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.)