Attorney James G. Dimeas
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UUWThe gun violence in Chicago has been a great source of concern among the citizens and politicians in Illinois for a long time.  Every day we are inundated with news of shootings and homicides throughout the City. When the weather heats up we know that the number of shootings will go up.  On Monday morning we open the paper to find out how many people were shot and how many were killed over the weekend.  In the effort to come up with a way to stop all the shootings, we need to understand how illegal guns are making their way to the streets of Chicago.  Illinois has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States.  To own a gun in your home, Illinois requires that you get a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card which requires that a thorough background search be conducted by the Illinois State Police.  FOID cards can be revoked for good cause by the Illinois State Police.  Citizens are generally not allowed to carry a gun outside their home unless they have an FOID Card and are legally transporting it, or they obtain a Conceal and Carry Permit.  To obtain a Conceal and Carry Permit you have to apply to the Illinois State Police, submit to a thorough background search and supply your fingerprints, and attend and complete gun training classes. Illinois was the last state to allow conceal and carry, and that was only after the Federal Courts ordered Illinois to do this.

In spite of some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, Chicago has established a reputation as America’s deadliest city.  Chicago Police report that in 2015, over 2,900 people were shot and 470 people were murdered.  In 2016, there were 762 homicides, 3,550 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims. 2016 was the deadliest year in Chicago in 20 years.  Chicago recently saw it’s 500th murder of 2017.  These statistics, coupled with the strict Illinois gun laws, have become an example cited by gun rights activists to argue that gun control legislation doesn’t work.  But a closer look at some of the evidence concerning where these guns are coming from tells us a different story.

According to the FBI, roughly 60% of guns used in crimes in Illinois were from out of state.  The overwhelming number of those guns flow into Illinois from states that have much less restrictive gun laws.  Most of those out of state guns came from Indiana, which is next to Illinois.  Second place goes to Mississippi and third place goes to Wisconsin.  The FBI data suggests that there’s lots of trafficking of guns within Illinois but point out that it’s very difficult to trace those guns once they get into the state because Illinois does not require registration of guns, does not license or regulate gun dealers, doesn’t limit how many guns can be sold at one time and does not require background searches on gun sales that are not conducted at a gun show.  Indiana has really lax gun laws.  Gun dealers are required to perform a very basic background search while a vendor can sell their “private collection” to anyone at a gun show without any background search whatsoever.  So someone can buy an assault rifle at a Crown Point Indiana gun show without any background search, and drive an hour into Chicago, where assault rifles are banned.  A 2015 study by the University of Chicago suggested that only 11% of guns involved in crimes in Chicago were purchased through federally licensed gun dealers, which require background searches.  In 2014 the Chicago Police reported that roughly 60% of guns used and recovered from crime scenes between 2009 and 2013 were purchased outside of Illinois.  Exact figures are hard to pin down but it is clear that the vast majority of guns making their way to the streets of Chicago are coming from outside of Illinois.

Illinois DUI

Most DUI’s in Illinois are a misdemeanor.  If you are operating a motor vehicle on the public roads with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, you could be charged with a DUI. The maximum criminal punishment for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.00.  But there are situations where you could be charged with a felony.  This is known as Aggravated Driving Under the Influence, or Aggravated DUI.  This article discusses how you can be charged with an Aggravated DUI.

Special rules apply to people who have previously been convicted of a DUI.  If you are convicted of a 3rd or subsequent DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  Generally, you could be facing a penalty of between 3 to 7 years in prison, probation up to 48 months, along with fines, fees and drug treatment.  If your blood alcohol level was .16 or above, you will be facing a mandatory 90 day jail sentence.   A fourth offense is non-probationable and carries a mandatory 3 to 7 year prison sentence.  A 5th offense is a non-probationable Class 1 felony that carries 4 to 15 years in prison.  A 6th offense is a non-probationable Class X felony which carries a mandatory 6 to 30 year prison sentence.  If the DUI results in the death of another, even if it’s your first DUI, you could be charged with a Class 2 felony.  You are eligible for probation, but in order to be sentenced to probation, the Judge has to find extraordinary circumstances to avoid imposing a prison sentence.  If you are sentenced to a prison sentence, you are facing 3 to 14 years for one death, and 6 to 28 years for 2 or more deaths.

