Friday, April 3, 2020

THE CRIME OF THREATENING A PUBLIC OFFICIAL IN ILLINOIS

Frustrated by a traffic stop, you let the officer know exactly how you felt. Or maybe you took your frustration out on a judge who ruled against you. Either way, you are now charged with threatening a public official.

Can you be convicted? The answer depends on what you said and the context in which you said it.

In Illinois, you can be charged with threatening a public official or human service provider when you knowingly communicate a threat that would place the official or their immediate family in reasonable fear of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, restraint or damage to property. The threat may be communicated in any way. Further, the threat must be related to the official’s status or performance of their job.

For the state to convict, your statement must be a “true threat.” True threats are those where you intended to threaten violence, but not necessarily where you intended to act on the threat. To determine your intent, the court looks at the totality of the circumstances.

Threats to police, social workers, caseworkers, investigators or human service providers must contain specific facts indicating a unique threat to their person, family or property and not a generalized threat of harm.

One Illinois court held that the language “I’m gonna get you,” was not a true threat because the state did not show the context in which the threat was made. Illinois courts have also held that a defendant’s yelling at a prosecutor to “come back and say that to my face” and a defendant’s threat to a judge that he’ll “be hearing from someone” were also not true threats.

Threatening an official is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison, for a first offense and a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison for later offenses.

If you have been charged with a threatening an official or other crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. What exactly did you say? Can the state prove your intent? 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.

See 720 ILCS 5/12-9(a) and People v. Smith.

(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.)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

ILLINOIS CYBERSTALKING LAW DOES NOT VIOLATE FIRST AMENDMENT

You texted some things you probably shouldn’t have to your ex-fiancé. You knew the texts were nasty, but you were blowing off steam. And what about your right to free speech?

A recent Illinois court decision has held that certain comments, such as true threats, are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Under one definition of cyberstalking, the state must prove that you knowingly and without lawful justification harassed another person at least twice through electronic communication, and you transmitted a threat of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint which was directed towards that person or their family; or you placed that person in reasonable fear of such harm or you solicited a third person to commit cyberstalking for you. (See 720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a-3)).

In People v. Crawford, the court rejected the idea that the cyberstalking law violated due process or free speech. In that case, the defendant sent several text messages telling the victim she was “GONE DIE,” and “I WILL F*** MURDER U.” The defendant argued his statements were protected by the First Amendment. The court disagreed stating that the defendant’s messages were true threats, and thus not constitutionally-protected speech. True threats are statements where you intend to communicate a serious expression of your intent to commit an act of violence to a particular individual or group. You need not actually intend to carry out your threat.

If you have been charged with cyberstalking or a similar offense, 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 the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were your texts true threats or were they misunderstood? Were you just kidding around? Was the victim’s fear of harm reasonable? 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, March 20, 2020

WHAT IS THE CRIME OF AGGRAVATED STALKING IN ILLINOIS?

Under Illinois law, you commit aggravated stalking when you stalk another and either 1) cause bodily harm; 2) confine or restrain that person; 3) violate a court order; or 4) stalk a victim or their family when you were required to register as a sex offender because of an offense against that victim. (See Aggravated Stalking.)

Stalking means that you knowingly engaged in conduct directed at a specific person, that you knew or should have known would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress or fear for their own or another’s safety.

Stalking is also defined as knowingly following another person and/or placing them under surveillance at least twice, and threatening them or placing them in reasonable fear of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint. The threat must have been directed towards that person or their family member. Surveilling a person includes staying outside of their school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by them or their residence unless it is your own.

Aggravated stalking is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison. A second or subsequent conviction is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Would your conduct have caused a reasonable person to fear harm? Was your conduct even directed at the alleged victim? Did you violate the specific terms of any no-contact order? As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case in hopes of winning a not guilty verdict.

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: People v. Taylor

(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, 2020

DO I STILL NEED TO COME TO COOK COUNTY COURT FOR MY CRIMINAL CASE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS QUARANTINE?

While the Cook County Circuit Court will be primarily closed from March 17, 2020 to April 15, 2020, you may still need to appear on certain criminal matters. Please be aware that the guidelines below may change. The best advice is to check with your attorney before your scheduled court date.

All adult criminal trials scheduled for the next 30 days are postponed and will be rescheduled. The court, however, will still conduct bail hearings, preliminary hearings and arraignments. Since these are the first three proceedings in a felony matter, you will likely need to appear if your felony is new.

The court will also enter plea agreements that conclude a case. A pretrial defendant may also request a bail review.

While high-risk adults on probation must still report to their probation officers, low and medium-risk adults need not meet in person, and a probation officer will contact them about a phone or video conference meeting.

Juvenile defendants in delinquency and criminal proceedings may still demand trial and the court shall still hold detention hearings to determine if a juvenile shall be held in custody while a case is open.

Most matters involving child abuse and neglect will move forward as well as orders of protection on domestic violence matters.

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: Cook County Circuit Court Information Regarding Coronavirus

(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, March 6, 2020

ARE STUN GUNS AND TASERS PROTECTED BY THE SECOND AMENDMENT?

