Articles Posted in Criminal defense

jack-young-143113-300x200Making terrorist threats is a serious crime that can lead to significant terms of custody. This is particularly true in this age of international terrorism, which has the capability of harming thousands of people. The global definitions hold sway. Interestingly, the law is rarely used in Chicago, not least because the controls put in place make it difficult for people who are that way inclined to hurt the rest of the population. There are instances in which the law has been used to suppress free speech and protest. For example; there was some public outcry when people who had been protesting against NATO were prosecuted. Other defense attorneys have argued that the law may be written in such a vague way that it opens the way for eventual abuse.

This is a law of which the public at large is critical. Terrorism causes terror and that is the beginning point of the prosecution. This criterion is also being modified in order to reflect the realities of a crime that is still in its development stages. For example, a threat made in jest whilst on a plane is bound to cause significant stress nonetheless. Therefore, the prosecutor will be given leeway to prosecute based on the reasonable expectations and anticipations of the people that are on the airplane. Indeed, it would be advisable not to make any threats at all because they could fall under other criminal laws.

Credibility of the Threat

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200Revenge porn is a crime that is gaining prominence in the age of social media. The law in Chicago took some time to catch up with the reality that some victims were being exposed to serious danger. By 2015, the state legislature had decided to write a law that set out the parameters for an effective prosecution. The leading instrument is 720 ILCS 5/11-46. At the moment revenge porn is considered to be a felony offense. In actuality, Chicago is in the minority when it comes to jurisdictions that have finally started criminalizing this type of behavior. Illinois is noted as the state with the strictest laws in this category. The crux of the offense is sharing nude or compromising images and videos of a person without his or her consent. One must have the unequivocal consent of a person in intimate images before those images can be shared.

It is entirely possible that images which are not extremely explicit can be considered to be part of a revenge porn offense. The charge can stick even if the person had originally consented to the recording of the image but was then unaware that the image was going to be distributed. Defense lawyers have argued that the definition is too wide and gives the court way too much discretion in determining what constitutes revenge porn. Chicago has different from other states in important ways as follows:

  • The intention to cause harm is not necessary for the charge to stick. All that is required is that the images or videos were distributed. Malicious intent can be an aggravating factor but its absence does not remove the charge.

ben-white-194220-copy-300x200The state will always interfere in domestic relationships if there is a threat of harm or actual harm to one of the parties. The most common trigger for a prosecution is physical violence. However, lately there has been some consideration of what other forms of abuse might mean for legislation in Chicago. Currently there are some civic domestic violence laws that are focused on both physical and non-physical forms of abuse. Sexual abuse between domestic partners is normally handled under the legislation covering sexual assault and rape.

Most members of the public will first hear about a domestic violence case by way of an order of protection, which is sometimes accompanied by relevant restraining orders. It is important to note that these orders can be issued by the criminal courts as well as the civil courts. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act is the leading piece of legislation covering this area. The act is known for covering many relationship types beyond marriage including but not restricted to:

  • Former spouses

Hilulaohaio-225x300Chicago has sought to deal with the increasing problem of hate crime using legislative means. The provisions of the Illinois Hate Crime Act (IHCA), 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1, are the leading authority on the management of the criminal process. The act creates an imperative on the state to prosecute but does not explicitly remove the opportunity for private civil cases to take place. Many victims take the opportunity to sue for damages, even when the aggressor is a public authority or their representatives. The range of options for the court includes actual damages, punitive damages, and additional costs, including attorney fees. At other times, the court may offer injunctive relief in order to stop the offending behavior from happening.

The criteria for what constitutes a hate crime can be fluid and those who offend have often used the ambiguity of definitions in order to attempt a get-out-clause for their behavior. Typically, they will claim that this is a case of freedom of speech, which is constitutionally guaranteed. For those who actually go on to commit acts of violence, the case is much simpler since the prosecutor can go for the assault line of questioning and later prove that hate-inspired motives were at play. A crime becomes a hate crime when it is motivated by perceived creed, race, color, gender, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality and even membership of a particular group. Bigotry is at the heart of this crime and will be part of the Mens Rea during the prosecution.

The Importance of the Motivating Factors

ran-berkovich-59513-copy-300x200Stalking is a complex crime that can take many guises. The summary of relevant laws shows that no single law has been comprehensive enough to capture all criminality. That is why the law relating to it is constantly changing in Chicago. Efforts have focused on public protection and privacy laws. However, the stalkers are so complex in their behavior that it remains virtually impossible to come up with a catch-all set of laws that are applicable in each case. Recently the state introduced bills that made it much easier to charge suspects. This was in the wake of complex prosecutions during which it seemed as if the victim was on trial. The downside to the new legislative arrangements is that they sometimes infringe on the rights of the defendants. That is where the defending attorney must be particularly vigilant.

Typically, stalking is a crime that is tied up with domestic violence or even spousal abuse according to the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3. In the past the social service agencies were unable to pinpoint the culprits because they were essentially protected by privacy laws as well as a routine dismissal of minor domestic disputes. Eventually the victim would learn that the law enforcement agencies were powerless to capture the suspect unless there was clear evidence of violence or threats of violence. The stalkers themselves exploited this loophole in order to stay ahead of the law enforcement agencies at all times. Meanwhile the victim was left to his or her own devices, essentially existing in a surveillance state until the stalker either gave up or was apprehended on another charge.

