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3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200It is a nightmare scenario when a defendant is accused of having injured a police officer in the line of duty. Both the courts and probation office are reluctant to give defendants any benefit of doubt or leeway in such circumstances. The message is clear: You mess with public officials and the public will mess with you by way of aggravated sentencing guidelines. Although such cases are a true test of defense skills, it can certainly help to solidify some of the key aspects of criminal defense. Many trainer attorneys might benefit from handling such a case. The key ingredients of the crime are summarized in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05.

Understanding the Crime and its Ingredients

It helps to first understand the general crime of battery and then assess the aggravating features in as far as they relate to the current case. First of all, the defense team must take note of the important technicality that battery for these purposes excludes the discharge of a gun. That is an entirely separate crime with more serious consequences for the defendant if one of the victims was a police officer. In any case, there is a requirement that the defendant knowingly committed the constituent acts which include causing bodily harm or disfigurement. The harm clause also refers to permanent disability.

800px-Seized_firearms-300x200One of the most common crimes in Chicago is that of the unlawful discharge of a firearm. This article focuses on some of the aggravating and mitigating features that might influence the sentencing process. It is important for the attorney to note that some of these features are precisely the points of argument that might be used to challenge a finding of guilt or sow seeds of reasonable doubt amongst members of the jury (see the procedures in the Gerardo Hernandez–Rodriguez case). Generally speaking, recklessness without malicious intent is treated more leniently than in situations where the defendant has deliberately gone out of his or her way to use a firearm to commit another crime.

Chicago remains one of the harshest when it comes to gun laws, even though gun crime continues to rise. For the courts all that this trend has achieved is to increase the level of aggression amongst lawyers on both sides of the case. One area of particular interest is the level of injury compared to the original intent of the assailant. Shooting in the air is considerably less serious than shooting at a crowd. Typically, the aggravated form of the crime is automatically upgraded to a felony, which significantly increases the risk of long term custody.

Key Issues in the Pre-Trial Phase

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200The internet has not only opened up new avenues of communication, but has also created an entire category of crimes that require bespoke responses from the legislature. It is from that perspective that Chicago has come up with an internet solicitation legal framework which captures cyber sex crimes (720 ILCS 5/11-6.6 for enticement), among other things. On the other hand, the rules as they exist have left the door open for vigilantes and ingénues to entice otherwise ordinary citizens into compromising situations. The web sting has become an effective tool for police to target suspected pedophiles and other types of online offenders. More recently the phenomenon of revenge porn and unsolicited sexting has plagued legislatures across the globe. For the defense attorney, entrapment might be one of the critical issues that needs to be examined.

How the Law is Designed and Implemented

For a person to fall within the ambit of the law, they must knowingly engage in acts that amount to criminality, but the lines are blurred when undercover agents effectively encourage predisposed people to engage in illegal acts. At other times the law is the only way of being able to capture those sophisticated offenders who have a secretive network of contacts that are able to access some of the most offensive material that is currently available on the internet. Typically the offender is so unsympathetic that the public is unable to pay any attention to the civil liberties issues that may have been raised during his or her arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing. Ignorance and apathy remain key characteristics of the type of offender that engages with the internet in this way (see 720 ILCS 5/11-6 for indecent solicitation and online sexual solicitation rules). Some may consider it relatively harmless to surf certain pages while others are simply unaware that they are breaking specific laws in Chicago.

jufcqxgcxwa-samuel-zeller-300x200The enactment of freedom of information laws means that the public is a lot more aware of its rights in terms of accessing vital information about the community. This becomes even more critical when the information relates to personal issues such as criminal history. Individuals may request for this information for a number of reasons including application for a job, travel documents, and also as part of a court process. There are certain offenses such as sexual assault that lead to lifetime registrations, which are sometimes opened up to the public. Bureaucratic bottlenecks have sometimes been criticized for making it difficult for individuals to secure access to their rap sheet (otherwise known as a criminal record). However the Police Department Informational Guide sets out a basic framework.

