Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Domestic BatteryAn Introduction to Domestic Battery in Illinois

A criminal charge of Domestic Battery is a very serious criminal offense in Illinois.  In recent years, public attention has been focused on Domestic Violence.  I noticed the increased attention on Domestic Violence cases after the infamous OJ Simpson case. State legislatures throughout the United States have passed laws which seek to punish crimes like this more severely and to try to put an end to this crime. This is true in Illinois as well.  Laws have been changed to make it easier for a spouse to obtain an Order of Protection.  Laws have been enacted to require the placement of GPS tracking devices on people have been ordered to stay away from victims.  Penalties for Domestic Battery crimes have been stiffened to impose harsher penalties on people convicted of Domestic Battery. Local prosecutors have established units within their offices that specialize in prosecuting Domestic Battery crimes and specific courtrooms have been established in most counties that only handle cases like this.

This article will discuss what the crime of Domestic Battery involves and the possible penalties.

DUIIt’s been a tough week.  You have been swamped at work and you have been busy at home with activities with the kids.  Finally it’s Friday and you made it. Your co-workers invite you to go out for drinks to relax after the end of a long week and you accept.  After a couple of hours at a local bar of unwinding with your co-workers and after a few drinks, it’s time to go home.  You get in your car and start driving and after a few minutes you realize that you may be in no condition to drive.  You don’t know if it’s the alcohol or if you are just tired from your long week, so you decide to pull over and take a nap because you don’t want to take a chance of nodding off while driving and getting into an accident.  So you pull over on a side street, park your car, shut off the engine and take a nap.  After a few minutes you wake up to the sounds of knocking on your car window.  It’s a police officer who is trying to get your attention.  You explain to the officer that you are tired so you pulled over to take a nap before heading home.  The officer asks you if you have been drinking and you tell him you had a couple of drinks a while ago but had a long week and are just tired.  You pull your car keys out of your pocket and the officer asks you to exit your vehicle.  The officer asks you to perform certain tests and then informs you that your are under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.  So how can you be charged with a DUI when you were just taking a nap in your car?

This fact pattern is pretty common.  Unless you understand the law in Illinois, it’s hard to comprehend how you can be charged with a DUI when you were doing the responsible thing and getting off the road when you realized you were in no condition to drive.

The key factor in determining whether you could be charged with a DUI is if you had actual physical control of a motor vehicle.  Whether you had actual physical control of your motor vehicle depends on the specific facts of each case.  The Court will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether you had actual physical control of your motor vehicle.  The leading case on this issue in Illinois is City of Naperville v. Watson, 677 NE2d 955 (1977).  In this case, the police found Watson sitting in the driver’s seat asleep with his head on the passenger seat.  Watson had the engine running so he could have the heat on.  There was no evidence that he was driving or that he was planning on driving his vehicle.  Yet, in this case the Court found that he was in actual physical control of his vehicle based on the fact that he was sitting in the front seat, the keys were in the ignition and the car was running.  Since he was in actual physical control of his vehicle, he could be charged with a DUI.  What seemed to be important in that case was that Watson had possession of the keys to the vehicle.  The Court specifically found that “sleeping it off” is not a defense to a DUI.  The Court refused to give an intoxicated motorist a “good citizen discount” for realizing they were in no condition to drive.  Rather the court doesn’t want someone who is intoxicated from entering a motor vehicle unless they are a passenger.

Felony ConvictionThis is a question that I am asked frequently around election time.  Most people do not understand what the rules are when it comes to whether you are allowed to vote if you have a felony conviction.  Rules vary from state to state and this has created confusion.  People don’t understand that each state has it’s own rules which requires that people with felony convictions inform themselves of what the rules are in their state. My experience with this issue is that most people are not informed as to what the law is in Illinois when it comes to felony convictions and voting rights in Illinois. Illinois has passed a specific law which spells out what effect a felony conviction can have on your right to vote in Illinois.  The law is set out in 10 ILCS 5/3-5.  In Illinois, a convicted felon has just as much of a right to vote as any other citizen in the state.  As long as you are not incarcerated, meaning serving a prison sentence, you can register and cast a vote in Illinois.  If you are in court and fighting your case, you can vote in Illinois.  Even if you are in jail fighting your case. If you are on probation, you can vote in Illinois.  If you are on parole, you can vote in Illinois.  As long as you have not been convicted and are in prison, you can vote.  However, if instead of being in prison, you are allowed to serve your sentence outside of prison, such as prison furlough or work release, you will not be allowed to vote until you finish your sentence.  If you went to prison and lost the right to vote you should re-register once you are released from prison so that you can go to the polls and cast your vote.

