Monday, December 16, 2013

HOW TO CHOOSE A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

No matter how great they are, not all attorneys are right for all clients. So how do you choose the criminal defense attorney that will best represent you? Here are some pointers:

1) Communication: This factor would likely be at the top of any client’s list. You need an attorney who will communicate well with you. This does not necessarily mean that your calls are immediately returned every time, although an attorney should not leave clients hanging. But the attorney should answer your questions and explain your options in a way that you understand.

2) Trust: Choosing an attorney can be like choosing a doctor. You need to have confidence in their judgment. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your attorney, then you may need to find someone else. You should not, however, assume that how you think a case should be handled would actually work in the courtroom. An experienced attorney knows how the justice system really works, which is why you need someone you trust to guide you through it.

3) Personality: While not strictly the most important factor, finding a good fit for your personality can increase your peace of mind. Perhaps you’ve never gotten in trouble before, and you are terrified. A compassionate attorney with a warm and caring manner might work better for you than the more coldly, clinical type. If you are all business yourself, you might prefer a more detached lawyer.

4) Knowledge and Experience: Has the attorney worked on this kind of case before? Does your attorney ask the right questions? Are they knowledgeable about the law and procedure? How about the players in the courthouse? An attorney’s main job is to formulate the best strategy to defend your case. A knowledge of what the prosecutor is likely to offer or how the judge is likely to react can be invaluable when making important decisions such as whether to take a case to a jury.

5) Reputation: An attorney who enjoys a good reputation at the courthouse is more effective. An attorney who is respected and/or liked may get a better deal than one who is rude and does sloppy work.

6) Location: While not essential, it can certainly help to get someone located relatively close to the courthouse. I have an office in Skokie, and so I do a lot of my work at the Skokie Courthouse. But this is not the most important factor. I do work in many other Chicago-area courthouses equally effectively. A conscientious attorney can make a good impression anywhere.

7) Price: This is the least important factor except in terms of your budget. It is possible, although difficult, to find an excellent attorney who charges the bare minimum. Many of these attorneys are only interested in pleaing out your case as soon as possible. They generally will not bother to review the evidence to see if you have a defense. Many times, I have had a difficult second offense with a client because they hired a cheap attorney to plea out a fightable first offense. Even where a plea agreement is best, attorneys who automatically plea out cases may not get you the best possible deal. A prosecutor has no incentive to give a good deal to an attorney who won’t fight for you anyway.

By the same token, the fact an attorney charges top dollar is not a guarantee of quality. You really need to evaluate each attorney based on the above factors.

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, December 4, 2013

"BUT I DIDN'T START IT!": THE ILLINOIS LAW ON SELF-DEFENSE

He just came at you.

To protect yourself, you pulled out a knife or maybe a gun. He turned to run away. Pumped with adrenalin, you couldn’t stop yourself from going after him. Now, he’s in the hospital, and you’re charged with an aggravated battery. Can you claim self-defense?

Under Illinois law, you may use force against an aggressor when you reasonably believe it is necessary to defend yourself or another. You may use deadly force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another, or that such force is necessary to prevent a forcible felony such as a burglary.

However, you can go too far. You may not become the aggressor. If the person who attacked you withdraws from physical contact and indicates they want to stop fighting, you can’t keep going. Once they’re lying on the ground, you can’t keep beating them. When self-defense crosses the line to retaliation, you become the aggressor. Self-defense is also not a defense when the aggression is mutual.

And despite what you may have heard in some news stories, you may not sue someone for injuries where they acted in self-defense unless their conduct was willful and wanton. Thus, the stories about the burglar suing the homeowner for shooting him are unlikely to occur in Illinois.

If you are charged with a battery or other violent crime but believe you acted in self-defense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not try to justify yourself to the police or discuss your offense with third parties. What you think is a reasonable explanation may give the police the evidence needed to convict you. You may unintentionally come across as self-serving or self-pitying. Instead, an experienced attorney can present evidence of self-defense on your behalf in its best possible light.

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 more information see 720 ILCS 5/7-1.

(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, November 13, 2013

TAPING AN ASSAULT OR BATTERY TO BE AN AGGRAVATED OFFENSE IN ILLINOIS

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois has taken a step into modern media times by adding a video/audio component to its aggravated assault and battery laws.

The changes in Illinois law upgrades assault or battery to an aggravated offense if you knowingly video or audio the offense with the intent of disseminating the recording. The video/audio restriction applies if your offense is based on the use of a firearm, device or motor vehicle. Using a video or audio with intent to disseminate can also be grounds for the judge to impose an extended sentence, not only for assault or battery, but in committing any felony.

Generally, assault is defined as causing someone to fear they are about to suffer a battery. Battery is defined as causing bodily harm or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature. Assault can become aggravated based on the status of a person, the use of a firearm or motor vehicle, or whether a person is in a public place. Battery can be upgraded based on the degree of the injury, the status of the person harmed, the location of the conduct, or if a weapon is involved. While simple assault or battery is a misdemeanor, aggravated conduct is a felony.

