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credit card fraudTheft. Fraud. Misappropriation. Possession. Receipt. All of these terms have legal significance under the Credit and Debit Card Fraud Act of the Illinois Criminal Code. While the broad term of credit card fraud encompasses an array of specific crimes, credit card fraud is generally defined as a person using, obtaining, possessing, selling, or buying a credit card bearing a false number or a number that does not belong to him or her. Misusing a credit card that has not been lawfully issued to you is a serious crime that may lead to federal penalties.

What Constitutes Credit Card Fraud?

Credit card fraud comes in many forms. Some of the most common, as laid out in the Illinois Credit and Debit Card Fraud Act, include:

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crime victims& rightsThis year’s November election brought favorable news for crime victims’ rights. Among other important topics, such as voters’ rights, minimum wage reform, and education spending, came the proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution to strengthen the preexisting Illinois Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.

This new legislation is aimed to increase transparency and to provide access to information to crime victims about court proceedings, hearings, and sentencing. Among the rights granted by Section 8.1 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution include:

  • The right to be free from harassment, intimidation, or abuse throughout the criminal justice process;
  • The right to notice and a hearing before access to certain personal information can be given to attorneys about a victim of a crime;
  • The right to communicate with the prosecutor handling the case;
  • The right to speak at any time a decision regarding the victim is involved, or during post-arraignment release, plea, or sentencing decisions;
  • The right to be protected from the accused during the criminal process;
  • The right to be present at all court proceedings permitted by law; and
  • The right to timely notification of all such proceedings.

Notably, the new amendment adds an enforcement provision, stating that the victim has standing to assert these rights. Standing essentially means someone has a personal stake in the outcome and should be able to participate in the legal process.

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gun violenceRegardless of your opinion of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent gun control proposal, it cannot be denied that gun violence is still a problem in Chicago. Just recently, guns injured four people at three separate shooting sites around the city. Although all of the victims are still alive, no one is in custody for any of the incidents. These acts are among the many reasons the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago announced this summer that a new Violent Crimes unit would be added to the department list. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still significant work to be done.

Our lawmakers, communities, and politicians continue fighting the battle against gun violence in Chicago, but the crimes nonetheless go on. The Chicago Tribune has an informative infographic that displays crime patterns over the past decade and a half, showing the tremendous impact gun violence has in our communities. The west and south side areas of Chicago are disproportionately affected by gun violence, as demonstrated in a special report on Chicago shooting victims. Young people, even children and teenagers, are also disproportionately affected by gun violence in Chicago as well.

The swiftest proposals to lessen gun violence in our city came from the concealed carry ban. A tried and failed attempt at preventing concealed weapons in Chicago was the most notable of recent efforts. People who are eligible to obtain a concealed carry permit must apply, obtain a license, be fingerprinted, and go through a host of processes before they can bear arms in public. One of the most troubling effects of this legislation, though, is the amount of unregistered guns used in our streets. Some critics speculate that the stricter the gun laws get, the more gun violence there actually is. With the amount of unregistered weapons increasing, statistics become more difficult to keep up with, making reports inaccurate or incomplete.

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accused-rights-crimeBeing taken into police custody for the alleged commission of a crime can be a harrowing experience. An individual may be isolated by themselves in a questioning room and forced to stay alone for long periods of time, and some of these accused individuals may not even know why they have been taken into custody in the first place. When it comes time for the actual police questioning, people may already feel vulnerable or intimidated due to the feeling of being trapped that sitting in police custody sometimes brings about.

In some cases, police officers use overly harsh questioning tactics during an interrogation. An interrogation occurs when a law enforcement officer questions a person about a crime. In extreme examples, these harsh tactics might include subjecting the individual being questioned to physical violence or the threat of violence, inaccurately threatening the individual’s or a loved one’s freedom or excessively withholding food or essential comforts during the questioning process.

These harsh tactics may violate accused rights, and may force people to confess to actions they didn’t do in order to get the abusive behavior to stop. An excessively coercive environment may confuse innocent or guilty people, causing them to misspeak or say things they wouldn’t otherwise have said with a clear head. In addition, police may unfairly elicit a confession from people who aren’t thinking clearly because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the interrogation.

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illinois criminal defense representationSome local Illinois residents facing criminal charges attempt to handle their own case in court without the aid of a criminal law attorney. No matter what the rationale for trying to represent yourself may be, it is critical to understand the many pitfalls of this approach. The criminal justice system is quite complex, and every case requires a mix of legal expertise, procedural acumen, and familiarity with techniques of advocacy. As a result, it can be almost impossible for a defendant to navigate the system successfully without the guidance of an attorney.

In most cases, self-representation seems like the best option for financial reasons. When making these decisions though, it is critical to think long-term. What decision will best position you to get beyond the immediate challenges without loss of your freedom or permanent damage to your reputation? In many cases, protecting your future interests requires the experience, skill, and advocacy that only a criminal defense attorney can provide.

