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caution tapeA recent Illinois appellate case involved first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm conviction. The case arose when the defendant fatally shot one victim and tried to kill the other. He was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery with firearm, and attempted murder. Before trial, the prosecution filed two motions to admit evidence of other crimes by the defendant. One involved the defendant shooting someone in the back.

The other motion said that the defendant had talked about a pending murder case with his cellmate, and the defendant approached the cellmate with a list of witnesses, asking the cellmate to take care of them. The cellmate thought this meant the defendant wanted them killed, and he gave the list to the sheriff. The investigator assigned an officer to pretend to be a hit-man and taped a phone call in which the defendant asked the undercover officer to come to the jail, where he asked the undercover officer to get rid of the witnesses. The prosecution wanted to use evidence of these events to show the defendant was conscious of his guilt.

The trial court found that the evidence related to the shooting of a bicyclist in the back was admissible to prove identity. It also held that the evidence of soliciting murder could be admitted to prove consciousness of guilt. The bicyclist testified that he’d known the defendant for three years at the time he was shot in the back.

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pipeThe 4th amendment of the U. S. Consitution protects us from unreasonable searches and arrests. Searches and arrests without a warrant or probable cause are unconstitutional.  Evidence obtained by the police by an illegal search or arrest is not admissible in Court. Since no two people are alike and our perceptions of the world differ from person to person, the meaning of what constitutes a reasonable search or arrest varies from judge to judge.

In a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant appealed his criminal conviction. The jury convicted the defendant of possessing a controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia. The case arose in the middle of the night in July 2013 when the defendant was walking down the street. An officer was sent to respond to a possible burglary and saw him. He got out of his car and asked whether the defendant had seen anybody running. The defendant said he’d seen nothing and claimed he’d left a friend’s house. The officer knew the friend, who trafficked narcotics.

The defendant put his hands in his pockets during the conversation. The officer told him to take out his hands. The defendant obeyed but then put his hands back into his pockets. Again, the officer asked him to take his hands out of his pockets. They repeated this behavior a few times during the conversation, and the defendant finally asked the officer why he had to take his hands out of his pockets. The officer told him he was going to pat him down for weapons and then conducted a frisk search.

While frisking the defendant, the officer felt a smoking pipe in the defendant’s pockets. He knew what it was because he had experience with narcotics investigation. He arrested the defendant for possession of drug paraphernalia in his pocket. He took the pipe out and tried to go into the defendant’s other pocket, but the defendant started struggling.

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Mental-HealthIn a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder under 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) and sentenced to natural life imprisonment. The defendant and several others were charged with six counts of first-degree murder in connection with the strangulation deaths of two men.

The case arose when the defendant’s father called the police to report two dead people in a residence occupied by a woman and her father. When the police came, the woman said there were two people hiding in the house. A cop found one of the hiding men upstairs with the bodies, which were face down with plastic bags over their heads. The man who was found said he’d killed one man, and the other man who was hiding had killed the other one.

The defendant wasn’t at the residence but was driving elsewhere. She was stopped and taken into custody, and she told the officer she wanted to talk and wanted to know how much time she’d have to serve as an accessory to murder. She was read her Miranda rights, which she waived. Her interrogation was recorded. She told the police she and her 15-month-old daughter were living in the woman’s house in Joliet. The woman lived on the second floor, and her father lived on the first floor. The woman’s boyfriend (the man who was hiding and then discovered) and the man who was hiding elsewhere in the house were with the defendant and the woman at the woman’s house.

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chapelIn a recent Illinois appellate decision, the defendant appealed after being convicted of aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing. He was charged with seven counts related to methamphetamine manufacturing. At trial, the judge asked the jurors not to conduct independent research on the case. A prosecutor told the jury she anticipated testimony from a police officer that the offenses happened within 1,000 feet from a church.

The prosecution put forward a police officer as a witness. He testified he was trying to serve a warrant on someone else in a nearby apartment building when he smelled a chemical odor that he thought might be connected to methamphetamine manufacturing. The church was nearby. The officer testified about how the defendant became a suspect and what they found when searching the premises. The house where the materials for manufacturing meth were found was right behind the church.

A sheriff testified about how close the courthouse was to the area where the manufacturing happened, and the judge again reminded the jury they shouldn’t do independent research. The sheriff said he was sent to help the police department with what they thought was a meth manufacturing lab.

