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Articles Posted in Pre-Trial Proceedings

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.

Demand-for-Trial-300x201Clients frequently tell me if they want to get their criminal case done quickly. I am frequently told by clients that I should demand a trial immediately so that the case can be finished as soon as possible. It is important to understand what it means to make a demand for trial in a criminal case and why it may not always be the wisest decision to make. I want to take this opportunity to discuss what it means to demand a trial and explain to my readers what the implications of a demand for trial could be so they can make the best decision about how their criminal case should proceed.

According to the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, every criminal defendant has the constitutional right to a Speedy Trial. The Sixth Amendment protects defendants from waiting too long for a trial. We don’t want Defendants to be held in custody, or to be fighting criminal charges, to wait too long before being found innocent. The remedy for the violation of your Sixth Amendment right to a Speedy Trial is dismissal of your criminal case, with prejudice. This means that your case will be dismissed forever and you can never be charged again for that crime.

The right to a Speedy Trial is also set forth in the Illinois Constitution. However, the United States Constitution, and the Illinois Constitution, do not provide details about how much time you have to be tried in a criminal case. The time limits are set forth in a specific Statute in Illinois which provides the details of how much time the state has to bring you to trial once you make a Speedy Trial Demand. If you have been released from jail, the state has 160-days to bring you to trial from the date that you make a formal written Demand for Trial. If you are in custody, the state has 120-days from the date that you made a formal written Demand for Trial to bring you to trial.

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.

Special-Conditions-of-Bond-300x200I often receive phone calls from clients asking me if they can go back home after they are released from jail or whether they can contact their boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse after being released from jail. I usually tell those clients to come to my office and bring all of the papers that were given to them when they were released from jail. It is very important to keep all of your papers with you if you are arrested and released by the Police so that you may appear for court. You should bring all of your paperwork with you when you are meeting with your lawyer.

Typical Conditions of Bond

If you are arrested and released on Bond, you will be required to comply with certain requirements. In Illinois, the typical conditions that will apply to you if you are released on Bond are as follows:

Search-Warrant-300x200In criminal cases, it is common for the prosecution to seek to admit into evidence things that were seized by the police as a result of the search of a residence. One of the first things that a criminal defense attorney does in a criminal case involving the search of a house is to determine whether the evidence seized by the police can be admitted in court.

If the court is convinced that the search of your home was conducted without a Search Warrant, and that none of the recognized exceptions were present, then the search would be considered unreasonable and all of the evidence seized as a result of the search would not be admissible in Court.

As a general rule, the police are required to obtain a Search Warrant if they want to search your home. If the police obtained a Search Warrant, then the likelihood of convincing a Court that the evidence should not be admissible is very low. But if the police searched your home without a warrant, then your lawyer will have a basis to challenge the admission of the evidence in court.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Arrested-300x226I frequently meet clients who are expecting to be arrested in the near future. This past weekend, I met with a client who was questioned by their employer about some money that was missing. The client admitted to me that they had stolen some checks that have been written to their employer. The client informed me that their employer told them that they had notified the police and the client came to my office asking what they should do when they are arrested. This is a pretty common scenario in my practice. I frequently meet with clients who know that they are in trouble and that the day is coming that they will be arrested and be charged with a crime. Here’s what I told this client, and other clients, who want to know what will happen.

It is important to know that you are under no legal obligation to cooperate with the police when they want to question you about a potential crime that you may have committed. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right to not incriminate yourself. This means that you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions that the police ask you about any crime that you may have committed. Probably the most common mistake that clients make when the police arrest them or question them about a possible crime is that clients think that they can talk themselves out of getting arrested and being charged with a crime. If you did nothing, then I suppose it makes sense to talk to the police. But if you know that you did something wrong and committed a crime, there is no logical explanation for talking to the police. If you know that you committed a crime and you are talking to the police, you will either tell them the truth, or you will lie to them. In either case, talking to the police when you know that you are guilty of a crime is not a smart move. Even if you believe you did nothing wrong, talking to the police and answering their questions is probably not a smart move either. You have no idea what information the police have. They may have incorrect information and by answering their questions, you may be giving their incorrect information more credibility than it deserves. The point of this paragraph is to advise you that if the police start asking you questions about a possible crime, you should immediately demand that they get you a lawyer.

Another common misunderstanding is that the police have to “read you your rights” once you are arrested. The only time the police have to “read you your rights” is when you are being questioned by the police and are you in the custody of the police and are not free to leave. A common example of this scenario is when you are placed under arrest and are taken down to the police station and the police put you in an interrogation room and start questioning you about a crime. In order for the police to be able to use any statements you make in that custodial interrogation, the police have to “read you your rights.” This means that the police have to inform you that you have the right to remain silent and that anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law. They also have to advise you that you have the right to a lawyer and that if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you for free. Once you make a knowing and intelligent waiver of those rights, the police can question you and any statements you make during the course of the questioning can be used against you in Court. But there is no requirement that the police have to read you your rights once you are arrested.