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.)