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revolverIn a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant appealed after being convicted of armed robbery, which is a Class X felony.  He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, which is the six-year minimum plus a 15-year enhancement for using firearms.  He was indicted based on a theory of accountability.  Prosecutors claimed he knowingly took money from the victim’s person by threatening the use of force while carrying a firearm.

The defendant was separately charged with attempted armed robbery, and he pled guilty to that charge. He was admonished of his right to a jury trial, and he agreed to waive his right. The case at hand was set for a jury trial, but a few months before the trial, the defense attorney told the court that sentencing in the attempted armed robbery case was supposed to occur on the same day. The defendant’s attorney also said at that point that the current case would be a bench trial, and they’d waived a jury trial. There was no written jury waiver.

Subsequently, the State filed a notice of intent to ask for a 15-year sentencing enhancement upon conviction under section 111-3(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/111-3(c)).

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cannabisA recent Illinois appeal involved a Domestic Battery. The defendant was acquitted of Aggravated Domestic Battery and unlawfully interfering with a report of Domestic Violence, but he was convicted of Domestic Battery under 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1). The trial court denied his post-trial motion, and he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He appealed on the grounds that the court had made a mistake in permitting the prosecution to impeach him with his felony Cannabis conviction.

The case arose from allegations that the defendant knowingly caused harm to a woman by choking her after previously being convicted of a Domestic Battery. In addition to applying pressure to her throat, it was alleged that he stopped her normal breathing or blood circulation, and he knowingly stopped her from calling the police by taking her phone.

Before trial, the defendant tried to stop the State from impeaching him by showing he had a prior Domestic Battery conviction and a felony Marijuana conviction. At the hearing, the prosecution argued that the Marijuana conviction could be admitted because the charge was not similar to the defendant’s current charges, and it had impeachment value because it was a crime against society.

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parking-space-1441053-1-300x225In a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant was convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance under 720 ILCS 570/401(a)(1)(D). He appealed on the grounds that the prosecution hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly participated in the drug transaction.

The detective testified that he’d investigated narcotics and money laundering cases in the past. Most of his cases involved surveillance. Often traffickers conduct heat runs to determine if police are watching. A heat run is an effort to take an out-of-the-way route to go to the transaction destination, such as making multiple turns or U-turns and going down back alleys.

On the day in question, the detective found that a prior investigation target was stopped with more than $100,000 on him. The detective went to the address where the car was registered. There they saw a car registered to the defendant at a Texas address. They saw a woman and boy leave the house and drive away to breakfast at a restaurant. When they came back to the address the defendant’s car was gone. It returned in the afternoon, with the defendant driving.

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knifeIt is crucial to retain an experienced attorney to defend you if you’re charged with domestic battery or aggravated domestic battery in Illinois. In a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated domestic battery after a bench trial. The couple had met in 2011 and started an intimate relationship. The woman gave birth to their child. She had no permanent place of residence, so she stayed with the defendant at his house. They frequently argued, which caused her to leave for a certain period before coming back.

In 2012, during a fight, the defendant threatened to kill her and put her in a chokehold. Their son was in a car seat on the floor. The mother flipped the defendant onto the floor, but he kept choking her for about two minutes until she had to stop. She left and called the cops, but she didn’t want medical treatment when an officer offered to call an ambulance. She filed an order of protection against the defendant, but she had no way to go back to court to make sure the order continued to be in effect. After that, she lost custody of the child.

The couple continued to argue. On the last occasion, the defendant stabbed the victim. She didn’t realize she’d been stabbed until she saw the blood, and then she panicked. He told her to run, and she did. She passed out on the street, and when she woke, the police were there and asked who’d stabbed her. She had to have an emergency surgery to fix the wound.

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social-imageKim Foxx was sworn in as the new Cook County State’s Attorney last week. Yesterday, she made her first major announcement.  She announced that her office will not be charging Retail Theft cases as felonies unless the amount that is involved is more than $1,000 or if the defendant does not have anything less than 10 prior Felony Retail Theft convictions.   This announcement represents a dramatic shift in policy at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.  Under current state law, you can be charged with a Class 4 Felony Retail Theft if the amount of the goods involved is more than $300 or if you have one prior felony retail theft conviction.  If you have one prior felony conviction you can be charged with a felony even if the amount is under $300.  If the amount is over $500, you can be charged with a class 3 felony.  Foxx’s announcement drastically raises the bar for what constitutes a Felony Retail Theft in Cook County.  Anita Alvarez, Foxx’s predecessor, had been trying to get the State Legislature to raise the bar for charging a felony up to $1,000 for many years now.  However, the state legislature has resisted.  As a result, the statewide threshold for charging someone with a felony retail theft, as opposed to a misdemeanor, remains at $300.  Compared to the other states around Illinois, the Illinois threshold is very low.  In Wisconsin the threshold is $500.  In Indiana, the threshold is $750.

