Articles Posted in Armed Robbery

diana-feil-226524-copy-200x300It is a sad fact, but it is still a true one: Gun violence in Chicago, Illinois is steadily climbing higher and higher. The amount of gun crimes taking place in the city is reaching what some consider to be an epidemic level, making residents feel fearful and unsafe. Meanwhile, there are two opposing camps that are warring over the best way to deal with the gun crime rates in the Windy City: Those who feel that more gun control is needed, and those who feel like less is needed. With gun violence on the rise and crime rates at unpleasant numbers, it is making dealing with the law itself increasingly difficult.

The Second Amendment

Until recently, guns could not even be purchased inside of Chicago. The local laws banned the sale of guns within the city limits. However, in 2016, this law was ruled as unconstitutional. Strong advocates of the Second Amendment were thrilled, but those in favor of gun control were not quite so happy with the outcome. Whatever the case, it became a fact of life: Guns were easier to obtain in Chicago. There is little evidence at the moment that gun laws were being broken either before or after this occurred, so the jury is still out on any strong connection.

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The Wisconsin State Journal reports that two suspects are currently in custody in Illinois in connection with a violent home invasion that took place in Madison last January. Allegedly, the two suspects robbed a 27-year-old man at gunpoint, forced the man into his apartment, and once inside bound the man and his girlfriend with duct tape. The couple claims that the robbers demanded more money and pointed a gun at their 3-year-old daughter’s head. Eventually, the father broke free of his bonds, lunged at one of the gunmen, and was shot multiple times. Thankfully all members of the family survived. Now that both suspects are in custody, they have been charged with several crimes, including false imprisonment.

What is False Imprisonment?

In Illinois, false imprisonment occurs when an individual’s personal liberty or freedom of locomotion is unlawfully restrained. Before a defendant can be convicted of false imprisonment the prosecution must prove the following two elements:

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On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, a man robbed an Irving Park neighborhood bank located on the Northwest side. According to witnesses, the man walked into the Wintrust Bank branch at 4343 N. Elston Ave. between 4:00 and 4:30 in the afternoon, gave the teller a note demanding cash, and then ran away with an unspecified amount of money, according to Chicago Police and the FBI. The suspect has not been caught at this time, but if he is caught, he will face serious federal charges and a lengthy prison sentence.

Bank Robbery Charges

If you are charged with bank robbery, it is always a federal offense. To be convicted of bank robbery, the assistant U.S. Attorney must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person took or tried to take money or property from an institution that is federally insured. Even if you are arrested for allegedly stealing from an ATM, you will be charged with bank robbery.    

DSCF6253mMost of us are familiar with the term carjacking from television, movies, and video games. It is legally referred to as vehicular hijacking, and it is defined as the use of force or the threat of the use of force to steal another person’s vehicle. Vehicular hijacking, or carjacking, is a serious violent crime in Illinois and the penalties are harsh. You will be facing felony charges and a lengthy prison term, as well as fines, if you are accused of carjacking, and you will have a permanent blight on your criminal record.

What Exactly is Carjacking?

Under Illinois law, you can be charged with carjacking if you take a motor vehicle from another person by the use of force, or by the threat of the use of force. It is considered more than a simple robbery – it is a separate charge entirely, and it is a Class 1 felony. If you are convicted of carjacking, you could face up to 15 years in prison. The penalties are significantly harsher than those for robbery and burglary offenses, which are usually charged as Class 2 felonies and carry shorter sentences and lower fines.

A Chicago man was arrested for allegedly committing armed robbery at knifepoint several clothing stores in Lincoln Park and Bucktown during broad daylight.

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Chicago Armed Robbery Charge

Under Illinois law a person commits armed robbery if he:

  • Knowingly;
  • Takes property;
  • From the person or presence of another;
  • By force or threat of imminent use of force.

Conviction on an armed robbery charge requires that the prosecution prove each of these four elements. If a single element cannot be proven, then the armed robbery charge must be either dismissed or reduced.

Knowingly

As discussed in previous blog entries, the “knowingly” requirement means that armed robbery is a specific intent crime. The defendant must have actually intended to forcibly take property from another person. This element isn’t usually difficult for the prosecution to prove, as it is hard to imagine a situation where a person could mistakenly take another person’s property by force. The one example that jumps to mind would be a situation where the defendant takes property from another under the mistaken belief that it was his (the defendant’s) property.

Takes property

It is unclear whether the defendant stole merchandise, cash from the store, personal belongings of shop attendants and/or customers, or a combination. But for purposes of committing armed robbery, it doesn’t matter the type or value of the item taken; there simply had to be property stolen.