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the answer is yes.

The court struck down the portion of the Unlawful Use of a Weapon (UUW) law that banned carrying or possessing a stun gun or taser. See People v. Webb.

Under Illinois law, you can be charged with unlawful use of a weapon if you carry a concealed firearm in violation of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The Act allows you to carry a concealed firearm if certain conditions are met such as that you possess a valid Firearm Owners Identification card. Under the law, a concealed firearm is defined as “a loaded or unloaded handgun carried on or about a person completely or mostly concealed from view of the public or on or about a person within a vehicle.” A handgun is then defined as “any device which is designed to expel a projectile or projectiles by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas, or escape of gas that is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand.”

A handgun does not include 1) a stun gun or taser, 2) machine gun, 3) short-barreled rifle or shotgun or (4) any pneumatic gun, spring gun, paint ball gun, or B-B gun which expels a single globular projectile not exceeding .18 inch in diameter, or which has a maximum muzzle velocity of less than 700 feet per second, or which expels breakable paint balls containing washable marking colors.

The Illinois Supreme court held that a stun gun or taser cannot be licensed under the FCCA because it is excluded from the definition of handgun, and that such a categorical ban violates the Second Amendment.

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. If you were charged or convicted under a law that was later ruled unconstitutional, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to have the charges dismissed or your conviction vacated.

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, March 3, 2020

CAN I BE CHARGED WITH ESCAPE FOR RUNNING FROM POLICE DURING AN ARREST?

You’ve seen the movies. The prisoner busts out of jail and makes a run for it complete with searchlights circling, dogs barking and sirens blaring. Obviously, that sort of escape is a criminal offense.

But what if you simply panicked and ran away from police during an arrest? Under Illinois law, you could be charged if you intentionally escape while in the lawful custody of a peace officer for an alleged offense. If your arrest is for a felony, you can be charged with a Class 2 Felony. If your arrest is for a misdemeanor, the charge can be Class A Escape. If armed with a dangerous weapon, your offense can be upgraded to a Class 1 Felony. (See 720 ILCS 5/31-6). If you are in a penal institution, escape can include failing to report back from a work furlough or day release. You can also be charged with escape for violating a condition of probation or supervision.

In determining whether you were in lawful custody, Illinois courts look at how much control the officer had over you and how much restriction was on your freedom of movement. Merely announcing you are under arrest might not be enough to establish lawful custody. In People v. Garza, however, the court held the defendant was in lawful custody where officers told defendant he was under arrest, stood within two feet of him and escorted him throughout the house after defendant was given permission to put on his clothing and say goodbye to his family, then escorted him down the stairs and through the door.

If you have been charged with escape or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Can the state prove all the elements of your offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Were you in lawful custody at the time? 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.)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

CHILD ENDANGERMENT CAN LEAD TO MORE TROUBLE

You left your baby in the car while you were in the mall running errands. When you came out, a couple police officers had broken your window to check on your now-crying child. In the process, they found illegal medication on the back seat. Now you have been arrested for illegal narcotics and for child endangerment.

Did the police have a right to seize the drugs while dealing with your infant?

Under Illinois law, the answer is probably yes. As long as the officers were legitimately performing their community caretaking function, they need not ignore the evidence in front of them.

In People v. Woods, officers received a tip that the defendant had left her four-month old infant alone in the house. The officers knocked, listened for sounds of distress and peeked in windows to investigate. The officers entered the home after the defendant arrived. They found the infant had been alone and charged defendant with child endangerment. Defendant argued that once she arrived home, the officer’s community caretaking function ended, and thus, there was no need to investigate further. The court disagreed, finding it was reasonable for the officers to want to see that the infant was safe with their own eyes. Further, there was no evidence that the community caretaking function had been used as an excuse for a criminal investigation.

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 the seizure of evidence against you justified by the community caretaking function? If not, an attorney may be able to bring a motion to suppress the evidence from your arrest.

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.)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

DID YOU INVOKE YOUR RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY?

If you watch enough police shows, you know all about your right to an attorney when charged with a crime. But to exercise that right, you have to be specific.

Under Illinois law, you must clearly ask police for an attorney so that a reasonable officer under the circumstances would understand your statement to be a request for an attorney. Otherwise, the police can keep questioning you. Although no specific words are required, merely mentioning a lawyer to police is insufficient to stop the interrogation.

Courts have viewed the following language as not sufficient to invoke counsel: 1) “Maybe I should talk to a lawyer.” 2) “Am I going to be able to get a lawyer?” 3) “Do I need a lawyer before we start talking?” and 4) “I can’t ask for a lawyer?”

To protect your Miranda rights, you should say something like: “I invoke my right to remain silent and to have an attorney present,” or “I don’t want to answer any questions, and I want an attorney.”

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 you clearly ask for an attorney? If police continued to question you, your attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress any statements you made as a result.

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 People v. Brickhouse.

(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 3, 2020

CAN MY FANTASIES OR INTERNET SEARCHES BE USED AGAINST ME IN A SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE?

