Monday, December 21, 2015

CAN POLICE SEARCH YOUR COMPUTER?

The police are at your door. A neighbor complained about a disturbance and they came to investigate. You figure you have nothing to hide in your home so you consent to the search. But you do have something to hide—only it’s in your computer.

Can police search your computer? What are you rights?

Generally, police need a search warrant before they can look at the contents of your computer unless some other exception to the warrant requirement exists. (See U.S. vs Flores-Lopez.) Unlike other physical objects, computers hold vast quantities of private and sensitive information. Even when police can legally take the computer, they must still get a warrant to investigate it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that computers cannot be searched as part of an arrest. Generally, that type of search is allowed to preserve evidence and to protect officer safety in case the defendant has a weapon. The court held that neither rationale applies to digital data.

Officers can still search your computer if there is a compelling emergency—such as locating the whereabouts of a kidnapped child.

But what if you told police it was OK to search home? Does that include your hard drive? Police may generally look only where the object of a search may reasonably be found. Guns or drugs are not likely to be found on your computer screen. If you told police they could search your computer, however, your consent may be general enough to permit the search. This is a developing area of law.

If you believe the charges against you are the result of an illegal search, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can determine if police followed proper procedures. If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress any illegally obtained evidence.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)

Friday, December 4, 2015

NEW ILLINOIS LAW REQUIRES POLICE BODY CAMERAS AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. The vast majority of police are good people trying to do a difficult job in community service. Unfortunately, the recent epidemic of unjustifiable police killings have spotlighted more than a few bad apples. Fortunately, the Illinois legislature has acted to improve police-citizen relations in our state.

The new law taking effect January 1, 2016 makes significant changes.

First, police will be required to wear body cameras, a big step in holding police accountable to the public. Body cameras can further provide evidence that is useful for both defendants and police. Cameras must be turned when the officer is in uniform and responding to calls for service or other law-enforcement related activity.

The new law attempts to balance law enforcement interests with privacy. Officers need not activate the camera when in their squad car if they are not involved in law enforcement activities. Cameras must be turned off at a victim’s or crime witness’s request as well as when the officer is dealing with a confidential informant. The officer may also turn off the camera when involved in a community caretaking function unless a crime is being committed.

The law clarifies that the public is allowed to record police encounters although police still have a right to control a crime scene if such people become disruptive.

Officers will be required to receive yearly and long-term training beyond what they learned at the police academy including training in cultural competency. The law also bans the use of chokeholds.

The law was the fruit of negotiations between the ACLU, the NAACP, community groups and law enforcement groups and passed with bipartisan support. To see a copy of the bill, visit Illinois Police and Community Relations Improvement Act.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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, October 29, 2015

CRIMINAL TRESPASS TO STATE SUPPORTED LAND IN ILLINOIS

A special Illinois statute makes trespassing on state-supported land a criminal offense. What exactly does that mean? What can happen to you?

You can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor if you enter or stay on land supported by state or federal funds after receiving notice, either that you may not enter or that you must leave, if you are interfering with another’s lawful use or enjoyment of the property. Notice can be oral or written or can be conspicuously posted at the property’s main entrance. You might also violate this law if your entry to state property was based on false statements or documents.

Illinois case law has interpreted “interfering with another’s lawful use or enjoyment” of the property to mean the "kind of conduct which by its nature tends to hinder, disrupt or obstruct the orderly function of the official enterprise being carried on in the building or on the land.” See People v Quiroga. A protest of hundreds of people outside the state capitol did not interfere with its orderly function or public access because the protest took place on a Sunday when the state house was closed and there was no damage to property. A University of Illinois student collected petition signatures in a school building lobby after having been asked to move from the school cafeteria. The Court held that the student’s activities was not interference. Likewise, in Quiroga, a parent collecting petition signatures on a playground seeking to remove a school principal was not interference.

Effective January, 2015, the Illinois legislature added public right of ways to this offense. "Right of way" means the track or roadbed owned, leased, or operated by a rail carrier that is located on either side of its tracks and that is readily recognizable to a reasonable person as being rail road property or is reasonably identified as such by fencing or appropriate signs. Under this section, you must intend to compromise public safety by delaying the transit system more than 15 minutes or by destroying property. You must again have notice that your entry is forbidden or that you must leave. Violating this particular section is a Class A Misdemeanor for a first offense, and a Class 4 felony for subsequent offenses.

