Attorney James G. Dimeas
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Police-Interrogation-300x200I recently met with a client whose son had been questioned by the police at the police station and charged with a Retail Theft. The client was complaining that the police questioned her son at the police station without providing a lawyer for him and without allowing her to be present with her son. She wanted to know whether the police could question her son without her being present. Here’s what I told her:

What is Considered a Minor in the Criminal Justice System?

As with many other things, the criminal justice system has different definitions for common terms than most people realize. For instance, what is considered insane by the medical profession is different than what the criminal law defines as insane. The same applies to what is commonly considered to be a minor and what is commonly considered to be an adult. In the real world, 18 years old is the cut-off between being a minor and being an adult. But under the criminal law, whether you are treated as a juvenile, or minor, or an adult, depends on whether you are being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, you will be considered an adult if you were 17 years or older when the offense occurred. For felony offenses, you will be considered an adult if the offense occurred when you were 16 years or older.

ConfessionYesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued several opinions on cases that had been closely watched by observers. The case that has received most of the public attention involves legalized sports betting. But lost in the coverage was the release of two opinions involving the 4th and 5th Amendment rights of criminal defendants. These opinions expand the rights of motorists in their vehicles and the rights of criminal defendants facing prosecution in Criminal Courts. I want to take this opportunity to discuss these two cases and how they will impact the criminal law.

Motorists Rights Expanded

The first case involves the appeal of the conviction of Terrence Byrd’s appeal of his conviction in Pennsylvania of Possession of Heroin and the Possession of Illegal body armor. Byrd plead guilty but reserved his right to appeal. Byrd had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Byrd appealed and his conviction had been upheld by the Federal Court of Appeals. Yesterday, his conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

file221258166932-300x225Everybody knows that if you are arrested and charged with a Retail Theft, or Shoplifting, you will be facing serious criminal penalties that could have serious implications for your future. How many people are surprised to find out that in addition to the criminal implications of a Retail Theft, they will probably soon be facing a potential Civil Penalty. This part of a Retail Theft arrest is not well understood by clients. Many clients mistakenly believe that what happens in one aspect of a Retail Theft case will affect the other aspect of the Retail Theft case. In other words, many people believe that if they just pay the Civil Penalty then the criminal case will be dismissed. This is not how things work and people need to understand what the Civil Penalty is and how it relates to a Retail Theft.

Most people charged with a Retail Theft will be facing a Class A Misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a Retail Theft depends on the value of the item(s) that you stole, or attempted to steal. The cut-off between a Misdemeanor and a Felony officially is $300. If the aggregate value of the items is $300 or less, you will be charged with a Misdemeanor. If the aggregate value of the item(s) is $300 or more, you may be charged with a Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor conviction for a Retail Theft carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. Most Felony Retail Theft charges are Class 4 Felonies in Illinois. A Class 4 Felony charge for Retail Theft in Illinois carries a maximum punishment of one to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

In the past few years I have seen a drastic increase in the number of Retail Theft cases charged as a Municipal Ordinance Violations. Almost every City, Town, and Village has set up a Municipal Violation court system that moves cases from the County Criminal Court to an Administrative Municipal Ordinance Violation Court that is controlled by the Town or the Village in which the offense occurred. The Judge who presides over the case is an Administrative Law Judge who is employed by the municipality. Many times the Administrative Law is a full-time employee of the town. The standard of proof in a Municipal Court is much lower than in a Criminal Court. A Municipal Ordinance Violation is a civil matter between you and the municipality. The Rules of Evidence are relaxed and the penalties that can be imposed by an Administrative Law Judge in a Municipal Court are civil in nature. In other words, the penalties are monetary as opposed to Criminal. However, depending on the County, the Town, and the facts and circumstances of your arrest, the Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. If you were fingerprinted, your Retail Theft may appear in a background search. Some Counties will put your case in the Court computer system which could be found in a background search. Many employers will not hire someone if they suspect that the prospective employee may steal from them. Therefore, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Retail Theft lawyer if you receive a Municipal Ordinance Violation. An experienced Retail Theft attorney will know whether there’s a possibility that a Retail Theft Municipal Ordinance Violation may appear in a background search. You cannot simply assume that a Municipal Ordinance Violation for Shoplifting will not appear on a background search.

Illinois-DUIMost drivers will never have to decide whether to take a breathalyzer test or not. But if you are driving a vehicle in Illinois, you should be aware of what could happen to you and to your license if you are ever pulled over by a police officer and asked to take a breathalyzer test.