The following instances allow the state to charge you with a Class 4 felony of Aggravated DUI:

Violation-of-ProbationWhenever I get a phone call from someone who is facing a Violation of Probation, the most common question I get is whether they will go to jail for their Violation of Probation? This is another impossible question to answer. While everybody wants an answer to their question, some questions are just too difficult to easily answer. This is perhaps one of the most difficult question to answer. Let me explain why.

Let’s talk about what probation is. Probation is one of many possible sentences that you can receive when you are found guilty of a crime. There’s two ways you can be found guilty of a crime. The first is if you go to trial and the Judge or Jury finds you guilty. The second way that you could be guilty of a crime is if you plead guilty and are sentenced by the judge for the crime that you pled guilty to. Probation is a sentence which allows you to be free and living in the community subject to certain conditions and certain requirements. Probation is for a certain period of time, and you will be supervised by a Probation Officer whose job is to make sure that you follow the rules and to notify the court if you did something you are not supposed to do, or didn’t do something that you were supposed to do. The rules vary from case to case. Most people that are sentenced to Probation are required to follow the following rules:

-Report monthly to the Probation Officer. (In person or over the phone)

ConfessionOne of the most common questions I get asked when I get a phone call from somebody who has recently been arrested is “can my case be dismissed if the police did not read me my rights when I was arrested?” The answer to that question requires an understanding of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Everyone has heard of the Fifth Amendment, especially because of television crime shows, but let’s take a closer look at why the Fifth Amendment is important, what it is and what it does.

The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights that apply to people facing criminal and civil legal proceedings.  First, it guarantees a citizen the right to a grand jury.  Second, it forbids “double jeopardy.”  Third, it requires that “due process of law” be part of any Court proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property.”  Fourth, it requires that the government compensate a citizen when it takes their private property for public use.  Fifth, if protects citizens from “self-incrimination.”  That last Fifth Amendment right, the right against self-incrimination, is the one that is commonly associated with the “Miranda Rights.”  Self incrimination is basically when you make a statement that exposes yourself to legal or criminal responsibility. Think of it as making a statement that ends up being a confession.  It’s when you are admitting to a crime, or making a confession. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens from being forced or coerced to testify against themselves.  Self-incrimination is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  So when you hear that someone has “taken the Fifth,” this means that they are refusing to testify in court or talk to the police.  This right against self-incrimination is one of the basic principles of American Constitutional Law. It’s the absolute right to remain silent when you are being questioned by the police.  But just like any other constitutional right, this right is not absolute. There are limitations.

The seminole case that deals with the Fifth Amendment is the U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. Arguably the most well-known, or most mentioned, criminal case.  Let’s talk a little about this Supreme Court case so we can get a better understanding of what this case did and how it applies to today.  Miranda v. Arizona was actually four different cases involving custodial interrogations that were consolidated into one case.  The first case involved Miranda and that’s why it became known as the Miranda case.  But it actually involved four different cases involving criminal prosecutions and custodial interrogations.  In all cases, the defendants were arrested by the police, taken down to the police station, and interrogated for several hours.  All of the defendants made confessions to the police that prosecutors tried to use against them in court.  Prior to this case, the right against self-incrimination was thought of as applying only to proceedings in court.  But in this case, the Supreme Court extended and applied the 5th Amendment to proceedings that happened before the case went to court.  The court applied the right against self-incrimination in the 5th Amendment to all criminal proceedings that begin once a criminal defendant is deprived of their freedom of action.  And here is where we find the main limitation in Miranda.  The rights afforded in Miranda apply to custodial interrogations.  You are in custody if you are deprived of your freedom of action in any significant way.  It doesn’t matter if the interrogation occurs in the jail, at the police station, at the scene of a crime on a busy street, or in the middle of nowhere.  If you are not free to leave, then you are considered to be in custody and that’s when the Miranda warnings have to be given.  Once it is established that you were in custody and the police start questioning you, in order for the prosecutor to be able to use the statements that you make to them in court, the police have to read you your Miranda Rights.  Those rights have to warn you that you have the right to remain silent.  If you say anything what you say can be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.  If you choose to talk to the police you have the right to stop the interview at any time.  Very rarely have I seen TV shows mention this last warning.  And this is very important because if you are ever questioned, you have the right to demand that they provide a lawyer to you free of charge before answering any questions. Once you assert that right, the police must stop all questioning until and unless they provide a lawyer for you. You have the right to demand a lawyer at any time during the interrogation.  From my experience, I don’t know if I have ever seen the police actually provide a lawyer at this point once it is requested by the defendants.

