Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Distracted-Driving-300x200

As of July 1, 2019, Illinois has become a “Hands-Free Zone”. In 2010, texting and driving was outlawed in Illinois.  In 2014, using your cell phone without a hands-free device was outlawed. But apparently, that was not enough. In 2018 the Illinois Legislature enacted a new Distracted Driving law that substantially increases the penalties for using a cell phone while operating a vehicle on Illinois roads which could lead to the suspension of your Illinois driver’s license.

Distracted Driving is a broad definition which covers more than just the use of a cell phone or an electronic device in your vehicle. You can be cited for Distracted Driving for applying makeup while driving, or looking at a printed map while driving your vehicle. However, the overwhelming majority of Distracted Driving tickets involve the use of a cell phone while driving.

The Old Law

Yield-to-an-Emergency-Vehicle-300x200Recently, I was hired to represent several clients who were charged with Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle. During the course of representing these clients, I realized that many Illinois motorists do not fully understand the law when it comes to passing a stationary emergency vehicle that is stopped on the side of the road. I want to take this opportunity to discuss this law and what it involves. If you do not understand the law, and what it requires when you are passing an emergency vehicle that is stopped on the side of the road, you could find yourself with a very serious traffic ticket that could cause you to lose your license and cost you a lot of money.

What Is The Law and Why is it So Serious?

The Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle statute was enacted by the Illinois Legislature after the September 2000 death of Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department after an intoxicated motorist sped through an accident scene and pinned him against a fire truck. In response, the Illinois Legislature passed “Scott’s Law” to protect police and fire officials who are performing their responsibilities on the side of the road. Tickets involving the Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle are commonly referred to as “Scott’s Law” by police, judges, and lawyers.

file0001740917400-198x300A very common question I get from clients with criminal cases is whether they have to appear for every Court date. Earlier today I received a phone call from a prospective client who is facing a Possession of Stolen Motor Vehicle (PSMV) case in DuPage County. He informed me that he failed to appear for his last court date and the Judge issued a warrant for his arrest with a bond of $30,000. The prospective client asked if I could file a Motion in DuPage County to have the warrant vacated without him having to show up. He also wanted to know whether he would ever have to show up to court if he hired me. Apparently, the prospective client was recently hired for a new job and his employer is not allowing him to take any days off.

The short answer to the question of whether the client has to appear for every court date is yes. Unless excused by the Court, if you are facing criminal charges, you must appear for each and every court date. Just because you have hired your own lawyer does not mean that you do not need to show up for your Court dates. If a warrant for your arrest is issued by a Judge, it is not enough for your lawyer to appear in court on your behalf. In order for the case to continue, the warrant must be executed. This means that you must turn yourself in and appear in Court before a Judge. If you post the Bond, you will be released and given a Court date for your case. If you do not post the Bond, you will be held in custody in County Jail and given a court date for your case to continue.

When you are released on Bond, certain conditions are attached to your Bond. Just because the judge does not specifically tell you about them does not relieve you of your obligation to follow all of the conditions of your Bond. The conditions of your Bond will be spelled out in the paperwork that you are given when you are released from Court or the County Jail following the posting of a Bond. In most cases, the conditions of your Bond will be set forth on one sheet of paper. That piece of paper, which is commonly called a Bond Slip, will contain your name, the amount of your bond, and information regarding your court date, time, and Court location. In addition, your bond slip will have several paragraphs that are pre-printed on the form which will set forth conditions that apply to your release on Bond. If you look closely at your Bond Slip, you will see that you are required to appear for each and every Court date. A further condition of your Bond is that you cannot leave the jurisdiction without approval from the Court. This means that you cannot leave Illinois without approval of the Court. Another condition that applies to every criminal case is that you cannot commit any criminal offenses while you are out on Bond.

Excessive-Speeding-300x200Early this morning I received a phone call from a prospective client who wanted to talk to me about a “speeding ticket” they received last night for going 30 miles per hour over the posted speeding ticket on a local highway. I receive such phone calls from prospective clients almost every day. Very few people calling me for cases like this really understand what they are facing. I have written about cases like this because I handle many cases involving excessive speeding. These phone calls usually start off with the prospective client wanting to talk about a “speeding ticket” they recently received. Once I find out that the “speeding ticket” is for 26 miles per hour, or more, over the posted speed limit, I usually have to explain to the prospective clients that what they are facing is not a simple speeding ticket. If you are cited for going 26 miles an hour, or more, over the posted speed limit, what you are facing is an actual criminal charge. Going 26 miles or more, over the posted speed limit is an actual crime in Illinois that carries a potential jail sentence. Let me explain.

