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3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200If you were to ask any experienced defendant whether he or she would want to be represented by a public defender, the results might indicate a high level of unwillingness. This reluctance to place trust in a public defender is a consequence of years a negative reputation, which has been reinforced by a system that employs many people who have no business working in criminal justice, let alone any other helping profession. At the same time, we know that many of the people who are charged with a criminal offense do not have the funds to hire an expert attorney to represent them. The national statistics indicate an indigence level of about 80% amongst all arrestees.

Since poor people make up a disproportionately large segment of those who are arrested for felonies, the services of the public defender become an important cornerstone of the criminal justice system. Negligent and incompetent public defenders not only let down their immediate clients but also reduce public confidence in the system. This might mean that innocent people decide to abscond rather than take their chances with a system that has been shown to be unfair and unpredictable.

It is all too easy to write off the public defender as a practically failed attorney who cannot make it in the commercial world. We also question whether these defenders provide value for money. At the same time, we know that some public defenders are among the most committed and hardworking members of the legal community. What, then, is the problem that makes them yield such poor results? aspect of Chicago law belies the widely held misconception that theft is associated with only tangible things. Copyright theft or intellectual property infringements have attracted the attention of the Chicago legislature because they are a key component of the trade relations with major partners such as China. The economic impacts can be quite significant. The current law protects a range of potentially valuable items such as:

  • Mathematical Formulas
  • Practice Notes law of public indecency in Chicago is complex precisely because it touches on the interaction between personal freedom and societal norms. What some consider to be harmless exhibitionism may meet the statutory minimum for the crime of public indecency (see People v Reed). Generally speaking, society has condemned indecent exposure in public as an unacceptable occurrence that must be punished. Sometimes, however, people who are engaged in perfectly harmless activities are suddenly subjected to a complex criminal investigation under these laws. However, it must be noted that the law enforcement agencies in Chicago have used an even-handed approach in these cases.

Understanding How the Crime is Committed

The intent is important in determining whether the offense is a mere misdemeanor or whether it meets the criteria for a felony. It is not the case that indecent exposure is an infraction, although this is a widely held misconception of the law. You should not expect that you can get away with merely paying a small fine. In the worst case scenarios, you can get a substantial term of custody as well as compulsory registration on the sex offenders list. The provisions of 720 ILCS 5/11-30 set out the legal premise for the law as follows:

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.

800px-WashingtonWells_CTA_071230Even as the USA becomes more and more liberal when it comes to human sexuality, there are certain boundaries that are not to be crossed, such as outraging public decency as defined in the Chicago law. Indecent exposure is the nightmare waiting to happen for many commuters and park patrons. Although members of the public are generally aware that indecent exposure is socially unacceptable, they rarely comprehend the seriousness of the crime until they are experiencing it firsthand. In certain situations, this crime can become a felony with all the attendant consequences. There may be a few rare cases in which the police allow the offender to get away with a slap on the wrist, but those are not the norm. Not only do the sentencing guidelines include fines, they also make reference to long jail time.

Understanding Public Indecency Charges

The basic rules for public indecency charges are set out in 720 ILCS 5/11-30. There are a few things to note from the perspective of the defending attorney. First of all, the minimum age for criminal culpability in this context is 17 years, so age verification will be a key aspect of the defense strategy when appropriate. The conduct that falls under this law is varied, but there are a few important qualifiers and indicators of what is generally considered to be indecent exposure or public indecency in a prosecutorial context:

Marijuana_jointThe possession of marijuana in Chicago straddles the thin and ambiguous line between criminality and socially risky behavior (see The Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) 7-24-099). Some have reached the conclusion that the continued criminalization of marijuana in Chicago is against the public interest and represents a waste of precious police resources. For example the state attorney’s office in Cook County has already indicated that it will dismiss minor pot cases as part of their overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Others may wonder whether it is appropriate for a DA to have such wide discretion to the extent that they can effectively decriminalize activity that is criminalized under statute. In some ways the debate boils down to practicality and commonsense. If every single low level offense was prosecuted, the DA would never have the time to go after the big drug overloads. Moreover there is general public acceptance that there are people who use marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes without intending to or actually causing any harm to members of the public.

A Law in Suspense

AMBER_Alert_(17727122854)Kidnapping has often been one of those crimes that captures media headlines and the national imagination. The endless post-court investigations are a cottage industry in themselves. Illinois is not much different from other parts of the US in considering kidnapping to be a serious felony that attracts significant periods of custody as punishment. However, there are situations that are not as clear-cut as the law would have it. For example, in some cases the so-called kidnapper is a parent or guardian to the victim and the report is merely part of an ongoing custody dispute. It is generally accepted that this is one area of the law in which expert advice is of the essence. Most courts would not countenance a defendant representing him or herself in a case such as this in which the potential penalties can be stiff.

Parents and the Dirty Deeds of Divorce

It is not uncommon for warring parents to devise clever means of escaping unfavorable jurisdictions. A classic case in point is taking the disputed child out of the state so as to avoid being subjected to family court rules that are favorable to the other party. In effect it is a despicable abuse of the court process as well as the children involved. However, others might argue that it may be the only way for the aggrieved parent to maintain contact with his or her children. The courts have traditionally taken a strict view of parental kidnapping given the possibility that the victim may end up suffering serious consequences including death.

DNA_double_helix_45Justice delayed is justice denied, but in Illinois time can be a great solver of complex puzzles thanks to the use of DNA technologies. Recently there was a case in which a rape suspect was allowed to roam free thanks to a late identification of his DNA results. Criminal defense lawyers are also understandably concerned about the possibility that the interests of justice are not served best by inordinate delays. However there are instances where a delay could actually give the defense some space to mount a successful challenge to the evidence that has been presented by the prosecution.

The instant case was that of Javariee Reed (27) who was charged with sexual assault for an incident that occurred in 2007. The victim as 15-years old at the time of the incident and mentally disabled. The reason for the significant delay was the negligence of the South Suburban Police Department which had failed to act on information that was provided to it by the Illinois State Police about a possible DNA match. The case illustrates how a few mistakes on the part of the law enforcement agencies can lead to significant problems for not only the victims of crime but also criminal defendants.  

Running a Criminal Justice System Smoothly and Effectively

The definition of child endangerment in Illinois is broad and therefore child endangerment charges are filed under a number of different circumstances. Under Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/12C-5, a person endangers the life of a child if he or she knowingly:

  • Causes or allows a child under 18-years-old to be endangered, or
  • Causes or allows a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child’s life or health.

Earlier this month the Chicago Police, SWAT team, and EMS personnel were called to a motel in Edgewater after a man threatened to kill himself, reports However, another emergency responder was also present, Chicago’s crime fighting robot! The robot is a Remotec Andros F6A robot and the idea is that it will enable the police to perform remote operations on Improvised Explosive Devices. While the police robot in Edgewater was only on standby and the situation was resolved without its help, police robots in other parts of the country have been active and in one instance even used deadly force in the name of crime prevention.

Dallas Robot Kills Man in the Name of Crime Prevention

An article in the Chicago Tribune reports that the police in Dallas were the first in the United States to use a robot to kill a suspect by delivering and detonating a bomb. The article also indicates that other law enforcement agencies already have similar robots at their disposal and are willing to follow suit. The Dallas robot was called into action when a 25-year-old army veteran when on a rampage and shot 14 police officers and two civilians. The Dallas Police Department says that the decision to kill the suspect with the robot was made after police negotiator talks had failed. In this instance, the robot successfully detonated a plastic C4 explosive that ended the suspect’s life.