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Articles Posted in Criminal Cases

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.

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.