Illinois Criminal Defense Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Marijuana Possession in Illinois: No Worse than a Speeding Ticket?

A bill that recently passed the House makes possession of 15 grams of marijuana worth a $125 fine -- and after 6 months, people punished under the new law can have the conviction expunged from their records.

It passed with a 62-53 vote and the Illinois Department of Corrections estimates that it will save the state about $30 million. 

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

House Bill 3533: Tougher Punishments for Drunk Driving in the Works

House Bill 3533, which just received full bipartisan support in the House, requires people convicted of a second drunk driving offense to submit to in-car blood-alcohol monitoring devices for at least 5 years before their driver's licenses are reinstated. Read the full story here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BREAKING: Cook County No Longer Prosecuting Minor Pot Offenses

Cook County has new goals when it comes to minor drug offenses, including those that involve marijuana. In an effort to move nonviolent drug offenders out of the criminal justice system without forcing them behind bars, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office is focusing on treatment instead of punishment.

"If someone is caught with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, the state's attorney's office will no longer prosecute that case," said Sally Daly, the Office's spokesperson. (Read more here.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Prostitution Charges in Chicago

Chicago takes prostitution pretty seriously. Police frequently set up stings to catch prostitutes and their customers, so a significant number of people are arrested for prostitution each month.

Illinois Prostitution Defined

According to Illinois law, a prostitution conviction is possible for “any person who knowingly performs, offers or agrees to perform any act of sexual penetration (of the mouth, hands, or anus, however slight) or any touching or fondling of the sex organs of one person by another person for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification for any thing of value commits an act of prostitution.”

It’s a Class A misdemeanor, which means a conviction is punishable by up to 12 months of incarceration. If you’re convicted, you’re also facing up to $2,500 in fines.

You can even be picked up for soliciting others within the city of Chicago. The law is very clear when it says, “Any person who remains or wanders about in a public place and repeatedly beckons to, or repeatedly stops, or repeatedly attempts to stop, or repeatedly attempts to engage passersby in conversation, or repeatedly stops or attempts to stop motor vehicles, or repeatedly interferes with the free passage of other persons, for the purpose of pandering, prostitution, or solicitation shall be guilty of a violation of this section.”

This is a violation of city ordinance, so the penalties include a possible fine between $750 and $1,500. It also carries a possible penalty of imprisonment for 20 days to 6 months, as well as possible community service or a diversion program.

Even worse, though, the superintendent of police will make your name available to newspapers, radio stations and TV stations.

What to Do if You’re Arrested for Prostitution in Chicago

Because a conviction carries such serious penalties, it’s probably a good idea to talk to a prostitution lawyer in Chicago. Don’t admit or deny anything; you have the right to wait for your attorney before you answer any questions, so use it.

The judge may be lenient with you; if it’s your first offense and you have a clean record, he or she may even dismiss your case. However, if this is your second or subsequent time being arrested for prostitution within Chicago’s city limits, judges are less likely to cut you a break. It’s important that you let your lawyer know about the other times you’ve been to court so he can protect your rights and get the best possible outcome for your case.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Transporting a Firearm Illegally in Chicago

Chicago is notoriously strict when it comes to gun control laws, and those laws even extend to the trunk of your car. In fact, all of Illinois—including Schaumburg, Skokie and Rolling Meadows—falls under those very stringent regulations.

Transportation of Weapons in Illinois Criminal Code

The way you transport your firearm matters. Whether you have a hunting rifle, a handgun or any other type of weapon (such as a bow and arrow, for example), transporting it the wrong way may be a Class 4 felony.

The Illinois Criminal Code addresses transportation of firearms, as well. You can only transport a firearm from one place to another if you have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, a Chicago Firearm Permit (in the city) and a firearm registration certificate. You also need to make sure that your weapon is:

  • Broken down into a non-functioning state
  • Not immediately accessible
  • Unloaded and in a firearm case

Transporting a Firearm Illegally: When is it a Class 4 Felony in Chicago?

A judge could find you guilty of a Class 4 felony if you were caught transporting a gun that was uncased, loaded and accessible. Even if your uncased gun wasn’t loaded, but the ammunition was immediately accessible, you could be found guilty.

You may also be guilty if:

  • You don’t have a valid FOID card
  • You were adjudicated of a felony when you were a juvenile
  • You were caught with a gun while engaged in a misdemeanor involving marijuana or controlled substances
  • You are a gang member
  • You’ve had an order of protection against you within the past two years
  • You were involved in a violent misdemeanor
  • You’re under 21

What to Do if You’re Caught Illegally Transporting a Firearm in Chicago

Because Illinois has very strict laws when it comes to firearms, most people find that it’s best to call a Chicago gun law attorney who will evaluate their case and help find the best possible outcome. Perhaps the police were guilty of an unlawful search, or maybe your gun or ammunition was out of reach; there are several ways your lawyer can defend you against weapons charges in Chicago and the state of Illinois.