As of January 1, 2014, Illinois has added nurses in the performance of their duties to the list of battery victims with special status. Other victims with enhanced status include children, mentally retarded or handicapped persons, pregnant women, senior citizens over age 60, teachers, State of Illinois or school district officials, police officers, firefighters, community policing volunteers, prison officials or security guards performing their duties or if you are retaliating against them because of those duties, taxi drivers while on duty, or merchants detaining you for retail theft.

If you are charged with assault, battery or a similar offense, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. Do not speak to the police or anyone else about your situation either orally or by electronic media such as texting or Facebook. Just like in the cop shows, anything you say may be used against you. A criminal law attorney can carefully review the law and the evidence against you to help devise the best strategy for your defense. Under the revised law, the State must still prove you guilty of all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps you did not knowingly tape the incident or intend to share it. Even if the evidence is overwhelming, 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.

(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, October 22, 2013

"I DIDN'T KNOW!": WHEN IGNORANCE IS A DEFENSE

As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Generally, that statement is true. All persons are presumed to know the law. There are rare occasions, however, when ignorance can be a defense.

In Illinois, ignorance can be a defense where it applies to the element of intent. When charged with a crime, the state must prove you guilty of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Certain crimes require that you acted knowingly. Ignorance can help disprove that element of the offense.

For example, ignorance can be a defense where you returned home after a fight with your domestic partner without knowing that an order of protection forbidding you from entering the residence was now in effect. Or ignorance can be a defense to retail theft where you did not know that the cashier had placed an object in your bag.

The laws have become more complicated and numerous than in olden days. Therefore, ignorance can be a defense when you are unaware of an administrative regulation that was not reasonably available to you. In rare cases, you may have relied on a statute that is later declared invalid or a court order that was later overruled. And have you ever asked an official whether certain conduct was legal, only to learn later that the official was wrong? Ignorance can be a defense when you are relying on that official’s interpretation of the law.

Even where ignorance is a defense, you may still may not get off scott free. The court can convict you of a lesser offense that did not require special mental intent, and you can still be found guilty of the law as you believed it to be.

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 7, 2013

NEW ILLINOIS LAW ALLOWS MORE NON-VIOLENT FELONY OFFENDERS TO SEAL CRIMINAL RECORDS

Beginning January 1, 2014, certain types of felony offenders will now be eligible to leave their criminal record in the past.

Under the new law, offenders with convictions for non-violent Class 3 and Class 4 felonies may petition to seal their criminal records four years after the successful completion of their last sentence. Previously, only Class 4 felonies involving possession of marijuana or a controlled substance, prostitution or a violation of the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act or Steroid Control Act could be sealed.

The new guidelines do not however, permit sealing for felony convictions involving: 1) DUI, 2) reckless driving, 3) sex offenses, 4) dog fighting, 5) violating an order of protection, 6) violent crimes or 7) crimes requiring registration as a sex offender. Class A misdemeanors under the Humane Care for Animals Act are still not eligible for sealing.

To seal your record, you must file a petition with the court. The State’s Attorney, Illinois State Police and the arresting police department then have 60 days to object to your petition. In Chicago, a hearing may be set at the time you file your petition. Otherwise, your case may be set for hearing if there is an objection.

If you have questions about sealing or expunging your criminal record, contact an experienced criminal law attorney. Even with the changes in law, the rules for what can and cannot be expunged can be tricky. An attorney can help determine if you qualify and represent you in court if there is an objection to your request.

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 16, 2013

I'VE NEVER BEEN IN TROUBLE BEFORE! DOESN'T THAT MATTER?

You’ve never been in trouble before. That retail theft or marijuana bust is your first arrest of any kind. You've never even blown a stop sign. Doesn’t that help?

The answer is yes and no. A first offender may be eligible for a lighter sentence than a repeat offender. However, your otherwise good character doesn’t really matter when it comes to determining your guilt or innocence.

We’ve all seen the TV shows where the defendant asks a friend to vouch for his good character in order to prove he couldn’t have committed the crime. But it doesn’t work that way in real life. In the legal system, the fact you are a good person does not make it any more or less likely that you committed a particular crime than if you were a bad person. The state still has to show whether you are guilty of a particular offense.

Contrary to TV law, a defense attorney will avoid the character issue until sentencing. At trial, putting on evidence of good character opens the door for the state to put on evidence of bad character. If you say you’re a good family person who goes to church and holds a job, the state can bring up the time you were suspended in high school or that you party a lot.

Good character can be relevant once your guilt is established. While Illinois law imposes certain sentencing guidelines, penalties often become stiffer with subsequent offenses. The court may be more lenient if your offense is clearly a one-time deal. At that point, it might help to talk about all that volunteer work you do or the fact that you always shovel the walk for your elderly neighbor.