Common Reasons for Self-Representation

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illinois rape defense lawyer“Date rape” is a common term used to describe an alleged sexual assault that occurs between two people who know one another. Often defendants are accused of date rape by someone with whom they were previously or currently in a relationship. At other times accusers are simply friends or acquaintances of the alleged offender. Date rape accusations can also stem from encounters at parties, especially among college or high school students.

The colloquial term for these accusations leads some to mistakenly believe that date rape is not as serious as other sexual assault charges, perhaps not carrying as severe of consequences. This assumption is a mistake. Date rape charges are very serious, and must be defended against vigorously to protect your future.

Understanding What Is Considered Rape

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expungement, criminal record, sealing your record, criminal history, Naperville criminal defense lawyerThere are several different types of misdemeanor crimes in Illinois. From the possession of small amounts of drugs to disorderly conduct, and many other crimes, local residents are routinely charged and convicted of misdemeanors. While not as serious as felony offenses, misdemeanors still come with big fines and the possibility of spending up to a year in jail.

Unfortunately, a criminal record of any kind--including those with misdemeanor charges--will have a lasting impact on one’s life. Even if the charges against you were dismissed, an arrest record remains and is public information,  impacting  your reputation years down the road.

Fortunately, there are legal tools available to wipe the slate clean or at least ensure information about past transgressions is out of the public eye. In certain situations, Illinois law allows residents to expunge or seal their criminal records.

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The Chicago Sun-Times reported a story about a new policy that the Chicago police have recently started following. On July 17, the Chicago Police Department stopped releasing gang members from stations on no-cash bonds for misdemeanor arrests. If the suspects cannot make their bond amount, they will have to wait in jail until going to court.

To put it simply, the new policy follows a ”keep them locked up until they pay up” idea, which will allow the criminals to have a cooling-off period before returning to streets if they do not have the cash for their bond. The idea came from Chicago P.D. officers, says Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. The officers had expressed concerns about gang members making it back to the streets after misdemeanor charges before the officers can finish their paperwork.

More than 1,300 gang members across the city have been denied no-cash bonds, which are also known as I-bonds or recognizable bonds, and for the suspects that do not possess enough cash for their bail, it means sitting behind bars for up to 48 hours at times.

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McLean County State's Attorney Ronald Dozier has decided the current unlawful use of a firearm law is unconstitutional. He says his office will no longer prosecute people in trouble only for carrying a firearm and not for using it.

He states the Mclean County State's Attorney's Office will no longer enforce parts of the law that criminalizes law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights.

"I just simply commend him for coming forward with that," said Edwards County State’s Attorney Mike Valentine. On the same day, Valentine released a statement in support of Dozier, hoping Mclean County’s steps draw attention. "Every other state in the union has some sort of provision that allows citizens to bear arms,” said Valentine. “I believe all those other states can&t be doing something wrong."

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Prosecutors claim that 50 year old David Hatyina had been using alcohol and cocaine before driving a boat that struck and killed a 10 year old boy onPetiteLake. Hatyina has been charged with five counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol that resulted in death, and two counts of reckless homicide in the July 28 death of Tony Borcia.

The young boy and his 12 year old sister had been tubing behind a boat their father was driving. Waves caused the boy to fall off the tube and into the lake. His father turned the boat around to pick him up, but Hatyina appeared with his 29-foot Baja speed boat, driving it right towards Tony, ignoring attempts from the boy’s older siblings to get his attention to stop. Instead, Hatyina kept on driving and plowed his boat into the boy, killing him.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Blood samples showed that Hatyina had taken cocaine just hours before the accident and that his blood alcohol content was between .09 percent and .128 percent at the time of the crash. Witnesses told police that before the accident, Hatyina had been speeding his boat on the lake and had almost caused several accidents with his reckless driving.

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Eight and a half years after his wife's death, former police officer Drew Peterson is taken to court on a murder charge. Peterson is accused of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, by drowning her, and he also remains under investigation in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

The Peterson murder trial had been postponed by two years, and Will County, Illinois, State's Attorney James Glasgow said that the prosecution is anxious to get to trial. Peterson's attorney said the state's theory about the murder is implausible at best, and that he is going to show it. The Peterson case has a long background story to it, and a recap of it can be found at the CNN website.

Peterson was still married to Savio, his third wife, in 2001, when he started an affair with a 17-year-old Stacy Kales. Savio and Peterson filed for divorce, and later on Kales became Stacy Peterson and gave birth to Peterson's fifth child in 2003. Savio and Peterson had a history of domestic violence, and Savio's relatives have later said she had been worried that Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident.

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Joheidi Martinez, 30, of Chicago, drove herself to a hearing at the Skokie Courthouse, but she was taken away in handcuffs. Martinez did not arrive at the courthouse alone. She brought along her eight year old goddaughter and two dogs. And police say she left the child and the dogs alone in her car for over an hour.

According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, a witness told a deputy at the courthouse that a child and two dogs had been sitting in a car parked in a parking garage adjacent to the courthouse for over an hour. The deputy found the girl and the dogs in a gold four-door sedan parked in the parking lot. The child told the deputy that she was waiting for her godmother to come back.