If you are charged with criminal trespass or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most offenses, the state has the burden of proving each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps you did not receive the required notice or your conduct was not interfering with another’s use. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to obtain a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. See Criminal Trespass to State Support Land,

(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, September 22, 2015

2015 UPDATES TO ILLINOIS CONCEALED CARRY LAW

Illinois has tweaked its Concealed Carry law for the first time since its passage in 2013.

Under the revised law, if you are carrying a firearm in an auto, police or emergency personnel may secure the weapon if they deem it necessary for the safety of any person present. (See 430 ILCS 66/10(h)(1).) If the officer or emergency personnel determine you are not a threat and that you are mentally and physically capable of possessing the gun, they may return it before releasing you from the scene. If you are turned over for treatment to another facility, your weapon must be turned over to a peace officer who will then issue a receipt.

The 2013 law allows a licensee to carry a concealed firearm in the immediate area surrounding his or her vehicle within a prohibited parking lot only for the limited purpose of storing or retrieving the weapon within the vehicle’s trunk. (See 430 ILCS 66/65(b).) Under the new law, you need not insure that the weapon is unloaded before it leaves your car.

The prior law required a physician, clinical psychologist or qualified examiner to notify the Department of State Police upon determining that someone is developmentally disabled. The new law applies to persons over age 14 and defines development disability as comparable to an indefinite intellectual disability that arose before age 18. The disability must cause significant functional limits in the individual’s ability to perform at least three of the following life functions: 1) self care, 2) receptive and expressive language, 3) mobility, 4) learning or 5) self direction. (See 405 ILCS 5/6-103.2.)

If you are charged with a weapons offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Even if 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 can on your own.

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

Source Amendments to Concealed Carry 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.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

THE OFFICER WAS WRONG ABOUT ILLINOIS LAW! CAN HE STILL ARREST ME?

The police are charged with enforcing the law. But what if they misunderstand that law? What if the officer stops you based on his or her mistaken belief about what the law really means? Will a judge allow the evidence resulting from that mistake to stand?

Before he or she can stop you, an officer must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing. Such a stop or search may be valid even if the officer misunderstood the law as long as that misunderstanding is reasonable. Laws can be complicated and ambiguous. A court will generally not penalize the officer over a complex law. However, if the officer’s mistake is unreasonable, you may be able to get the evidence against you dismissed.

In People v Flores, an officer stopped a defendant because he believed the defendant’s license plate frame violated Illinois’s plate-display law. In a subsequent search, the officer found heroin in defendant’s car. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Mr. Flores’s car dealer-type license plate frame did not violate the law. Nor was it reasonable for the officer to think that it did. As a result, the court overturned the defendant’s conviction.

In contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a traffic stop where the officer mistakenly understood a North Carolina law to require two working brake lights. However, in that case, the law was subject to varying interpretations. Furthermore, the Court said its decision in favor of the officer only applied to reasonable mistakes of law. See Helen v North Carolina.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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, August 24, 2015

DO I NEED A TRANSLATOR FOR CRIMINAL COURT IN ILLINOIS?

The answer to that question depends on how comfortable you are using the English language. If there is any doubt, it may be best to err on the side of caution and ask for an interpreter early in your case.

In Illinois, the courts are required to provide a translator for criminal matters if the defendant needs one. All Chicago-area courts have Spanish translators on hand. Other translators are brought in as needed. This can cause some scheduling difficulties with court dates, but any disadvantage is far outweighed by your having a complete understanding of your court case.

The legal and procedural language used in court can be difficult to understand for a non-attorney, especially if you are already anxious about being in court. We have had clients who are normally fluent in English freeze when they get before a judge. Often the translator is simply explaining the procedures taking place. But a translator can be especially important if you are testifying, because you do not want to guess about whether you understood or answered a question correctly.

If you do not ask for a translator early in your case, a judge might distrust your later request and think you are pretending a problem. A recent Illinois Appellate court upheld a decision denying a translator because the defendant had gotten through much of the case without one. (See People v Argueta.) The defendant had repeatedly declined a translator before the trial, and a review of the record showed that the defendant answered questions appropriately.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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, August 11, 2015

WHEN ARE YOU UNDER ARREST? MIRANDA RIGHTS AND POLICE CUSTODY IN ILLINOIS

The exact moment when a police interrogation turns into an arrest is not always clear. But that is the moment when the police must read your Miranda rights—those rights to remain silent and have an attorney present.

