Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

zjrupeakpzi-aidan-meyer-300x200There are few issues that are guaranteed to raise legal temperatures higher than that of “justified police shootings.” Issues of outright racism and civil rights have come to the fore as a consequence of this specific issue. The media has played its role in sensational coverage, which often masks the serious legal issues at stake. You only have to read about the Laquan McDonald case to understand some of the complexities involved.

The fact that the law is not very clear gives leeway to all sorts of interpretation. The law enforcement officers have assumed (incorrectly) that the law is designed to cover them at every opportunity. Meanwhile, the courts are left somewhat hopeless by the experience of having to litigate and mediate that which is nearly impossible to handle fairly. The charged atmosphere also means that consideration has to be given to the practicalities of how the verdict will be received.

The Starting Point

benjamin-voros-160962-300x200One of the current and most insidious forms of harassment is cyber bullying. It is now recognized as a serious crime in Chicago and prosecutors are highly motivated to go for those that continue doing it under the auspices of instrument number 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5. The problem with such cases is the degree of difficulty in actually proving that everything happened as the victim described. Institutions such as schools have come up with bespoke policies that are designed to manage the risks. Some local ordinances demand such measures as a prerequisite to being licensed.

Some defense attorneys have expressed concern that the zeal to prosecute may lead to a violation of the defendant’s civil liberties. What was once accepted as normal conflict between and amongst teenagers is now a crime that can land someone in jail. Others point out that the resultant criminal record is an overly excessive punishment for the crime. On the other hand, it is noted that cyber bullying can lead to serious consequences for the victim including self-harm and even suicide on some occasions.

Key Ingredients of the Crime

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

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

mingyue-sun-153025-300x169The harrowing circumstances that typically surround a human trafficking case in Chicago means challenging work for a defense attorney. The crime tends to intersect with other serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault. That is why organizations like the Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation were formed in order to ensure that the victims get full justice. Chicago has adopted a two-pronged approach that complements local legislative arrangements with the provisions of the relevant federal law. At the same time the law enforcement agencies are paying a lot of attention to how the sex industry is directly and indirectly at the heart of these types of crimes.

Establishing the Factual Basis for the Prosecution and Defense

The process of gathering evidence is quite complex in these cases, which is why it is advisable to first consult with the best attorneys before presenting any defense. The fact that there is an aspect of conspiracy significantly increases the range of punishments that are available to the courts. The Illinois legislature has been coming up with new bills and amendments that are designed to cover the loopholes that were left behind by the federal law. Of particular interest is the use of the affirmative defense, one which is applicable in 28 other states. The law is contained within the provisions of SB 1588.

dsehnmrevfa-jeremy-paige-300x200The crime television niche has done much to highlight the intricacies of the solicitation of murder for hire. Like in all legal jurisdictions in the world, this is a serious crime in Chicago. It involves a certain amount of breach of trust by a loved one. For the media, it is a chance to revel in the wickedness of humanity, particularly if the story involves a faithless spouse who decides to put a lifelong companion to sleep. The rudiments of the crime are to be found in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/8-1.2.

Needless to say, this is a serious crime that leads to the death penalty in some states. It is also an infectious crime in as far as more than one person may face charges. The one that commissioned the crime and the one that executed it are both charged together with any accomplices. That is not even accounting for the ensuing public scandal that is backed by sensational media reporting. For the ambitious defense lawyer, these crimes are a boon in as far as they are a fast track to fame.

The Implications of the Charge and Conviction

sve4luszh70-ant-rozetsky-300x200Just like in many jurisdictions, Illinois takes vehicular hijacking to be a particularly serious crime as listed in the provisions of the legislative instrument number 720 ILCS 5/18-4. Upon conviction, the defendant can expect a term of imprisonment that ranges anywhere from four to 15 years. There are specific aggravating and mitigating features that the defense attorney should pay careful attention to.

If the judge believes that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating features, they can raise the sentencing range to six to 30 years. In exceptional cases, a whole life term may be imposed. Therefore, it is clear that this is the type of offense in which the court has wide discretion. It also means that the defendant will require first-class legal representation in order to bring the categorization down to the lowest end of the seriousness scale.

Procedural and Substantive Considerations in the Legal Framework

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,

800px-Seized_firearms-300x200One of the most common crimes in Chicago is that of the unlawful discharge of a firearm. This article focuses on some of the aggravating and mitigating features that might influence the sentencing process. It is important for the attorney to note that some of these features are precisely the points of argument that might be used to challenge a finding of guilt or sow seeds of reasonable doubt amongst members of the jury (see the procedures in the Gerardo Hernandez–Rodriguez case). Generally speaking, recklessness without malicious intent is treated more leniently than in situations where the defendant has deliberately gone out of his or her way to use a firearm to commit another crime.

Chicago remains one of the harshest when it comes to gun laws, even though gun crime continues to rise. For the courts all that this trend has achieved is to increase the level of aggression amongst lawyers on both sides of the case. One area of particular interest is the level of injury compared to the original intent of the assailant. Shooting in the air is considerably less serious than shooting at a crowd. Typically, the aggravated form of the crime is automatically upgraded to a felony, which significantly increases the risk of long term custody.

Key Issues in the Pre-Trial Phase

DSC06084-B2The rationale behind the laws relating to unlawful use of a weapon in Chicago are simple. First of all, they are designed to protect the public from harm by making it incredibly difficult and illegal to obtain a firearm. Secondly, the rules must take into account the perspectives of the gun lobby, which aims to take guns out of the hands of criminals whilst allowing unfettered access to the rest of the population. Recently there has been concern about mentally disordered people who may have no criminal record and therefore fully entitled to own a gun until they engage in mass killings. Those who deal with civil rights are not satisfied with the uneasy compromise because according to them the law is never blind in these instances. Ethnic minorities are likely to get stiff punishments for illegally owning a gun and yet when “white” defendants engage in mass murder; every effort is made (led by a compliant media) to find psychological defenses for them.

Preparing to Defend a Case of Unlawful Use of a Weapon

The attorney is expected to engage in what amounts to a background check of their defendants. This was particularly important in a high profile case that involved the gang-related drive-by shooting of Michael Arquero. The victim in this case soon turned into a defendant and the discovery was now all about proving that Arquero was not really as bad as his criminal record indicated. Using aliases he had been able to access weapons, highlighting the weaknesses of the entire system. The defense strategy that was chosen for the occasion was that of self-defense; one which sometimes requires the appearance of “clean hands” under the rules of equity. Following the investigation the prosecutors still accepted the prima facie case that Arquero had shot his attackers in self-defense although it appeared that he had no right to have a gun in the first place.