Friday, March 20, 2015

What to Do When You're Arrested for DUI in Chicago

When you're convicted of driving under the influence in a Cook County court, the after-effects can be very traumatic. You could lose your driver's license, pay massive fines and face social consequences. You could even end up spending time behind bars.

While it sounds dramatic, the outcome of your case can depend on the type of legal representation you choose--and how quickly you get a lawyer on your team. 

What to Do When You're Arrested for DUI in Chicago

Generally police will take you straight to jail when you're arrested for DUI. You'll be booked and put into a cell, and from there, you will likely be given the opportunity to get in touch with an attorney. 

Take the first chance you get.

You don't want to wait for a public defender. While the court will appoint a public defender for you, which seems like the easy choice, you need to know that public defenders are often very overworked. They're burdened with dozens of cases ranging from murder charges to petty theft, and they will probably not have time to meet with you until just before you see the judge.

That's why it is so important to find a Chicago DUI attorney who can be there to help protect your rights immediately. Your lawyer will explain your charges before you're even arraigned, and he will give you case-specific advice so that you can enter the right plea for your situation. 

Remember, you don't have to talk to the police when they ask you questions. You have the right to remain silent, so exercise it! Let your lawyer do the talking for you (or make sure that he advises you before you talk).

These things can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case, and dealing with DUI charges on your own puts you at a significant disadvantage. Is that a risk you're willing to take? 

Friday, March 6, 2015

The 3 Most Common Criminal Charges in Chicago

Hundreds of people are arraigned for crimes in and around Chicago each day. Some charges are more common than others, according to the FBI, although overall crime in the city is on a decline.

But what are the most common criminal charges in Chicago?

Chicago’s 3 Most Common Criminal Charges

The FBI breaks crime down into several broad categories, such as violent crimes and property crimes. From there, they break things down further into more specific categories. The FBI tracks crime statistics for decades, and far and away, there are three crimes that are routinely the most common in Chicago.

1. Larceny and theft. Theft includes crimes such as shoplifting, and the penalties for a conviction vary widely depending on the value of the property and your criminal record prior to this charge. Larceny and theft can be considered misdemeanor or felony charges that can result in high fines, community service and even jail time.

2. Burglary. Burglary is different from larceny and theft in that it involves entering a building, motor vehicle or other place without the owner’s consent and with the intent of committing a theft or a felony while inside. Offenses such as entering a vehicle to steal something inside often result in burglary charges, as do breaking into homes to steal another person’s possessions. (Just as a side note, residential burglary is a Class 1 felony that can put you behind bars for anywhere between 4 and 15 years).

3. Aggravated assault. Aggravated assault, under Illinois law, involves threatening someone with physical violence. For example, a person can be charged with aggravated assault for physically intimidating another person or for throwing a punch but missing the target. You can be charged with assault even if you didn’t cause the other party any physical harm.

What to Do if You’re Charged with These Common Crimes

Whether or not you’re guilty, it’s important that you use your right to remain silent. Don’t say anything to investigators if you’re accused of these—or any other—crimes. When they tell you that anything you say can and will be used against you, they mean it.

It’s best if you talk to a Chicago criminal defense lawyer who can speak on your behalf. He’ll make sure that investigators and law enforcement personnel don’t violate your constitutional rights and ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your case.

Friday, February 20, 2015

All About the Illinois Sex Offender Registry

In the state of Illinois, a conviction for any sex offense carries serious penalties. While each case is different, you’ll end up on the Illinois sex offender registry if a jury finds you guilty.

What Convictions will Put You on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry?

Even what you may consider the most minor sex crime could require a judge to order you to register as a sex offender. Many sex crimes certainly require it—there is no room for dispute under Illinois law.

 If a jury convicts you of any of the following sex crimes, you will be required to register as a sex offender:

  • Criminal sexual assault
  • Aggravated criminal sexual assault
  • Predatory criminal sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual abuse
  • Aggravated criminal sexual abuse

So what does registering as a sex offender really mean, and how strict is the state of Illinois when it comes to sex offender registration policies?

Illinois Sex Offender Registration Policies

People who are considered sexual predators must register with the state of Illinois every year, while sexually dangerous and sexually violent people have to register every 90 days; both of these classifications require registration for the rest of the person’s natural life.

Sex offenders have to register with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where they live. It costs $100 to register, and if an offender moves, he or she has to notify law enforcement within three days.

