Friday, February 15, 2019

WHAT IS A DEFENSE TO FELONY MURDER?

Under the Illinois felony murder law, you can be convicted of first degree murder if you kill another person without lawful justification while committing a forcible felony other than second degree murder. A forcible felony includes offenses such as aggravated battery or other crimes of violence. To convict you, the state must show that your felonious actions set in motion the chain of events that led to the victim’s death.

But what if the death came before the felony? One Illinois court overturned a defendant’s conviction on just those grounds. In People v Space, the defendant shot the victim to death before shooting at a third party. The defendant was convicted of felony murder based on the aggravated battery with a firearm to the third party. Under those circumstances, the court said that the act causing the death occurred before the underlying felony. Therefore, the state could not prove all the elements of felony murder, and the defendant’s conviction was overturned.

The distinction between felony murder and other types of first degree murder may seem largely academic. The above defendant was still convicted of the aggravated battery with a firearm. The difference lies in your state of mind. First degree murder requires the state to prove you intended to kill. Under felony murder, the state need only show that you caused the death. Thus, felony murder may be easier for the state to prove.

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. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if 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. See Illinois First Degree Murder Statute.

(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 7, 2019

I WAS ARRESTED IN CHICAGO, BUT MY CASE IS IN SKOKIE

You live in Chicago, your offense was in Chicago, the police arrested you in Chicago, so you fully expected your court would be in Chicago. But to your surprise, your case is assigned to the Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie at 5600 Old Orchard Road.

Why is that? What does it mean for you?

Due to Cook County cost-saving measures, two district courthouses in Chicago are now closed. As a result, all felony cases from the court formerly located at Belmont and Western have now been sent to Skokie. The good news is there are many fine judges in Skokie who will give your case a fair hearing.

In Skokie, your preliminary hearing will likely be heard in Room 105. At that hearing, the court determines whether the state has enough probable cause to proceed on your case. If so, your case will be transferred to another Skokie courtroom. If not, your case could be dismissed.

As in most cases, it helps to have an attorney who is familiar with and respected by the judges and the states attorneys at the court where your case is being handled. Knowledge of the courthouse can be important in determining the best strategy for your case.

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. Was police questioning proper? Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? 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.)

Monday, February 4, 2019

DRUG CRIMES WITHIN 500 FEET OF A CHURCH IN ILLINOIS

You were in an alley making a deal when the police arrived and charged you with delivering drugs. You thought you could cope with the misdemeanor, but it turns out you were within 500 feet of a church. Because of that, the charges are greater.

Can you fight the stiffer charge? Did that building near the alley even look like a church?

Under Illinois law, the penalty for a drug-related crime can be upgraded if you committed that offense on or 500 feet from any church, synagogue or other building, structure or place used primarily for religious worship. (See 720 ILCS 570/407). A church or synagogue are clearly places of worship within the meaning of the law. But what about other structures where it’s less than obvious?

To determine whether a "church,” is a place of worship, a building need not have the particular physical characteristics of a church. Instead the court looks at whether the structure is primarily used for religious purposes. Thus, a Salvation Army building was deemed a church because people came to its chapel solely for the purpose of attending religious services. (See People v. Sparks). Even where a building is a place of religious worship, it must be one on the date of the offense.

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. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were you within 500 feet of the alleged place of worship? Was it a place of worship?

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.)