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 2, 2013

RETAIL THEFT: SECOND OFFENSE AND BEYOND

Retail theft the second time around can be a much more complicated affair than your first offense. Repeat offenses may lead to stiffer charges, violation of supervision, and a conviction that stays on your record.

For starters, a second offense involving property under $300 is upgraded from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony if you have a prior conviction. While the misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison, the felony could net you 1 to 3 years. (Offenses over $300 are Class 3 felonies for first or greater offenses, punishable by 2 to 5 years.)

The timing and disposition of your first offense could mean big trouble for your second. Did you receive supervision for the first offense or was your case dismissed? If supervision, then your second offense could land you a conviction. While a supervision may be cleared or expunged from your record entirely, a conviction may at best be sealed. As a crime of honesty, a retail theft can make you undesirable to employers.

If you were still serving a sentence or term of supervision on your first offense, a second offense could become a violation of that sentence. Now you can be resentenced on the first offense, charged separately for the violation, and still have to deal with the new charges. If you were not yet sentenced on the first offense, you may have violated the conditions of your bond.

Even if you are charged with a repeat retail theft, all is not hopeless. Contact an experienced criminal law attorney to review your case for the best possible defense. Retail theft is a crime of intent. The state must prove that you meant to keep the merchandise permanently. Maybe you were distracted by your children or just forgot the item was in your cart. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to work out a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own. Do not talk about your case to third parties, particularly the police. What you think is a rational explanation may give the prosecutor the evidence he or she needs 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.

The retail theft statute can be found at 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.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ILLINOIS CRACKS DOWN ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDERS

As of January 1, 2014, those accused of domestic violence could face more severe penalties. A change in Illinois law stiffens the charges against repeat offenders.

Domestic battery is defined as knowingly and without legal justification causing bodily harm or making physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with a household or family member. A first offense is a Class A Misdmeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Subsequent offenses were a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years.

The change in the law, however, comes into play when you have more than two prior domestic battery convictions. If you have three prior convictions, your offense is now a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in jail. Four or more convictions is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years. Illinois law already provided a mandatory 72 hours of jail time on a second or subsequent conviction.

If you are charged with domestic battery, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not communicate with others or the police about your case. Any attempt to explain yourself may come across as though you are trying to blame the victim and may give the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you. You should also make every effort to avoid direct or third-party contact with the complaining witnesss, since it may well exacerbate an already difficult situation.

An experienced criminal law attorney can review your case to determine the best possible defense. Was the physical contact truly insulting? Did you have legal justification? Perhaps you really were acting in self defense. Was the person a member of your household? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to 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.

For more information, see Revised Domestic Battery Law and Governor Quinn Signs Law to Crack down on Domesric Violence in Illinois.

(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 5, 2013

MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZED IN ILLINOIS

On August 2, 2013, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. But this does not mean that home growers or casual users can inhale easily.

The law creates a four-year pilot program which goes into effect January 1, 2014. Under the law, patients with debilitating medical conditions may obtain marijuana from one of 60 licensed dispensaries. The law specifies 35 eligible medical conditions including cancer, Parkinson’s, glaucoma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and AIDS.

Patients or doctors may not grow their own cannabis but may purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks from a dispensary. Marijuana will be grown in licensed cultivation centers, one for each of Illinois’s 22 police districts. Centers must be at least 2,500 feet away from schools or daycare facilities and must have 24-hour surveillance and inventory controls.

Even if you quality for registrered use, you may not possess the pot in a school, school bus, day care, or correctional facility. Nor may you keep it in your car unless it is sealed and inaccessible to you while driving.

You may not smoke publicly or in a motor vehicle, school bus, school, correctional facility, day care, or knowingly near a minor. You may not operate a motor vehicle while under the influence or otherwise act negligently. The new law creates a bit of a dilemma since it is currently illegal to drive in Illinois with any traces of marijuana in your system, and if you were in an accident, it is unresolved how judges will treat you.

You may not give or sell your cannabis to others or fraudulently try to obtain a registration card or knowingly obtain more than your allotted amount.

A business, school or university may still bar the use of medical marijuana.

If you fail to comply with the law, you may be charged with any criminal penalties for unlawful possession or sale, along with fines and additional offenses.

If you are charged with violating the new law, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case to help devise the best possible defense. Perhaps you had marijuana in the car, but the police lacked the probable cause to stop you. Or you did not know you were too close to a minor when you were smoking.

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

For more information, see Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.

(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.)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

CAN POLICE USE YOUR BODY AGAINST YOU?: DNA SWABS, BLOOD DRAWS AND OTHER EVIDENCE

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have spotlighted when police can force you to testify against yourself—through your own body. Here is some new and not so recent law:

1) DNA Swabs: Police may take a DNA swab from inside your cheek. While still an intrusion under your Fourth Amendment rights, the intrusion is minimal--no worse than taking fingerprints. (See Marilyn v King.)

