 to 5 years. If the buyer is pregnant, you can face 3 to 7 years on a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Since the state must prove that you intended to use the paraphernalia to take or make drugs, simply owning a collection of bong pipes may not be enough to convict you. However, any drugs found near or residue on the paraphernalia can be used to show that you had the necessary illegal intent.

If you are charged with possessing paraphernalia, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with third parties or the police. Any statements you make can restrict your options in presenting a defense.

As with other criminal offenses, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can examine the evidence for holes in the state’s case. Was the search that revealed the paraphernalia legal? Can the state show that the paraphernalia was yours or that you meant to use it? Even if the state has more than enough evidence to convict you, an attorney can help negotiate a better plea agreement than you might do 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

Source: Illinois Drug Paraphernalia Law.

(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, April 25, 2012

OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER IN ILLINOIS

If you hinder a peace officer, such as a prison guard, policeman or firefighter, from performing their duties, you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

Obstructing a peace officer can be as simple as disobeying an order to step aside or refusing to cooperate with booking procedures. A recent Illinois case held that a Defendant who refused to be photographed or fingerprinted was guilty of resisting a peace officer. People v Nasolo Another Defendant who refused to exit his car when requested by a police officer was also found guilty of obstructing. People v Synnott

Resisting can also mean disobeying an order from a firefighter to leave or stay out of a burning building, unless you were trying to rescue someone inside.

Simply arguing with police, refusing to identify yourself or refusing to answer questions is usually not enough to trigger charges under Illinois law. However, if you refuse to identify yourself to someone attempting to serve a summons or subpoena, you can be charged.

If your resistance caused injury to a peace officer, you could be charged with a Class 4 Felony. While a Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine, a Class 4 Felony is punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine. Anyone convicted of the misdemeanor charge is also subject to a minimum 48 hours in jail or 100 hours of community service.

If you are charged with resisting a peace officer, talk to an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most other crimes, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can examine the facts of your case to see if you have a defense. Maybe your actions do not rise to the level of an obstruction charge. Maybe you were simply arguing or exercising your Fifth Amendment right to silence.

If you are charged, do not try to explain yourself to police or a third party. What you think is a reasonable explanation might be just enough for the prosecution to convict 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.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CAN THE POLICE SEARCH MY CELL PHONE?

Police can search your cell phone to learn its phone number without a search warrant, much like they can flip through the pages of your diary to find your address, said a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Modern cell phones are personal computers.

They contain loads of sensitive information ranging from private photos to possibly a web camera stream into your own home. Because of this, the extent to which police can examine your phone’s contents without a search warrant is now a tricky matter. The police must balance your privacy rights with the needs of law enforcement. For example, the police cannot use your web camera stream to search your home without a warrant, but they may be able to look at other information.

The Court’s recent ruling involved a drug bust where police seized a cell phone and then searched for its phone number in order to subpoena the call history from the phone company. Historically, the police can look inside a “container” when making an arrest. The prosecution claimed the phone was like a container and therefore could be examined.

The Court said that a cell phone is more like an ultra-diary than a container. However, the police can check the phone’s number and ownership. Police can search without a warrant when there is enough justification, such as to check for weapons or to preserve evidence. Some stun guns look like cell phones. But more importantly, a cell phone’s contents can be remotely erased, and thus destroyed. The police can examine your phone for its number to preserve that information. While an officer cannot read your love letters either inside the pages of your diary or the files of your cell phone, getting your address or cell phone number is only a slight invasion of your privacy.

The Court left the question of when an officer could make a more extensive search of your cell phone’s contents for another day.

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

For the full court decision, see U.S.A. vs Flores-Lopez.

(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, March 12, 2012

FROM SHOPLIFTING TO REMOVING PRICE TAGS: RETAIL THEFT LAW IN ILLINOIS

You were scanning groceries at the self-service station and decided to omit a few items before slipping them into your bag. But unbeknownst to you, the cameras were watching. As soon as you left the store, security stopped you, and now you are facing criminal charges.

When we think of shoplifting, we usually think of hiding merchandise in a purse or pocket, but the Illinois retail theft law encompasses a broader range of offenses. As you might expect, you cannot leave the store with unpaid merchandise. You also cannot change the labels or price markings on items and pay less than full value. You cannot transfer merchandise from one container to another, for example, by placing full price articles into the sales bin and then try to pay the lower price.

