Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Illinois-Marijuana-300x226On January 1, 2020, at 6 am, Possession of recreational Marijuana will become legal in Illinois. But, there will be limitations to the legalization of the Possession of Marijuana. Violating any of the restrictions in the new law can lead to your arrest and criminal prosecution for the Illegal Possession of Marijuana in Illinois. If you are an Illinois resident, or planning on visiting Illinois, and are thinking about taking advantage of the new law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, you should be aware of what you can legally do, and what you cannot do under the new law. If you do not know what the rules are and what the limitations are, you could find yourself being arrested and facing a criminal case for Possession of Marijuana.

What is the Current Marijuana Law in Illinois?

Under current state law, it is illegal to possess any amount of Marijuana in Illinois unless you have a Medical Marijuana card issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health. A couple of years ago, Illinois decriminalized the possession of small amounts of Marijuana. If you are caught with less than 10 grams of Marijuana, instead of being charged with a crime, you can be charged with a Municipal Ordinance Violation which carry’s a fine.

Arrest-Warrant-300x226The other day I received a phone call from a client who is living in New York. The client told me that about 8 years ago, while they were living in Illinois, they were arrested for a felony drug case. They appeared in Court and eventually plead guilty and received probation. While the client was on probation, they moved to New York and never checked in with probation after leaving Illinois. They were just denied a job when a background search revealed an outstanding warrant for a Probation Violation out of Illinois. The client wanted to know what they could do to clear up the warrant and if they could hire me to take care of the warrant without the client having to come back to Illinois. I frequently receive phone calls from people who have outstanding warrants. As a matter of fact, while I was writing this article, I received a call from a client who found out that an arrest warrant was issued against him last night for a Domestic Battery. The client wanted to know if there was any way that I could make a call or do something to avoid him having to turn himself in and appear in Court. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to take care of an outstanding arrest warrant. Let me explain.

What Is An Arrest Warrant?

An Arrest Warrant is a Court order signed by a Judge authorizing the police to take you into custody and bring you to Court to answer to criminal charges. In order to obtain an Arrest Warrant, a police officer appears in front of a Judge with an affidavit laying out a sufficient factual basis to establish probable cause, more probably true than not true, that a crime was committed and that you are the one that committed the crime. If the Judge is convinced that there is enough probable cause to justify your arrest, the Judge will issue an Arrest Warrant that will usually have a Bond amount that you can post to be released after you are processed by the police and given a Court date to appear to answer to the charges. If you do not appear for a Court date, the Judge will issue a Bench Warrant ordering the police to bring you to Court if they come in contact with you. If you did not appear in Court for a misdemeanor, the Judge will set a Bond at the time the Bench Warrant is issued. If you fail to appear in Court for a felony, the warrant will usually be a “no-bail warrant,” which will Order the police to bring you to Court as soon as possible after you are taken into custody.

Earlier this week, the Elgin Police Chief appeared before the City Council for her 2020 budget and informed the Elgin City Council that serious crime dropped approximately 17% from last year. The Chief of Police is requesting that she be allowed to hire 2 more 911 operators and 4 new part-time Auxiliary Police Officers for next year. Currently, the Elgin Police Department employees 184 sworn officers along with 85 civilian employees.

Last year, serious crime in Elgin increased by 5%. Last year’s increase was the first increase in serious crime in Elgin in 4 years. This year, there were 24 reports of shots fired in Elgin. 7 people were shot and there was 1 murder. This time last year, there were 31 reports of shots fired, 12 victims of gunshots, and 3 murders. 26 rapes were reported in Elgin this year. This time last year, 40 rapes had been reported. This represents a 35% drop in the number of rapes reported in Elgin this year. 41 batteries were reported in Elgin so far this year. This time last year, 95 batteries were reported. This represents a 57% drop in the number of batteries in Elgin. 34 assaults we reported in Elgin so far this year. This time last year, 52 batteries were reported. This represents a 35% drop in the number of assaults. 184 Burglaries to Autos were reported in Elgin so far this year. This time last year, 299 Burglaries to Autos were reported. This represents a 35% drop in the number Burglary to Autos. Last year, Burglaries to Autos increased by 18% over the previous year. The number of Thefts, Arsons, and Motor Vehicle Thefts, also decreased from last year. The number of Robberies in 2019 is at 54, which is the same as this time last year. The only serious crime that increased from last year was Burglaries which increased from 137 to 144. This represents a 5% increase in the number of Burglaries in Elgin so far this year.

The statistics for less serious crimes like Drug Offenses, Kidnappings, Simple Batteries, Assaults, Threatening the Use of Force, Disorderly Conduct, and liquor offenses, also show an overall decrease of approximately 5% from last year.

Aggravated-or-Excessive-Speeding-300x127Lately, many of the phone calls I receive start off with clients telling me that they received a “speeding ticket” and asking whether they can really go to jail for their “speeding ticket.” I ask them how fast they were going, and if they were going 26 miles per hour, or more, over the posted speed limit, I have to explain what they are facing. I start off by explaining that what they received is not a speeding ticket. At least it’s not what most people commonly considered to be a speeding ticket. Speeding 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit is a crime in Illinois. If you did not know this, don’t feel bad. Most people do not realize that speeding 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit is a crime in Illinois until it happens to them. Sometimes, lawyers don’t even know that driving 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit is a crime in Illinois (more on that later.) Illinois has made speeding 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit a crime that carries potential serious consequences. Just like any other crime in Illinois, driving 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit carries a potential jail sentence that all Illinois driver’s should be aware of. Let me explain.

Cases involving drivers caught driving 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit are commonly called Aggravated or Excessive Speeding cases. Under 625 ILCS 5/11-601.5(a), if you are caught driving between 26 to 34 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, you can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. A Class B Misdemeanor carries up to 180 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,500. Under 625 ILCS 5/601.5(b), if you are caught driving 35-miles per hour, or more, over the posted speed limit, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor carries up to 1 year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.

Just like any other criminal offense, you will need to have a lawyer represent you if you receive an Aggravated or Excessive Speeding charge. Believe it or not, there’s lawyers out there that do not realize that driving 26-miles per hour over the posted speed limit is a crime until they go to Court and find out that what their client is facing is not a simple speeding ticket. Unless the lawyer commonly handles Aggravated or Excessive speeding cases, they will not know what to do when they get to Court. A few weeks ago I was at a local courthouse waiting to talk to the prosecutor about my client’s Aggravated Speeding charge when I started talking to the lawyer who was in front of me in line. I had never seen this lawyer before in Court. The lawyer told me that she was taking care of the speeding ticket for a family friend and as I was talking to her about the case, she told me that her client was going 42-miles per hour over the posted speed limit and asked me if she could just get Court Supervision for her client for the speeding ticket. I realized that the attorney did not understand that her client was being charged with a Class A Misdemeanor that carried a possible criminal conviction and a potential jail sentence of up to 1-year and a maximum fine of $2,500. I had explain all of this to the lawyer and she got a continuance for her client and sent the client to me to represent her for the Class A Excessive Speeding Charge. I was able to get the prosecutor to drop the charge down to a petty offense after the client performed some community service hours. The client had to pay a small fine and the court costs, and take a Driver Improvement Course.

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.