2) Blood Draws: Police cannot force a blood draw before getting a warrant unless there are exigent circumstances, that is, a danger that the evidence will disappear. A DUI does not automatically provide the emergency circumstances necessary to permit police to have your blood drawn. A court must look at whether those emergency circumstances exist on a case by case basis. (See Missouri v McNeeley and see our related blog post ”Can They Take My Blood?”.)

3) Finger Nails: Older U.S. Supreme Court law permitted police to take fingernail samples when there was probable cause and the evidence would otherwise disappear. The police were concerned with preserving the scrapings from under the nail which the defendant was trying to rub off. (See: Cupp v Murphy)

4) Surgery to Remove Evidence: Older case law has held that surgery to remove evidence was unreasonable. The State sought to surgically remove a bullet from the defendant’s chest. The Court held that the intrusion to defendant’s body outweighed the state’s need for the evidence. (See: Winston v Lee)

5) Miscellaneous: The law has long allowed police to take fingerprints, voice samples, handwriting samples, photography and measurements. (See: U.S. v Wade).

If you have been charged with a crime and believe police took evidence from you improperly, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to present the best possible defense. If the police acted improperly, an attorney may ask the court to suppress the evidence and in limited circumstances may even get the case dismissed.

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, June 10, 2013

WHAT THE JUDGE HEARS: PRESENTING YOURSELF IN CRIMINAL COURT

You’ve heard the old saying: “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for the client.”

When you are involved in a case, you cannot see yourself or your situation objectively—the way a judge would see it. By representing yourself, you risk irritating the court, and worse, being convicted and sentenced. This is a primary reason for why you need an attorney in a criminal or DUI case.

Clients often do not see how they come across to others. What they think is a reasonable explanation may sound self-pitying or self-serving to the judge or jury. You also risk providing the prosecution with enough evidence to convict you.

Let’s look at a few examples very loosely based on real life:

When you say: “I didn’t do anything. I was just driving the car while the real criminals robbed the store.” What the judge hears: “I was involved in the crime. I was at the scene. I was an accessory.”

When you say: “Of course, I hit her. She wouldn’t leave me alone.” What the judge hears: “I refuse to take responsibility for my actions.”

When you say: “I didn’t violate the no-contact order. I was just asking about her mother.” What the judge hears: “I do not respect authority.”

When you say: “I wasn’t making any money, my rent was due, so I had to take a few things.” What the judge hears: “My problems justify breaking the law.”

When you say: “Don’t send me to jail because my children need their father.” What the judge hears: “I didn’t think about my children one iota when I committed the crime, but now that you are going to sentence me….”

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal or DUI attorney immediately. For the reasons above, do not talk to the police or third parties. Just like in the movies, anything you say can be used against you. An attorney will know how to present your case in the most favorable light and may keep you from incriminating yourself.

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, May 28, 2013

THE COOK COUNTY VETERANS TREATMENT COURT HELPS VETERANS WITH DRUG, DUI OR OTHER NONVIOLENT CRIMES

As a veteran of the United States Military, you may qualify for a special program to help deal with your criminal or DUI charges.

The Cook County Veterans Treatment Court program aims to prevent veterans from returning to the criminal justice system and to improve their quality of life. The program recognizes that those who have served their country may suffer from post-traumatic stress or other traumas. (The Lake County Circuit Court operates a similar program.)

In order to participate, you must obtain court approval. Your criminal defense attorney can help you navigate through this process.

As a veteran, you are eligible for the program provided you show willingness to participate, your crime is non-violent, you have no convictions for violent crime within the last ten years, and you haven’t been through the program in the last three years.

Once accepted, you must sign a contract with the court. You must participate in any treatment recommended by the Veterans Court Treatment Team. You must avoid alcohol and other illegal substances and submit to random drug testing. You cannot possess any weapon or commit another crime. You must report to your VA case manager and probation worker and appear at all court dates. You may also have community service. If you fail to comply with these requirements, the court may impose extra penalties.

While the program may seem tough, the program it is a real alternative to any criminal sentence you might otherwise receive. In some cases, completion of the program may result in a clean slate.

For more information, see Veterans Treatment Court. For an article on Lake County’s program, see Lake County Veterans Treatment Court Begins.

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 13, 2013

HELPING REPEAT DRUG POSSESSION OFFENDERS: THE COOK COUNTY DRUG COURT TREATMENT PROGRAM

You were sentenced to probation for possession of cocaine. One condition of your sentence was to provide urine drops for drug testing. But you dropped dirty, this time with heroin, and now you face charges of violating probation, as well as possible jail time.

What can happen to you? What can you do?