Retail-TheftClients that are charged with Retail Theft frequently call me a few weeks after they are arrested and tell me that they received a letter from the store’s lawyers demanding money.  They usually have two questions when they receive that letter.  The first question is whether this means that if they pay the amount they are asking for will that mean that their case is dismissed?  The second question is whether they have to pay the amount they are demanding.  I will explain to you what I tell them and what that letter means.

When you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting in Illinois, this means that you have violated the criminal law of the State of Illinois. You will be assigned a court date and you will have to go to court to answer to the criminal charges. Under Illinois Law, that same Retail Theft gives the store, known as the retail establishment, the right to sue you in civil court for civil, or money damages.  The very last part of the statute which deals with the crime of Retail Theft discusses the civil penalties available to the retail establishment. The amount of money the store’s lawyers can go after you for it is the actual retail value of that you stole, or tried to steal, plus anywhere between $100 and $1,000, plus their attorney fees and any court costs associated with the attempt to collect this civil penalty.  You will first find out that the store is trying to do this when you receive a letter from their attorneys informing you that they are seeking the civil penalty against you. That letter will inform you that you need to contact them to discuss payment. You need to understand that this proceeding is completely separate and distinct from the criminal case that you are facing. Paying the amount they are seeking will not halt the legal proceedings in the criminal case. As a matter of fact, the prosecutor handling your criminal case and the civil attorney representing the store for money damages have nothing to do with each other.  They are not communicating with each other nor are they working together.  Often, payment of the civil penalty is something that an experienced Illinois Retail Theft attorney can use when negotiating with the prosecutor to work out a favorable resolution to your criminal Retail Theft case.  Showing a prosecutor proof that you paid the civil penalty can only help convince a prosecutor you have accepted responsibility and are trying to make good for the bad that you did.  I have used it many times to help get a good deal for a client charged with Retail Theft. At the very least, it has never harmed the client to come to court with proof that they paid the civil penalty.  It’s important to know that the statute provides that payment of the civil penalty cannot be used against you in the criminal case to prove that you admitted responsibility or confessed to the crime.  From my experience, if you are unable to pay the full amount that the store is demanding, if you contact their attorneys representing the retail establishment, they will work out reasonable payment plans.

What happens if you do not make the payment? First, you cannot go to jail for not making the civil penalty payment. Technically, the store has a right to file a lawsuit against you. But this rarely happens. That’s because the amount owed isn’t worth the expense to the store and their attorneys of filing a lawsuit against you. What frequently happens if you don’t make the payment is that they will turn over the claim to a collection agency. The collection agency will come after you just like any other collection agency would for any other type of debt owed. They may put this on your credit report and make annoying phone calls to your home and work to try to get you to pay.

DUI

I just received a phone call from a client who was arrested last night for a DUI and was asking me questions about the paperwork that the police gave her when she left the police station. More importantly, she wanted to know what a Statutory Summary Suspension means and how this will affect her ability to drive.  Because I’ve been handling DUI’s throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Kane County for 25 years, it’s easy to forget how confusing the whole DUI process can be for someone who does not handle cases like this every day.  So, I want to take this opportunity to explain the Statutory Summary Suspension process so you can understanding what is happening, and what will happen in the coming months with your driver’s license.

