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Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

Schaumburg-Criminal-Lawyer-300x226This morning I met with a client who was charged with a Domestic Battery against his wife last weekend. He and his wife have been going through some marital problems for several months which led to a very heated argument over the weekend. At the end of the argument, my client left the house to go for a ride in his car. After a couple of hours, he received a police a phone call from the local police asking him to return to the home so they can talk to him. When he arrived at his house, he found out that his wife had called 911 to report that she was a victim of Domestic Violence at the hands of my client. She told the police that when she tried to call the police my client fled from the residence in his car. My client insists that these allegations are false. My client’s wife obtained an Order of Protection and my client is not allowed to return to his house nor have any contact with his children. The client was very upset and was complaining that he should not have to hire a lawyer because he is innocent. This attitude by criminal defendants is very common. You need to understand how important it is that you have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer by your side if you are being charged with a criminal offense. Let me explain why.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to have a lawyer represent you whenever you are facing criminal charges. The Sixth Amendment also gives you the right to the lawyer of your choice, even if that means that you want to be your own lawyer. It’s important to understand what representing yourself means. Representing yourself means that you have the right to act as your own lawyer. It’s important to understand that if you exercise your Sixth Amendment right to represent yourself, you will be held to the same standards as any lawyer would. The prosecutor is a lawyer. Many prosecutors are highly experienced lawyers. Most prosecutors are in court all day, and have handled countless criminal cases. They have a law degree, passed a Bar Exam, a law license, and have the necessary knowledge and experience required of any lawyer who handles criminal cases. Most criminal defendants that represent themselves do not have the education, knowledge, and experience that the prosecutor has. If you choose to represent yourself, you should be aware of the obstacles you will face and how you are probably out of your league by taking on an experienced prosecutor. Do not think that because you are not a lawyer that the judge will cut you a break and not hold you to the same standards as any lawyer appearing in Court. You should not expect the Judge to help you or guide you through the process. You will be expected to know what you are doing and you will not be helped because you are not a lawyer. If you lose the case, you cannot get a new trial because you didn’t know what you were doing.

Your guilt or innocence will be determined by the judge or jury. The prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. This means that the State has the burden of proving that every element of the crime that you are charged with has been proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge or jury are not convinced of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be found not guilty of the criminal charges. Your job is to create reasonable doubt in the State’s case by challenging their evidence and their witnesses. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows how to do this because they’ve done it before. If you’ve never done it before, trying to defend yourself in court can be an uphill battle. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer knows the laws and the Rules of Evidence which governs how evidence can be introduced in Court. If the prosecutor tries to introduce evidence that is not admissible in court, your lawyer will know to object and prevent the evidence from being introduced and admitted into evidence. If you fail to object, not only does the evidence come in, but you will lose your right to appeal because you never raised the objection. It is not an excuse to claim that you are not a lawyer. While every case is different, the basic principles in our criminal laws apply to all criminal cases. The Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility and exclusion of evidence. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer understands with the principles of our criminal laws are and knows what the Rules of Evidence are.

Domstic-BatteryArguably, the most common question I am asked by clients. This happens all the time with Domestic Battery cases. While it’s always better to have a victim, or complaining witness, that is willing to cooperate with the defense, it does not mean that the case will be dismissed or that the Defendant is guaranteed to win their case. Let me explain.

Your criminal case begins when you are arrested by the police. If you are facing a misdemeanor criminal charge, the police will charge you with whatever they believe they can prove in Court. If you are charged with a felony, police will consult with the prosecutor’s office who will review the facts and evidence in your case, and file whatever criminal charges they think are appropriate. Police and prosecutors make the ultimate decision to file criminal charges. The victim’s input is important and almost always taken into consideration. The victim’s wishes are taken into consideration and play a major role in almost every criminal case.  However, the victim’s wishes are not determinative of whether criminal charges will be filed or how the case will proceed in Court. Prosecutors are required to keep victims informed about the case and give victim’s an opportunity to attend every court date and address the Court if the need arises. But the threshold issue, of whether criminal charges will be filed, or what criminal charges will be filed, or whether the case will be dismissed, will be decided by the prosecutor based on their discretion and their continuing ethical obligations. The Judge plays no role in those decisions and does not have the power to dismiss charges because the victim is not cooperating with the prosecution and wants the case dismissed.