If you are cited for going 26 to 34 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, you will be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. A Class B Misdemeanor carries up to 6-months in County Jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. If you are cited for going 35 miles per hour, or more, over the posted speed limit, you will be facing a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to one-year in County Jail. In addition to the serious criminal criminal penalties associated with these crimes, if you are convicted of a Class A or a Class B Misdemeanor for Excessive Speeding, you will have a criminal conviction on your criminal record that will appear on a routine background search. So, if you apply for a job and are asked whether you have ever been convicted of a crime, you will have to answer “yes”.

Another question I get from prospective clients who call me about cases like this is whether I think they need a lawyer. Because what they are facing is not a simple speed ticket and is an actual crime, when they go to Court they will find out that they will need a lawyer. Many times, the first question asked by the Judge in cases like this is whether you have a lawyer. If you respond by telling the Judge that you don’t have a lawyer, the Judge will tell you that because what you are facing is a crime, you must have a lawyer. The next question will be whether you can afford to hire your own lawyer. If the Judge determines that you are unable to afford your own lawyer, the Judge may appoint a Public Defender to represent you. However, if the Judge determines that you are working and can afford to hire your own lawyer, the Judge will continue your case and tell you to come back to Court with your own lawyer.

HearsayToday we are going to talk about hearsay. The legal term, “hearsay,” is one of the most misunderstood legal terms in the law. Last weekend I had a client in my office that I was preparing to testify for a trial that was coming up. I asked the client a couple of questions and the client said that the Court would not allow me to ask that question because it was hearsay. I found myself explaining the term to the client and realize that most people do not really understand the legal meaning and implications of the term “hearsay.” So let me explain what hearsay is and how it could impact your criminal case.

Definition of Hearsay

The definition of hearsay law students are given in law school is as follows: An out-of-court statement being offered for the truth of the matter asserted. As a general rule, hearsay evidence is inadmissible in court. Like most other things in the law, there are exceptions to this rule. So unless there’s an exception, hearsay is inadmissible. If a statement is hearsay, it does not matter if the statement is oral or written. The reason behind not allowing hearsay evidence at trial is to prevent out-of-court, secondhand unreliable statements, to be used in court given their unreliability. In addition to the inherent unreliability of hearsay evidence, it is unfair to the party against whom this statement is being used because the party is unable to cross-examine and challenge the out-of-court statement that is being used against them.

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x226The topic of Marijuana and the talk about possibly legalizing the Possession of Marijuana in Illinois is a big topic in the news and among Illinois residents. In addition, Illinois legalized the use of Medical Marijuana a few years ago. The movement towards legalizing Marijuana and the adoption of Medical Marijuana in Illinois has created confusion about whether you can be arrested for Possession of Marijuana and what the potential consequences could be. I want to talk about this issue and clear up any confusion about what the status of the Illinois Marijuana laws are today.

Possessing any amount of Marijuana is illegal in the State of Illinois. If you have applied for a Medical Marijuana card, and have been approved for the Medical Marijuana Program, you can legally purchase and possess Medical Marijuana that is purchased through an approved Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Illinois. However, the Medical Marijuana must be for your personal use and cannot be used in public.

Several years ago, Illinois decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana. While it’s still illegal to possess small amounts of Marijuana, if you are caught with up to 10 grams of Marijuana, instead of being arrested and facing criminal prosecution, you will be given a Civil Infraction, or a Municipal Ordinance Violation, instead of facing criminal charges. The maximum penalty you will face for possessing less than 10 grams of Marijuana is a civil fine up to $200. But while possessing less than 10 grams of Marijuana is not considered a criminal offense, depending on what town or what county you are in, the charge may appear on a criminal background search. This is something that you should research and be aware of prior to paying a Municipal Ordinance ticket for the possession of less than 10 grams of Marijuana. You should know whether the case will be visible in a background search or not before deciding how to deal with an Ordinance Violation for something like this.

Arrested-300x226I frequently meet clients who are expecting to be arrested in the near future. This past weekend, I met with a client who was questioned by their employer about some money that was missing. The client admitted to me that they had stolen some checks that have been written to their employer. The client informed me that their employer told them that they had notified the police and the client came to my office asking what they should do when they are arrested. This is a pretty common scenario in my practice. I frequently meet with clients who know that they are in trouble and that the day is coming that they will be arrested and be charged with a crime. Here’s what I told this client, and other clients, who want to know what will happen.