For starters, if found guilty, you can be resentenced on the original offense as well as on the violation. You should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to evaluate your options. (See our related post In Trouble Again: When You Have Violated Your Probation or Supervision.) Even if your options for fighting the violation are limited, however, you may be eligible for the Cook County Drug Court Treatment Program.

Enrollment in the Program is not automatic. It requires approval of the prosecutor and the judge. Your attorney can help you obtain the approval and negotiate the terms.

The Program is intended to help nonviolent felony drug possession offenders stay clean. If eligible, you could receive two years of probation instead of a trip to jail. You can only participate in the program if you admit you have a problem and show willingness to get treatment. Your offense cannot involve violence, and you may not have any convictions for violent crime within the last 10 years.

The Program’s requirements are rigorous and take place in four phases with different requirements for each phase. You must obtain treatment, submit to frequent urinalysis testing, participate in treatment, appear frequently in court and check in regularly with your probation officer. You may have to perform community service. Once successfully completed, you can participate in a graduation ceremony and your probation will be terminated as satisfactory. If you fail to complete the program, however, you can be penalized severely.

For more information on the program, see Drug Court Treatment Program.

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 9, 2013

FROM BAD TO WORSE: AGGRAVATING FACTORS FOR DRUG DEALING CRIMES IN ILLINOIS

In Illinois, the penalties for knowingly manufacturing, delivering or possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance can be stiff enough. But selling drugs to the wrong person or in the wrong place can make a bad situation worse--in some cases even doubling your prison time.

Here are some factors that can affect the severity of the charges against you:

1) Selling to Minors: If you are an adult and you sell to a minor, you may be sentenced to twice the maximum prison term and twice the maximum fine. (720 ILCS 570/407.)

2) Using Minors to Sell: If you use your underage friend to make your deal, you can face three times the maximum prison term. (720 ILCS 570/407.1)

3) Pregnant Women: If you know she’s pregnant, you can get double the time depending on the type of drugs. (720 ILCS 570/407.2.)

4) Truck Stops or Rest Areas: Your prison time and fine can be doubled for dealing within 1,000 feet of a truck stop or rest area if you have a prior conviction for the same offense. (720 ILCS 570/407)

5) Public schools, parks, property owned by a public housing agency, nursing homes, churches, synagogues, senior centers: Delivering drugs within 1,000 feet of any of these facilities can upgrade your crime. For example, a Class 1 offense, for possessing less than 15 grams of heroin with intent to deliver, can become a Class X felony with increased prison time and double the fines. It does not matter if school was out and no kids were in sight. (720 ILCS 570/407.)

6) Subsequent offenses: A second or later conviction can double your prison term and fine. (720 ILCS 570/408.)

If you are charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone, especially not the police. Trying to talk your way out of the situation might end up giving the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search that uncovered the drugs legal? If not, an attorney may have grounds to challenge your arrest and hopefully get the evidence against you suppressed. Did you knowingly intend to deliver the drugs? As with most crimes, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You may have divided the drugs into separate parcels, but can the state prove you were preparing to sell? An attorney can look for holes in state’s evidence in the hope of winning an acquittal.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may help negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own. If you have questions about this or another 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, May 7, 2013

"IT'S JUST FOR ME.": THE CRIME OF POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE IN ILLINOIS

Illinois law is geared toward punishing the big-time drug trafficker more than the small-time user. Nevertheless, it is a crime to knowingly possess a controlled substance, and the penalties can be quite severe. What can happen to you? What can you do?

Illinois law bars you from knowingly possessing a controlled substance. The degree of the charges and the punishment depend on the type of drug and the amount. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 570/402).

If you possess less than 15 grams of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine or LSD, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in jail and fined up to $25,000. More than 15 grams of these substances or more than 200 grams of barbiturates, amphetamines or peyote is a Class 1 felony. Your sentence can increase according to the amount you possess. Up to 100 grams is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison while more than 900 grams is punishable by 10 to 50 years. In addition, if you possess with intent to deliver more than 100 grams, you may be fined up to $200,000 or the full street value of the drugs.

If you are charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone, especially not the police. What you think is a reasonable explanation might be used against you as an admission of guilt.

An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search that uncovered the drugs legal? If not, an attorney may have grounds to challenge your arrest and hopefully get the evidence against you suppressed.

Did you knowingly possess the drugs? As with most crimes, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe other people had regular access to the closet where the drugs were found. An attorney can look for holes in the state’s evidence in hope of winning an acquittal. For more information regarding the type of evidence needed for a conviction, see our blog at The Drugs Aren’t Mine: When You Are Charged With Possession of Narcotics.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may help negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own. If you have questions about this or another 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 6, 2013

JUST A LITTLE COCAINE: THE CRIME OF DRUG DEALING IN ILLINOIS

The police pulled you over for blowing a stop sign. Unfortunately, they saw some plastic baggies containing powder lying on the floor of your car. Now you are charged with possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance. What can happen to you? What can you do?