When you are at the self-service register, you cannot under-ring your merchandise or fail to scan it. And make sure you leave that shopping cart in the parking lot.

It is retail theft to pretend you own property in order to get money or store credit or an exchange. Nor can you fail to return property that you have leased.

You may not use a theft detection shielding device in order to take something. A theft detection shielding device includes any “laminated or coated bag or device designed and intended to shield merchandise from detection by an electronic or magnetic theft alarm sensor.” (720 ILCS 5/16-25(e).)

For a first offense of less than $300 in goods, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A second offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Merchandise over $300 upgrades your first offense to a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years. The store merchant may also sue you in civil court for the price of the merchandise and their attorney fees.

If you stole something and ran out an emergency exit, you can be charged with Theft by Emergency Exit, a Class 4 felony for merchandise valued under $300. A second offense is a Class 3 felony. For value over $300, Theft by Emergency Exit is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years.

To be convicted for retail theft, the state must show you intended to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property. If you accidentally walked out with something in your cart, you may have a defense. This defense would be complicated, however, if you concealed the object so that while “there may be some notice of its presence, that merchandise is not visible through ordinary means. (720 ILCS 5/16-25(c ).) Illinois law allows a judge or jury to infer that you intended to steal the goods if you concealed them and left the store.

If you are charged with a retail theft offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not make statements to store security, the police or others about your case. Trying to explain yourself could give the prosecution the evidence needed to convict you. As with almost any crime, the prosecution must prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt including whether you had the necessary intent. An experienced attorney can look for weaknesses in the state’s case. Even if you are caught red-handed with the goods under your clothes, an experienced attorney may 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

Source: See Illinois Retail Theft Law.

(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.)

"BUT I WAS JUST TAPING A COP!": THE ILLINOIS EAVESDROPPING LAW

You were a passenger in a car that the police pulled over. The officer seemed to be giving the driver, your friend, a hard time. You thought the officer was trying to strong-arm your friend, and with visions of Rodney King in your head, you turned on your I-phone to record the encounter.

Your friend was charged with a drug-related misdemeanor. But to your surprise, you are the one charged with a felony. Where did you go wrong? What can you do?

Illinois has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country. The law is so strict that the American Civil Liberties Union challenged its constitutionality. The Chicago Sun Times wrote “The law seems deliberately designed to shield police from public scrutiny.”

Under the law any recording of a conversation or electronic communication without all parties’ consent is a crime with some exceptions. But if you recorded a police officer, prosecutor, attorney general or judge, the charges get kicked up a notch.

Illinois law defines eavesdropping as knowingly and intentionally using an eavesdropping device to hear or record a conversation even if the conversation was in public, unless you have everyone’s consent. Even if you direct someone else to eavesdrop for you, or you knowingly obtain a benefit from the eavesdropping, you can be charged with a felony.

If you are law enforcement, there are many exceptions to the rule so that an officer may record you. But if you are a citizen, you could be in a world of trouble. Eavesdropping on regular citizens is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up 1 to 3 years in prison. Subsequent offenses are Class 3 felonies, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. However, eavesdropping on law enforcement in the course of their official duties is a Class 1 Felony punishable by 4 to 15 years.

While these charges are not often brought, two high profile Illinois cases have exposed the harsh consequences of the law. Tiawanda Moore was charged after recording police who she believed were sexually harassing her. Fortunately, she was acquitted by a jury and is now suing the City of Chicago. Christopher Drew recorded his arrest for selling art without a permit and was facing up to 15 years in jail. Both Moore and Drew spent time in jail after their arrest. (See Illinois Eavesdropping Act: Tiawanda Moore Sues City and Eavesdropping Laws.)

In a recent development, Drew's charges were dropped after a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled the eavesdropping law unconstitutional, saying that it was too broad and could punish innocent conduct such as taping a child's soccer game. (See Eavesdropping Law Unconstitutional). The Judge's ruling is not enough, however, to invalidate the law. The ACLU has appealed the law's validity and a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected. For now, however, the law remains on the books, and you are best advised to steer clear.

