Articles Tagged with Chicago criminal lawyer

Three Chicago men chased down and forcibly detained a man after he allegedly committed robbery of a woman in the vestibule of a building. The three men tackled the alleged assailant and held him until police arrived. Although there is no indication that police plan to do so, under certain circumstances the three men’s actions could be considered crimes themselves.13904826266_ef045fab5c (1)

Chicago Vigilante Justice

People who prevent crimes are generally regarded as heroes. But there is a price to vigilante justice – just like the criminal justice system, sometimes innocent people are wrongly accused of crimes. That is why the law discourages citizens going out and “righting wrongs” and arrests them for their crimes – think fathers who murder their daughter’s abuser, or a brother murdering the people who killed his sister. Bringing assailants to justice is best left in the hands of the criminal justice system, where all of the evidence is brought before a jury to examine and make a decision on the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

In this case, it is unlikely that the prosecutor would file charges against the three men because their actions followed immediately upon the heels of the alleged crime. Most cases brought against vigilantes are done when their acts were done at some time following the crime, making them more deliberate, as opposed to a heat of the moment case.

That being said, what are some possible charges that could be brought against the three men who detained the alleged assailant, and what are the possible defenses?

Assault

Assault occurs when a person, without lawful authority, puts another in fear of bodily injury. The alleged assailant in this case no doubt feared for his safety as he was being chased by these three men. It’s not like they were chasing him to say hi, or return something he’d just dropped on the street. The minute they yelled and started chasing him, the assault was complete.

Battery

Battery occurs when a person, without legal justification, causes bodily harm to another, or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature. When the three men grabbed the defendant, that contact was sufficient to constitute a battery.

Unlawful Restraint

A person commits the crime of unlawful restraint if he “knowingly without legal authority detains another” person. In this case, the three men clearly detained the alleged assailant, holding him until police arrived. Their action was performed knowingly – that is, intentional – because they chased after him in order to catch and detain him.

Defense

The only defense to each of these charges would be if the men had “lawful authority” to chase and detain the defendant. Illinois law permits a “citizen’s arrest” if the person has “reasonable grounds to believe that an offense . . . is being committed.” In this situation, whether the men had legal authority would hinge on when their chase of the alleged assailant occurred. If it began before the crime was completed – for example, if they heard the woman yell while her purse was being stolen and began the chase – then they would have the legal authority required to make a citizen’s arrest. But if they gave chase after the defendant had already ran away, they would not, because a citizen is only authorized to make an arrest if the crime is being committed, meaning it has not been completed yet.

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Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are changing more than just how we communicate with friends and family. It is changing the way law enforcement and criminal defense attorneys handle their cases as well.

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The Oak Brook police department, for example, posts alerts on its Twitter and Facebook pages in real time, alerting followers to descriptions of suspects and vehicles to be on the lookout for. Law enforcement routinely comb suspects’ social media sites – many of which are wide open to the public – for evidence that could point to commission of the crime or fulfill the reasonable suspicion necessary to obtain a search warrant.

Law enforcement also uses social media in sting operations to catch child predators, having undercover cops pose as underage children in online chat rooms or other groups and arranging meetups. And a suspect’s updates can pinpoint his location to a specific time and location, which could help put him in the vicinity of the crime or, in the case of a defense attorney, could provide an alibi.

But while social media is changing the way police, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys obtain evidence and conduct their investigation, the evidence is still subject to scrutiny and must be collected in accordance with the same rules of criminal procedure that apply to other evidence.

Access to social media accounts. For example, law enforcement could not hack into your social media sites. If they want access to non-public information, they need to obtain a search warrant or have your consent to access the sites. If you have a shared account with another person – many husbands and wives share Facebook accounts, for instance – the other person could consent to law enforcement’s access of the account.