Situations like this often arise in Domestic Violence cases. The victim and the defendant are in a relationship and the victim does not want anything to happen to the defendant. Many times the victim does not appear in Court for the Defendant’s Domestic Battery case. This is common in Domestic Violence cases. While this is usually good news for the Defendant, it doesn’t mean that the case will be dismissed or that the Defendant will win their case. When victims do not appear in court, it does not mean that your case will be dismissed. The prosecutor has the right to proceed with the case without the cooperation and testimony of the victim. Whether the prosecutor decides to dismiss the case or continue with the case will depend on the evidence gathered by the police. The prosecutor may decide to proceed with the case if they determine that they can prove the Defendant’s guilt without the testimony and cooperation of the victim. I have seen the state proceed with Domestic Battery cases when the victim is not cooperating with the state when the state has other witnesses that are willing to testify, confessions or other statements made by the defendant, and video evidence that shows what happened.

Criminal-DiscoveryI often have to catch myself when I’m talking to my clients about their criminal cases. As lawyers, we sometimes use terminology that while it may be common for us, is foreign to most people who are not involved in the criminal justice system every day like we are. The other day I was talking to a client about the status of their criminal case and I mentioned to the client that I was ‘waiting for Discovery’. I didn’t give the terminology a second thought, assuming that the client knew what I was talking about. However, the client made it very clear that they did not understand what I was saying and I realized that most clients probably feel the same way. I want to take this opportunity to describe what Discovery is and why it sometimes takes a long time time for Discovery to be complete.

If you are facing criminal charges, the US Constitution requires that you have a fair trial. Central to the notion of a fair trial in the criminal law is the requirement that you be provided with all of the evidence the prosecution intends to use in Court to prove you guilty of the criminal charges. In order to have a fair trial, there can be no surprises. Criminal defendants have a right to see all of the evidence the prosecution has. But fairness requires more than you be given the evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you. Fairness requires that you be given ALL of the evidence that is in the states possession. This includes evidence that may tend to show that you are not guilty of the criminal charges.

While the Constitution requires that a criminal defendant be afforded a fair trial, the prosecution is also entitled to be treated fairly. That is why the state has the right to be provided with any evidence that a defendant intends to use at trial. The bottom line is that there should be no surprises in any criminal cases. That is basically what the Discovery process in a criminal case is all about. It’s the part of the case where the parties exchange all of the evidence and then determine whether they want to go to trial, or work out a plea agreement to avoid going to trial. It is usually the most important part of a criminal case.

Court-Supervision-300x200When a criminal defendant pleads guilty, or is found guilty, of a criminal charge, the impact of the punishment depends on the sentence imposed by the Court. The Court can impose a variety of sentences in a criminal case. Perhaps, the best, or the least severe sentence in Illinois could be Court Supervision. The most severe punishment would be a conviction and the imposition of a jail sentence. I want to take this opportunity to discuss Court Supervision and why this may be the best option for your criminal or traffic case. This will be a general discussion of Court Supervision in Illinois. You should consult with your criminal defense lawyer to see how a sentence of Court Supervision would apply to your case and your particular situation.

The main benefit of getting Court Supervision is that if you successfully complete all of the terms of the Court Supervision sentence, you will not have a criminal conviction on your record. Court Supervision is a criminal sentence that is imposed on the majority of misdemeanor cases in Illinois. This is especially true if this is your first criminal case and the case did not involve violence or serious injuries to anyone. Court Supervision is very common in traffic cases. But just like everything in the law, the details are important because it’s not as simple as it initially appears.

