Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Shoplifting-300x226This morning I spoke to a client who made it out of a local store last night after shoplifting a couple of items without getting caught. The client wanted to know whether they could still be arrested for shoplifting and charged with a Retail Theft even though they were not caught inside the store. The client wanted to know how long they had to arrest him and charged him with a Retail Theft and what they should do if they were contacted by the police.

In all likelihood, if you made it out of the store without getting caught for shoplifting, it is unlikely that you will be arrested for the Retail Theft. However, just because you made it out of the store does not mean you’re out of the woods. Virtually every major retailer has security cameras inside their stores. I have had several cases in which my clients were arrested and charged with a Retail Theft days and weeks after the incident after they were identified on a security camera. I recently had a client that was arrested for a Retail Theft after a detective found a security video of the license plate number on my clients car as he was leaving the parking lot of the store immediately after the Retail Theft had occurred. The detective was able to locate my client after they checked the license plate number with the Secretary of State.

What Do I Do If The Police Contact Me About the Retail Theft?

Arrested-300x226A common question I get from clients is whether they will have to go to jail if they are arrested by the police. Yesterday, I received a telephone call from a prospective client who was caught shoplifting at a local Target. When he was approached by store security, he ran out of the store and jumped into his vehicle and left the store. He noticed the security guards chase him to his car and realized that they probably had his license plate number. The next day he spoke to a police officer who told him that they they have him on video committing the crime and leaving the store and would be charging him with a Retail Theft. He wanted to know whether he would go to jail if he turned himself in as the police had asked him to. This is a common question I get from people calling me and asking for my advice. Many people do not realize what happens when they are arrested and what their rights are when they are in the custody of the police and are not free to leave.

How Long Can the Police Hold Me Before Charging Me or Releasing Me?

As a general rule, the police can hold you in the police station for up to 48 hours before releasing you or charging you with a crime. This is based on a 1991 US Supreme Court case that established this general rule. However, in that same case, the Supreme Court stated that suspects can be held at the police station for a longer period of time if there is “extraordinary circumstances.” It is the policy of the Chicago Police to hold suspects for up to 48 hours before releasing them or charging them with a crime. Joliet police also have a similar 48-hour strict deadline. Police in Elgin and Waukegan consider 72-hours to be their deadline. What constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” is the subject of debate among legal circles and is unsettled by the courts. However, the Supreme Court has held that holding a suspect in custody for the purpose of gathering additional evidence is unconstitutional. Different police agencies and police departments have their own policies. For instance, police in Waukegan will hold a suspect for up to 72 hours but only after they receive approval from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Domestic-BatteryA common question I get from clients who come into my office to talk about their Domestic Battery case is whether their Domestic Battery is a misdemeanor or a felony. The overwhelming majority of Domestic Battery cases are misdemeanors. But under certain circumstances, a misdemeanor Domestic Battery can be a felony. If you are charged with a Domestic Battery and the charge is a felony, you will be charged with an Aggravated Domestic Battery. Let me explain what a misdemeanor Domestic Battery is and what a felony Aggravated Domestic Battery is and what’s the difference between the two possible charges.

What is a Misdemeanor Domestic Battery?

If you make physical contact with a family member, you may be charged with a Domestic Battery. There’s two ways that you can be charged with a misdemeanor Domestic Battery in Illinois. The first is if the physical contact results in physical harm to the family member. An example would be punching a family member, or pushing a family member to the ground, causing pain or bruising. Another way that you can be charged with a Domestic Battery is if you make physical contact with a family member that is of an insulting or a provoking nature. An example would be spitting in the face of a family member. While no physical injury or pain results from the contact, this could be considered insulting, making it a misdemeanor Domestic Battery.

UUW-300x221Earlier this week, I met with a client who was pulled over by the State Police for driving 38 miles an hour over the speed limit on the Tollway. The client did not realize that driving 38 miles an hour over the posted speed limit in Illinois is a crime. He did not realize that he could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor for driving at such an excessive speed. He did not know that he was facing the possibility of being sentenced to one-year in County Jail and fined up to $2,500.

When the State Trooper spoke to my client, he smelled an odor of burnt cannabis and observed a bowl, which the client had used to smoke marijuana, in the center console of my client’s vehicle. The State Trooper pulled the client out of the vehicle and placed him under arrest. When the State Trooper asked my client if there was anything in the vehicle that he wanted the Trooper to be aware of, the client told him that he had a pair of brass knuckles in the center armrest of his vehicle. The State Trooper found the brass knuckles and charged my client with Unlawful Use of a Weapon (720 ILCS 5/24-1) because of the brass knuckles. My client told me that he’s had the brass knuckles since he was a teenager and had no idea that he could be charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon by simply possessing a pair of brass knuckles.

When it comes to the possession of brass knuckles, Illinois has very strict laws and rules that make the mere possession of brass, or metal knuckles, a crime. Not only is it against the law to possess brass knuckles in Illinois, it is against the law to possess jewelry, or items that look similar to brass knuckles. Brass knuckles are considered a deadly weapon in Illinois, just like a knife or a gun. If you are caught with brass knuckles, you will be charged with Unlawful Use of a Weapon, a Class A Misdemeanor. If you are caught with a pair of brass knuckles, you could be facing up to a year in county jail and a fine up to $2,500. Illinois Law places brass knuckles in the same category as a gun or a knife. From experience, even though the criminal charges for the possession of brass knuckles is the same as the possession of a firearm, criminal defendants charged with possessing brass knuckles are generally not treated as harshly in Court as criminal defendants who are charged with a possession of a firearm. You are more likely to get Probation or Court Supervision for the possession of brass knuckles as opposed to the possession of a firearm. Of course, every case is different so you should consult with an experienced Unlawful Use of Weapon criminal defense attorney about your specific case.

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.