Articles Posted in Pre-Trial Proceedings

Identity TheftIllinois law places severe restrictions on the ability of people convicted of a felony from legally changing their names. Illinois law is among the strictest in the United States for convicted felons seeking to change their names. The Illinois Secretary of State allows Illinois license owners to put their gender identity on their licenses. Under current Illinois law, felons convicted of a crime that requires that individual to be placed on a state registry, such as a Sex Offender Registry, are barred from ever changing their name. The lifetime ban also applies to people convicted of Murder, Arson, and Identity Theft. Anybody convicted of any other felony has to wait at least 10 years after the completion of their sentence before they can petition the court to legally change their name.

For many years, efforts have been underway in Springfield to change the law to allow convicted felons to petition the court to legally change their names. The efforts have been led by the LGBTQ community in Illinois. People that have had gender-affirming surgery have been seeking to change Illinois law to reflect their current gender. Supporters of the legislation also point to the plight of victims of human trafficking who want to change their name to make it more difficult for their traffickers to find them.

A bill that would drastically change current Illinois Law for convicted felons who are seeking to change their name is currently sitting on the desk of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker after being approved by the Illinois Senate on January 10. The bill passed the Illinois House with bipartisan support in 2021. The Bill would lift the lifetime ban for those convicted of the certain crimes, such as Identity Theft, and for those convicted of a crime that requires registration to a registry. For those convicted of any other felony, the 10-year waiting period is removed and people do not have to wait 10 years to apply for a change of name just because they have a felony conviction on their record. However, anyone convicted of a felony who wants to legally change their name will be required to convince a judge to let them do this before they can change their name. Anybody who had been the subject of the lifetime band will have to convince a judge to approve it and County prosecutors will be allowed to object to the petitions. In cases in which County Prosecutors are objecting to the name change petitions, the petitioners will be required to convince the Judge that they are changing their names because they are transgender, were legally married, were the victims of human trafficking, or have valid religious reasons for changing their names.

Unlawful-Use-of-a-Firearm-300x200Can you have a Medical Cannabis Card and a FOID card at the same time? Can you have a Medical Cannabis Card and a Conceal and Carry Permit at the same time? You would think that these questions are easy to answer. However, these questions have caused great confusion and misunderstanding in Illinois. The State Legislature has done a terrible job of clearing up the law and making this an easy issue to solve. Instead, you have to search for answers to these questions for yourself. If you ask an employee at a gun shop if you can have both, you will get a different answer depending on the day of the week. Let me try to explain the situation and what I believe the law is. Stay tuned for a way around it. Something you will not find anywhere else!

Illinois has decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of Cannabis. Illinois instituted a Medical Marijuana program several years ago. However, the possession and use of Marijuana remains a crime under federal law. In our system, federal law supersedes state law. In spite of that, the cannabis industry has thrived in Illinois. Legal dispensaries have sprung up throughout the cities and suburbs of Illinois and municipalities and taxing authorities are reaping the resulting tax revenues. The legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Illinois, and the introduction of Medical Cannabis in Illinois, has created a conflict for legal gun owners in Illinois.

In order to possess a firearm in Illinois, you must have a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID). To obtain a FOID, you must apply to the Illinois State Police, and pass a thorough background search. Under Federal Law, it is unlawful for Marijuana users to own firearms. 430 ILCS 65/8 sets forth the grounds for the Illinois State Police to deny a FOID application. Section (n) of the statute states that “a person is prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms or firearm ammunition by any Illinois State Statute or by federal law.” In response, the Illinois State Police has stated that they will not revoke anyone’s FOID card solely because they are using marijuana. However, the Illinois State Police stated that “the ISP (Illinois State Police) will revoke FOID cards where it is demonstrated that an individual is addicted to or a habitual user of Marijuana.”

Criminal Defense LawyerIt is common for clients to ask me if I can get their case dismissed because the police did not tell them that they have the right to remain silent when they were arrested. The right to remain silent comes from the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution which protects citizens from incriminating themselves. This means that you cannot be forced to testify against yourself. The 5th Amendment’s right to remain silent is an important right that every citizen has but is not asserted as often as it should be by criminal defendants. In order for a statement made to the police during a custodial interrogation to be used against you in Court, the state has to prove that you made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of your 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Let me explain.

It’s important to know when your 5th Amendment right to remain silent kicks in. Many people mistakenly believe that you can assert your 5th Amendment rights as soon as you are arrested. But that may not always be the case. The 5th Amendment’s right against self-incrimination applies to situations in which the defendant is in custody and is being questioned by the police. If you waive your 5th Amendment right to remain silent and voluntarily speak to the police, anything you tell them can be used against you in Court to prosecute you for the crime(s) that you are being charged with.

There are 2 basic elements to the 5th Amendment that must apply to the case in order for the 5th Amendment to kick in. The first element is ‘custody’. In order for the 5th Amendment to apply, you had to have been in custody. Whether you were in custody or not depends on the specific facts of your case. Generally, you will be considered to have been in custody if you were not free to leave. When raising a possible 5th Amendment violation in Court, when the police officer is testifying, the defense attorney will ask the officer if the defendant was free to leave when the questioning began.

