Articles Posted in Felonies

smn-bcc-601011-unsplash-copy-300x200If you are facing a felony charge in Chicago, you are likely worried that your life will be turned upside down, and rightfully so. There is no way to pinpoint what is going to happen if the case goes to trial and you wind up with a conviction and subsequent sentence. The even more unlikely assumption is what will happen to you once you have served your time. How will you assimilate back into society? Will your friends and family accept you with open arms? Here are some tips for restoring your life and reputation following a felony conviction.

Narrow Employment Search

One of the first things you need to do once you are released from prison is begin your search for employment. Depending on the crime you were convicted of, it could very well leave you with a narrow search. For example, if you committed any type of white collar crime, you likely will not be able to get a job in the banking, finance, or securities industries. If you committed a sexual offense, you will not be able to work in the education field.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225When you are facing felony charges in Chicago, you will likely be scared about what is to come. Even if you have been charged with a crime in the past, facing a felony charge can be life changing. A felony conviction can lead to years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, restitution, and many other penalties. Even after you have served your time, you could very well still struggle to return to a normal life. Today, we will take a look at how a felony conviction can change your life.

Post-Conviction

Once your trial is complete and you are found guilty of the felonious crime, you will begin your post-conviction life. This is one of the more difficult parts of life as a convicted felon. This part of your life starts with sentencing. You could very well wind up with the maximum recommended sentence from the judge. Or, you could be sentenced to a handful of years in prison. The judge will take into account statements made by the plaintiff, the victim’s family, and any statement you make.

tim-evans-88330-300x200The crime of bank fraud is sometimes thought of as being harmless given the fact that it involves big powerful corporations and rarely involves any violence. However, the courts take it seriously and are quite capable of imposing significant penalties for it. The technical definitions of the crime include the illegal acquisition of assets, money or property by any entity or institution through deceit and dishonesty. Given the concern about an implied leniency against white collar offenders, bank fraud has sometimes been elevated to the level of a federal crime.

According to the Bank Fraud Act, the prosecution is free to label and pursue the crime depending on the amounts involved and the method that was used. A level of sophistication as well as conspiracy will always be aggravating factors. On the other hand, the court will also consider the victim impact statements. Although the media coverage may often be sensationalist, the courts are at pains to demonstrate that they are bound by the sentencing guidelines as well as the facts as examined from the viewpoint of giving as much weight as possible to the intention of the legislature when the law was enacted.

Developing a Theory and Practical Basis for a Defense

o_498v1-nbc-rachel-paprocki-300x201The felony charge sits just below terrorism and treason when ranking the criminal offenses that are known in the Chicago statues. It is a step up from the misdemeanor and carries a lot of serious consequences for the defendant including the loss of their liberty and a debilitating criminal record. As a rule of thumb, an offense becomes a felony if it is capable of attracting a punishment that exceeds one year in jail. Some jurisdictions have gone as far as setting mandatory sentencing for certain felonies in order to control the court process in such a way as not to dent public confidence in the system. Others have classified obsolete felonies as being non-prosecutable.

There is considerable public debate as to whether the classification of felonies is appropriate for this century. For a start, the idea of a permanent criminal record might sound good in terms of retribution and public safety. However, the reality is that people who are unable to find work will inevitably turn back to crime, which means that the vicious circle will never end. Nevertheless, the trial judge tends to take into consideration a number of factors at the sentence hearing including:

  • Previous known criminality,

https://www.chicagocriminallawyerblog.com/files/2017/01/U.S._Court_House_Chicago_Ill_72168-300x194.jpgUpon arrest, a defendant is normally taken through a preliminary hearing according to the provisions of statutory instrument number 725 ILCS 5/110-5. This is a critical step for the defense lawyers because that is when a finding of probable cause is considered. It can be undertaken by either a judge in chambers or the grand jury. The litmus test is the preponderance of evidence. This evidence is adduced through testimony and some limited cross examination by the prosecutor. Defending attorneys sometimes complain that this stage of proceedings is so obviously dominated by the prosecutor that they can literally set the agenda from the word go.

The finding of a probable cause then leads to the arraignment and assignment. The rules and practice in Chicago is to take no more than two weeks after the preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment. The presiding judge first assigns the defendant his trial judge. This is the senior judicial officer that will hear the case right through the determination of innocence/guilt, including the consequent punishment phase. The reason for using one judge are rooted in the need to ensure consistency and fairness. In any case, it is expected that the trial judge will have an intimate knowledge of the case which might become critical when handling matters of appeal.

Advice from Seasoned Attorneys

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.

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.

800px-Englewood_Chicago_1Chicago has struggled to get rid of its reputation as the murder capital of the world. Some would argue that Johannesburg in South Africa and some cities in Middle East would give Chicago a run for its money. However the reality is that there are far too many homicides in the state. It is almost always a narrative of poor choices, deprived backgrounds, and a criminal justice system that is hard-pressed to cope with the epidemic. Malik Causey is a case in point. Starting with petty theft and teenage rebellion; he ended up in a gang and was soon shot by a rival. His mother Monique Causey describes how she desperately wanted the police to arrest her son in order to keep him off the streets, and by extension the gangs that he had admired so much in his teenage years and then proceeded to join with disastrous consequences.

Although touching in its own right, this case is just one of the 91 homicides that were committed during August of 2016 within Chicago. This has been described as the deadliest month within the city for nearly 20 years. The current annual increase in homicides stands at 46% by some estimates. Chicago is way past the magic number of 500 homicides per year. For context, it is worth noting that the total killings in the city outweigh the combined total of New York and Los Angeles (no safe havens themselves if the crime statistics from there are to be believed). The more dramatic analysts have described this as a kind of massacre on American streets.

Finding the Root Causes of the Violence

450px-Bankrupt_computer_storeThe Illinois felony murder rule is a heavily debated topic. In fact, the Illinois law is one of the broadest in the country. The suspect of an armed robbery committed in Carpentersville, IL is being charged with murder because his accomplice died during the execution of the crime. U.S. Marshals apprehended the suspect, Bobby Heard, 32, in St. Louis, Missouri, according to the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.

At around 7:30 PM Heard and his partner, Kenyon R. Slater, 37, armed with handguns, broke into a computer store on the 1600 block of Ravish Lane according to Carpentersville police and prosecutors. After restraining two employees and pistol whipping one, the thieves grabbed cash and electronic equipment before fleeing the store. While Slater and Heard were fleeing the scene one of the store employees broke free, picked up a handgun, ran toward the thieves, and shot Slater in the store parking lot, according to prosecutors.

According to the Kane County coroner’s office, Slater, a Chicago resident, was driven to Sherman Hospital in Elgin, IL where he later passed away. Heard fled the scene in a vehicle that was driven by an unknown third suspect. A warrant was later issued for his arrest, charging him with a felony count of armed robbery and felony murder for the death Slater.

gunFirst-degree murder carries the highest sentence of any single crime in all of Illinois and is subject to the mandatory minimum statute. This means that those convicted are almost guaranteed at least a 20-year prison term, and if a gun is used the mandatory minimum jumps to 45 years. Felony murder is a one type of first-degree murder.

If someone dies during the commission of a forcible felony, those committing the felony can be charged with first-degree murder. You can be charged with felony murder even if the person died accidentally or was killed by someone else, as long as a forcible felony was being committed at the time. Illinois prosecutors have even successfully brought felony murder charges in situations where a co-felon was killed by the police. A forcible felony is defined as sexual assault, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery, and any other felony that involve the use of or threat of physical force or violence.

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