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.)