Miranda must be given when an individual is in custody and before questioning begins. These rights only apply in inherently coercive, custodial situations. To determine when they apply, an Illinois court looks at 1) the circumstances surrounding an interrogation, and 2) whether a reasonable person would believe they were free to terminate the interrogation and leave. Surprisingly, the use of handcuffs does not automatically mean you are in police custody, although it may be a factor.

To determine whether a reasonable person would feel free to go, Illinois courts consider: 1) the location, time, length, mood and mode of the questioning; 2) the number of police officers present during interrogation; 3) the presence or absence of family and friends of the individual; 4) any indicia of a formal arrest procedure, such as the show of weapons or force, physical restraining, booking or fingerprinting; 5) the manner by which the individual arrived at the place of questioning and 6) the age, intelligence and mental makeup of the accused..” (See People v Coleman.)

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to determine when you were under arrest and whether the police acted properly. If the arrest was not proper, an attorney can bring a motion asking the judge to throw out any statements you might have made after Miranda warnings should have been given. Even if the police acted properly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.

See our related post: Your Right To Remain Silent Under New Supreme Court Law.

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, July 29, 2015

THE LAW ON PROVING POSSESSION OF DRUGS OR WEAPONS IN ILLINOIS

The police are at your door with a search warrant or maybe they’ve stopped your car for a traffic ticket. In either case, they uncovered drugs, weapons or some other contraband. Can they prove the illegal goods are really yours?

Unless you’re caught red-handed, the state can show the contraband is yours through the doctrine of “constructive possession.” To do so, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that you had knowledge of the contraband and 2) that you exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area where the goods were found. This evidence can be circumstantial.

A recent Illinois appellate case provides a good illustration of the law. (See People v Maldonado.) In Maldonado, the court reversed defendant’s convictions for possessing heroin and ammunition. The state did not prove that the defendant had control over the premises where the search took place. Although the state had three pieces of mail addressed to defendant at the premises, it still could not show that the defendant had been near the contraband or even at the site.

Mail addressed to a defendant where contraband is recovered may prove possession if the defendant is at the scene during the search. However, mail alone may not be enough if the defendant is not present and there is little other evidence to show the defendant lives at the search premises.

The court contrasted the facts in Maldonado with a prior case where defendant had keys to both the home and the bedroom where the drugs were found, listed the search premises on his driver’s license, received mail at that location and gave the premises as his address to his parole officer.

If you are charged with this or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney, who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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, July 13, 2015

THE CRIMINAL BURDEN OF PROOF IN ILLINOIS

Under our system of government, you are innocent until proven guilty.

For most crimes, this means the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of a crime, and that the defendant committed that crime. For example, if you committed a retail theft, the prosecution must prove that 1) you 2) knowingly 3) took possession of merchandise 4) from a retail store 5) with the intention of keeping it and 6) without paying.

Beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean beyond any doubt at all, it just means beyond all reasonable doubt. While this is a relatively high burden for the prosecution, the reality is that different judges and juries have very different ideas about what “beyond a reasonable doubt” really means. Some judges may find you guilty on the exact same facts that another judge might use to acquit you. That is why it is so important for your attorney to have some knowledge about the judges in a courthouse.

Some issues that arise in criminal court, however, do not require the stricter beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof. If you are charged with open alcohol or another minor offense, the burden of proof may be the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, in which the prosecutor need only show it was more likely than not that you committed the crime.

If the defendant brings a motion to quash an arrest or suppress the evidence that police seized during an arrest, the defendant must prove that the police acted improperly under the lower preponderance of evidence standard.

A DUI requires the state to prove you were driving or had control of a vehicle while impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a petition to challenge the Secretary of State’s automatic suspension of your driving privileges is a civil proceeding, even though it is conducted in the same criminal court as your DUI. You, the defendant, now have the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that there were no reasonable grounds for the arrest or that the officer did not read you the warnings to motorists.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the state cannot meet its burden of proof. An experience attorney can probe the weaknesses in the state’s case to help present your case in its most favorable light.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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 29, 2015

THE INTOXICATION DEFENSE IN ILLINOIS

Under limited circumstances, being drunk or drugged can be a defense to a crime in Illinois.

