Monday, March 31, 2014

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT HOLDS EAVESDROPPING LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Two recent Illinois Supreme Court decisions have put nails in the coffin of Illinois’ controversial Eavesdropping statute.

Under the law, a person is guilty of eavesdropping when he or she “knowingly and intentionally uses an eavesdropping device for the purpose of hearing or recording all or any part of any conversation or intercepts, retains, or transcribes electronic communication unless he does so (A) with the consent of all of the parties to such conversation or electronic communication.” 720 ILCS 5/14 2(a)(1)(A).

Prior well-publicized cases have involved individuals recording their encounters with police. A jury acquitted one such defendant and a judge deemed the statute unconstitutional in another defendant’s case. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held the law unconstitutional.

Now, the Illinois State Supreme Court has agreed in both Kane and Cook County cases. In People v DeForest Clark, a Kane County defendant recorded conversations involving himself, his ex-wife’s attorney and a judge. The Clark court stated that the law was overbroad, and in a world of smart phones, went too far to protect an individual’s privacy in their communications.

In the Cook County case, the defendant recorded conversations with a court reporter regarding a court transcript’s accuracy. Defendant posted the conversations on her website. (See People v Melongo.) The court held that the eavesdropping statute substantially burdens more speech than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interest in protecting privacy. In other words, enforcing the statute too often criminalizes otherwise innocent conduct.

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, March 3, 2014

IT WAS JUST A PRANK!: ILLINOIS CRIMINAL DAMAGE TO PROPERTY LAW

You thought it would be a really good joke. You and your buddies spray painted your team’s logo on a rival school’s bus. Or maybe you set off some fireworks in the neighbor’s yard one night. But instead, you blew up his bushes.

Now you are charged with a crime. What is criminal damage to property? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you commit criminal damage to property if you knowingly damage any property of another. This includes setting fire to or setting off explosives on another’s property, injuring their animals or depositing something with an offensive smell. Criminal property damage also includes shooting guns at a railroad train, and tampering with fire hydrants or fire equipment. You may also be charged with knowingly damaging property with the intent of defrauding an insurer.

The charges and punishment depend on what you did, where you did it and how much damage it caused. For most categories, charges range from a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail) for damage under $300 to a Class 2 Felony (3 to 7 years in prison) for damages over $100,000. (UPDATE: As of January 1, 2017, the amount required to increase a charge from a misdemeanor to a felony will be $500.) Messing with fire equipment or a hydrant is a Class B Misdemeanor (up to 6 months). Your charges can also be upgraded if the damage involved a school, place of worship, a farm, or to a memorial for police, firefighters, National Guardsman or veterans. Shooting at a train is a Class 4 felony and so is injuring animals if the damage is under $10,000.

If you are charged with criminal damage to property, do not speak to a third party or the police about your case. Trying to explain yourself may end up giving the state’s attorney the proof they need to convict you as well as restricting any potential defense.

Contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney will review your case for the best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you act knowingly? Did you have permission from the owner to create the damage? Can the state prove it was you? Can they prove the value of the damage?

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.

Source: Criminal Damage to Property.

(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.)