The defendant was charged with robbery of multiple stores, and charges for robbery from other stores may be pending. The prosecution must prove that for each charged incident, the defendant actually took property from a person, or in their presence (more on that below). This element is the difference between a charge of armed robbery and aggravated battery or aggravated assault.

If the defendant ran out of the store without taking any property – he got spooked that the cops were coming or was chased off, for example – then he could not be charged with armed robbery. He could be charged with battery (if he made contact with anybody in the store) or assault (no contact, but put them in fear of contact), but not armed robbery, since no property would be taken. Being able to reduce even one of the armed robbery charges to aggravated assault or battery could mean the difference between several years in prison.

From the person or presence of another

Armed robbery requires that the property be taken from the person (think grabbing a purse out of a woman’s hands), or in their presence (swiping something from the counter as the cash register attendant looks on). If an item was stolen from the counter while the salesperson was in the back, then the defendant cannot be convicted of armed robbery.

By force or threat of imminent use of force

The final element of armed robbery requires that the defendant stole the item by force or by threatening the use of imminent force. Grabbing the purse out of the victim’s hands qualifies as force. Threatening the victim with a stabbing, beating, or some other use of force if he doesn’t turn over the property qualifies as a threat of force. Even if it is later shown that the defendant was bluffing – that he in fact had no weapon on him, so the threatened use of a knife or other weapon could never have been fulfilled – he can still be charged with armed robbery. Putting the victim in fear of physical harm is sufficient to meet this element.

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Two Chicago store clerks who were the victims of an armed robbery opened fire on the alleged assailants recently. Following the robbery, the manager of the 7-11 saw a vehicle parked in the alley; when he and the employee approached with guns, the alleged assailants opened fire. The clerks fired off eight shots before the alleged assailants fled.

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Self-Defense: By the Victims or the Armed Robbers?

This case raises an interesting question of whether the victims were justified in their use of force against the armed robbers, and whether they could face potential charges of aggravated battery or aggravated assault for firing upon the alleged assailants.

Illinois law allows an individual who used force against another to claim self-defense if “he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” The law further states that a person can only use force intended to, or likely to cause, death or great bodily harm – such as firing a gun – “only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.”

Illinois law does not allow a person to claim self-defense if force was used during an escape from commission of a forcible felony, or initially provided the use of force himself. It also cannot be claimed if the person asserting the defense initiated the contact, unless he indicates his desire to withdraw from his initial use of force.

So in a typical convenience store robbery, the alleged victims would have been justified in pulling their weapons and firing if they had done so during the commission of the crime. One assailant allegedly held a gun to the clerks’ head and threatened to blow his head off if he didn’t hand over the money. Under the self-defense law, the clerk and his boss would have been justified in pulling their weapons and firing because there was a reasonable belief that their lives were in imminent danger. They also would have been justified in using force, even if the assailant hadn’t made the threat, because armed robbery is a forcible felony.

But the circumstances surrounding this case are not so straightforward. The clerks pulled their guns after the armed robbery had been committed and the assailants fled the store. So there is a question of whether the clerks’ use of force was justified, or whether the assailants themselves could claim self-defense.

At the point where the clerks approached the assailants with their weapons, there was no longer a need to defend against another’s use of imminent force, there was no fear that either of them were in danger of suffering great bodily harm, and the forcible felony had been completed. This doesn’t appear like the typical “escape” scenario, because the clerks did not chase the assailants out, guns drawn. Instead, the assailants left with the money, and the clerks then saw a car in the alley on their security cameras. They then chose walk out and confront the assailants, not even sure if the people in the car were the assailants. Their actions could be considered retaliation or vigilante justice rather than self-defense.

You may be thinking, “But when the clerks approached, the assailants drew their weapons and opened fire, so the clerks were justified.” That may be true. It may also be true that the assailants (assuming they even were the assailants) were now in fear for their lives and opened fire to protect themselves from imminent bodily harm. Yes, the law says that a person who initiated force cannot then claim self-defense if force is used against them. However, the initial aggressor can claim self-defense if he indicated a desire to disengage. Here, the fact that the assailants fled the scene could show an indication on their part to disengage from their initial threat of force, so that the clerks’ approach with guns drawn was now an improper use of force.

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An elderly woman was a victim of an armed robbery while walking down a Skokie street earlier this month. The perpetrator reportedly approached the woman, showed what appeared to be a gun and demanded the victim’s bag before riding away on his bicycle.