In Illinois, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle upon the public roads while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  If you are found guilty of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you could be facing criminal penalties which cannot exceed one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  Most people know this.  But what many people do not know is that when you have a DUI case, you also have a separate legal matter between you and the Illinois Secretary of State which involves your driver’s license.  If a police officer requests that you submit to a Breathalyzer Test and your blood alcohol level (B.A.C.) is .08 or above, your driver’s license will be suspended for six months starting 46 days after your arrest for a DUI.  If the police officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer Test, and you refuse to take that test, your license will be suspended for 12 months starting 46 days after your arrest for a DUI.

A refusal to take a Breathalyzer Test is defined a little more broadly than simply refusing to submit to the test.  If you agree to take the test and are unsuccessful in submitting an adequate breath sample, then this will be considered a refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer Test. What typically happens is that the police officer will instruct you on what you must do to provide an adequate breath sample so that the machine can register a valid result.  You must pay close attention to what the police officer is saying because if you do not follow the police officer’s instructions and are unable to provide an adequate breath sample, the Secretary of State will try to suspend your license for 12 months because they will consider this to be a refusal.

Lake-County-Criminal-Charges-300x200The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office has announced a new program that allows first time misdemeanor and felony offenders an opportunity to avoid having a criminal conviction permanently on their record. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office calls it the Alternative Prosecution Program. If the crime involves violence the offender is not eligible for the program. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office makes the final decision on whether an offender will be allowed into the program. Here’s how it works.

A request to enter the program can be made by the prosecutor, judge, defense lawyer, public defender, or police officer. The request can be made at any time but it is usually made at the first court date. The applicant will have to pay a $70 fee which is non-refundable. An applicant will be required to take a drug test. A positive drug test will not necessarily keep an offender from getting into the program.

After you pay your $70 fee, you will schedule an interview with a representative from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. The screening process will include feedback from the victim and the arresting police officer. After this interview, if you meet all the requirements of the program, and you are acceptable to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office, your case will be scheduled to be heard in front of the Alternative Prosecution Citizens Panel.   This panel is made up of citizens who live in Lake County Illinois. They will consider your case and make a recommendation to the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office will review your file and consider the recommendation from the Alternative Prosecution Citizens Panel and determine whether they will accept you into the program. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office will make the final decision about whether you are accepted into the program or not.

Illinois-Felony-MisdemeanorWhat determines how serious a particular criminal charge in Illinois is depends on the potential criminal penalty that the crime carries. The lowest classification of crimes in Illinois is called a Misdemeanor. The highest classification of crimes in Illinois is called a Felony. Generally, any jail sentence for a Misdemeanor must be served in County Jail. Any jail sentence for a Felony must be served in State Prison. Any potential jail sentence for a Misdemeanor is under one year while any potential jail sentence for a Felony is one year or more. The range of penalties for Misdemeanors and Felonies in Illinois depend on what Class the crime you are charged with falls in. Every criminal offense is classified as a Felony or a Misdemeanor and assigned a specific Class. An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will know whether you are being charged with a Felony or a Misdemeanor and what class your criminal charge falls in.

Most Misdemeanor cases in Illinois are Class A Misdemeanors. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500. An example of a Class A Misdemeanor is a Retail Theft or a simple Battery. But not all Class A Misdemeanors are treated equally. Domestic Battery is a class A Misdemeanor. However, if you are found guilty of a Domestic Battery, it can never be removed from your record while a Retail Theft can be. In addition, you can receive Court Supervision for a Retail Theft but you cannot receive Court Supervision for a Domestic Battery.

A Class A Misdemeanor that I am seeing more and more in court is Aggravated Speeding. You can be charged with a Class A Aggravated Speeding offense if you are speeding 35 miles or more over the posted speed limit. This crime used to be a simple speeding ticket. That is no longer the case in Illinois. So, if you are speeding 35 miles an hour over the speed limit, then you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a potential jail sentence of up to 364 days in County Jail and a fine up to $2,500.