When someone is not allowed under the law to vote, they are called “disenfranchised” voters.  In 2010, roughly 2.5% of the nation’s voting age population could not vote because of a felony conviction.  In Illinois, that comes out to about 800,000 people who have been convicted of a felony.  If 800,000 people do not realize that they have not been stripped of their right to vote, and sit out an election because of their mistaken belief, this could make a big difference in a close election.  In my opinion, which is based on the questions that I get from criminal clients, as well as members of the public, not enough is being done to educate the public about this issue.

In seven states, people convicted of a felony are barred forever from ever voting.  Florida has the largest number of disenfranchised voters with roughly 10.42% of all voters.  In two states, Maine and Vermont, even prison inmates are allowed to vote.  In other states, convicted felons are required to petition the Governor to have their right to vote reinstated, or restored, once their sentence is completed.

Veterans CourtThe recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a dramatic rise in the number of mental health and substance abuse issues involving military veterans returning from serving in those wars.  Some of these soldiers are returning home with mental health issues and are using drugs to deal with the mental health issues which such wars have caused.  Those issues have spilled into the criminal justice system when these military veterans are getting arrested for crimes caused by substance abuse and mental health issues arising out of their military service.  In an effort to address the specific needs of returning veterans, the Illinois Legislature passed legislation in 2009 establishing Veterans Courts in Illinois.  The 2009 legislation did not require that counties establish such courts.  Nevertheless, Cook County and Lake County did establish such courts. Veterans Courts are specific courts which are designed to steer military veterans out of the criminal punishment aspect of the court system and towards the treatment aspect of the court system.  Specific courts have been established at 26th and California, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. The Veterans Courts in Cook County have been very successful and have been used as a model by court systems throughout the United States to help them establish their own Veterans Courts.  The Illinois Legislature recently passed legislation requiring that each county in Illinois establish such a court by January 1, 2018.  In anticipation of this new law taking effect, counties throughout Illinois are beginning to make plans to establish these courts.  Kane County officials are aware of the new law and are beginning to make plans to start the process of establishing these courts.

In order for a veteran to be eligible for Veterans Court in Cook County, enrollment has to be agreed to by the Court, Prosecutor and the Defendant.  The crime that the veteran is charged with cannot be a crime of violence. The veteran will not be eligible unless they have demonstrated a willingness to undergo treatment in the program.  They will also be ineligible if they have been convicted of a crime of violence within the past 10 years or if they have been discharged from a similar program within the past 3 years.

Lake County’s Veterans Court is similar with minor changes to the eligibility requirements.  To be eligible for Veterans Court in Lake County the veteran must have been honorably discharged from the military, must have a service related disability or currently be in the military, must be charged with a felony or misdemeanor in which probation or supervision is available, and must be willing to participate in the program before and after they enter the program.  They prefer that the veteran be eligible for VA benefits but is not a requirement.  For any crime involving a crime against an individual, the victim must agree to allowing the veteran to enter such a program.

Municipal-Ordinance-Violation-300x199The Public Safety Committee for the Village of Schaumburg has recommended that the Village of Schaumburg allow police officers to write local Municipal Violation tickets for first-time negligent driving offences. The measure is intended to go after drivers who are using hand-held cellphones while they are driving instead of hands-free devices. Village officials claim that the judges at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse are taking these tickets too lightly and not punishing offenders enough.

If this measure is adopted by the Schaumburg Village Board, police officers will have the option of writing a local Municipal Ordinance Violation ticket, issue written warnings, or issue a State Citation for a ticket violation which allow offenders an opportunity to go to Court and contest the ticket in Court, in front of an actual Judge. The fine for the Schaumburg Municipal Violation will be $75.

What’s a little troubling about this proposal is that the Public Safety Committee is proposing that the definition of negligent driving be defined more broadly than what current state law defines as negligent driving. According to one of the trustees of the Schaumburg Village Board, “the definition of negligent driving can be relevant even when an officer can’t prove a handheld cell phone was the cause.” In other words, if the police officer had a hunch, or was guessing, based on his experience, that a handheld device was being used, that would be enough to allow them to issue a ticket. I would like to see what the final ordinance says, but it seems to me as if officers will be allowed to issue these tickets based on a mere hunch without any proof. That does not seem very fair to me and could be open to a legal challenge which could cause Schaumburg’s taxpayers to pay the legal bills for a court fight.

