Attorney James G. Dimeas
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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)

ConfessionOne of the most common questions I get asked when I get a phone call from somebody who has recently been arrested is “can my case be dismissed if the police did not read me my rights when I was arrested?” The answer to that question requires an understanding of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Everyone has heard of the Fifth Amendment, especially because of television crime shows, but let’s take a closer look at why the Fifth Amendment is important, what it is and what it does.

The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights that apply to people facing criminal and civil legal proceedings.  First, it guarantees a citizen the right to a grand jury.  Second, it forbids “double jeopardy.”  Third, it requires that “due process of law” be part of any Court proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property.”  Fourth, it requires that the government compensate a citizen when it takes their private property for public use.  Fifth, if protects citizens from “self-incrimination.”  That last Fifth Amendment right, the right against self-incrimination, is the one that is commonly associated with the “Miranda Rights.”  Self incrimination is basically when you make a statement that exposes yourself to legal or criminal responsibility. Think of it as making a statement that ends up being a confession.  It’s when you are admitting to a crime, or making a confession. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens from being forced or coerced to testify against themselves.  Self-incrimination is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  So when you hear that someone has “taken the Fifth,” this means that they are refusing to testify in court or talk to the police.  This right against self-incrimination is one of the basic principles of American Constitutional Law. It’s the absolute right to remain silent when you are being questioned by the police.  But just like any other constitutional right, this right is not absolute. There are limitations.

The seminole case that deals with the Fifth Amendment is the U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. Arguably the most well-known, or most mentioned, criminal case.  Let’s talk a little about this Supreme Court case so we can get a better understanding of what this case did and how it applies to today.  Miranda v. Arizona was actually four different cases involving custodial interrogations that were consolidated into one case.  The first case involved Miranda and that’s why it became known as the Miranda case.  But it actually involved four different cases involving criminal prosecutions and custodial interrogations.  In all cases, the defendants were arrested by the police, taken down to the police station, and interrogated for several hours.  All of the defendants made confessions to the police that prosecutors tried to use against them in court.  Prior to this case, the right against self-incrimination was thought of as applying only to proceedings in court.  But in this case, the Supreme Court extended and applied the 5th Amendment to proceedings that happened before the case went to court.  The court applied the right against self-incrimination in the 5th Amendment to all criminal proceedings that begin once a criminal defendant is deprived of their freedom of action.  And here is where we find the main limitation in Miranda.  The rights afforded in Miranda apply to custodial interrogations.  You are in custody if you are deprived of your freedom of action in any significant way.  It doesn’t matter if the interrogation occurs in the jail, at the police station, at the scene of a crime on a busy street, or in the middle of nowhere.  If you are not free to leave, then you are considered to be in custody and that’s when the Miranda warnings have to be given.  Once it is established that you were in custody and the police start questioning you, in order for the prosecutor to be able to use the statements that you make to them in court, the police have to read you your Miranda Rights.  Those rights have to warn you that you have the right to remain silent.  If you say anything what you say can be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.  If you choose to talk to the police you have the right to stop the interview at any time.  Very rarely have I seen TV shows mention this last warning.  And this is very important because if you are ever questioned, you have the right to demand that they provide a lawyer to you free of charge before answering any questions. Once you assert that right, the police must stop all questioning until and unless they provide a lawyer for you. You have the right to demand a lawyer at any time during the interrogation.  From my experience, I don’t know if I have ever seen the police actually provide a lawyer at this point once it is requested by the defendants.

Retail-TheftClients that are charged with Retail Theft frequently call me a few weeks after they are arrested and tell me that they received a letter from the store’s lawyers demanding money.  They usually have two questions when they receive that letter.  The first question is whether this means that if they pay the amount they are asking for will that mean that their case is dismissed?  The second question is whether they have to pay the amount they are demanding.  I will explain to you what I tell them and what that letter means.

