Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

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.

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.

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 Aggravated or 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 of Aggravated or Excessive Speding. 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.