If you are pleading guilty to a criminal offense and getting Court Supervision, at the time of sentencing, the Court will accept your guilty plea but will not enter a judgement of conviction that will go on your criminal record. Instead, the Court will impose a sentence and will set a final termination date to determine if you lived up to your end of the bargain and did everything the Court wanted you to do. Most of the time, if you are pleading guilty to a criminal offense, your lawyer will have entered into an agreement with the prosecutor that spells out all the terms of your sentence. One way to think about Court Supervision is to think of it as being like Court Probation. Like I tell my clients, when you plead guilty, the Court will take your guilty plea and leave it in the Court file until the final termination date. If you successfully complete your Court Supervision sentence, the Court will remove your guilty plea from your file and will tear it up and not put it on your criminal record. However, the Court computer and public Court records will show your criminal charges and the sentence imposed by the Court. Most criminal cases that result in Court Supervision can be Expunged or Sealed which means that it will not appear in a background search. Depending on the criminal charges you are facing, Court Supervision may be your best option.

Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x238The internet has made it easy for people to sell items online to make some extra money. Popular websites, such as eBay and Craigslist, have made it easy for almost anyone to instantly go into business by simply using a computer or a cell phone to get into the retail business. However, you should be aware of the potential pitfalls of doing business like this. Recently, I was hired to represent a client charged with violating the Illinois Counterfeit Trademark Act. The Counterfeit Trademark Act (765 ILCS 1040/) makes it a crime to sell look alike goods or services bearing a fake trademark or logo. The client that I was hired to represent was selling knockoff high-end watches on Craigslist that he had purchased legally from China. The client was buying the watches for about $50 and selling them online for between $200 and $250. This was not the clients main source of income, but it made him enough money to comfortably pay his bills and provide for his family. That’s until the client was arrested charged with violating the Counterfeit Trademark Act. It was not until the client came to my office bad he found out that what he was doing was against the law and that it carried some pretty serious criminal and monetary penalties.

I want to discuss this crime and lay out the penalties and consequences of being charged with violating the Illinois Counterfeit Trademark Act.

The idea behind making it illegal to sell counterfeit goods is to avoid confusing and duping consumers. You can be guilty of violating the Counterfeit Trademark Act even if the buyer and seller are aware that the item is a knockoff. Not all knockoff items are considered to be counterfeit. For instance, gym shoes that look like the real Nike gym shoes are not automatically considered to be counterfeit just because they look like the real Nike gym shoes. What could make them illegal is if they have a Nike logo on them that looks like the real Nike logo. The fake Nike logo is what could fool a consumer into believing that its the real thing. Think of counterfeit goods as infringing on the Trademark of a brand and making money trying to do that.

Juvenile-Criminal-Charges-300x200Children are not considered adults until they reach 18 years of age. But what happens if a child, under the age of 18, commits a crime? Can they be charged and prosecuted as if they were an adult, or will the criminal justice system treat them as a juvenile who will be prosecuted in Juvenile Court?

Why Does It Matter?

Juveniles, that are prosecuted in Juvenile Court, are treated much less harshly than adults who are charged with the same crime in Adult Court. For one thing, it is much less likely that the juvenile will be confined in jail. Incarceration for juveniles is reserved for the most serious cases and the most violent and most chronic juvenile offenders. The main focus of Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate the juveniles. Rehabilitation, is just part of the focus in Adult Criminal Court. Adults are prosecuted and punished in Criminal Court so that the public can be protected, a message can be sent to the public, the defendant can be punished, and the defendant can be rehabilitated. Since rehabilitation is just part of the focus in Adult Criminal Court, it is much more likely that a juvenile will be incarcerated if they are prosecuted in Adult Criminal Court. Since the main focus of Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate juveniles, judges have greater flexibility to craft sentences that are less harsh than the sentences that you usually see in an adult criminal case.

Expungemet-300x200The consequences and fallout from being arrested and facing criminal charges can last long after your case is finished. If you are found guilty, the case can follow you around for the rest of your life. If you win your case, and are found not guilty, or if the charges are dismissed, a routine background search may reveal the criminal charges. Even though the case was dismissed, or you want, a prospective employer will see that you were accused of a crime and may hold that against you in deciding whether to hire you.

But you may be able to remove the case from your record so that you can pass a background search. Illinois allows certain criminal cases to be removed from your record. This is called an Expungement.

What is Expungement?