When you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting in Illinois, this means that you have violated the criminal law of the State of Illinois. You will be assigned a court date and you will have to go to court to answer to the criminal charges. Under Illinois Law, that same Retail Theft gives the store, known as the retail establishment, the right to sue you in civil court for civil, or money damages.  The very last part of the statute which deals with the crime of Retail Theft discusses the civil penalties available to the retail establishment. The amount of money the store’s lawyers can go after you for it is the actual retail value of that you stole, or tried to steal, plus anywhere between $100 and $1,000, plus their attorney fees and any court costs associated with the attempt to collect this civil penalty.  You will first find out that the store is trying to do this when you receive a letter from their attorneys informing you that they are seeking the civil penalty against you. That letter will inform you that you need to contact them to discuss payment. You need to understand that this proceeding is completely separate and distinct from the criminal case that you are facing. Paying the amount they are seeking will not halt the legal proceedings in the criminal case. As a matter of fact, the prosecutor handling your criminal case and the civil attorney representing the store for money damages have nothing to do with each other.  They are not communicating with each other nor are they working together.  Often, payment of the civil penalty is something that an experienced Illinois Retail Theft attorney can use when negotiating with the prosecutor to work out a favorable resolution to your criminal Retail Theft case.  Showing a prosecutor proof that you paid the civil penalty can only help convince a prosecutor you have accepted responsibility and are trying to make good for the bad that you did.  I have used it many times to help get a good deal for a client charged with Retail Theft. At the very least, it has never harmed the client to come to court with proof that they paid the civil penalty.  It’s important to know that the statute provides that payment of the civil penalty cannot be used against you in the criminal case to prove that you admitted responsibility or confessed to the crime.  From my experience, if you are unable to pay the full amount that the store is demanding, if you contact their attorneys representing the retail establishment, they will work out reasonable payment plans.

What happens if you do not make the payment? First, you cannot go to jail for not making the civil penalty payment. Technically, the store has a right to file a lawsuit against you. But this rarely happens. That’s because the amount owed isn’t worth the expense to the store and their attorneys of filing a lawsuit against you. What frequently happens if you don’t make the payment is that they will turn over the claim to a collection agency. The collection agency will come after you just like any other collection agency would for any other type of debt owed. They may put this on your credit report and make annoying phone calls to your home and work to try to get you to pay.

DUI

I just received a phone call from a client who was arrested last night for a DUI and was asking me questions about the paperwork that the police gave her when she left the police station. More importantly, she wanted to know what a Statutory Summary Suspension means and how this will affect her ability to drive.  Because I’ve been handling DUI’s throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County for 25 years, it’s easy to forget how confusing the whole DUI process can be for someone who does not handle cases like this every day.  So, I want to take this opportunity to explain the Statutory Summary Suspension process so you can understanding what is happening, and what will happen in the coming months with your driver’s license.

In Illinois, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle upon the public roads while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  If you are found guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you could be facing criminal penalties which cannot exceed one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  Most people know this.  But what many people do not know is that when you have a DUI case, you also have a separate legal matter between you and the Illinois Secretary of State which involves your driver’s license.  If a police officer requests that you submit to a Breathalyzer Test and your blood alcohol level (B.A.C.) is .08 or above, your driver’s license will be suspended for six months starting 46 days after your arrest for a DUI.  If the police officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer Test, and you refuse to take that test, your license will be suspended for 12 months starting 46 days after your arrest for a DUI.

A refusal to take a Breathalyzer Test is defined a little more broadly than simply refusing to submit to the test.  If you agree to take the test and are unsuccessful in submitting an adequate breath sample, then this will be considered a refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer Test. What typically happens is that the police officer will instruct you on what you must do to provide an adequate breath sample so that the machine can register a valid result.  You must pay close attention to what the police officer is saying because if you do not follow the police officer’s instructions and are unable to provide an adequate breath sample, the Secretary of State will try to suspend your license for 12 months because they will consider this to be a refusal.

Lake-County-Criminal-Charges-300x200The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office has announced a new program that allows first time misdemeanor and felony offenders an opportunity to avoid having a criminal conviction permanently on their record. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office calls it the Alternative Prosecution Program. If the crime involves violence the offender is not eligible for the program. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office makes the final decision on whether an offender will be allowed into the program. Here’s how it works.

A request to enter the program can be made by the prosecutor, judge, defense lawyer, public defender, or police officer. The request can be made at any time but it is usually made at the first court date. The applicant will have to pay a $70 fee which is non-refundable. An applicant will be required to take a drug test. A positive drug test will not necessarily keep an offender from getting into the program.

After you pay your $70 fee, you will schedule an interview with a representative from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. The screening process will include feedback from the victim and the arresting police officer. After this interview, if you meet all the requirements of the program, and you are acceptable to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office, your case will be scheduled to be heard in front of the Alternative Prosecution Citizens Panel.   This panel is made up of citizens who live in Lake County Illinois. They will consider your case and make a recommendation to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office will review your file and consider the recommendation from the Alternative Prosecution Citizens Panel and determine whether they will accept you into the program. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office will make the final decision about whether you are accepted into the program or not.