Domestic-BatteryYou can be charged with Interfering with the Reporting of a Domestic Battery when you prevent a family member from making a call to report a Domestic Battery incident.  You can also be charged with Interfering with the Reporting of a Domestic Violence charge if you interfere with a family member who is reporting the incident to the police.  It is very common to see this charge added to a criminal Domestic Battery charge.

Let’s talk a little about how charges like this usually come about.

The police are called to the scene of a report of a Domestic Battery.  Basically, you can be charged with a Domestic Battery when you make physical contact with a family member.  What the law considers to be a family member is defined rather broadly in Illinois.  A current or past boyfriend or girlfriend is considered a family member under Illinois Domestic Battery law.  If the police are convinced that you made contact with a family member that resulted in physical harm to that family member you can be arrested and charged with a Domestic Battery.  But you don’t have to injure the family member to be charged with a Domestic Battery.  You can be charged with a Domestic Battery if the contact that was made was of an insulting or provoking nature.  If the police are convinced that any of these two types of contact occurred, you can be arrested and charged with a Domestic Battery.  If the police determine you did something to prevent the family member from calling the police, or 911, you can be charged with Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence.  An example would be if you took the phone away from the victim, or unplugged the phone or removed the battery from a cell phone resulting in the inability to make a 911 call.   You don’t have to actually prevent the person from calling 911 or the police.  Simply attempting to prevent them from calling the authorities can make you guilty of this crime.  You can also be guilty of Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence if you prevent, or attempt to prevent, a victim from obtaining medical assistance or from making any report to any law enforcement official.  If the police arrive and you threaten the victim with physical harm if they tell the police the truth, that can be considered Interfering with the Reporting of Domestic Violence.

410 ProbationIllinois law has made a special type of Probation available for first-time felony drug offenders to avoid a felony conviction on their record. This type of Probation is commonly known as Section 410 or Section 1410 Probation. In order to be eligible for this type of Probation, you cannot have previously been convicted of, or placed on Probation or Court Supervision, for any criminal offense related to Cannabis or Illegal Drugs. This includes Prescription Drugs.  If you are eligible for this type of Probation, here’s how it works:

At the time of sentencing, you will have to plead guilty to the charges. The court will accept your guilty plea but will not enter judgment. The court will place you on a period of Probation that will last 24 months. The only time you should have to go back to court before your Probation ends is if a Petition to Violate your Probation is filed or if the court schedules a check date to see how you are doing. While you are on Probation the court will require that you do not violate any criminal laws in any state. You will not be allowed to possess a firearm or any other dangerous weapon. The court will order that you submit to random and unscheduled drug testing.  You will be required to pay the cost of the drug testing but you should not have to take more than 3 drug tests during the period of your Probation. You will also be required to perform 30 hours of community service. In addition, the court may require additional conditions such as payment of additional fines and court costs, require that you continue with your education, undergo medical or psychiatric treatment, and may require that you appear in court periodically.  The statute gives the court great latitude on imposing additional conditions on your 410 Probation.  Since every case is different, any additional requirements will depend on your particular case.

There are some drawbacks to this type of Probation. The main problem being that since you have pled guilty to the charges, if the court determines that you violated your 410 Probation for any reason, you cannot go back to that court and fight the case because you have already pled guilty. So if you violate this Probation, the only question before the court will be what your sentence should be. You will not be able to contest your guilt or innocence. If you violate your Probation, typically the court will convert the 410 Probation to a felony conviction which could result in a sentence of felony Probation or a jail sentence.

UUWThe gun violence in Chicago has been a great source of concern among the citizens and politicians in Illinois for a long time.  Every day we are inundated with news of shootings and homicides throughout the City. When the weather heats up we know that the number of shootings will go up.  On Monday morning we open the paper to find out how many people were shot and how many were killed over the weekend.  In the effort to come up with a way to stop all the shootings, we need to understand how illegal guns are making their way to the streets of Chicago.  Illinois has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States.  To own a gun in your home, Illinois requires that you get a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card which requires that a thorough background search be conducted by the Illinois State Police.  FOID cards can be revoked for good cause by the Illinois State Police.  Citizens are generally not allowed to carry a gun outside their home unless they have an FOID Card and are legally transporting it, or they obtain a Conceal and Carry Permit.  To obtain a Conceal and Carry Permit you have to apply to the Illinois State Police, submit to a thorough background search and supply your fingerprints, and attend and complete gun training classes. Illinois was the last state to allow conceal and carry, and that was only after the Federal Courts ordered Illinois to do this.