You have been charged with criminal sexual assault of a minor child. After confiscating your computer, the state found your internet research on child pornography along with some stories you wrote. Can the state use these searches and stories to convict you?

Quite possibly. But like so much of law, it depends on the judge. The court could find your writings and/or your internet searches are relevant to show your intent to commit the crime.

Under the Illinois Rules of Evidence, your past acts are generally not admissible to prove you have bad character and thus, are more likely to commit a crime. However, such evidence can be used to show intent as well as motive, opportunity, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident. If your writings fall within one of those categories, they could be admitted.

In People v. Ressa, the defendant was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and child abduction. Both offenses require the state to prove intent. The trial court admitted into evidence “defendant’s delusional and fantastical writings, online searches relating to well-known cases involving children who had been murdered and sexually molested, and other items relating to children.” The court said this evidence was relevant to show whether the defendant touched the children for purposes of sexual gratification.

If you are charged with sexual assault or a similar crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As the court above noted, the trial judge must decide whether to admit such evidence on a case-by-case basis. An experienced attorney may be able to persuade the court that such evidence should be kept out at trial.

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.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

WHEN CAN A COURT DISMISS MY CRIMINAL CASE?

Criminal cases do not routinely get thrown out of court short of a plea agreement or trial. But the court can dismiss your case if it meets certain criteria.

A court may dismiss a case on any of the following bases:

  1. Your case did not go to trial within the time limits of the speedy trial act.
  2. Prosecution is barred by double jeopardy.
  3. You received immunity from prosecution.
  4. You were indicted by a grand jury that was not properly selected or certified, resulting in substantial injustice to you.
  5. The court does not have jurisdiction or the county is an improper place of trial.
  6. The charge against you does not state an offense. For example, the indictment omits an element of the offense charged.
  7. The indictment against you is based on testimony from an incompetent witness, for example, the witness is mentally ill.
  8. You are incorrectly named resulting in substantial injustice to you.
  9. Bail was not set or you were not indicted by a grand jury within certain time limits.

Apart from the above statutory grounds, the court may dismiss a case where there is a clear denial of due process which prejudices you. (See People v. Atchison and People v. Lopez.) Be aware, however, that whether a judge thinks your case meets the legal grounds for dismissal can be very fact specific and opinions can differ widely between judges. Therefore, an attorney who knows the courthouse may be better able to present your case in its most favorable light before your particular judge.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If your case meets one of the above criteria, an attorney may be able bring a motion before the court seeking dismissal.

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 725 ILCS 5/114-1.

(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, January 10, 2020

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS “REVENGE PORN” STATUTE

The Illinois “Revenge Porn” statute does not require a vengeful intent, and the Illinois Supreme Court has said that is OK. In a recent decision, the court concluded the statute did not violate the First Amendment by unduly restricting free speech.

Under the law, it is a Class 4 felony to intentionally disseminate an identifiable image of another person over age 18 involved in a sex act or whose intimate parts are exposed where the image was obtained under circumstances in which a reasonable person would understand the image was to remain private and should know that the person in the image did not consent to the dissemination. See 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5.

An “image” includes photographs, films, videotape, digital recordings or other depictions of an object, including a human body. “Intimate parts” is defined as “the fully unclothed, partially unclothed or transparently clothed genitals, pubic area, anus, or if the person is female, a partially or fully exposed nipple including exposure through transparent clothing.” Under the law, sharing a nude drawing could potentially become a Class 4 felony.

The law contains certain exceptions such as if the image was disseminated: 1) for purposes of a criminal investigation, 2) for reporting unlawful conduct, 3) where the images involve voluntary exposure for commercial purposes or 4) for some other lawful purpose.

In People v. Austin, the defendant discovered the victim’s texts and nude photos on her fiancé’s phone. The defendant broke off her engagement. Her ex-fiancé then told friends and family that she was crazy. In response, the defendant wrote a letter explaining her side of the story and including four pictures of the naked victim. Because the Illinois law does not contain a mental intent element, it does not require a vengeful motive. In this case, the defendant was convicted for essentially defending herself against her fiancé’s statements. Nevertheless, the Court reasoned that the statute did not restrict speech of public concern, and thus did not violate the First Amendment nor due process.

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 the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you have reason to believe that the image was intended to remain private or that the victim had not consented to its dissemination? 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.)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

THE CRIME OF DEFACING A WEAPON IN ILLINOIS

Defacing a firearm in Illinois is serious business.

If you knowingly or intentionally changed, removed or obliterated the name of the importer's or manufacturer's serial number from any firearm, you can be charged with a Class 2 felony.

Simply possessing a firearm where the serial number has been changed or removed is a Class 3 felony. See 720 ILC 5/24-5. To convict you for possession, the State need only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed a firearm which was defaced. The state need not show that you knew the weapon was defaced.

The law exempts people who repair or replace parts on guns if they remove marks other than the serial number. The state has six years to bring charges against you for defacing or possessing a defaced gun.

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 have probable cause to search the premises where they found the defaced weapon? Can the state prove that you knowingly possessed the gun? 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.

Source: People v Lee

(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.)