Illinois law bars you from knowingly manufacturing, delivering or possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance. The severity of the charges and the punishment depend on the type of drug and the amount. (720 ILCS 570/401). These penalties are also a step up from a charge of simple possession.

If you possess with intent to deliver less than 15 grams of heroin, fentanyl, or cocaine, 10-15 grams of morphine or 5-15 grams of LSD, you can be charged with a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to15 years in jail and fined up to $250,000. More than 15 grams of these substances or more than 200 grams of barbiturates, amphetamine or peyote is a Class X felony. Your sentence can increase according to the amount you possess. Up to 100 grams is punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison while more than 900 grams is punishable by 30 to 60 years. In addition, if you possess with intent to deliver more than 100 grams, you may be fined up to $500,000 or the full street value of the drugs.

Illinois law also classifies different drugs on “Schedules.” These schedules contain long list of pharmaceutical names and can be tricky. Where your drug fits on which schedule can determine whether you have a Class 2 or Class 3 Felony and the maximum amount you may be fined. For example, Schedule I-type opiates are a Class 2 felony punishable by 3 to 7 years and up to a $200,000 fine. A Schedule V drug can be a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years and up to $75,000.

The penalties against you can also be increased if you deal to the wrong person such as a minor or pregnant woman or you deal in the wrong place such as a school or rest area. For more information on factors that can affect your sentence, see our related post at From Bad To Worse: Aggravating Factors for Drug Dealing Crimes in Illinois.

If you are charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone, especially not the police. Trying to explain the presence of the drugs might only dig you in deeper.

An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Was the search that uncovered the drugs legal? If not, an attorney may have grounds to challenge your arrest and hopefully get the evidence against you suppressed.

Did you knowingly intend to deliver the drugs? As with most crimes, the state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You may have divided the drugs into separate parcels, but can the state prove you were preparing to sell? An attorney can look for holes in state’s evidence in the hopes of winning an acquittal.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may help negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another 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, April 22, 2013

NEW HOPE FOR ILLINOIS FIRST-TIME FELONY DEFENDANTS: THE OFFENDER INITIATIVE PROGRAM

You’ve never been in trouble before. It’s bad enough you were arrested, but even worse, your first offense is a felony. Maybe it was for shoplifting or taking drugs, something that you swear you would never do again. Fortunately, Illinois has a new program that may help you put those criminal charges behind you.

As of January 1, 2013, the Offender Initiative Program allows certain types of first-time felony defendants to avoid a conviction on certain conditions. The Program only applies to first-time offenders for non-violent crimes such as retail theft, motor vehicle theft, burglary or drug possession. Your offense must be eligible for probation, and you may need an attorney to help you get into the Program.

The Program does not apply to any type of violent crime such as domestic battery, stalking, sex crimes, hate crimes, possessing a weapon or even DUI. If you have a prior felony probation or a conviction, you cannot participate.

If you are eligible for the Program, the proceedings against you will be put on hold for at least a year while you participate in the program. You will be ordered not to violate any other criminal laws (including traffic offenses), take drugs or possess a weapon. You may have to pay back anything you took or damaged. You may be ordered to hold a job, perform community service, take classes, get counseling or undergo drug testing.

If you stay on track, the charges against you could be dismissed. You will still need to petition for an expungement to get your criminal record completely erased. If you fail the program, you will again face the original felony charges.

If you are charged with a felony or other crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case to determine the best possible strategy for handling your case. While the Program may be ideal in many situations, it may not always be your best option. Maybe the evidence against you is weak, and you would be better off winning a dismissal. Even if the program is right for you, an attorney can help insure that you are allowed to participate.

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: 730 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/5-6-3.3.

(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, April 8, 2013

IS A CONFESSION ENOUGH TO CONVICT YOU OF A CRIME IN ILLINOIS?

They said if you signed the paper, they’d give you a better deal or even let you go.

After being arrested, you were brought to the police station. Maybe you were tired or or just not thinking straight. So you signed the paper confessing to the crime, thinking you’d made a deal. You would be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Or maybe not charged at all in exchange for testimony. But that’s not how things turned out.

Can you now be convicted because of your confession? What can you do?

In Illinois, the prosecutor must prove most crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. This means proving each element of the crime, and that you did it. So when you confessed, did you hand the prosecutor all the proof they needed?

Not necessarily. A confession without any corroborating evidence is not enough to convict you of a crime. The prosecutor must provide other evidence that connects you with the crime, but this evidence need not independently prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence need only show that, when taken along with your confession, it is likely you committed the crime. Whether the independent evidence is enough to corroborate your confession may be a question for the judge or jury.

If you have confessed, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with third parties, or you could inadvertently provide the corroboration that the prosecutor needs. An attorney can review your case to help you present the possible defense. Did the police have the probable cause required to take you into custody? Did they follow the correct procedures? Is there any evidence to back up your confession? In certain cases, an attorney may petition the court to get your confession thrown out.