The Consequences of Sex Offender Registration

If you must register as a sex offender, you will not be allowed in any school or allowed to loiter within 500 feet of school property unless you have written permission of the superintendent or the school board. The only exception exists if you are a parent of a child attending that school and you are going to confer with a teacher.

Sex offenders are not allowed in public parks, including conservation areas and forest preserves that are controlled by the government.

If your crime took place after January 1, 2010, and if you were convicted on or after that same date, you cannot use social networking websites while you’re on probation, parole or mandatory supervised release.

What to Do if You Are Accused of a Sex Crime in Illinois

If someone accuses you of a sex crime, the first thing you need to do is call a Chicago sex crime lawyer. It’s best not to answer investigators’ questions, even if you’re innocent, because investigators could misunderstand your responses or take them out of context. Don’t say anything to anyone until you have talked to your attorney.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Being Sentenced to the Cook County Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center

Some people who are convicted in Cook County end up serving sentences at the Cook County Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center. Whether your loved one has been charged with DUI, is facing weapons charges in Chicago, or just about anything else, he may be one of the thousands sentenced to serve a year at the VRIC.

Until 2012, the VRIC program was known as Boot Camp. It includes a strict 180-day residential program that’s based on discipline, counseling, educational skills and, when necessary, alcohol and substance abuse treatment. The remaining 240 days of the yearlong sentence is a non-resident program that requires daily interaction with a case manager.

So what does it mean if your loved one has been sentenced to the VRIC “boot camp” program for one year?

A Day at the Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center

Cook County’s Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center, or VRIC, follows an extremely rigid, military-style schedule.

Inmates wake up at 5:30 a.m. and are ushered out to physical training, where they’ll exercise until 7 a.m. At 7:30, it’s time for breakfast, and then work starts.

Drill instructors are in charge of the inmates throughout the day, and at 3:30 p.m., the inmates return to their dormitories. Religious programs and community meetings take place before dinner, and then evening programs, including substance abuse counseling and treatment are handled before bed.

Other Parts of VRIC Programs

As soon as a new inmate arrives at the VRIC, he takes a basic achievement test that measures his abilities in math and reading. From there, he’s assigned to an educational track, where he can take literacy courses, English as a second language and basic computer skills classes.

Release from the VRIC: The Remaining 240 Days

During the second phase of a VRIC sentence, which is 240 days long, the former inmate must keep in daily contact with a case manager. Everyone in the post-release phase is subject to random drug testing, and if a positive drug test comes back, they’ll be referred to inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Talking to a Lawyer about the VRIC

In some cases, a Chicago criminal defense lawyer can ask the judge to sentence a guilty party to the “boot camp.” If your loved one is sentenced to the VRIC, know that thousands of inmates have completed the 1-year program, and many have been completely successful with their rehabilitation efforts.





Friday, January 23, 2015

Want to Make a Bad Situation Worse? Run from the Cops.

Whether police suspect you of DUI, robbery or anything else, there’s one sure-fire way to make the situation worse: run from the cops.

They don’t look too kindly upon people that they have to chase, and neither do judges. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you contact a Chicago criminal defense lawyer who can help you deal with the situation.

Caught Fleeing: What Next?

People run from the police for a variety of reasons, and in many cases, it’s completely understandable. Maybe there was a warrant out for your arrest, or perhaps you had something illegal (such as drugs) on your person.

You’re likely to be charged with resisting arrest or obstructing a peace officer when you’re caught—and that’s in addition to the original offense.

What You Need to Know about Resisting Arrest

Resisting can include something as simple as pulling your hands away from the police officer who’s trying to detain you; refusal to put your hands behind your head or behind your back; or running and attempting to hide.

Resisting arrest is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a year in jail and fines of up to $2,500.

Illinois law says that you can be found guilty of a Class 4 felony if your resistance was “the proximate cause of an injury to a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee.” If that’s the case, you could spend up to 3 years behind bars and end up paying fines of up to $25,000.

What to Do if You’re Charged with Resisting Arrest in Cook, Lake or DuPage Counties

Remember, when you’re charged with resisting arrest, you still have to contend with why police wanted to arrest you in the first place.

There are many ways the prosecutor can approach your case if you’ve resisted arrest. Most people find it incredibly helpful to work with a former prosecutor so they’re covered from all angles. The most important thing is that you use your right to remain silent until you’ve gotten case-specific advice from your attorney; you don’t have to say anything to police or investigators other than, “I want to talk to a lawyer.”


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pat Quinn and His Massive Pardon Record

Governor Pat Quinn made history last Friday, granting 232 requests for clemency in just one day. For the past several years, Quinn has been slogging through thousands of petitions--4,766, to be exact--in an effort to work through the mountain of requests left behind by former Governor Rod Blagojevich. 


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