Articles Tagged with Chicago criminal defense lawyer

800px-One_US_dollar_note_0127_22-300x133The bedrock of the consumer protection laws in Chicago is the need to protect members of the public from unscrupulous business practices. Specifically, the law was written in response to consumer complaints that largely went unaddressed. It was noted that in some cases, the bureaucratic minefield of forms and procedures meant that consumers were unable to get to the decision-makers who might have made a difference. The laws were carefully designed in such a way as not to hurt the business community, a community that has contributed much to the prosperity of the state and its cities.

Putting the Consumer First

It is important to understand the fact that the law perceives the consumer to be a vulnerable entity that needs to be protected from powerful business interests. The “customer is right” ethos sometimes masks the manipulation of consumers in order to get them to spend more money on things that are most profitable to a given business. False advertising and even price mislabeling are common tactics. The consumers find themselves in a situation where they are effectively backed into unfair contracts. These arrangements are hard to exit without significant consequences for the consumer.

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

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

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

800px-Andaman_Celluler_Jail_Cell_Door_4150238-300x225There has been much public debate about how and why the law as it stands is relevant to the daily lives of people in America. It is therefore not surprising that the enactment of the Chicago law on unlawful restraint has exercised lawyers on both ends of the spectrum. Some perceive it to be a vanguard of protections from potential kidnappers. Others are less complementary and perceive it to be full of inconsistencies. This article considers some of the legal and practical issues that would be relevant to the work of a defense attorney in these cases.

An Overview of the Relevant Rules

First of all, it is important to note that the original conception of the law was designed to address those who held others against their will and without the appropriate authority. Therefore, this law is a precursor to the measures that punish various forms of kidnapping. The constituent elements of the crime include the prevention of free movement without proper authorization.

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,

3scbuulajgg-matthew-hamilton-300x200It is a nightmare scenario when a defendant is accused of having injured a police officer in the line of duty. Both the courts and probation office are reluctant to give defendants any benefit of doubt or leeway in such circumstances. The message is clear: You mess with public officials and the public will mess with you by way of aggravated sentencing guidelines. Although such cases are a true test of defense skills, it can certainly help to solidify some of the key aspects of criminal defense. Many trainer attorneys might benefit from handling such a case. The key ingredients of the crime are summarized in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05.

Understanding the Crime and its Ingredients

It helps to first understand the general crime of battery and then assess the aggravating features in as far as they relate to the current case. First of all, the defense team must take note of the important technicality that battery for these purposes excludes the discharge of a gun. That is an entirely separate crime with more serious consequences for the defendant if one of the victims was a police officer. In any case, there is a requirement that the defendant knowingly committed the constituent acts which include causing bodily harm or disfigurement. The harm clause also refers to permanent disability.

Pipes_01-1-300x200Broadly speaking, the law in Chicago gives the police power to search and seize items if and when they suspect that those items are relevant to the commission or investigation of a crime. However, some law enforcement agencies have abused this power resulting in the interventions of senior courts to determine what constitutes a legal search and seizure in Chicago. Defense attorneys may find themselves in a position where they are effectively prosecuting the law enforcement agencies for breaking the law. Typically, these complexities arise in the midst drug-related cases.

The Interplay Between Constitutional and Criminal Law

The Fourth Amendment has guaranteed Americans the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. However, that tends to focus more on the federal government overreach. Of course, there are those that push the law to its very limit by insisting that they are able to occupy public property without intervention from the state. That is why the law always includes a caveat of reasonableness which is open to interpretation and definition by the courts. The Fourth Amendment does not cover seizure by private individuals and therefore anyone that engages in this type of activity on their own authority is bound to encounter serious legal problems.

LAPD_Arrest_North_HillsClients who are involved with the criminal justice system in Illinois are understandably intimidated by the processes and rules. That initial panic is the main reason why so many defendants make a host of mistakes that come back to bite them later on as the case is disposed of. The first issue to consider is that of adequate legal representation. The state-appointed attorney should be a last resort if there are absolutely no alternatives save from self-representation.

In serious cases such as murder, rape, or assault the court insists on legal representation. If the client is unable to come up with representation, then an attorney or public defender will be appointed on their behalf. Unfortunately the quality of representation is not as high as would have been the case if you select your own attorney. In any case, it is important to understand the various stages of the criminal case processes so that you are not taken by surprise:

  • Making a criminal complaint: A victim of crime will contact the law enforcement agencies to get help. This normally via the 9-1-1 call. Later on the victim may decide to press charges. In some cases the law enforcement agencies will press charges even where the victim refuses to engage with the process. This is because in Illinois (like the rest of USA) crimes can be committed against the state.