Intoxication is only a defense when 1) it was involuntarily produced and 2) it deprived you of the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of your conduct or conform your conduct to the law.

Intoxication may be involuntary where it is produced by fraud, artifice or deceit. If someone slipped drugs into your punch, you might not be responsible for what happens next. Intoxication also includes the unexpected or unwarned side effects of prescribed medication. For example, a doctor prescribes an antidepressant without warning you that it can cause sleep walking. In one Illinois case, the court held a defendant was entitled to have his intoxication defense reviewed by the jury where he had killed his wife and her lover after having taken Zoloft. People v Hari. But even when involuntary, your intoxication must deprive you of all reason. You can’t use intoxication as a defense if you otherwise knew what you were doing.

Legal intoxication should not be confused with diminished capacity, a defense no longer available in Illinois. The fact you committed the crime when you voluntarily became too drunk or drugged to think straight will not excuse your conduct.

Because the defendant has the burden of proving the intoxication defense, it is critical to present the most compelling evidence possible. A criminal law attorney can review your case to determine if the defense applies and how best to prove it.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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 15, 2015

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON THEFT BY DECEPTION

In Illinois, theft by deception means obtaining control of another’s property through deception. For example, you pretended you were authorized to collect money on behalf of a creditor or charity.

Theft by deception can include making false statements to obtain a car loan or induce others to invest in a nonexistent venture. In one Illinois case, the defendant pretended to be an attorney, collected legal fees and bond money but never bonded the “client” out of jail.

To convict you, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the victim was induced to part with money; (2) the transfer of the money was based upon deception; (3) you intended to permanently deprive the victim of the money; and (4) you acted with the specific intent to defraud the victim. (See People v. Reich.)

The degree of your offense may depends on how much you took, where, what and from whom. For example, less than $500 is a Class A misdemeanor. Between $500 and $10,000 is a Class 3 felony, $10,000 to $100,000 is a Class 2 felony and $100,000 to $500,000 is a Class 1 felony. However, if the theft was at a school or place or worship or involved governmental property, your charges can be kicked up a notch so that the misdemeanor would now be a Class 4 felony and the Class 1 felony would be a Class X.

There are also increased charges if your victim was at least 60 years of age or you pretended to represent a landlord.

If you are charged with this or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk about your situation to the police or a third party. Any attempts to explain yourself may give the state the evidence they need to win a conviction.

An experienced attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Perhaps the state cannot prove all the elements of the crime, for example, that you deceived or specifically intended to defraud the alleged victim. Maybe the charges result from a misunderstanding about the work you had agreed to undertake. Even if 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 Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: Illinois Theft by Deception 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.)

Monday, June 1, 2015

THE LAW ON CONCEALED CARRY IN ILLINOIS

In 2013, Illinois was the last state to enact a Concealed Carry law. But that doesn’t mean you can bring your gun just anywhere, even with a Concealed Carry license.

Under the Concealed Carry Act 430 ILCS 66/65: Prohibited Areas, you may not bring your firearm into the following places:

1) The building, real property or parking area for an elementary or secondary school, preschool or child care facility.

2) Any facilities under the control of a public or private community college, college or university.

3) Any buildings or parking areas under the government control including the legislative, executive and judicial branches as well as local government facilities, juvenile detention centers, prisons, jails and courthouses.

4) Any public or private hospital, mental health facility or nursing home.

5) Any bus, train or other form of public transportation as well as any facilities under control of that public transportation entity, for example, a train station or parking area.

6) Any place serving alcohol if more than 50% of gross receipts over the past three months is from the sale of alcohol.

7) Any public gathering requiring a governmental permit such as a parade.or any gathering which required a Special Event Retailer’s License.

8) Public park or athletic facility except on a bike path if only part of the path goes through the public park. You also may have a gun in a designated hunting area or on a bike path or trail in an area owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

9) Play areas or playgrounds.

10) Cook County Forest Preserve property

11) Gaming facilities, sports stadiums or arenas.

12) Where firearms are barred by federal law.

13) Libraries, airports, amusement parks, zoos, museums or nuclear energy facilities.

