Friday, September 22, 2017

CAN YOU VACATE YOUR CONVICTION UNDER THE ILLINOIS STATUTE BARRING SEX OFFENDERS FROM PUBLIC PARKS?

In a recent decision, an Illinois Appellate court struck down a law that barred convicted sex offenders from public parks. When a statute is declared unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional from the beginning. Therefore, if you have been convicted under such a statute, you may be able to ask the court to vacate your conviction.

Vacating your conviction becomes particularly important if you have an immigration status and could be deported or lose your green card. Even if you are a citizen, a prior conviction can be used to upgrade a charge or sentence for a later offense unless you vacate the conviction before that time.

In People v Pepitone, the defendant, who had been previously convicted of a child sex offense, was arrested for walking his dog in a public park. The prior law made it a crime “for a sexual predator or a child sex offender to knowingly be present in any public park building or on real property comprising any public park.” A public park is defined as “a park, forest preserve, bikeway, trail, or conservation area under the jurisdiction of the State or a unit of local government.”

While the legislature has an interest in protecting children, the court held the statute was too broad and criminalized “substantial amounts of innocent conduct.” The statute was “an outright ban on all individuals with certain sex offense convictions from public park buildings and public park property without any requirement that anyone—particularly a child—be actually, or even probably, present.” Furthermore, the statute criminalized innocent conduct such as attending a concert, a Chicago Bears’ game at Soldier Field, or even a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.

If you have been convicted under a statute that has later been held unconstitutional, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney may petition the court to vacate your conviction. If you do not, your conviction can be used against you for sentencing purposes should you later be charged with a crime.

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, September 12, 2017

THE ILLINOIS LAW ON SELF DEFENSE

You got into a fight at a bar or a party or even in your own home. While you are now charged with a crime, you weren’t the one who started making trouble. Can you claim self defense?

The answer depends on a number of factors. Who started the fight? Were you afraid the other person was about to hurt you? Was your fear reasonable?

In Illinois, the elements of self-defense include that (1) unlawful force was threatened against a person, (2) the person threatened was not the aggressor, (3) the danger of harm was imminent, (4) the use of force was necessary, (5) the person threatened actually and subjectively believed a danger existed that required the use of force, and (6) the beliefs of the person threatened were objectively reasonable.

Whether these elements equal self defense depends on the specific facts of your situation and the whether the judge or jury believes you.

In People v Williams, the court held that the defendant’s fear of imminent bodily harm was unreasonable when the victim was unarmed and injured.

On the other hand in In re Vuk, a defendant’s self defense claim was upheld where the court did not believe any of the witnesses. Once self defense has been raised, the state has the burden of disproving the self defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the trial court believed all the state’s witnesses were lying, the state could not sustain its burden of proof.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Self defense is just one of several defenses that can be raised to fight a criminal charge.

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.)