Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Excessive-Speeding-300x199I frequently receive phone calls from clients who have received a speeding ticket for driving at a high rate of speed. While speaking with these clients, it is not uncommon for me to find out that they were driving at such a high rate of speed that I need to explain to them that what they are charged with is not your typical, run-of-the-mill, speeding ticket. I end up having to explain to them that what they are facing is a criminal charge that carries a possible jail sentence in County Jail. Let me explain how a speeding ticket in Illinois can land you in jail and lead to a criminal conviction that would appear on your record in a routine background search.

Most speeding tickets are considered a petty offense. The typical speeding ticket carries a fine only. This means that you cannot go to jail for your typical speeding ticket. Basically, Illinois Law provides that you cannot drive at a speed that is “greater than is reasonable and proper with regards to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or endangers the safety of any person or property.” This basically means that you must drive at a safe speed. What is considered a safe speed depends on the conditions at the time. In other words, what is considered a safe speed may vary depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. However, if you are caught driving above the absolute speed limit, you may receive a ticket for speeding regardless of the time of day and conditions. If the speed limit is 55 and you are driving faster than the speed limit, you may receive a ticket regardless of the weather conditions or the time of day. The defense that you were driving with “the flow of traffic” will not work in Court. If the speed limit is 55 and you are driving 55 miles an hour in a blizzard while all the other cars on the roadway are driving at 30 miles an hour, you may receive a ticket for speeding even though you did not exceed the posted speed limit. As you can tell, being found guilty of speeding above the posted speed limit is much easier for the prosecutor to prove in court than it is for them to prove that you were driving greater than what was reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway.

The absolute speed limit is posted on signs.  In general, the absolute speed limits on Illinois roads are as follows, unless posted otherwise:

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x200On Tuesday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, signed into law a measure that drastically expands the Illinois Medical Marijuana Program. The main focus of the expanded Medical Marijuana legislation is to attack the massive opioid epidemic which led to the loss of almost 2,000 lives in Illinois in 2016, and roughly 72,000 people throughout the country.

Under current state law, in order to qualify for Medical Marijuana, you must be suffering from certain illnesses that are set forth in the Medical Marijuana statute. This new law will allow doctors to prescribe Medical Marijuana for any patient that would qualify for a prescription opioid drug such as OxyContin, Vicodin, or Percocet. This new law takes into consideration the addictive qualities of prescription opioids and the medicinal value and benefits of Medical Marijuana. It recognizes that Medical Marijuana is a viable and beneficial alternative to prescription opioid drugs.

The new law is based on solid scientific evidence which has shown that states that have legalized Medical Marijuana have experienced a sharp decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths. At the same time, numerous medical studies have shown that Medical Marijuana can be effective in treating pain that would otherwise be treated by highly addictive prescription opioid drugs. Now, patients who suffer from chronic pain have a choice between using Medical Marijuana or taking opioid-related prescription drugs. Studies have shown that no deaths have resulted from the use of Medical Marijuana to treat chronic pain.

UUW-300x240In response to the dramatic rise in the number of mass shootings around the country, earlier this year the Illinois Legislature began working on legislation aimed at trying to stop mass shootings from happening in Illinois. As a result, on July 16h, 2018, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Firearms Restraining Order Act which allows for petitions to be filed in court to have a no contact order issued against someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or to others. The new law is commonly called the “Red Flag” bill. It would allow family members, police and others to seek an Order Protection in Court to take away the guns from someone found to pose “an immediate and present danger” to themselves or to others.

At the same time, Governor Rauner signed into law a bill that expands the 72-hour waiting period to the purchase of all guns. Prior to this measure being enacted, the 72-hour waiting period only applied to handguns. Now, the 72-hour waiting period applies to the purchase of all guns, including assault-style weapons.

The “Red Flag” bill is an attempt to take tools that are used in Domestic Battery and Domestic Violence cases and apply them to situations that might help prevent mass shootings from occurring. The new law allows for a representative of a school, a business, or a church, to petition the court for an order prohibiting that person from entering that building if they can show the court that that person has exhibited threatening behavior.