Disproving Suspect Identification in Skokie Aggravated Robbery Charge

There are a number of elements the prosecution must prove in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty of a Skokie armed robbery charge. For the sake of this discussion, we will assume that the prosecution would be able to prove that the defendant knowingly took property that did not belong to him, and that he made the victim believe that he was carrying a gun (an essential element in proving aggravated robbery)

In all criminal cases, a skilled criminal defense attorney will work diligently to obtain an outright acquittal or dismissal of charges prior to prosecution. Based on the facts of this case, discrediting the victim’s positive identification of her assailant may result in the prosecution dismissing the case or, if brought to trial, the jury finding the defendant not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Eyewitness testimony is often the only evidence the police and prosecution have to support an arrest and conviction, yet due to the fact that victims are attempting to recall details of a traumatic event, it is often unreliable. An arrest made based on this particular victim’s identification would be extremely suspect, and an experienced attorney would argue to the prosecution, the judge in pre-trial motions, and the jury, if the case went to trial, why this victim’s identification is unreliable and the case warrants a finding of not guilty.

The victim described the assailant as a 6-foot-tall, thin, dark-complexioned male between the ages of 18-20. He was wearing a black baseball hat, sunglasses and, according to the police report, “possibly” a white shirt and white pants.

This is an extremely vague description – the victim mentions no identifying marks, such as scars, tattoos, or other unique features that could distinguish the assailant from any other tall, thin black man. He was wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat, further obscuring his face. This will make it difficult for the victim to make a positive identification.

On top of that, the victim was unsure if the assailant was wearing white pants and a white shirt. This uncertainty throws into doubt her ability to provide an accurate description of the assailant, and thus makes any future identification of him suspect.

An adept criminal defense lawyer would argue all these points at trial to discredit the victim’s identification. In addition, he would review the method of identification – whether an in-person or photographic lineup – to ensure that the victim was provided only with a selection of men fitting the assailant’s description, and not men of varying builds and ages, or displaying any other identifying characteristics. He would also review photographs or recordings made of the lineup (or, if retained once the arrest is made, participate) to determine whether the police may have somehow led the victim to choose the suspect from the lineup.

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My 22 year old client, with no criminal background, was charged with Armed Robbery and Aggravated Battery.  This case carried a mandatory 21 year sentence if convicted because there was an allegation that a firearm was used during the offense.

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My client was charged along with another co-defendant after they allegedly robbed a pizza delivery guy.  Even though my client did not possess the weapon, because he was “involved” the state’s attorney was attempting to use the law of accountability to charge him with the same crime as the co-defendant.  The law of accountability states that a defendant must engage in a common criminal design or agreement, any acts in furtherance of that common design committed by one party are considered to be the acts of all parties.

And I tell all of my clients, even if I believe they have a difficult case, you never know what will happen when an officer or civilian victim testifies.  In this case, the officer’s sworn report stated that my client actually took possession of the pizzas, after his co-defendant held a gun to the victim’s head, and ran into a neighboring house.  There were also allegations that not only was a gun held to the victim’s head, but that three other masked individuals were involved who attacked the victim, causing bodily harm.  At trial the victim made no mention of my client possessing a firearm or taking possession of the pizzas.  A motion was made after the state’s attorneys rested their case for a directed finding of not guilty.  The judge heard arguments from both sides and determined that my client could not be found guilty and found my client NOT GUILTY!  And my scared client did not even have to testify.  720 ILCS 5/18-2

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Quite often, unfortunately, defendants facing Chicago drug charges or Chicago violent crimes charges feel the need to boast of the exploits.

As most of us are aware, people confess to many things on Facebook. Secret loves, bad habits, hidden longings; it appears that nowadays, nothing is too private or personal to appear on social media. While some may consider such confessions to be tacky—or at the very least, in poor taste—a Florida man recently went a step further by posting a photograph of the young wife he had just murdered, along with a confession—of sorts. While most Americans are long-past the point of being shocked by the daily news, this latest bid for attention has startled even the most cynical.chain-863724-m

Derek Medina, a South Miami resident, could possibly have benefitted from taking his own website a bit more seriously. That website, called EmotionalWriter.com, markets Medina’s self-help books on effective communication and marriage counseling tips.  A little over a week ago, Medina was apparently engaged in a verbal dispute with his 26-year old wife, Jennifer Alfonso. According to Medina, he pointed a gun at his wife, at which point she walked away, returning minutes later to inform her husband she was leaving. Medina then confronted his wife who reacted by “punching” him. Medina once again pointed his firearm at his wife, who responded by grabbing a kitchen knife. As Medina attempted to take the knife from Alfonso, she once again began hitting him, at which point he fired multiple shots from close range directly into her body.