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects that you may be under the influence of alcohol, that police officer has a right to take you down to the police station and ask that you take a breathalyzer test. If you are ever faced with a situation like this, you have to make a quick decision between two choices. Should you take a breathalyzer test or should you refuse to take a breathalyzer test? If you have not had any alcohol to drink, then the choice seems pretty clear. Taking a breathalyzer test would prove that you have no alcohol in your system. But if you have been drinking and are unsure about whether you should take a breathalyzer test, you need to be aware of what the consequences could be of refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

When a police officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test, the officer will hand you a document entitled, “Warning to Motorist” which will inform you that if you submit to a breathalyzer test and the test indicates that your blood alcohol level was .08 or above, your driver’s license will be suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State for 6 months. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months by the Illinois Secretary of State. These driver’s license suspensions will take effect on the 46th day after your arrest.

DUI-1-300x200I recently met with a client who was arrested and charged with a DUI after he had pulled over his car to take a nap because he was afraid that he had too much to drink. You do not have to actually be driving your car to be charged with a DUI. You could be charged with a DUI as long as you had actual physical control of a vehicle on the public roadway. So as long as you were in a vehicle and you had the keys near you, the law will consider you to have been in actual physical control of the vehicle.

In the case I was recently consulted for, the client had been at a bar with some co-workers after work. He had been drinking when he decided to go home. His car was parked down the street from the bar. When the client entered his vehicle he immediately realized that he was in no condition to drive and fell asleep in the front passenger seat of his vehicle. The vehicle was not running but the car keys were in his pocket. An off-duty police officer saw him sleeping in his vehicle and started tapping on his windshield to make sure that he was okay. After the off-duty officer was unable to get a response from the client, he called the local police to report that someone may be unresponsive inside of a parked vehicle. The police officer arrived and was able to wake up the client. When the officer made contact with the client he noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath and the client appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The police officer had the client exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. The police officer arrested the client for suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol and took him down to the station. At the station, the officer requested that the client take a breathalyzer test and the client refused. In spite of there being no breathalyzer test, the client was charged with a DUI and given a court date.

In Illinois, if you take a breathalyzer test and your blood alcohol level is .08 or above, you will be facing a mandatory 6 month suspension of your driver’s license if this was your first DUI. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will be facing a mandatory 12 month suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension of your driver’s license will go into effect 46 days after the date of your DUI arrest. The same law that provides for the suspension of your driver’s license for a DUI also provides a mechanism by which you can challenge the suspension in court. In order to challenge a suspension of your driver’s license for a DUI, you must file a Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension before the same court that is hearing your DUI case.

DUI-300x226Police get frustrated when they pull over a motorist for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and the driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test when the officer requests that they take such a test. The reason behind their frustration is because, in many cases, if they do not have a breathalyzer test result, it becomes harder for the state to prove in Court that the driver was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The Illinois Legislature has clearly given motorists the right to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. The Legislature has imposed a severe penalty for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test when requested to do so by a police officer. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test you will be looking at a mandatory 12 month suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension will kick-in 46 days after you are arrested for a DUI unless you are able to persuade a court otherwise.

For several years, police and prosecutors have been trying to get around a motorist’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. For the past several years, Kane County has established “no-refusal” weekends. “No-refusal” weekends were centered around certain events like New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July weekends. Kane County authorities would set-up roadblocks to close off certain roads and stop every vehicle. If the police suspected that the driver of a certain vehicle was Driving Under the Influence, they would request that the driver submit to a breathalyzer test and if they refused, the police would obtain a warrant from a judge who was on the scene to force a blood draw from the driver. If the driver refused to comply with the judge’s order, the driver could be arrested and charged with Contempt of Court.

Arrest-300x226Being arrested by a police officer is something that nobody would ever want to experience. While being arrested by a police officer does not automatically mean that you will be charged with a crime, it usually means that you are suspected of committing a crime and you should be aware of what may happen and what you should do to protect yourself from what the future may hold.

When you are arrested by a police officer, this means that you are in custody. This means that you are not free to leave. If you are arrested, you will be taken to the local police station. If the police believe that they have enough evidence to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court of committing a crime, you may be charged with a crime. However, if the police believe they need to gather more evidence, they can hold you in custody for a limited period of time for questioning.