Hacked accounts. If the police find photographs or other evidence that tends to show the suspect was responsible for the crime, computer experts must be called in to examine the evidence to determine if it could have been posted by somebody else. Did the suspect have access to the social media site at the time the photo, status or other evidence was posted? Does somebody else have access to the account? Could the time stamp or location designation have been altered? Could the incriminating evidence have been posted due to spam?

On the other hand, social media sites give law enforcement the potential for unparalleled access to a suspect’s information that may seem sneaky, but are nonetheless legal.

Facebook friends. If your page is private, law enforcement can set up a fake profile and request to be your friend. If the friend request is accepted, law enforcement can use anything on your page as evidence without the need for a search warrant, because you invited them to look.

Off-site entry. Have you ever gotten a call from somebody claiming to be your computer’s technical support, asking for access to your computer to fix a “bug”? Law enforcement could try to access your computer that way as well, which could give access to your social media passwords. This may be considered legal access to your information, even though you wouldn’t have given them permission if you’d known who they really were, similar to if you allow a police officer into your home.

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A DuPage County man who was charged with the attempted murder of his mother was declared not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to up to 30 years in a mental institution. A DuPage County judge found the defendant mentally unfit to stand trial for the 2011 stabbing and entered the ruling. But what level of competency is required to stand trial, and what does it mean to be found not guilty by reason of insanity?

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Illinois Standard for Mental Fitness to Stand Trial

Under Illinois law each criminal defendant is presumed fit to stand trial. The criminal defense attorney has the burden of proving that, due either to mental or physical condition, the defendant is mentally unfit to stand trial because he does not “understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings” and is unable to assist in his defense.

Being mentally fit for trial does not mean that defendant will automatically be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Mental fitness to stand trial has to do with the defendant’s ability, at the moment of trial, to understand the purpose of the trial and assist in his defense. It has nothing to do with whether the defendant understands the nature of his alleged crime at the time of commission.

Mental fitness to stand trial can change over time. A defendant can be competent at the time of arrest but found incompetent – perhaps due to a subsequent injury unrelated to the charged crime – at the time of trial. Or a defendant can be mentally unfit when the crime was committed, such as if he suffers from a mental illness, but may be declared fit for trial once he is on a course of medication to keep his mental illness under control. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to seek a continuance of trial when a defendant is deemed mentally unfit to see if there is a possibility that he will regain the required competency to stand trial

Illinois “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity” Verdict

In order for a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity in Illinois, it must be proven that, at the time the crime was committed, the defendant lacked “substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct” as a result of a mental disease or defect. In these cases, the defendant was unable to recognize that his actions were wrong.

Like proving the defendant is mentally unfit to stand trial, the burden is on the defense to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant lacked substantial capacity to recognize that his actions were wrong, and should therefore be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecution still bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury finds the defendant committed the crime, it may then decide whether to find him insane. The issue of the defendant’s sanity cannot be considered unless the jury finds that he committed the crime.

As evidenced in the above case, being found not guilty by reason of insanity does not mean that the defendant walks free. Criminal defendants who have been found insane can be committed to mental institutions, sometimes for a pre-determined sentence, and in other cases until the defendant can be cured of the mental defect.

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A startling new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that Chicago police conduct more stop and frisks than any other police department in the nation. In 2014, the Chicago police conducted more than 250,000 stop and frisks that did not result in arrest, making the possibility very real that a vast number of them were unreasonable searches and seizures.

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Stop and Frisk in Chicago

The ACLU report indicates that 93 out of every 1,000 Chicagoans were stopped by a Chicago police officer in 2014. More alarming than their frequent use are the targets – 72% of all stops were of African-Americans, even though African-Americans comprise only 32% of the city’s population. They are more likely to be stopped in predominantly white neighborhoods as well. In the Near North District, which has only a 9.1% African-American population, they made up 57% of all stops.

I have discussed stop and frisks frequently on this blog, as they are one of the prime areas of police abuse and at the root of most unreasonable search and seizures. Under the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court Case Terry v. Ohio, the court ruled that law enforcement may stop any person on the street, provided the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has either committed, is in the process of committing, or is about to commit, a crime. Once the stop is complete, the officer may frisk the person only if he believes the person is dangerous or has a weapon.