Foxx’s announcement follows news from last week that Cook County is actively looking at ways of limiting the population at Cook County Jail. There is an understanding that the cost of housing inmates at the Cook County Jail is putting significant stress upon the limited budget resources of Cook County.  Last year, approximately 76 defendants who had been charged with Felony Retail Theft, spent more time in jail than what they were eventually sentenced to.  The total amount of the excess days served was 4,159.  The extra cost to the Cook County taxpayers was about $675,000.  Almost 80% of all Felony Retail Theft cases charged in Illinois between 2010 and 2012 were for less than $1,000.  As of today, about 101 people are housed at Cook County Jail on Felony Retail Theft charges.  The majority of the people that are locked up in Cook County Jail are there because they simply lack the financial resources to post bond.  As a result, Cook County taxpayers are footing the bill for their incarceration in the jail.

It remains to be seen what the impact of this announcement will be on retail theft cases. Looking at the reader comments in the local papers today they clearly indicate that this is a controversial decision.  What’s disturbing is that some of the comments are clearly racist in nature.  Some people will wonder whether the announcement will discourage storekeepers from calling the police if they know that the person they caught stealing from their store will not be charged with a felony. Others are going to argue that this announcement will just encourage people to steal because they know that they will not be facing felonies in Cook County. While prosecutors have always had the discretion to decide when and what to charge someone with, some people will argue that this is more than just an exercise of discretion.  It can be argued that the prosecutor is doing an end run around the will of the State Legislature.  The same prosecutor’s office that has been unsuccessful in lobbying the legislature to change the law, changes it on its own by exercising its discretion without legislative approval.  I would not be surprised to see someone charged with a Felony Retail Theft outside of Cook County argue an Equal Protection violation because the law is not being applied uniformly throughout the State of Illinois.

Inspector. Please note that the graphics are my artwork.Thanks. The Law with respect to family related, domestic violence issues. Book of law with a gavel and a Restraining Order.

In 2010 the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office, in collaboration with Domestic Violence victims rights groups established the first Domestic Violence Diversion Program in Illinois. The main goal of this Diversion Program is to take first-time domestic violence offenders out of the criminal justice system and place them into a program that is designed to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders. Instead of putting them through the criminal justice system and punishing them, this program seeks to treat the causes behind the behavior. Treatment rather than punishment. If an offender successfully completes this program, the case will not be placed on their permanent criminal record. This is very important. While the vast majority of domestic battery cases are misdemeanors that carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail, a guilty plea, or a finding of guilt for a domestic battery, can never be removed from your permanent criminal record.  You cannot receive Court supervision for a Domestic Battery. The only possible sentence for a Domestic Battery is conditional discharge or a misdemeanor conviction. You are not allowed to expunge a Domestic Battery. The consequences of not being able to remove a Domestic Battery from your criminal record should be pretty obvious. If you ever apply for a job, a criminal background search will reveal this case on your record. If you ever apply for an apartment and your landlord performs a background search, they will find this criminal case in your background. If you apply for a loan, a lender may find this case in your background.

Offenders are not automatically eligible for the Domestic Violence Diversion Program. You are ineligible for this program if you have ever had any prior conviction or any type of probation for a Domestic Violence-related offense. You will not be eligible if you are an active gang member or–if your case is eligible to be upgraded to a felony. They will check with the victim and the arresting police officer and if they object to you being admitted into this program, you will not be eligible. You will not be eligible if you are unwilling to admit your guilt. If you threatened or intended to cause physical harm to the victim, you will not be eligible for this program. If the victim required medical treatment, you will not be eligible. Finally, you will not be eligible for this program if it was determined that you used or possessed a deadly weapon during the course of this Domestic Battery or if you have previously participated in this, or a similar, program. This program is strictly for first time offenders.

Once the State Attorney’s Office determined that you are eligible to be placed into this program, you will be instructed to contact the State’s Attorney’s Office so that you can arrange to be interviewed. You will be charged a $25 application fee. If they accept you into this program, you will appear at the next court date and you will plead guilty. Whether or not you are accepted into this program is left to the sole discretion of the State’s Attorney’s Office and you cannot appeal their denial of your acceptance into this program.