It is important to know that you are under no legal obligation to cooperate with the police when they want to question you about a potential crime that you may have committed. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to not incriminate yourself. This means that you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions that the police ask you about any crime that you may have committed. Probably the most common mistake that clients make when the police arrest them or question them about a possible crime is that clients think that they can talk themselves out of getting arrested and being charged with a crime. If you did nothing, then I suppose it makes sense to talk to the police. But if you know that you did something wrong and committed a crime, there is no logical explanation for talking to the police. If you know that you committed a crime and you are talking to the police, you will either tell them the truth, or you will lie to them. In either case, talking to the police when you know that you are guilty of a crime is not a smart move. Even if you believe you did nothing wrong, talking to the police and answering their questions is probably not a smart move either. You have no idea what information the police have. They may have incorrect information and by answering their questions, you may be giving their incorrect information more credibility than it deserves. The point of this paragraph is to advise you that if the police start asking you questions about a possible crime, you should immediately demand that they get you a lawyer.

Another common misunderstanding is that the police have to “read you your rights” once you are arrested. The only time the police have to “read you your rights” is when you are being questioned by the police and are you in the custody of the police and are not free to leave. A common example of this scenario is when you are placed under arrest and are taken down to the police station and the police put you in an interrogation room and start questioning you about a crime. In order for the police to be able to use any statements you make in that custodial interrogation, the police have to “read you your rights.” This means that the police have to inform you that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law. They also have to advise you that you have the right to a lawyer and that if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you for free. Once you make a knowing and intelligent waiver of those rights, the police can question you and any statements you make during the course of the questioning can be used against you in Court. But there is no requirement that the police have to read you your rights once you are arrested.

Do-I-Need-a-Lawyer-300x201The title to this article comes from one of the most common questions I get asked by clients who call me to discuss their case. When I ask them what their question is, I’m frequently asked whether the client should have a lawyer for their case.

Many clients do not know the answer to that question because they don’t understand what the implications of a criminal case can be. Sometimes people don’t understand that what they are charged with is a crime. Yesterday I received a phone call from a client who was pulled over by a State Trooper and charged with driving 33 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. The client did not understand that what he was charged with was not a simple speeding ticket. In Illinois, if you are pulled over and charged with speeding 26 to 34 miles an hour over the posted speed limit, you will be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. What he was being charged with is not a simple speeding ticket but an actual crime. A conviction for driving 26 to 34 miles an hour over the speed limit carries a possible jail sentence of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. If you are charged with driving 35 miles an hour and over the posted speed limit, you will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor for driving 35 miles an hour over the posted speed limit carries a possible jail sentence of up to one-year in County Jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Clients who call me with cases like this are frequently surprised to find out that they are charged with an actual crime and not a mere speeding ticket.

Last week I spoke to another client who was charged with a Retail Theft. The client wanted to know whether contacting the store and paying for the items that were shoplifted would mean that the Retail Theft case would be dismissed. I explained to the client that paying the store for the value of the items that were stolen would not cause the criminal Retail Theft case to just go away. The criminal case involves the Prosecutor’s Office. Any decision made about whether the case will be dropped or dismissed is made by the Prosecutor’s and not the store owners or the store security.

Grand-Jury-300x199The Grand Jury plays a very important role in our criminal justice system. Few people understand what a Grand Jury is and why it plays such an important role in our criminal justice system. A big reason for this is that the entire process is clouded in such secrecy. Clients are surprised and scared to hear that their case is going to a Grand Jury or that they have been indicted by a Grand Jury. The term “Grand Jury” can be scary for a criminal defendant who doesn’t understand what a Grand Jury is. Let’s talk about what a Grand Jury is and what role the Grand Jury plays in our criminal justice system.

Why Are There Grand Juries?

According to the Illinois Constitution, you cannot be brought to trial for a crime that carries a prison sentence unless you have been Indicted by a Grand Jury or have been given a Preliminary Hearing and a Judge has found Probable Cause to believe that a crime was committed and that you are the one that committed the crime. The term “Indictment” is a fancy word for being charged with a crime.

Criminal-Trial-300x201The right to a jury trial is one of the fundamental constitutional principles that applies to all criminal cases. If you are accused of a crime that carries a punishment of incarceration for more than 6 months, you have a constitutional right to a trial by a jury. The Illinois Constitution also guarantees you the right to a jury trial in a criminal case. Let’s talk a little bit about what a jury trial is and what happens in a typical jury trial in Illinois.

How Are Jurors Chosen for Jury Duty in Illinois?

The Clerk of the Court will receive a database containing the names and addresses of a pool of potential jurors in each County. The database containing the names and addresses of potential jurors are compiled from three sources.