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced 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.

For a caselaw discussion on the rule requiring corroboration, see People v Jason Lara.

(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 18, 2013

DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY FOR A PARDON IN ILLINOIS?

It’s been many years since you completed your sentence on that felony conviction. You have really turned your life around. You are working a good job, have a good family and are contributing to society. Still, you would like to move past that mistake from your younger days.

Do you need an attorney to file for a pardon in Illinois? The truth is that while you can do it yourself, an attorney can greatly improve the odds of getting a favorable result.

To ask for a pardon, also known as executive clemency, you need to file a petition with the State of Illinois Prisoner Review Board. (Illinois Executive Clemency.) Petition deadlines occur four times yearly and track with the four hearing dates, which alternate between Springfield and Chicago.

The Petition requires you to fill out a form, which seems straightforward enough. You also need to supply information about your criminal history, as well as provide a personal story with supporting documentation. You could do all this yourself.

So why use an attorney? First, many people are not aware of how they come across to others. What you think of as self-deprecating humor may sound arrogant or snarky. What you think of as a reasonable justification might sound self-serving or whiny. What you think of as literate might come across as robotic and impersonal. The Board is never compelled to grant a pardon if they do not wish to do so, and there is no room for error.

Second, the Board wants to see a personal narrative. Many people do not know where to begin. An attorney can help find the thread of your life history and turn it into a compelling story.

Third, an attorney can make sure that the components of your petition are filed correctly, thus helping to prevent delays. If there is a mistake in the Petition, the Board may return it and you could lose your initial hearing date.

While you do not need to appear at hearing, it can help for the Board to see the person behind the story. Therefore, an attorney can help present you at your best on the hearing date. An attorney knows how to ask relevant questions to get your story across without the Board feeling like you are wasting their time. Petitioners generally have a limited time to make their pitch, and every moment counts.

Although an attorney cannot guarantee results, they can increase the chances of giving you a clean slate. If you have questions about pardons 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.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

EXPUNGING CHICAGO CASES JUST GOT FASTER!

Good news for those trying to expunge or seal their criminal record: Clearing your Chicago case just got faster!

As in the past, you must first file any Chicago petition with the Cook County Circuit Court. The State and Chicago police still have 60 days to object to your petition. In the past, once the 60 days were over, your petition could remain in limbo for months waiting for a judge to grant your request.

But now, thanks to Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr., the waiting time is shorter and more finite. The clerk now sets a hearing date about 60 days after your petition is filed. Unlike before, you are required to appear in court. However, you gain more certainty about when a court order clearing your record may be signed.

The State or Chicago police can object to your Petition. In that case, be ready to defend yourself on your hearing date. However, the new process will still make things faster. In the past, you would have to wait for the hearing to be set after objection is made.

For more information on expungement or sealing, see our related post: “I Can’t Get a Job!”: Clearing Your Criminal Record-Pardons & Expungements.

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, February 18, 2013

THE NEW COOK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT CELL PHONE BAN

Cook County Circuit Court has a new security rule at the courthouse.

As of April 15, 2013, visitors to any Cook County Courthouse other than the Richard J. Daley Center can no longer bring in cell phones or electronic communications devices. The ban prohibits cell phones, laptop computers, smart phones or any other device capable of connecting to the internet. Anyone found in violation of this rule can be held in contempt of court. For more information, see our related website page at Court Appearances and see the Cook County Circuit Court website at: Electronic Communication and Internet Devices Banned from All Circuit Court of Cook County Courthouses Except Daley Center.

There are exceptions. Attorneys, judges, persons with disabilities, news media, vendors, repair people and law enforcement are among those allowed to bring in such devices provided they can show proper identification. You may also bring in your phone if you are involved in a domestic violence situation.

The new rule goes into effect April 15, 2013. Judge Timothy Evans explained that the ban was in response to judges’ concerns that cell phones were used to improperly photograph witnesses, jurors and judges. Panic in the Court!. Cell phones were also used to transmit judge’s comments or witness testimony to those outside the courtroom. Potential witnesses are often excluded from the courtroom while others are testifying in order to prevent influencing their testimony.

DuPage County already bans cell phones or communication devices in the courthouse. Lake County allows you to bring in your phone but not to use it in the courtroom.

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, February 11, 2013

THE CRIME OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT IN ILLINOIS

When most people think of disorderly conduct, they think of some drunk flailing about, swearing on the sidewalk. Disorderly conduct is the kind of catch-all crime that enables the police to arrest you if they can’t exactly pin you down on some other charge.

But disorderly conduct can also mean peeping in windows, phoning in a false bomb threat or police report and can range in severity from a slap on the wrist to several years in prison.