Important Steps When Requesting Access

It is critical to identify the public agencies that you were involved in during or after the arrest. These will typically include the law enforcement agency, the clerk of the court, and the Illinois State Police. The Bureau of Identification of the ISP is ultimately responsible for maintaining and sharing information. At the federal level, the FBI maintains a master database that is accessible in exceptional circumstances. It is important to note that FBI request must be in writing and should indicate why the applicant is entitled to a copy of his or her arrest record. If it is a freedom of information act request, then some background information may be necessary. Ensure that your name and address are included. It is also imperative to send important identification details such as the date and place of birth as well as the applicant’s fingerprints.

800px-Handcuffs01_2008-07-27-300x200Nobody really likes to get arrested unless they are running away from an even greater threat to their lives. Therefore, the crime of resisting arrest in Chicago is not as uncommon as one might first assume. Currently this is considered to be a misdemeanor which is a follow-on offense that is separate from the original reason why the person is being arrested in the first place (see People vs Wishard). The law requires complete compliance with the law enforcement agencies unless there are some other compelling reasons such as a health emergency. Some over-zealous officers use this law in order to intimidate and then implicate citizens for purposes of blurring some other type of evidence. Quite often when an officer is caught up in dubious shooting episodes, he or she invariably come up with a defense to the effect that the shooting was justified because the suspect was resisting arrest.

Legal Implications and Strictures

Needless to say, an attorney is important in such cases, not only because he or she is able to challenge the version of events that is presented by the government agency, but also because an attorney can help the panicked suspect not implicate him or herself further. You would be amazed at how many criminal cases are effectively surrendered by the defendant on the first night in a cell precisely because he or she volunteers information through disorganized semi-confessions. One of the problems with the law relating to resisting arrest is the fact that it is so vaguely worded that it can encompass a wide range of behavior that would in some instances be reasonable and in others less reasonable. Similarly, the sentencing guidelines for the misdemeanor are extensive and varied. They include fines, probation, community service, and custody. The criminal record can provide some challenges in the future with respect to employment prospects.  

800px-Kneaded_eraser-300x199For many offenders, the sentence handed down by the court is only the beginning of their punishment. In some ways a criminal record as mandated by the Criminal Identification Act is a much more difficult condition to deal with because it is permanent and insidious. Most people will make judgements about the capabilities and proclivities of an individual based on their criminal record. The people making these judgements are not party to the original case or any of the mitigating circumstances that could explain the person’s behavior at the time. More importantly, the criminal record leaves no room for real rehabilitation. All it does is to ensure that convicted people are forever consigned to the shadowy world of illicit activities. There have been many critiques of the criminal records system over the years including its role in increasing recidivism. However public opinion at the moment is ambivalent about the possibility of expunging records.

A Redemptive Scheme in Chicago

Chicago is one of the states that is exploring new ways of rehabilitating offenders. This is done through the process of sealing or expunging a criminal record for certain offenses, offenders, and circumstances. It is never a clean break because if the media has reported the case then all that is required is a Google search to get everything back up again. Many employers and potential spouses increasingly do those Google searches so either way the individual is stuck with their record unless they change name by deed poll. It is only the most experienced attorneys that are able to successfully get rid of a criminal record. Unfortunately most defendants are so traumatized by the criminal justice process that they end up giving up on any future hopes of redemption. They simply let the record lie as it is stated and resign themselves to a life on state benefits.

Legal_Gavel_27571702173-300x227The laws and rules relating to orders of protection in Chicago normally stem from domestic disputes. Typically, spouses seeking orders of protection are estranged or facing domestic violence. However, that does not mean that the law does not touch on other domesticated arrangements including the relationships between roommates and family members. This is a serious legal process that has significant financial implications for the party that is found to be at fault. It can even lead to a criminal record which filters down to job security, visitation rights, and custody disputes. That is why defendants in such cases will fight tooth and nail to ensure that an order of protection is not listed against them. Needless to say that the faults in writing the legislation, the police procedures as well as its wide implications has meant that it is open for abuse. This abuse is primarily associated with the application for protective orders based on false or incomplete information.