14) Private property owners may prohibit firearms but must clearly and conspicuously post a standardized sign.

If you violate the concealed carry law, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. For later offenses, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year and a $2,500 fine. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the penalties increase to a Class A Misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison, for later offenses.

If you are charged with this or another offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to stop you? Did the owner of the private business post the required sign? Did the place serving alcohol get less than 50% of its gross receipts from alcohol sales? Were you in the process of properly stowing your gun into a locked container within your car as permitted under the law?

Even if 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 can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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 19, 2015

CAN POLICE USE A NARCOTICS DOG TO SNIFF OUTSIDE YOUR HOME IN ILLINOIS?

If you’re stopped while driving a car, the police can use a dog to sniff for drugs around your car provided the search does not unduly prolong the traffic stop. But can the police use a dog to sniff around your house?

The answer is generally no. A dog sniffing outside your home is an intrusion within the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The area immediately surrounding and associated with your home is called “the curtilage.” The exact dimensions of the curtilage depend on the facts of each situation, but if something is inside the curtilage, it falls within Fourth Amendment protections. Therefore, the police must obtain a warrant before bringing a dog to sniff immediately outside your house.

In State of Florida v Jardine, police used a drug-sniffing dog on a homeowner’s porch to uncover marijuana plants. The U.S. Supreme Court held the search illegal because it came uninvited within the curtilage of the home.

Following the Jardine rule, an Illinois Appellate Court refused to uphold a search where police had entered an apartment building through a common locked door that had been left partially ajar. The police used a dog to sniff for drugs outside the defendant’s apartment. (The state acknowledged the search was illegal after Jardine, but believed a doctrine known as the good faith exception applied because the officer relied in good faith on the law prior to Jardine. The Illinois court disagreed. See People v Brown.)

In another Illinois decision, the court struck down the use of a narcotics dog to sweep the halls of an apartment building in the middle of the night. (See People v Burns.) The court noted that that the police were not simply walking down the sidewalk when the dog happened to smell the drugs. Furthermore, there is no implicit invitation for visitors to come to defendant’s front door at that time, and thus police could not legally approach her door without a warrant.

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case for your best possible defense. If the police search was illegal, an attorney can bring a motion asking the judge to suppress the results of the search. Even if the police followed procedures correctly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement then you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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 4, 2015

THE LAW OF PUBLIC INDECENCY IN ILLINOIS

You were walking in the forest preserve, when that coffee you drank ran right through you. As it turns out, the preserve is a cruising area, which you may or may not have known. You start to unzip, thinking you are unobserved, when an undercover officer spots you.

Now you are charged with public indecency. What can you do?

In Illinois, the crime of public indecency (720 ILCS 5/11-30) applies to persons over the age of 17 who perform in a public place a sexual act or a lewd exposure of a body part with intent to arouse. A public place is defined as anywhere that someone would reasonably expect to be observed.

Public indecency is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a $2,500 fine. Repeated exposures or exposure within 500 feet of a school when children are present can upgrade the charge of a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.

Public urination is not considered public indecency under state law. However, some municipalities such as Chicago have specific ordinances concerning such conduct.

If you are charged with public indecency, do not try to explain yourself to the police. What you think is a reasonable explanation may give the prosecutor the evidence needed to convict you. Contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most crimes, the prosecution must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Can the police really prove your intent was sexual? Were you really in a public place?

Even if 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 Illinois 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.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

CAN RUNNING FROM POLICE BE GROUNDS FOR ARREST IN ILLINOIS?

You like to walk at night. A police officer thought your presence late at night was suspicious so he stopped you. You didn’t want him to find the concealed weapon or the cocaine in your pocket, so you ran. Now you are charged with possession of a controlled substance as well as obstructing justice.

Can they do that? What can you do?

Whether your flight gives police grounds for arrest may depend on if you fled an arrest or a lawful investigatory stop rather than an unlawful investigatory stop. The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures. You are not required to answer police questions. If the officer does not have a lawful reason to stop you at the beginning, your flight alone cannot justify an arrest.

However, if the officer had a lawful reason to stop you or the officer was arresting you. your flight may then raise grounds for suspicion and justify a later arrest. The evidence uncovered after your arrest may be admitted even if the officer’s original basis for arresting you was not legal.

