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dmitry-ratushny-64773-copy-300x199Unfortunately, Chicago has acquired a reputation for child trafficking and is one of the crisis points recognized in the national strategy. Some of the people involved are supposed to be intimate partners who end up turning on the victims and forcing them to engage in indecent employment for little or no compensation. The practice is sometimes fueled by an illicit drug and sex work industry. Grooming is a very important step in getting someone to give up his or her rights, and that is where children are particularly vulnerable. They lack a sense of judgement and the perpetrators tend to look for those who are on the margins of society. Runaway kids are especially susceptible to this type of crime and the social service agencies in Chicago have attempted to do some preventative work.

In previous times, the law was insensitive to the fact that the victims may be engaging in illegal activity through no fault or volition of their own. That is why it was important to focus instead on the pimps who stand on the wayside in order to capture the illegally-acquired largesse from the trade. There are instances in which the victim is offered support whilst the perpetrator faces the full weight of a criminal prosecution. The reality is that many victims are so traumatized and frightened that they end up not raising a complaint in situations in which their cooperation is of the utmost importance.

A Comprehensive Strategy

It is interesting to note that many people who say hateful things immediately run to the “freedom of speech” mantra when they are called out on it. This is the kind of dilemma that the law in Chicago has to contend with. In the worst-case scenarios, a successful case of defamation is brought to bear and there are significant consequences for the perpetrators. The internet has allowed for anonymous speech to prosper, and somehow people have forgotten their basic responsibility for common decency. On a daily basis, individuals and institutions are slandered and defamed on the internet in the knowledge that the fight back will be difficult or nearly impossible. The statute of limitations may protect those who count on the possibility that the victim will take an inordinately long to complain to the authorities.

Chicago Decides to Weigh in

For a long time, there was a misconception that you can only defame the rich and famous. Over time, the citizens of Chicago have recognized the fact that virtually everybody but the dead can be defamed and slandered. Moreover, the results of such actions can be quite serious, including the loss of employment and valued relationships. The court will normally deal with the plaintiff, defendant, and any other third parties. It is much harder to prove that you are affected by slander or defamation if you do not fall into the two principle parties in the cause of action. Indeed, there is a substantial body of case law to show that the courts are particularly careful to exclude unfounded causes that are based on some unproven pain and suffering.

joe-perales-117891-copy-300x198The practice notes for the rules of evidence remain an important cornerstone of justice in Chicago. Specifically, the court wants to hear, see, witness, and assess evidence that is accurate and timely. Without the rules of evidence, the court process is delayed, and the outcome is inevitably compromised. If we take the example of hearsay, it is clear that the courts wish to hear from the actual witnesses to a crime rather than second-hand stories that are subject to contamination, misinterpretation, and deception. Moreover, the access to direct evidence and witness testimony allows for cross-examination, an important verification and confirmatory aspect of the court process.

Defending attorneys should be well-versed in the allowable question and answer formats. It is a given that some clever lawyer somewhere is going to try to bend the rules by asking a leading or irrelevant question. The defendant must be prepared for the rigors of a cross examination. Many rape and sexual assault cases collapse for no other reason other than that the victim is unable to withstand the detailed and embarrassing process of cross-examination. The court does have decorum, but it is also not a place for false modesty. The judge and jury wish to hear things as they happened and as they relate to the charge that has been brought forward.

Facts Rule the Court

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225The right to bail is constitutionally protected in Chicago and across the USA and is relevant in the wake of increased custodial sentencing. It is a key piece of procedural content for the court process. Many ordinary members of the public do not understand how bail works. That means that they are at risk of spending significant time in jail on remand rather than being out on bail. The court is faced with three main considerations when deciding whether or not to give bail:

  • The risk of absconding
  • The risk of committing other crimes whilst on bail

800px-One_US_dollar_note_0127_22-300x133The bedrock of the consumer protection laws in Chicago is the need to protect members of the public from unscrupulous business practices. Specifically, the law was written in response to consumer complaints that largely went unaddressed. It was noted that in some cases, the bureaucratic minefield of forms and procedures meant that consumers were unable to get to the decision-makers who might have made a difference. The laws were carefully designed in such a way as not to hurt the business community, a community that has contributed much to the prosperity of the state and its cities.

Putting the Consumer First

It is important to understand the fact that the law perceives the consumer to be a vulnerable entity that needs to be protected from powerful business interests. The “customer is right” ethos sometimes masks the manipulation of consumers in order to get them to spend more money on things that are most profitable to a given business. False advertising and even price mislabeling are common tactics. The consumers find themselves in a situation where they are effectively backed into unfair contracts. These arrangements are hard to exit without significant consequences for the consumer.