While the courts over the years have carved out narrow exceptions regarding what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” – for example, loitering on a street corner does not generally rise to the level of suspicion necessary to justify a frisk, but officers can take into consideration the area when determining whether a person may be engaged in criminal activity – the rules are clear. While a person can be stopped for any reason, he cannot be frisked because he’s black walking through a white area. He cannot be frisked because he “looks” dangerous. He cannot be frisked because a crime was just committed in the immediate area, unless the person stopped matches the description of the suspect.

“Contact cards” filled out by police following such stops show that police are abusing their right to stop individuals. Chicago police officers complete contact cards for every stop that did not result in an arrest or charge, noting information about the person and the reason stopped. Information pulled from the cards shows that police are stopping individuals for dubious, if not completely unwarranted, purposes. And the fact that the cards are not completed if the stop did not lead to arrest or charges makes it impossible to accurately determine how many stops are of innocent Chicagoans.

The completed contact cards that were reviewed during the ACLU’s study show that many Chicago police officers have a poor understanding of what they are legally allowed to do during stop and frisk. This reinforces the fact that if you are stopped and subsequently arrested by police, even if they find illegal contraband during a frisk, you should not answer any question or make any statement until you have a lawyer by your side. Law enforcement is required to follow specific procedures in regard to search and seizures, and failure to adhere to those procedures can result in evidence against you being inadmissible at trial. But confess to committing a crime, even when the results of the frisk are later deemed inadmissible, and you will severely hinder the defense attorney’s ability to get the charges against you dismissed or win an acquittal at trial.

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An Indian Head Park man was arrested and charged with home invasion after allegedly gaining access to the victim’s home by impersonating a police officer and assaulting the man.

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Home Invasion: Separate Offense from Residential Burglary

While home invasion and residential burglary have similar elements – both involve unlawfully gaining entry into the home of another – they are two distinct crimes. Home invasion has the added element of unlawful entry of another person’s home knowing that at least one person is present in the home at the time of the invasion, or gaining entry by falsely representing himself to be someone else, with the intent to cause injury to the resident.

Like burglary, home invasion is a specific intent crime. The intent required for the crime applies to several different elements. In order to gain a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly:

  • Entered another person’s home;
  • Entered the home knowing that one or more people were present, and;
  • Intended to cause harm.

In defending against a specific intent crime such as home invasion, the defense strategy is to raise as much doubt as possible regarding whether the defendant had the necessary intent for each element of the crime. The defense would therefore examine all of the circumstances surrounding the case to find any evidence that would tend to disprove intent. Such evidence may include:

  • Whether the home subject to the invasion was in the vicinity of the defendant’s home. If so, we would want to examine whether the defendant was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, so that perhaps he mistakenly believed he was entering his own home, which is not a far stretch given some of today’s cookie cutter houses. If the defendant believed, even mistakenly due to his drunken state, that he entered his own home, his assault of the homeowner could not be considered intentional, since he would have believed he was protecting himself from a burglar.
  • Whether the defendant and the alleged victim knew each other and had any prior altercations. Is there any evidence to suggest that the two had had a verbal or physical altercation earlier that evening, and the fight continued in the victim’s home?
  • Whether the alleged victim assaulted the defendant first, prompting the defendant to retaliate in self-defense. The victim alleged that the defendant claimed he was a police officer to gain entry into the home. An examination of the victim’s history may show that he had outstanding warrants for his arrest, or past run-ins with law enforcement, so that his first reaction was to assault the “officer.”
  • Whether the defendant actually entered the home. If the assault is true, it cannot be a home invasion if the defendant did not knowingly enter the home. The defense would need to examine whether the initial assault took place on the front step of the victim’s home, and the defendant was pulled inside the home during the ensuing altercation. This would result in the charges being reduced, most likely to battery.

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