Schaumburg Criminal Defense LawyerCriminal Defendants do not get to pick and choose when the police come and place them under arrest. However, sometimes the writing is on the wall and you know what’s coming. Either the police are looking for you or attempting to contact you, or your employer is asking questions and you know that you may be in trouble. Either way, you should reach out to an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. There is no down side to talking to a criminal lawyer as soon as you think you may be in trouble so you know what to do when (and if) the time comes.

Sometimes, talking to a criminal lawyer early ends up becoming the most important decision you make. If you talk to the police before talking to a lawyer, you may end up making a mistake that you will not be able to recover from. Talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney early on, will give you some idea of what you are facing and what you should do if the police start asking you questions or want you to come down to the police station. When you are initially contacted by the police when they are conducting an investigation, the police have a tremendous advantage over you. You have no clue what the police are doing, have done, who they have spoken to, what evidence they have, and what their intentions are when coming to talk to you. Talking to a criminal defense lawyer before talking to the police will give you some protection from what’s to come.

Signs That You May Need a Lawyer

DUI LawyerLast week I was talking to a client about his case and the circumstances surrounding his arrest. He was explaining what the police did and was convinced that his “rights had been violated”. After he told me that “the police did not read him his rights” after he was arrested, I explained to him that a common misperception is that the police must read you your rights once you are arrested. After I explained this to the client, he asked me what rights he had when he was confronted by the police. This got me thinking about what rights citizens have when they are confronted by the police and how a lack of information about the legal rights that citizens have when the are approached by the police has led to so many criminal defendants making mistakes that should not have to be made. Let me discuss.

Let’s start off with this concept: In America, you are innocent until you are found guilty in Court. If you keep this principle in the front of your mind, then everything else I discuss in this article makes sense. I have been practicing criminal law for over 28 years. The biggest mistake that criminal defendants make is that they talk to the police. When you are approached by a police officer an are asked questions, you are presumed to be innocent. The only way to remove that presumption of innocence is if you go to Court and plead guilty, or are found guilty after a trial. Until, and unless that happens, you are innocent. Just because a police officer is asking you questions does not make you guilty of anything. You are under no obligation to prove your innocence. The state has the burden and the responsibility of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You also have the absolute right to demand that the state prove you guilty without using any evidence or statements that you made to the police. That is your right as a US citizen. You have the absolute constitutional right to remain silent when the police are questioning you. Yet, most criminal defendants fail to exercise their most important and fundamental constitutional right. It’s the right to remain silent. You have the absolute constitutional right to not cooperate with the police when you are being questioned by them.

Your right to remain silent is found in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The famous case that discusses this constitutional right is commonly known as the Miranda case. Your right to remain silent kicks in as soon as you are subject to a custodial interrogation. This means that you have a right to assert your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself if you are considered to be in custody at the time on the questioning. In custody has been determined to mean that a reasonable person looking at the facts and circumstances would determine that you were not free to leave. In the case I discussed at the very top of this post, the client was not read his Miranda rights after he was arrested. The reason that it did not matter in his case was that he did not make any statements to the police that would be considered incriminating. Not only were there no incriminating statements, but there were no statements made that the prosecutor would have any reason to admit in Court.

Miranda-300x200When most people find themselves facing criminal charges, basic human instincts will kick in and they will want to try to talk themselves out of the predicament that they find themselves in. This usually happens early on in a criminal case when the police question you and want to get your side of the story. You always have the right to talk to the police and to testify at your trial, however, that may not always be the best strategy. In my 28-years of practicing criminal law, I can honestly say that the biggest mistake that most criminal defendants make is talking to the police. Sometimes, defendants continue making the same mistake and insist on testifying at trial. I want to talk about what your rights are when you are on trial and why you should think twice about talking to the police and testifying at trial.

The famous court case that discusses your right to remain silent is Arizona v. Miranda. The Miranda decision is famous because of Hollywood and TV crime shows. Everyone knows that the Miranda case gives you the right to remain silent and refuse to testify in court. But there is a little bit more to Miranda that people should be aware of. The Miranda case deals with the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states that you cannot be forced to be a witness against yourself. This means that you cannot be forced to tell on yourself. The Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution is known as the Right Against Self Incrimination. The Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent attaches the moment you are the subject of a custodial interrogation. What is critical in determining whether the Fifth Amendment applies to your case is whether you were in custody or not. Generally, whether you are in custody depends on whether an objective person feels that at the time you were questioned by the police, were you free to leave or not. Generally, if you are being questioned by the police and you were not free to leave, that would be a custodial interrogation which requires that you be advised of your right to remain silent and that you freely and voluntarily waive that right.

Your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent is different when it comes to testifying at trial. You are under no obligation to prove that you are not guilty at trial. The government, or the prosecution, has the burden of proving you guilty of each and every element of what you are being charged with Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. However, since you have the right to testify at your trial, only you can wave, or give up, your right to testify at trial. And since you have the right to wave your right to testify, only you can make the decision about whether you want to testify or not. Since you have the constitutional right to testify, or not, if you decide that you will not testify at trial, your decision to waive your right to testify cannot be used against you by the prosecution, judge, or jury. In other words, if you refuse to testify at your trial, if the prosecutor argues to a judge or jury that your refusal to testify shows that you are guilty, that would be improper and would likely lead to a mistrial for making those statements.

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.

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 that 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.