For example, an officer stops you because you are in the park at night looking nervous. Nervousness by itself is not lawful grounds for a stop. The police must first have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing at the time he stops you. If the officer merely wanted to frisk you because you seemed nervous, your flight does not justify a later arrest.

Now let’s say the officer wants to stop you because he sees you carrying items that were just reported stolen or he had a tip that someone matching your description just fled the scene of a crime. The officer now has a legal reason to stop you, and your flight gives him or her grounds for arrest.

But let’s say the officer starts arresting you without a reason other than that you look nervous. You run. The arrest is now justified by your flight. Even though the original arrest was illegal, your flight can be used against you. Instead of being able to suppress the original unlawful arrest, you must now deal with an arrest lawfully based on your flight.

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. If your flight was the basis of an unlawful arrest, an attorney can petition the court to suppress the arrest along with any resulting evidence.

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

Source: People v Shipp.

(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.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

CHANGE OF HEART: A PUBLIC'S DEFENDER'S JOURNEY TO FORGIVENESS

“Are you a real lawyer or are you a public defender?”

This is a question that I hear repeatedly at court as a private defense attorney, and it comes loaded with implications. Anybody who is a veteran of criminal law practice knows that public defenders are real lawyers, and that private attorneys often scurry to seek out their advice.

Jeanne Bishop is one of the very best public defenders in Cook County. She recently published Change of Heart, a personal memoir based on her searing experiences within the criminal justice system. I generally advise young attorneys to turn off the TV, drop the smartphone, and read books. Especially books about topics other than the law. For once, here is a story of the legal system that has volumes to say about justice and personal courage.

As a young student, Jeanne volunteered years ago to help fight egregious human rights violations against the people of Northern Ireland. At the time, she was a young attorney with an exceptional background, boundless possibilities, and a stable family life. Then Jeanne’s sister Nancy and her husband were murdered in their home, along with Nancy’s unborn child. Since the murder had happened in a wealthy town and nothing of value seemed to be missing, a frantic investigation was launched. The FBI intervened, outlandishly suggesting that the murders might be linked to Jeanne’s civil rights work in Ireland.

Unbelievably, Jeanne was investigated by the FBI. Allegations that she was obstructing investigators aired recklessly in the media as her depression over Nancy’s murder deepened. While this investigation is briefly noted in the book, Jeanne shows little interest in recounting her own mistreatment at the hands of media and law enforcement. Then the case broke wide open. A young informant led police to David Biro, a troubled local high school student.

The murder weapon was found in Biro’s room, along with scribblings that implied his guilt for the murders. Eventually, Biro was sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile defender. Meanwhile, Jeanne had left a lucrative job with a corporate firm to work as a public defender. As a long-time advocate against the death penalty, she began questioning the propriety of life sentences for young offenders. After intense soul-searching, she decided she had to meet her sister’s killer. What follows may surprise many readers.

A lesser writer might have crafted a profoundly different book out of these horrendous experiences. The brutal elements of the story are not minimized, but sensationalism and self-pity are absent from these pages.

This is a story of justice, the abuse of justice, and the power of forgiveness. Many will disagree with some of Jeanne Bishop’s conclusions, and some will suggest that her religious faith has blinded her. In truth, here is a work of profound vision. The words are etched from pain, but they recount an inspiring act of mercy. This is an unforgettable story.

Jeanne Bishop’s book, Change of Heart, is published by WJK books. Visit www.wjkbooks.com.

If you have questions about Illinois criminal law, 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 16, 2015

THE INSANITY DEFENSE IN ILLINOIS

Sometimes a defendant commits a crime without being truly responsible for his or her actions. Illinois recognizes this concept as the insanity defense. There are, however, many misconceptions about how it works.

Legal insanity does not mean just any type of mental illness or inexplicable behavior. A serial killer’s actions sound insane, but the killer can still appreciate what they are doing is wrong and have the capacity, if not the desire, to conform their conduct to the law.

Legal insanity does not mean diminished capacity, a defense no longer used in Illinois. The fact you committed the crime when you were too drunk to think straight will not excuse your conduct.

Illinois law does recognize the verdict of guilty but mentally ill, where your judgment was impaired by mental illness, but you still knew what you did was wrong. This verdict, however, does not relieve you from punishment.