The most common type of disorderly conduct is alarming or disturbing another or provoking a breach of the peace. (See: 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/26-1.) A recent example is a November, 2012 brawl between several high school students in a Skokie park. (See: Chicago Tribune: 29 Students Involved in Skokie Brawl. Disorderly conduct may also include screaming or swearing loudly in public or throwing things in a store. This type of disorderly conduct is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. If you are peeping into windows for an unlawful or lewd purpose, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Disorderly conduct becomes a felony when you make threats or false reports. If you call in a false fire alarm, request for ambulance, crime report, 911 alert or false child abuse claim, you can be charged with a Class 4 Felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. Threats of violence against school or school personnel is also a Class 4 Felony. A false bomb threat escalates to a Class 3 Felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years.

Besides potential jail and fines, the court must order at least 30 hours of community service. If your offense involved a bomb threat, you can be ordered to pay back the costs of any emergency response.

If you are charged with disorderly conduct, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most other crimes, the state must prove you guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The disorderly conduct law requires that you acted knowingly. Maybe you really believed someone was in trouble when you phoned in that 911 report or looked through their window.

Even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against you, an experienced attorney who is respected at 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, January 28, 2013

THE LAW OF RETAIL THEFT, THEFT, ROBBERY AND BURGLARY IN ILLINOIS

In bad economic times, people can get a little desperate and take something that doesn’t belong to them. Where, how and how much you steal can determine the type of criminal charges brought against you and your possible punishment.

What are the differences between retail theft, theft, robbery and burglary? What can you do?

Retail theft or shoplifting usually means taking something from a store. (720 ILCS 5/16-25.) If you took less than $300, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, but taking more than $300 is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. For more information on the different types of retail theft, see our related post From Shoplifting to Removing Price Tags.

Theft is obtaining control over someone else’s property or accepting stolen property or deceiving someone out of their property. Theft can be taking money out of your employer’s cash drawer or selling nonexistent magazine subscriptions. (720 ILCS 5/16-1.) Depending on how much you take and whether it’s from a person, you can be charged from a Class A misdemeanor, on up to a Class X Felony, punishable by a minimum 6 years in prison.

Robbery is when you knowingly take something from a person by the use or threat of force. (720 ILCS 5/18-1.) Robbery is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in jail. If you rob someone who is over the age of 60, handicapped or is at a school or church or you threaten someone with a dangerous weapon, you may be charged with Aggravated Robbery, a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years. As of January 1, 2013, Illinois law now defines drugging someone in order to rob them as Aggravated Robbery.

Burglary involves stealing from a place. (720 ILCS 5/19-1.) If you knowingly enter or remain in a building without permission with the intent to commit a felony or theft, you may be charged with a Class 2 felony. If the building was a day care, school or church, your charges can be upgraded to Aggravated Burglary, a Class 1 felony.

If people live in the dwelling or you present to be a government official or utility worker, you can be charged with Residential Burglary, a Class 1 felony. (720 ILCS 5/19-3.) However, under a recent Illinois Appeals Court decision, a home is not considered a dwelling if the owners have moved away and do not intend to return, in which case you may only be charged with regular burglary. (People v Brett Roberts.)

So what if you are charged with some type of stealing, are you guaranteed that prison stay? Not necessarily. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can evaluate the circumstances of your case to present the best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you take the item without permission? Were you authorized to be at the home or the building? Did the police have the probable cause to arrest you in the first place? In some cases, an attorney can bring a motion to have evidence against you dismissed. Even if the police handled your case by the book and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected at the court house 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.

(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.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

LOOK-ALIKE DRUGS: A FELONY IN ILLINOIS

The drug you sold looked like crack, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, after you sold it to the undercover cop, you were charged with a Class 3 Felony.

What is a look-alike drug? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, any person who knowingly makes, advertises or distributes a look-alike drug can be charged with a Class 3 Felony, punishable by up to a $150,000 fine and 2 to5 years in prison. (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 570/404.) Simply possessing the look-alike substance is a petty offense, not subject to jail time. However, if you possessed with intent to distribute, you are back to a Class 3 Felony. There are also stiffer penalties for subsequent charges of possession.

A look-alike drug can be any substance that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the look-alike is the real thing, such as its color, consistency, dosage amount, shape or markings. Or a drug can be considered a look-alike if you imply or expressly represent that the look-alike is real. For example, a court can consider any statements you made in advertising or distributing the drug, whether you asked for money and how you packaged the look alike.

If you are charged with a look-alike drug offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with the police or third parties. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case for the best possible defense.

As with most crimes, the state must prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you knowingly make or sell the look-alike? If you possessed the drug, did you intend to sell it? Were the drugs discovered after a police search? If so, did the police have the probable cause needed to stop or search you in the first place? If not, perhaps an attorney can petition the court to have the evidence or even the arrest suppressed.

Even if the police did everything by the book and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable 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.)