Medina then took photos of his wife’s dead body and wrote a note which stated “I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news my wife was punching me and I am not going to stand anymore with the abuse so I did what I did I hope u understand me.”  The photo and the note were then posted on Medina’s Facebook account. The image was online for approximately five hours before Facebook employees removed the photo and disabled both Medina’s FB page as well as his wife’s. Even more bizarre, the couple’s ten-year old daughter was in the house at the time, although she was reported to be “unharmed.”

If you wonder why on earth anyone would post photos of their murdered wife it is likely you are not alone. Psychologists attribute this need to (over) share with the poster’s need to feel important or powerful. Unfortunately, Medina is not alone in his quest for attention. A 2011 rape of a 15-year-old girl was discovered after the four teens allegedly responsible shared a photo of her online and through text messages. Again in 2011, a Pennsylvania teen pled guilty to raping an inebriated 15-year-old girl then posted a message on Facebook asking for a hit man to kill the girl.  As a result of these types of stories, Facebook has been used to catch those Floridians suspected of illicit behavior with increasing regularity, becoming a tool for identifying criminal behavior and catching those responsible for crimes ranging from theft to poaching.

Of course, criminals have been publicly confessing long before Facebook came into being. Jailhouse confessions and barroom braggarts are rife in the world of criminal defense. Social media has simply given those people a different kind of platform, allowing them to share their misdeeds and brag about being bad. While millions of people use social media in a totally healthy manner every day, for others the ability to communicate with others without seeing or hearing them makes it harder to remember that actions come with consequences. In fact, following his Facebook posting, Derek Medina drove to see his family, telling them what he had done, then turned himself in to the police. Medina is currently being held without bond under preliminary charges of first degree murder. Continue reading

Many of my clients have faced Chicago aggravated robbery charges.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that the element of aggravated or armed robbery consists solely of the use of a functioning firearm.

In early August, two Chicago men attempted to hold up a West Rogers Park restaurant using a black toy water pistol. The “weapon”—a fairly convincing replica of an MAC-10 machine pistol—was partially concealed in one of the men’s t-shirts as he demanded that the restaurant owner give them food, stating “I will kill you, I have a gun.”  The owner reportedly told the men to come back in an hour and he would have a meal for them as he was too busy at the time. The men obligingly left, returning as asked, an hour later. Of course by that time the restaurant owner had called the police and ushered other patrons out of the restaurant for their safety. Both men were arrested and charged with attempted aggravated robbery. The man with the water pistol was additionally charged with possession of a replica firearm.  Both men were slated to appear in court on August 19th.

On a more national level, many will remember that O.J. Simpson was convicted of aggravated robbery and kidnapping thirteen years after he was acquitted of the crime of killing his former wife. Apparently Simpson was the leader in a group of men who used threats and force to take photos, footballs and other sports memorabilia from Bruce Fromong and Al Beardsley in a Las Vegas motel room in 2007. Simpson’s lawyer claimed his client was a target from the beginning and that Simpson was merely tryheavy-machinegun-1329270-ming to reclaim property which had been stolen from him. Simpson also claimed he had no idea the men helping him recover his property were armed at the time. Simpson was eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison although recently he was granted parole on some of the charges; he will likely remain in prison for several additional years unless his request for a new trial is granted.

In light of the above, it is important to consider the following:  robbery consists of taking another person’s property whereas aggravated robbery involves a number of additional dispositive factors. Chicago aggravated robbery charges can vary dramatically from case to case; issues which will determine the extent of the charges generally include the use of force or verbal threats during the act, robbing an elderly person, an injury on the part of the victim, suggesting a weapon is present (even if it was not) or invading the home of another during the robbery act. Aggravated robbery convictions charged as a Class 1 felony are very serious so the crime—even when a water gun is used and nothing is actually taken—can garner the offender 4-15 years in the state prison. The longer sentencing is reserved for robberies which take place in a church or school or when the victim is elderly or handicapped.

The charges of aggravated robbery could have a variety of defenses depending on the circumstances. Your attorney could claim mistaken identity or could defeat the robbery charges by proving nothing was taken.  Consideration will also be given to whether there were injuries involved, if you have ever been involved in gang activity or if you have a prior criminal conviction.  It is especially important that you not talk to anyone prior to retaining an attorney. Although we’ve all see television shows where the police officers advise suspects of their Miranda rights, few people actually follow this practice in real life. Many people attempt to talk their way out of the charges—a practice which almost always ends up making the situation worse. Continue reading