Under the Illinois Insanity statute, a person is not criminally responsible for their acts if at the time, as a result of mental disease or mental defect, he or she lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct. (See Insanity.)

Insanity does not mean a person is innocent. In fact, the state must prove you guilty of all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Then you must prove your legal insanity by clear and convincing evidence.

Because the defendant must prove insanity, it is critical to present the most compelling evidence possible. A criminal law attorney who is experienced in this defense knows that a credible doctor’s testimony can make or break a case. Your acquaintances may testify about how they saw you immediately before or after the crime, but their testimony is no substitute for an expert’s.

The court will pronounce you guilty of the offense before finding you “not guilty by reason of insanity.” The benefit of such a verdict is that you will likely avoid prison. You can instead be committed to a mental hospital until you are considered well enough to be released.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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, February 19, 2015

ILLINOIS GETS NEW EAVESDROPPING LAW

After the former law was struck down as unconstitutionally broad, Illinois has enacted a new eavesdropping statute.

Under the new law, it is illegal to use an eavesdropping device to record private conversations unless all parties consent. (See Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.) A private conversation is defined as oral communication between two or more parties, whether in person or through wire or other means, and where one or more of the parties intended the communication to be private under circumstances reasonably justifying that expectation.

A person commits the crime of eavesdropping when he or she knowingly or intentionally uses an eavesdropping device to surreptitiously overhear, transmit or record a conversation to which he or she is not a party unless all parties to the private communication consent. It is also illegal to disclose any information obtained through that eavesdropping.

Police are not permitted to eavesdrop without a court order unless they were unaware that the communication was privileged.

Eavesdropping as a first offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison. A second offense is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years. Eavesdropping on law enforcement or the state’s attorney while in the performance of their duties is a Class 3 felony for a first offense, and a Class 2 for subsequent offenses.

If you are charged under the new law or for another criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case to determine your best possible options. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you intentionally eavesdrop? Did the complaining witness really have a justified expectation of privacy?

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)

ILLINOIS ENACTS NEW LAW TO PREVENT "REVENGE PORN"

Before the modern digital era, jilted lovers would exact revenge on their unhappy exes by mailing those compromising photos. Once the photos or negatives were destroyed, however, the images were gone. End of problem.

But in these times, things are not so simple. Photos taken by cellphone during an unguarded moment may be impossible to eradicate. And transmitting a damaging image has never been so simple.

As a result, Illinois has enacted a law to ban the dissemination of private sexual images without the subject’s consent. Starting June 1, 2015, it is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 3 years to intentionally disseminate an image of another who 1) is at least 18, 2) engaged in a sexual act or where intimate parts are exposed and 3) is identifiable from the image or information with the image.

If you are charged with this offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your situation to determine your best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state has the burden of proving all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you intentionally send the photos? Is the victim identifiable? Were the photos in fact sexual? Even if 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 can on your own.

If you are charged with this offense, do not speak about your situation with police or third parties. Any efforts to explain the situation could result in giving the state’s attorney the ammunition they need to convict you.

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

Source: Non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images.

(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, January 6, 2015

TAKING THE PLEA IN CRIMINAL COURT IN ILLINOIS

In my practice, making a plea agreement is a last resort, not a first option.

When a client comes to me, I first review all the evidence against him or her for any possible defense. Was the arrest based on probable cause? Was the search proper? Can the state prove all the elements of the crime?

But sometimes, the state’s case is very strong, and the client is best served by making a plea agreement.

Depending on the jurisdiction or the courtroom, I will negotiate a plea with either the state’s attorney or village prosecutor. In some cases, the judge will hold something called a 402 conference. In a 402 conference, the prosecutor and defense attorney meet in the judge’s chambers to discuss the case. At that time, I will present any evidence in your favor as to why you deserve a more lenient sentence. The judge will then make a recommendation regarding the charges and sentencing.

If the prosecutor’s offer or the judge’s recommendation is agreeable, you may accept the plea. This means you are giving up your rights to confront witnesses, go to trial or present evidence in your defense.

Or you can reject the offer and take your chances at trial.

In negotiating a plea, it helps to have an attorney who is respected at the courthouse and knows the players involved. The prosecutor does not have an incentive to make a good offer to an attorney who never takes cases to trial. An attorney who is familiar with the prosecutor and judges also has a better understanding of what to say on your behalf—or what will backfire.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)