Whether you are charged with a crime or being held for questioning, you need to understand that you are under no obligation to answer any questions asked by the police. What you need to do is provide some basic information, such as your name and address, but you are not required to answer any questions involving the reason behind your arrest.

Speeding-Ticket-300x226In the past few years, the Illinois Legislature has enacted laws which make Excessive Speeding a much more serious matter than most people think. Most people are conditioned to believe that if they are pulled over for speeding they will receive a simple speeding ticket and the most that could happen to them is that they have to pay a steep fine and take a Traffic School class. The recent changes to the speeding laws have made certain Excessive Speeding tickets an actual crime. From all of the calls that I get from prospective clients, this area of the criminal law may be one of the most misunderstood subjects.

If you are caught speeding 26 to 34 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, you will be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. A Class B Misdemeanor for speeding 26 to 34 miles per hour over the posted speed limit carries a maximum punishment of 180 days in County Jail and a maximum fine of up to $1,500. If you are caught speeding 35 miles per hour, or over, the posted speed limit, you will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor for speeding 35 miles per hour over the posted speed limit carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in County Jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500. So, if you are pulled over for speeding 26 miles per hour, and over, the posted speed limit, you will not receive a simple speeding ticket. You will be arrested and charged with a crime which carries a potential jail sentence. In addition to any possible criminal penalties, a conviction for speeding 26 miles per hour over the posted speed limit may result in the suspension of your driver’s license by the Illinois Secretary of State. A conviction for Excessive Speeding will remain permanently on your driving record with the Secretary and will appear as a criminal conviction in a routine background search. Not only will a prospective employer find out that you have been convicted of a crime, but your insurance company may use this conviction to drop you from their Auto Insurance plan or increase your insurance premiums.

Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Transportation greeted local motorists with some good news which may help reduce the number of Excessive Speeding cases that could lead to a criminal conviction and a potential jail sentence. Up until now, the speed limit on I-90 west of Elgin was 70 miles per hour all the way to Wisconsin. Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced that the speed limit from Randall Road in Elgin to Mount Prospect Road has been increased to 70 miles per hour for all passenger cars. The new speed limit matches the 70 mile per hour speed limit from Elgin to Wisconsin. The previous speed limit from Randall Road in Elgin to Mount Prospect Road was 55 miles per hour.

Criminal-Defense-Attorney-300x201Last week I had a meeting with a client in my office in Schaumburg who was being charged with a felony in Rolling Meadows. The client has a lawyer who was representing him for the case. The client came in for a consultation because he was not happy with the services that his current lawyer was providing and was considering hiring me to represent him in the case. The client told me that he had spoken to his lawyer and requested copies of the police reports. His lawyer refused to provide copies of the police report and the client was very upset with that decision.

This is a very common scenario. I frequently talk with clients who want copies of the police reports so that they can review them at home with their friends and family. I’m sure that many of those clients want to talk to another lawyer and get a second opinion. When a criminal defense lawyer tells a client that they cannot give them copies of the police reports, the clients usually think that’s because the lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case. While that may be the reason behind refusing to give a client police reports in some cases, people need to understand that your criminal defense lawyer is prohibited from giving you copies of the police reports. Let me explain why.

Your lawyer is required to follow certain rules. Your lawyers’ conduct is governed by the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Those rules provide for certain ethical responsibilities that lawyers have to their clients and to the Court. The Supreme Court of Illinois has also enacted certain rules which limit what your lawyer can, or cannot do. The Supreme Court Rules govern what happens in court and what your lawyer can or cannot do while they are representing you in a criminal case in court. Your lawyer is required to follow all those rules.

Speeding-Ticket-LawyerIn the past several weeks, I have spoken to several clients who were arrested for Excessive Speeding and were charged with a crime. Most of the people I spoke to did not realize that they could be arrested for speeding. Many people do not understand the Illinois speeding laws and how a simple speeding ticket can lead to you being arrested and facing the real possibility of having a criminal conviction appear on your record and a possible jail sentence in your future. I want to take this opportunity to try to help people understand just how drastic the consequences of a speeding ticket in Illinois can be.

In general, if you are pulled over for speeding over the posted speed limit, you will not be arrested. The police officer will issue you a speeding ticket and depending on the County that you were pulled over in, and your driving record, you may be given the opportunity to avoid going to Court by paying a fine or by attending Traffic Safety School. But in certain circumstances, being pulled over by a police officer for speeding could result in an arrest and criminal charges.

Aggravated Speeding