UPDATE: The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the ACLU that the law was unconstitutional and overbroad. On November 26, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which leaves the 7th Circuit's ruling in place.


If you are charged with eavesdropping you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone. Any statements you make could jeopardize your defense. An experienced attorney can look for weaknesses in the state’s case. Did the officer have probable cause to stop you? Did you intend to eavesdrop? Did you have consent? The law itself has some exceptions, such as if you record someone because you believe they are about to commit a crime. But even if the state has crystal clear evidence against you, an attorney who is knowledgeable about the courthouse may be able to obtain a better plea agreement than you can 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, January 23, 2012

THE NEW ILLINOIS LAW ON FALSE IMPERSONATION

As of January 1, 2012, Illinois toughened its law against false impersonations.

In Illinois, it was already illegal to impersonate a police officer, firefighter, emergency management worker, veteran, parent/legal guardian or airplane pilot. (See related Post: "Impersonating Public Officials: Big Trouble.)

The new law is expanded to include impersonating ordinary people, not just those in special categories such as police officers. You may be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine if you falsely impersonate someone in order to defraud, injure, threaten, intimidate or obtain a benefit.

Also, under the new law, you don’t have to do your impersonating face to face. Pretending to be someone you’re not via a website or other electronic communication, such as texting, is a crime.

State Senator Ira Silverstein of Chicago introduced the updated law. State Senator Sid Matthias of Buffalo Grove, a sponsor, said the law would help address public safety issues created by advancing internet technologies. (See http://senatorsilverstein.com/index.php/my-legislation".)

While it was also already a crime to impersonate an attorney, a public official or employee, the new law allows a judge or jury to infer that you are guilty if you wore an official or employee’s badge or uniform or if you otherwise expressed that you were acting under a public agency’s approval when you were not.

If you are charged with False Personation, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most criminal offenses, the State must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you have the intent required by the law? Maybe you were just playing a joke and did not mean to intimidate or defraud. Are the state’s witnesses prepared to testify? Even if the evidence is pretty clearly against you, an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you might on your own.

As with any crime, 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.

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, January 10, 2012

"BUT I DIDN'T TOUCH ANYBODY!:" THE ILLINOIS LAW ON ASSAULT

You were really mad at your teacher. Without thinking, you threw a fist like you were going to hit him. But then someone called the police, and now you are charged with aggravated assault.

What can you do? What is an assault, and what are the penalties?
In Illinois, you commit assault when you cause someone to reasonably believe you are going to make physical contact with them. Instead, a battery is when you actually do. (See our related post on battery at http://www.skokiecriminallawyer.com/2011/10/illinois-aggravated-battery-law.html.) Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. In addition, the court must order you to perform community service for at least 30 and no more than 120 hours.

Under certain circumstances, assault can be upgraded to an aggravated offense. Aggravation can be based on how you were conducting the assault. Were you threatening someone with a weapon? Were you hooded or masked and/or pretending to use a gun? Were you firing a gun from a car? Were you using your car to make the threat? Were you flashing a laser attached to a gun at someone?

A second factor for aggravation involves the type of person you were assaulting. Did you go after a teacher or a sports official or a utility worker? Was the person a government investigator, a peace officer, emergency worker, probation officer or prison employee, a bus or a train driver? Was the person elderly or disabled? Was the person a process server who was attempting to serve a legal summons?

For the most part, aggravated assault is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, if firearms are involved, you may be charged with a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. It is also a Class 4 felony, if you assault a correctional officer, probation officer or other government official. As of this year, it is a class 4 felony to assault a process server.

If you are charged with any assault, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to discuss your case. Do not make statements to the police or third parties. Do not text or email about your situation or post it on Facebook. Any statements you make can be used against you and can undermine your defense.

As with most offenses, the State of Illinois must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal law attorney can look for weaknesses in the state’s case. Did you have a legal justification for the assault such as self defense? Did the victim have a reasonable apprehension that you were going to hit them? Maybe you were just flailing your arms and didn’t even realize they were there.

Even if the evidence is pretty clear that you were intentionally threatening to harm someone, all is not lost. An attorney who is respected by the court may be able to work out a better plea negotiation 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.)