The New Legislative Regime and Practice Notes

antonio-grosz-148540-copy-300x200Chicago has been battling gun crime for a long time and legislation is one of the tools available for tackling it. Legislative instrument number 720 ILCS 5/24-1 summarizes the law as it stands today. Nothing demonstrates the complexity of the issues at hand like the regulation of automatic weapons in Chicago. It is not enough to say that possession of such a firearm is illegal; there must also be specific procedures that determine how the courts are going to handle the various cases that come before them. Existing legislation has tended to focus on controlling the sale, possession ,and use of certain weapons in order to prevent or punish criminal behavior.

For the defense attorneys, this remains a double edged sword. On one hand, a defending attorney is able to challenge the prosecution at any of the detailed procedures for proving criminality. However, the prosecutor can also return the favor by selecting any of the following for attack:

  • Purchase

markus-spiske-153537-200x300Terrorism is the current concern of the cyber security community. The key legal principles are laid out at a national level. However, there are many other forms of cybercrime which are largely downgraded yet quite capable of harming people. This is not just a problem for Chicago, but for the entire world at large. As is often the case in these instances, the argument is about establishing the right parameters for upgrading a simple cybercrime into cyberterrorism or cyberwar. For example, internet trolling is rarely capable of meeting the standards of terrorism, yet it is also a serious crime that is often prosecuted by the authorities. Others have decided to define cyberterrorism as any form of cyber crime that involves nations or entire communities.

Some of the worst offenders under this law are not pariah states but individuals who have used their expertise in order to hack into government agency databases before strategically leaking the resultant data in order to cause maximum embarrassment to the government. Although WikiLeaks and Snowden might argue that they do not meet this criteria, the reality is that the US government considers their actions to be a threat to the state. Therefore, the prosecution process and the indicative sentencing might be a lot harsher than would be the case for other types of cybercrime. We might then argue that it is the state that determines the fine line between cybercrime and cyberterrorism.  

Investigating and Classifying the Crime

benjamin-voros-160962-300x200The computer has been used to commit crimes, right from its inception. More recently, the city of Chicago has had to contend with the reality of cyber extortion. The state has certain duties and liabilities which include investigation and prosecutorial powers. The essential ingredients of the crime are that the offender gets the victim to do or not do certain things in order to avoid being harmed. The internet is then the conduit through which they make the threats, agree the illegal contracts and collect on them. Hackers have found the computer to be perfect for blackmail and ransom notes. One of their favorite tricks is to obtain sensitive information from an organization and then threaten to publish it unless their demands are fully met.

The demands invariably include monetary compensation but the standards of the crime can still be met even if money does not exchange hands. At other times the hackers will plant malicious information or programs for which only they have the key. That means that unless the victim accepts their demands, they will let the program wreak havoc. That havoc might involve wiping out the entire database of company information. Hackers may even deny an organization access to its own files in order to ensure that they can comply with the extortion demands. The range of victims is startling including municipalities, hospitals, government agencies and even private individuals.

A Violation of Privacy and Property

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Healthcare fraud has been raised as a matter of concern not only in Chicago but in the country as a whole. It raises the costs of providing healthcare and also means that vulnerable people who need support are left behind. The cases in this category are unique because they often provide a corporate entity that is tasked with the role of distributing healthcare services. The large scale Medicare fraud occurs within the modalities of overcharging the state or alternatively charging it for services that were never delivered. In either case, the consequences for those involved can be dire. They could lose the license to practice and may be banned from government contracts for a considerable period of time.

Over time, a number of fairly consistent patterns of offending have emerged. First of all, there are three main modalities including Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, and Kickbacks. Each of these modalities are united by deceit and illegal benefits. For example, overbilling has been a persistent problem in Medicaid and Medicare programs, despite the stringent protective measures that were adopted by Congress and local legislatures. In some cases, the service provider is so overwhelmed by paperwork and bureaucracy that they end up making inadvertent mistakes. Obviously the courts will take into consideration both the act and the intention behind it before passing judgement.

Damaging the Integrity of the System

Chicago_Stock_Exchange_7405590890-300x193The complexity of the securities and commodities fraud case list means that the legislation must be written in such a way as to encapsulate all the various forms of criminality that are involved. Typically, this means that there are many agencies that support the work of the prosecutor even if they are not directly involved in handling the criminal case (see the Lindstrom case). For example; there is almost always a civil aspect of the case management that focuses on recovering some of the lost funds in order to compensate the victims. For purposes of clarity and consistency, the courts have tended to separate the criminal from the civil aspects of the prosecution.

The other important consideration is the systemic malaise that is associated with securities and commodities fraud. These are some of the most important platforms for handling large scale trade. That means that vast sums of money are exchanged, sometimes relying on individual investors who sink in their life savings. It is therefore abhorrent to the courts that public confidence would be undermined by fraudsters who use the product in order to access their victims. That is why in some cases the punishments for this type of crime have appeared to be harsh. The courts are particularly concerned to ensure that the perpetrators do not get away with large stacks of cash when the victims are left to rely on the small comfort of a successful criminal prosecution.

Investor Agents with No Qualifications and Bad Intentions