Friday, August 16, 2019

CAN I BE CONVICTED OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT FOR ASKING A QUESTION?

You were just curious, so you called a government office and started asking questions. You wanted to know how they handle threats involving guns or bombs. Something in the nature of your questions spooked the office manager, and now you have been charged with disorderly conduct.

Were your questions enough to get you convicted? What about freedom of speech? What can you do now?

In Illinois, depending on what you said and how you said it, you could be convicted of disorderly conduct. (See 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(1)). To do so, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you “knowingly” committed an act in an unreasonable manner that you knew or should have known would tend to alarm or disturb another so as to cause a breach of the peace. The court looks at the unreasonableness of your conduct and its tendency to disturb. You need not have made overt threats or used abusive language.

In People v. Swenson, the defendant asked a school what would happen if he showed up on campus with a gun, whether the school had bulletproof windows, and how long it would take for police to arrive. Amidst other bizarre comments, the defendant asked the school principal if she was prepared to have the “sacrificial blood of lambs” on her hands. The court held that under the circumstances, defendant clearly exceeded the bounds of reasonableness and that he should have known his conduct would be disturbing. The court also held that the First Amendment did not protect the manner in which defendant expressed himself.

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? A determination of disorderly conduct is very fact specific. An experienced attorney, who knows the courthouse, may be able to present your facts to a judge in their 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.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

WILL MY OUTSTANDING COURT FINES KEEP ME FROM EXPUNGING OR SEALING MY CRIMINAL RECORD IN ILLINOIS?

The answer, in most cases, is no.

A change in Illinois law permits you to expunge or seal your criminal record notwithstanding any fines or fees you may owe.

Before you can clear your criminal record, your case must have been terminated. As of August 10, 2018, the definition of termination does not include any outstanding financial obligations. Therefore, the court cannot deny your petition because you owe a court or government imposed debt. Once your record is sealed, the court may still permit access to any records necessary to collect the debt from you.

The court may still deny your petition if you haven’t paid legal restitution to a victim unless that restitution has been converted to a civil judgment.

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. Reference: Public Act 100-0776

(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, August 2, 2019

ILLINOIS COURT FINDS ARREST BASED ON CHICAGO POLICE INVESTIGATIVE ALERT UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Chicago police regulations allow officers to arrest people on the basis of an investigative alert where there is probable cause to believe a suspect has committed a crime. But a recent Illinois court has now ruled this practice unconstitutional.

In People v. Bass, the defendant allegedly molested a minor. Chicago police issued an investigative alert but did not apply for an arrest warrant. Three weeks later, police pulled defendant over, ran a name check then arrested him based on the alert.

The court held the arrest illegal because an investigative alert allows a police supervisor—rather than a judge--to determine probable cause. The court reasoned that the Illinois constitution goes “a step beyond” the U.S. Constitution in requiring a warrant in these circumstances before a valid arrest can be made.

Although the arrest was illegal, the court sent the case back for a new trial because there was sufficient other evidence to convict defendant.

The court noted that only the Chicago Police Department appears to use investigative alerts (also called "stop orders”). By striking the practice, Chicago Police would be put on an equal footing with other police departments, the court said.

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. Did the police follow proper procedure to arrest you? Even if the police acted lawfully and 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.)