Possession-of-Marijuana-300x200Because of the widespread use of marijuana in our society, it is common to see criminal cases involving people who have been caught with marijuana and charged with Possession of Marijuana. While several States have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, Illinois is not one of those States. The furthest Illinois has gone to legalizing marijuana is to enact the Medical Marijuana statute which allows for the medical use of marijuana.  Unless you have been approved to use Medical Marijuana, it is illegal to use and possess any amount of marijuana in Illinois. So what could happen to you if you are arrested by the police and charged with possession of marijuana?

As of about a year ago, if you were caught with any amount of marijuana whatsoever, you could be facing a Class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. But about a year ago, the law was changed to make the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil matter and not a criminal matter. In other words, if you are caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana, you will be given a ticket and charged with a Municipal Violation and not a criminal case. You will have to pay a fine, like you received a traffic ticket.  The marijuana possession law was changed so that someone charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana could avoid having a criminal matter show up on a background search. The new law provides that six months after the municipal violation, your criminal record will automatically be expunged so that a charge of a small amount of the Possession of Marijuana will not show up on a background search. Expungements for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will happen July 1st and January 1st of every year automatically.

If you are caught with more than 10 grams of marijuana, you could be facing criminal charges. The potential penalties that you could be facing will depend on the amount of marijuana you are caught with. If the marijuana was more than 10 grams but less than 30 grams, you will be facing a Class A misdemeanor. If you are caught with over 30 grams but less than 500 grams, you could be facing a class 4 felony, which carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years. If you are caught with over 500 grams of marijuana but less than 2000 grams, you could be facing a class 3 felony which carries a potential jail sentence of between two to five years. If the weight of the marijuana was over 200 grams but less than 5000 grams, you could be facing a Class 2 felony which carries a possible prison sentence between 3 to 7 years. If the weight of the marijuana is over 5000 grams, you could be facing a Class 1 felony which carries a possible prison sentence of between 4 to 15 years.

Bond-Hearing-2Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans has issued an order which makes the greatest attempt yet to deal with overcrowding in Cook County Jail which is caused by defendants being forced to sit in jail while their cases work their way through the Cook County criminal justice system simply because they cannot afford to post the bond needed to walk out of jail.  Estimates place the number of defendants who are sitting in Cook County Jail just because they can’t afford to post bond at between 250 to 300 inmates per day. Most of those bonds are for $1,000 or less.  This problem plays a major role in the overcrowding of the 9,000 inmate Cook County Jail.  The overcrowding problem at Cook County Jail is causing a major strain on Cook County’s limited budget resources.

As of September 18, defendants charged with a felony will be interviewed before their bond hearing about their financial resources.  Criminal felony defendants are already interviewed by Pretrial Services before their bond hearing.  They are asked about their criminal record, current and past employment history, family history, residence status and mental and physical health status.  As of September 18 they will also be questioned about their financial resources.  The report will be presented to the judge presiding over the Bond Hearing.  According to Judge Evans order, judges will not be allowed to set a higher bond than defendants charged with a felony can afford provided that the defendants do not pose a danger to the public.

This approach, goes a long way towards addressing criticism that bond procedures in Cook County discriminate against the poor because it unfairly imprisons the poor, merely because they don’t have the money to post bond.  This problem disproportionately affects racial minorities.  This problem has been gaining attention as well as support from important Cook County law enforcement personnel.  Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, has been a long-time proponent of changing the procedures for the setting of bonds to release defendants who are poor and cannot afford the low bonds needed to be released from Cook County Jail.  Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, has been taking steps to address this problem as well.  In March she announced that her office will not oppose the release of defendants who have a bond of $1,000 and under set.  Last month she announced that her office will agree to have Individual Recognizance Bonds set for more defendants. Individual Recognizance Bonds, also known as an “I-Bond” do not require that any money be posted for release.  Just a signature by the defendant that they promise to appear in court to answer to the charges filed against them.