3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200Knowledge of sentencing guidelines is not only important for those defendants who have been found guilty of a crime in Chicago, but it is also important for those who intend to enter a guilty plea or have a reasonable expectation of being found guilty. The guidelines act like a framework within which the court is expected to operate. They offer guidance to the judge as to the minimum and maximum sentences anticipated depending on the facts of the case. The range can be quite significant, and many offenses lie in the middle. It is for this reason that a sliding scale of punishment has been adopted.

Understanding the Difference Between Potential and Actual Punishments

Unlike some jurisdictions where sentencing is a technical and artificial exercise of matching index points to a punishment scale, Chicago, like the rest of the USA, demands a much more sophisticated approach. This includes weighing up the relative aspects of the aggravating and mitigating features. Two people who have been involved in an identical crime might get significantly different sentences under the guidelines. The public may perceive this to be unfair, but in reality, it is a reflection of the true nature of crime in which the differences are often more important than the similarities.

zjrupeakpzi-aidan-meyer-300x200There are few issues that are guaranteed to raise legal temperatures higher than that of “justified police shootings.” Issues of outright racism and civil rights have come to the fore as a consequence of this specific issue. The media has played its role in sensational coverage, which often masks the serious legal issues at stake. You only have to read about the Laquan McDonald case to understand some of the complexities involved.

The fact that the law is not very clear gives leeway to all sorts of interpretation. The law enforcement officers have assumed (incorrectly) that the law is designed to cover them at every opportunity. Meanwhile, the courts are left somewhat hopeless by the experience of having to litigate and mediate that which is nearly impossible to handle fairly. The charged atmosphere also means that consideration has to be given to the practicalities of how the verdict will be received.

The Starting Point

gus-ruballo-158652-copy-300x200Airplane carriers have faced some criticism for removing passengers who are already booked on a flight. Some have argued that it is a violation of the contract to carry law while others put it down to bad customer care. Recently there was a particularly embarrassing incident when a passenger was forcibly evicted in such a violent manner that he sustained significant injuries, which were then shared with the world via social media.

From a legal point of view, the question was whether the actions of the carrier were justified and legal. This is the intersection of civil liberties and consumer protections. For example, there are questions about whether a carrier can arbitrarily refuse to carry a passenger. There are exceptions that are based on security considerations, but more often than not, the issues in the USA involve overbooking. The behavior of the carrier representatives can also constitute a cause for criminal and civil action.

Sensitivities of Aviation Law

clem-onojeghuo-173534-copy-300x205Shoplifting is classified under the theft statutes. The key provisions are contained in statutory instrument number 720 ILCS 5/16-1. It is at the lower end of the crimes of dishonesty but can still be prosecuted and lead to terms of imprisonment. Over the years, there have been many changes that were designed to reform the regime. For example, there are some new sophisticated techniques for shoplifting that may not have been covered by the original statutes in Chicago. That is why defense attorneys have to ensure that they are up to date with the latest versions of the law. This is one of the most prosecuted crimes not because of its seriousness but rather its frequency of occurrence. Shoplifting is an occupational hazard for marketplaces because there are always people who want to take things without paying for them.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a crime that is consigned to the lower orders of society. Rather, it cuts across, and there have been instances of perfectly wealthy people who have been caught shoplifting. Sometimes, it is a case of temporary economic deprivation; other times, the defendant may be suffering from psychosocial problems such as kleptomania. It is imperative that the defense attorney explores all the possible explanations before the client is either found guilty or sentenced. The existence of a recognized condition might be a mitigating factor in such cases. It is also important to advise the client not to accept higher charges in order to avoid appearing in court because the resultant criminal record can become a hazard.

Protections for the Defendants

ben-white-194220-copy-300x200At the heart of the laws on statutory rape in Chicago is the definition of the age of consent. At the moment, the age of consent in this state is 17 years of age. At the federal level, the age of consent is defined as that minimum age at which a person is considered to be legally old enough to agree to participate in a sexual activity. That age is 16 at the federal level, so defending attorneys already need to be wary of conflicts in interpretation. The bottom line is that the state law takes precedence on this, so if you are in Chicago, 17 is the minimum acceptable age for consent to take place. It is important to note that even when explicit consent is provided by the victim, the fact that he or she does not make the minimum age means that he or she is not able to give legal consent.

A statutory rape charge is brought about based on the age of the victim (and, to an extent, that of the defendant) according to 720 ILCS 5/12-15. It is not really about whether the victims said yes, no, or maybe. It is about their age and whether they were allowed to make those judgements. There are other important provisions in the law that relate to the relationship between the defendant and the victim. If you are in a position of authority or trust (such as a family doctor, priest, boss, etc.), the age of consent in Chicago is raised to 18 years of age. The challenge for the defending attorney is to determine whether the defendant was really in a position of power, authority, or trust. This can be a significant aspect of the defense strategy.

Consequences of a Charge and Conviction