DUIIt’s that time of the year again. The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists has released its annual study that keeps track of DUI arrests throughout Illinois. Once again, Rockford and Elgin top the list of towns in Illinois reporting the most DUI arrests in 2017. In 2017, Rockford reported 490 DUI arrests compared to 459 in 2016. The 2017 figures represent a 6.8% increase over the 2016 DUI arrest figures. Elgin came in second with a total of 418 DUI arrests in 2017. Elgin had 365 DUI arrest in 2016, a 14.5% increase over 2017.

Every year, Schaumburg based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists sends out surveys to roughly 700 police departments throughout the State of Illinois. Most of the police agencies respond to the surveys and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists releases the figures for DUI arrests throughout all of the cities and towns in Illinois and gives us a picture of which towns are more aggressive when it comes to DUI arrests.

The lengthy list of DUI arrests compiled by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists has the DUI arrest figures for virtually every town and village in the State of Illinois. I want to include the figures for local towns and villages that may be of interest to my readers. Chicago is not on this list because Chicago has far and away the most arrests and is included on a seperate list published by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. The first number in the list below is what place the town or village is in and the second number is the total number of DUI arrests in 2017:

Search-WarrantIn a closely-watched decision regarding the privacy rights of cell phone users and the power of the police to obtain cell phone tracking information, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police must obtain a warrant before obtaining the tracking information for the cell phones for most cellphone users.

Timothy Carpenter was suspected in a series of robberies of RadioShack and T-Mobile stores in several States throughout the country. The FBI had obtained a simple court order allowing them to obtain 27 days of Carpenter’s cell phone location data from Sprint and from MetroPCS. The court order that had been used by the FBI was a simple court order that did not require that the FBI show probable cause for a search warrant. In response to the court order, the FBI was given a 12,898 location point catalog of where Carpenter had been over a period of 27 days. The location data represented an average of 101 data point locations per day. Carpenter was eventually convicted of the robberies and sentenced to over a hundred years in prison. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made a major point of the location data to help bolster his argument that Carpenter had committed the robberies.

On appeal, Carpenter argued that the location data that had been obtained by the FBI should not be admitted in his case because they were obtained without a search warrant. Lower courts disagreed with Carpenter and ruled that the FBI was not required to obtain a search warrant in order to get the location data from the cell phone providers.

Criminal-Case-300x200I recently met with a client who had a jury trial for a Domestic Battery charge. After several days of a trial and deliberations, the jury could not agree on a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. Shortly after the mistrial was declared, the prosecution decided that they would retry the client and he came to my office looking to hire me for the second trial. The client had several questions about what happens at a re-trial and weather Double Jeopardy applied to his case. I answered his questions and realized that people misunderstand what Double Jeopardy means.

In order for you to be convicted of a crime by a jury, all 12 members of the jury must agree that you are guilty. At the same time, in order to be found not guilty of a crime by a jury, all 12 members of the jury must agree that you are not guilty. Their verdict must be unanimous. If a jury is unable to come up with a unanimous verdict, the Court will declare a mistrial. A mistrial does not necessarily mean that the case is over. When a mistrial happens, the prosecution will decide whether they want to try you once again for the same crime. The decision about whether the state will try you again for the same crime is a decision that rests with the prosecution. From experience, prosecutors will take a variety of factors into consideration when deciding whether to have another trial. A major factor for prosecutors is how close did they come to winning the first jury trial? In other words, if a vast majority of the jurors were in favor of finding you guilty, it is much more likely that the state will try you again. If the vast majority of the jurors were in favor of finding you not guilty, it is much more likely that the state will drop the case and not seek another trial.

The legal grounds for you not to be subjected to another trial can be found in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 10 of the Illinois Constitution.

Police-Interrogation-300x200I recently met with a client whose son had been questioned by the police at the police station and charged with a Retail Theft. The client was complaining that the police questioned her son at the police station without providing a lawyer for him and without allowing her to be present with her son. She wanted to know whether the police could question her son without her being present. Here’s what I told her:

What is Considered a Minor in the Criminal Justice System?

As with many other things, the criminal justice system has different definitions for common terms than most people realize. For instance, what is considered insane by the medical profession is different than what the criminal law defines as insane. The same applies to what is commonly considered to be a minor and what is commonly considered to be an adult. In the real world, 18 years old is the cut-off between being a minor and being an adult. But under the criminal law, whether you are treated as a juvenile, or minor, or an adult, depends on whether you are being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, you will be considered an adult if you were 17 years or older when the offense occurred. For felony offenses, you will be considered an adult if the offense occurred when you were 16 years or older.

ConfessionYesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued several opinions on cases that had been closely watched by observers. The case that has received most of the public attention involves legalized sports betting. But lost in the coverage was the release of two opinions involving the 4th and 5th Amendment rights of criminal defendants. These opinions expand the rights of motorists in their vehicles and the rights of criminal defendants facing prosecution in Criminal Courts. I want to take this opportunity to discuss these two cases and how they will impact the criminal law.

Motorists Rights Expanded

The first case involves the appeal of the conviction of Terrence Byrd’s appeal of his conviction in Pennsylvania of Possession of Heroin and the Possession of Illegal body armor. Byrd plead guilty but reserved his right to appeal. Byrd had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Byrd appealed and his conviction had been upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals. Yesterday, his conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

file221258166932-300x225Everybody knows that if you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting, you will be facing serious criminal penalties that could have serious implications for your future. How many people are surprised to find out that in addition to the criminal implications of a Retail Theft, they will probably soon be facing a potential Civil Penalty. This part of a Retail Theft arrest is not well understood by clients. Many clients mistakenly believe that what happens in one aspect of a Retail Theft case will affect the other aspect of the Retail Theft case. In other words, many people believe that if they just pay the Civil Penalty then the criminal case will be dismissed. This is not how things work and people need to understand what the Civil Penalty is and how it relates to a Retail Theft.

Most people charged with a Retail Theft will be facing a Class A Misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a Retail Theft depends on the value of the item(s) that you stole, or attempted to steal. The cut-off between a Misdemeanor and a Felony officially is $300. If the aggregate value of the items is $300 or less, you will be charged with a Misdemeanor. If the aggregate value of the item(s) is $300 or more, you may be charged with a Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor conviction for a Retail Theft carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Most Felony Retail Theft charges are Class 4 Felonies in Illinois. A Class 4 Felony charge for Retail Theft in Illinois carries a maximum punishment of one to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

In the past few years I have seen a drastic increase in the number of Retail Theft cases charged as a Municipal Ordinance Violations. Almost every City, Town, and Village has set up a Municipal Violation court system that moves cases from the County Criminal Court to an Administrative Municipal Ordinance Violation Court that is controlled by the Town or the Village in which the offense occurred. The Judge who presides over the case is an Administrative Law Judge who is employed by the municipality. Many times the Administrative Law is a full-time employee of the town. The standard of proof in a Municipal Court is much lower than in a Criminal Court. A Municipal Ordinance Violation is a civil matter between you and the municipality. The Rules of Evidence are relaxed and the penalties that can be imposed by an Administrative Law Judge in a Municipal Court are civil in nature. In other words, the penalties are monetary as opposed to Criminal. However, depending on the County, the Town, and the facts and circumstances of your arrest, the Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. If you were fingerprinted, your Retail Theft may appear in a background search. Some Counties will put your case in the Court computer system which could be found in a background search. Many employers will not hire someone if they suspect that the prospective employee may steal from them. Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Retail Theft lawyer if you receive a Municipal Ordinance Violation. An experienced Retail Theft attorney will know whether there’s a possibility that a Retail Theft Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. You cannot simply assume that a Municipal Ordinance Violation for Shoplifting will not appear on a background search.

Illinois-DUIMost drivers will never have to decide whether to take a breathalyzer test or not. But if you are driving a vehicle in Illinois, you should be aware of what could happen to you and to your license if you are ever pulled over by a police officer and asked to take a breathalyzer test.

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you may be under the influence of alcohol, that police officer has a right to take you down to the police station and ask that you take a breathalyzer test. If you are ever faced with a situation like this, you have to make a quick decision between two choices. Should you take a breathalyzer test or should you refuse to take a breathalyzer test? If you have not had any alcohol to drink, then the choice seems pretty clear. Taking a breathalyzer test would prove that you have no alcohol in your system. But if you have been drinking and are unsure about whether you should take a breathalyzer test, you need to be aware of what the consequences could be of refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

When a police officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, the officer will hand you a document entitled, “Warning to Motorist” which will inform you that if you submit to a breathalyzer test and the test indicates that your blood alcohol level was .08 or above, your driver’s license will be suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State for 6 months. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months by the Illinois Secretary of State. These driver’s license suspensions will take effect on the 46th day after your arrest.