Articles Posted in Felonies

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.

Self-Defense Claims are Unavailable

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A Chicago man is being held on $2 million bond and is being charged with reckless homicide of an unborn child, among other charges. Bail was set at $2 million Saturday for a man accused of causing a Northwest Side crash that seriously injured a pregnant woman and killed her unborn child. On Wednesday, August 12, the Chicago man allegedly crashed into a parked Mazda Protégé in which the pregnant woman was sitting.

Fetal Homicide Laws in Illinois

Maybe you were not aware that you can be charged with murder if a pregnant woman’s fetus dies as a result of your action. Illinois statute defines and penalizes for intentional homicide of an unborn child, voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide of an unborn child, respectively. These statutes define an “unborn child” as any human individual from fertilization until birth.

An Illinois Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of an Illinois man on charges of criminal sexual abuse, finding that evidence of other sex crimes allegedly perpetrated by the defendant was inadmissible. Without that evidence, there was an insufficient basis for upholding the conviction.

People v. Puccini

The defendant, Leonard Puccini, was charged with criminal sexual abuse after allegedly spanking the bare bottom of a 12-year-old boy for his own sexual gratification. At trial, the court admitted evidence in the form of witness testimony from two older bofile000704919536ys (now adults), both of whom alleged that Puccini sexually abused them in the 1990s (though he had not pulled their pants down and spanked them).

Illinois law allows evidence of prior charges or accusations of criminal sexual abuse to be admitted at trial to show the defendant’s propensity for committing sex crimes. Evidence of other alleged bad acts is admissible only if the probative value of the evidence – meaning that the evidence will assist the jury in its determination – outweighs any potentially negative effect. The fear is that evidence of prior bad acts will sway the jury to render a guilty verdict based not on the evidence in the case, but because it paints a picture of the defendant as an overall bad person. Just because a defendant committed a prior similar act does not mean he committed the act for which he is currently charged, which is why the court must carefully consider whether the evidence will unfairly sway the jury to find the defendant guilty.

When weighing the probative value of evidence, the court must consider:

  • The proximity in time to the charged offense;
  • The degree of similarity to the charged offense; and
  • Other relevant facts and circumstances.

On appeal, Puccini’s attorney argued that the negative effect of the two witnesses’ testimony outweighed any potential benefit. No charges were brought against Puccini for the prior alleged crimes, and they allegedly occurred almost 20 years prior. In addition, the acts were not similar. The witnesses testified that, following the abuse, which allegedly involved Puccini touching their private parts, he then masturbated, thus fulfilling the “for his own sexual gratification” element of sexual abuse.

The testimony of the young boy in the present case was inconsistent on whether Puccini masturbated following the spanking. Statements he made to the police differed from what he said at trial, and his testimony that Puccini went into another room to sexually gratify himself after the spanking was not credible. The boy testified he only heard “tapping noises” in another room, and although he initially told police he thought Puccini had an erection, he admitted that he never turned around to look at Puccini after the spanking.

The Appellate Court noted that the trial court, in rendering its decision, relied solely on the testimony of the two adult males in determining Puccini’s actions were for his own sexual gratification. Yet the earlier crimes, if committed, were worse than the crime for which Puccini was currently on trial, causing the Appellate Court to rule that the prejudicial effect of the witnesses’ testimony outweighed any probative value.

Without the testimony of the two witnesses, the Appellate Court found that there was not enough evidence to support Puccini’s conviction. In this instance, the defendant cannot be retried – double jeopardy prohibits a defendant from being tried again in order for the prosecution to provide evidence it failed to produce in the first trial.  Continue reading