In spite of some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, Chicago has established a reputation as America’s deadliest city.  Chicago Police report that in 2015, over 2,900 people were shot and 470 people were murdered.  In 2016, there were 762 homicides, 3,550 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims. 2016 was the deadliest year in Chicago in 20 years.  Chicago recently saw it’s 500th murder of 2017.  These statistics, coupled with the strict Illinois gun laws, have become an example cited by gun rights activists to argue that gun control legislation doesn’t work.  But a closer look at some of the evidence concerning where these guns are coming from tells us a different story.

According to the FBI, roughly 60% of guns used in crimes in Illinois were from out of state.  The overwhelming number of those guns flow into Illinois from states that have much less restrictive gun laws.  Most of those out of state guns came from Indiana, which is next to Illinois.  Second place goes to Mississippi and third place goes to Wisconsin.  The FBI data suggests that there’s lots of trafficking of guns within Illinois but point out that it’s very difficult to trace those guns once they get into the state because Illinois does not require registration of guns, does not license or regulate gun dealers, doesn’t limit how many guns can be sold at one time and does not require background searches on gun sales that are not conducted at a gun show.  Indiana has really lax gun laws.  Gun dealers are required to perform a very basic background search while a vendor can sell their “private collection” to anyone at a gun show without any background search whatsoever.  So someone can buy an assault rifle at a Crown Point Indiana gun show without any background search, and drive an hour into Chicago, where assault rifles are banned.  A 2015 study by the University of Chicago suggested that only 11% of guns involved in crimes in Chicago were purchased through federally licensed gun dealers, which require background searches.  In 2014 the Chicago Police reported that roughly 60% of guns used and recovered from crime scenes between 2009 and 2013 were purchased outside of Illinois.  Exact figures are hard to pin down but it is clear that the vast majority of guns making their way to the streets of Chicago are coming from outside of Illinois.

Illinois DUI

Most DUI’s in Illinois are a misdemeanor.  If you are operating a motor vehicle on the public roads with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, you could be charged with a DUI. The maximum criminal punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.00.  But there are situations where you could be charged with a felony.  This is known as Aggravated Driving Under the Influence, or Aggravated DUI.  This article discusses how you can be charged with an Aggravated DUI.

Special rules apply to people who have previously been convicted of a DUI.  If you are convicted of a 3rd or subsequent DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  Generally, you could be facing a penalty of between 3 to 7 years in prison, probation up to 48 months, along with fines, fees and drug treatment.  If your blood alcohol level was .16 or above, you will be facing a mandatory 90 day jail sentence.   A fourth offense is non-probationable and carries a mandatory 3 to 7 year prison sentence.  A 5th offense is a non-probationable Class 1 felony that carries 4 to 15 years in prison.  A 6th offense is a non-probationable Class X felony which carries a mandatory 6 to 30 year prison sentence.  If the DUI results in the death of another, even if it’s your first DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  You are eligible for probation, but in order to be sentenced to probation, the Judge has to find extraordinary circumstances to avoid imposing a prison sentence.  If you are sentenced to a prison sentence, you are facing 3 to 14 years for one death, and 6 to 28 years for 2 or more deaths.

The following instances allow the state to charge you with a Class 4 felony of Aggravated DUI:

Violation-of-ProbationWhenever I get a phone call from someone who is facing a Violation of Probation, the most common question I get is whether they will go to jail for their Violation of Probation? This is another impossible question to answer. While everybody wants an answer to their question, some questions are just too difficult to easily answer. This is perhaps one of the most difficult question to answer. Let me explain why.

Let’s talk about what probation is. Probation is one of many possible sentences that you can receive when you are found guilty of a crime. There’s two ways you can be found guilty of a crime. The first is if you go to trial and the Judge or Jury finds you guilty. The second way that you could be guilty of a crime is if you plead guilty and are sentenced by the judge for the crime that you pled guilty to. Probation is a sentence which allows you to be free and living in the community subject to certain conditions and certain requirements. Probation is for a certain period of time, and you will be supervised by a Probation Officer whose job is to make sure that you follow the rules and to notify the court if you did something you are not supposed to do, or didn’t do something that you were supposed to do. The rules vary from case to case. Most people that are sentenced to Probation are required to follow the following rules:

-Report monthly to the Probation Officer. (In person or over the phone)