The Role of the Attorney in Getting Justice

Fact finding is an essential aspect of the protective order and will ultimately determine whether it is allowed or not. Therefore it is the responsibility of the defendant’s attorney to ensure that all relevant facts are considered. Some might be aggravating whilst others might be mitigating. The classic defense position is to maximize the mitigating issues whilst simultaneously minimizing the aggravating aspects. So far the courts have not been too vigilant in punishing those who cause them to issue unwarranted orders of protection. For example, there is sparse use of the perjury provisions of the law in these cases; partly due to the inherent belief within the criminal justice system that orders of protection lie more within the ambit of family law than criminal law.

DSC_0289-300x201The criminal justice system has always been stacked unfavorably against the poor, not just in Chicago but across the globe. There is no better place to test this hypothesis than to consider the procedures and law relating to the source of bail hearing (see 725 ILCS 5). Defendants who are charged with drug-related offenses in Chicago will immediately be subjected to a bond hearing. This is designed to assess the money that is required to be posted in order to allow for release from custody pending the case conclusion. The District Attorneys (such as the one in Cook County) have developed a practice model in which the prosecutor requests the judge to hold a hearing about the source of bail funds prior to the bail being posted. Clearly, this is an attempt to ensure that tainted money is not channeled back through the court system. The source of finding may also provide the prosecutor with further evidence of the defendant’s criminality.

Tying the Defendant in Knots

Although the law was designed to capture hardened criminals with extensive networks of resources, the reality is that it merely makes life tough for the small time dealer who has to rely on terrified friends and family to post bail to a court that is potentially going to imprison them all. That is why an experienced defense attorney is important – to ensure that the procedures are applied correctly, consistently, and fairly. The starting point is understanding the fact that not all drug charges warrant a source of bail hearing. The entry point is that of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver or alternatively the manufacture of such a substance. Typically it is only the large quantity cases that will warrant the punitive aspects of the hearing.

Pipes_01-1-300x200Broadly speaking, the law in Chicago gives the police power to search and seize items if and when they suspect that those items are relevant to the commission or investigation of a crime. However, some law enforcement agencies have abused this power resulting in the interventions of senior courts to determine what constitutes a legal search and seizure in Chicago. Defense attorneys may find themselves in a position where they are effectively prosecuting the law enforcement agencies for breaking the law. Typically, these complexities arise in the midst drug-related cases.

The Interplay Between Constitutional and Criminal Law

The Fourth Amendment has guaranteed Americans the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. However, that tends to focus more on the federal government overreach. Of course, there are those that push the law to its very limit by insisting that they are able to occupy public property without intervention from the state. That is why the law always includes a caveat of reasonableness which is open to interpretation and definition by the courts. The Fourth Amendment does not cover seizure by private individuals and therefore anyone that engages in this type of activity on their own authority is bound to encounter serious legal problems.

Gov-us_passportTo the uninitiated, forgery in Chicago seems like a straightforward case. However, a closer examination of the law indicates that it is every bit as complicated as any constitutional issue that you can imagine. The fact that this law affects a large number of ordinary folks means that it is an important area for a defense attorney to be aware of. Certainly a lot of expertise and experience is required in order to successfully defend such cases. The consequences of failing to mount a successful defense can be serious, leading to between two and five years in custody (see Thomas M. Bartholomew for sentencing guidelines). On the other hand, a conviction is effectively an indicator of fraud and that could ruin career prospects in much more serious ways than even a murder conviction.

A Long Investigative Process

Normally forgery cases in Chicago will require a thorough investigation because the expectation from the police is that the typical defendant in these cases is highly sophisticated. To be fair, some forgeries are straightforward cases of misguided ambition. Examples include an altered bus pass or rail ticket. By contrast, there are some forgeries that have multiple layers, involving serious corporate fraud and other related consequences. The court will consider the chain of events from the first forgery to the eventual consequences on the victims when dealing with each case, particularly with regards to sentencing. Hiring a good defense attorney is essential, particularly when complex technicalities are highlighted and contested.