Criminal-Trial-300x201DuPage County government officials have announced that DuPage County will be closing down the Downers Grove Field Court and moving all of the cases at that Branch Court to the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton. The change is expected to take place by the end of the year. The Downers Grove Field Court is located at 4000 Saratoga Avenue in Downers Grove. It is located inside American Legion Post 80. The Downers Grove Field hears Traffic Cases, Municipal Ordinance Violations, and minor Misdemeanor violations from The following municipalities in DuPage County: Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Lisle, Oakbrook Terrace, Westmont, Willowbrook, Woodridge, and the Illinois State Police.

According to the DuPage County Board, the move was made because the Chief Judge of DuPage County wants the Downers Grove Field Court closed and move to the main Courthouse on County Farm Road in Wheaton. DuPage County Board members claim that security concerns were the main reason for making the move. Late last year, metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Downers Grove Field Court. At least two DuPage County Sheriffs were assigned to the entrance to screen the people entering the building. Prior to that happening, there was no security at the entrance to the facility in Downers Grove.

The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are at the DuPage County Courthouse on County Farm Road in Wheaton. DuPage County has 4 Branch Courts that handle mostly Municipal Ordinance Violations and traffic ticket cases from specific municipalities in a limited geographic area in DuPage County. The Branch Courts also handle some minor Misdemeanor cases from those municipalities. This is a little like the Municipal District Courts in Cook County. Cases arising out of certain suburbs are sent to one of 6 Municipal District Courts in Cook County. For instance, a traffic ticket in Schaumburg will be at the Third Municipal District Courthouse in Rolling Meadows. The 4 Branch Courts in DuPage County are the Wheaton Branch Court, Downers Grove Branch Court, Glendale Heights Branch Court, and Addison Field Court. All 4 Branch Courts used to be in separate locations. A few years ago, the Field Courts in Glendale Heights and Wheaton, were moved to Rooms 1001 and 1003 of the DuPage County Courthouse. That left the Downers Grove Field Court and the Addison Field Court as the only Branch Courts that were not at the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton. Now that the Downers Grove Field Court is being moved to the DuPage County Courthouse, the only remaining Branch Court that is not located in Wheaton will be the Addison Field Court.

Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x226As the Coronavirus spreads and the resulting crisis deepens, the impact to our Courts and criminal justice system are deepening. The Covid-19 virus has lead to the unprecedented closure of Courts throughout the State of Illinois. Every County Court system, as well as the Federal Courts, have been substantially impacted by this growing National crisis.

Courts that are regularly bustling with Defendants, Police Officers and Courthouse employees, have seen traffic come to a complete stop. Some Branch Courthouses in the area have been completely closed, while most of the main County Courthouses are open and operating with skeleton crews that are handling emergency matters and Bond Hearings for recently arrested Defendants. Courthouses that had numerous courtrooms open only have one courtroom open to deal with essential matters. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Cook County

Coronavirus-Court-Closings-300x200The Coronavirus outbreak has had a major impact on our daily lives. The pandemic has had a substantial impact on our Court system and on the multitude of criminal cases that are pending in the area-Courthouses. Each County has taken substantial steps to stem the outbreak of this pandemic by limiting Court operations and taking affirmative steps to limit human contact in the Courthouses in the hopes of slowing down the progression of the virus which is at the heart of this problem. While most of the steps taken by all the Courts are similar, there are minor differences between the various counties in the area. I want to take this opportunity to point out what is happening from County to County, and how this may impact you, and your criminal case.

Circuit Court of Cook County

On March 13, 2020, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy Evans, issued a Court Order that became effective on March 17, 2020. Judge Evans’s Order provides that all matters pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County are rescheduled at continued for at least 30 days from the original Court date. All the judges will be available to hear emergency matters. Preliminary Hearings, Bond Hearings, and Arraignments, will proceed as originally scheduled. If the parties reach a plea agreement, Judges will be available to accept the Plea Agreements and resolve cases. Traffic and Misdemeanor cases will be continued to the next key date as long as the next key date is at least 30 days from the original Court date. The Order from Judge Evans provides that the Clerk of the Circuit Court will provide postcard notice of the new Court date to the defendant.