Friday, October 27, 2017

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MURDER AND MANSLAUGHTER IN ILLINOIS?

The answer is in your state of mind. Murder may be committed intentionally or knowingly, whereas manslaughter involves unintentional, if reckless, behavior.

In Illinois, first degree murder means you intended to kill or do great bodily harm to someone, or you knew that your actions would cause or were highly likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another. 720 ILCS 5/9-1. First degree murder also includes a killing that occurs while commiting a forcible felony other than second degree murder. First degree murder has its own set of sentencing rules including the potential for the death penalty.

Second degree murder is like first degree murder with mitigation. Either you were acting under a sudden and intense passion because you were seriously provoked by the person you intended to kill, or you unreasonably believed you were defending yourself or another. 720 ILCS 5/9-2. Second degree murder is a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

Involuntary manslaughter involves unintentional killing where your actons, even if lawful, were reckless and likely to cause death. 720 ILCS 5/9-3. If your actions involved a vehicle such as a car, snowmobile or boat, you may then be charged with reckless homicide. Both offenses are a Class 3 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.

In certain circumstances, reckless homicide can be upgraded to a Class 2 felony, such as if you went speeding through a school zone and killed two or more people.

If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. In many cases, the state charges a higher offense than is warranted by the evidence. In a best case scenario, an attorney can present your case in hopes of winning your acquittal. But even if the evidence is overwhelmingly against you, an experienced attorney may help obtain a verdict or negotiate a plea agreement for a lesser offense.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its possible defense. If police did not have a valid reason to stop you, an attorney may be able to ask the court to suppress the evidence from your arrest. Even if the police acted properly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house 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, October 13, 2017

CAN ILLINOIS POLICE STOP ME JUST BECAUSE I HAVE A GUN?

The answer is probably not.

On September 12, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Cort in People v. Aguilar partially struck down the law that barred possession of a handgun for self-defense outside the home. Thus, the mere fact you have a gun in your possession, without more, is not enough cause for police to stop you.

In a recent appellate case, People v Thomas, police received a tip that the defendant had a gun. The tip did not inform police whether defendant was involved in other criminal activity or whether defendant lacked a valid Firearms Owners Identification card. The gun ban was in effect at the time of defendant’s arrest. However, the law had since been declared unconsitutional and could no longer serve as a basis for the defendant’s arrest. Therefore, defendant’s stop by police was unconstitutional.

Likewise in People v Horton, officers thought they saw a metallic object that could have been a gun. The court held that this fact alone did not serve as probable cause for an arrest.

If you have a prior conviction based on a law that has since been declared unconstitutional, you will need to petition the court to vacate your prior conviction. Otherwise, your prior conviction can be used against you in a later offense. For more information, see our related post: If a Gun Law is Unconstitutional, Can My Conviction Under That Law Be Set Aside.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its possible defense. If police did not have a valid reason to stop you, an attorney may be able to ask the court to suppress the evidence from your arrest. Even if the police acted properly and the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the court house 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.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HELP FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED OR MENTALLY-ILL DEFENDANT

Most criminal offenses require the state to prove that the defendant knowingly or intended to commit the crime. But what if the crime is committed by someone who is mentally ill or developmentally disabled?

For example, in the recent Illinois case People v Mayo, the defendant was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The defendant, however, had suffered a brain injury in infancy and presently had the mental capacity of a 3-year-old and an IQ of 48. Therefore, could the defendant truly form the required intent to commit the crime?

In such cases, Illinois law provides certain procedures. First, the court must determine whether the defendant is mentally fit to stand trial. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the court will determine that the defendant is fit, and the case moves to trial. If the defendant is not fit, the court holds a discharge hearing.

A discharge hearing determines whether a defendant should be acquitted, but not whether a defendant is guilty. If the defendant cannot be acquitted because there is enough evidence of guilt, the court may find the defendant “not not guilty.” The defendant is then subject to one to five years of treatment, depending on the offense. If the defendant is still unfit after the treatment ends, the court may involuntarily commit the defendant for further treatment. The commitment, however, cannot exceed the maximum sentence prescribed under the original criminal charge.

If a defendant is fit to stand trial, the defendant may seek a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity.” Under these circumstances, a defendant must show that as a result of mental disease or defect, he or she lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct. The court must first enter a verdict of guilty, then find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. (See our related post The Insanity Defense in Illinois.

If you have a friend or relative charged with a crime who suffers from a mental disability or illness, contact an experienced attorney immediately. An attorney can help present evidence of your loved one’s difficulties in their most favorable light. Often, a mental capacity defense will require expert testimony. An attorney can help select and prepare these experts.

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.)