Authorities tracked Martinez down in the courthouse and she claimed that “didn’t realize how long” she was gone or “how hot it was outside.” The Sun reports that the temperature and heat index was in the low eighties. Although neither the child nor the dogs were injured, the Department of Children and Family Services were called in to investigate the incident. Both the little girl and the dogs were released into the custody of the girl's mother.

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According to the Chicago Tribune, when Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein was with the Boston Red Sox organization, Kathleen Kearney was accused of crossing the line between enthusiastic fan and stalker. In April and May of 2010, police in the Boston suburb of Brookline, where Epstein lived at the time, were hired on eighteen different occasions to keep watch over his home. However, no charges were ever filed by Massachusetts authorities against 44 year old Kearney.

It’s a different ball game for her in Chicago. She has been charged with two felony counts of stalking and her bond was set at $75,000 after she was arrested two blocks from Epstein’s Lakeview home.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Massachusetts woman showed up at Epstein’s home about10 a.m. and introduced herself to Epstein’s wife, Marie, even referring to her by name. Marie Epstein thought the woman was a neighbor and the two began chatting. Marie became concerned, however, when Kearney began discussing personal details of the Epstein’s lives, including the age of their son Jack and also shared that she had a birthday gift for him. After Kearney left, the authorities were notified.

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Law enforcement typically have endless classified databases at their disposal where they can enter a suspect’s name to see if the person has any kind of criminal record, warrants, violations, etc. But in the case of Ronnell Jones, it was a search on Google that led Chicago police to discover that a routine traffic stop had netted them a suspect wanted on a 2010 Yonkers, N.Y. gang related double murder.

When police pulled over the vehicle, Jones, who just turned 24, was in the back seat and in possession of both a gun and an open container of alcohol. His behavior immediately made the arresting officers suspicious. According to Chicago Police Commander Kevin Ryan, in an interview with CBS Chicago, “The male subject refused to answer any questions, refused to identify himself, was almost flippant about the fact he said ‘Print me and find out who I am.  Jones eventually told police his name and birth date. It was that information that they punched into Google’s search engine.

They discovered a photo and an episode of ‘America’s Most Wanted’ which had featured Jones. The show had shared with its viewers that Jones was known to evade authorities by dressing as a woman.

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The Chicago Tribune reported a story about a middle-aged woman who was abducted from a Blue Line train in Chicago. Police are looking for information from the public to help them find the two men in their twenties who forced the 52-year-old woman off the train at gunpoint. The men took the woman to a nearby apartment and assaulted her sexually.

The woman met the two men when she got on a CTA train on the West Side at 530 South Kedzie Avenue on July 30 around 6:30 p.m., the police say. At the Northwest Side California stop, 2211 N. California Avenue, the woman was forced off the train at gunpoint, and after that the men took their victim to an apartment in the 2800 block of West Lyndale Street where the sexual assault took place, according to the alert from Area North Detectives.

Police released descriptions for the men, hoping the public would have information about the crime. Both attackers were black men in their twenties, 5& 10” and 6 feet tall, and weigh between 150 and 160 pounds. More detailed descriptions and contact information for Area North detectives can be found in the original Chicago Tribune story.

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At one time or another, everyone comes across a situation where you just don’t like or get along with a neighbor. But for one Lake Villa neighborhood, the disputes have escalated into accusations of stalking, criminal charges and an issuance of a restraining order. What makes this an even more headline grabbing story is that the defendant in this case is a state senator.

State Sen. Suzi Schmidt, 60, was arrested by deputes from the Lake County Sheriff’s office on June 12 and charge with misdemeanor criminal damage and trespassing. The accusations come from her next door neighbors, who earlier this month, filed for and received an emergency stalking no contact order which barred Schmidt from coming within 500 feet of their property. This order made it impossible for her to return to her home since the two properties are adjoined.

The neighbors filed for the emergency order, alleging that for over a year, Schmidt has been harassing them with phone calls, text messages and emails. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the couple claims that Schimdt believes that the woman was having an affair with Schmidt’s estranged husband. The woman has denied she was involved with Robert Schmidt, who filed for divorce shortly after a domestic dispute call to the Schmidt home on Christmas Day, 2010. Records show that police had responded to reports of domestic dispute to the home on two other occasions.

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A Naperville minister who has been free on a $250,000 bond since May 2010 may have to raise another $750,000 in order to stay out of jail. Howard Richmond, 51, was accused two years ago of swindling parishioners of the church he founded, Life Reach Ministries Worldwide, out of $475,000.

The church operated out of an Aurora storefront. Police say Richmond convinced three members he was borrowing the money from them in order to purchase land for the church. He allegedly paid a bank employee to produce fake financial documents, showing that Richmond himself had millions of dollars. Richmond was charged with a total of eleven counts of theft by deception, deception, financial institution fraud and continuing a financial crimes enterprise. One of his alleged victims, a doctor from Skokie, gave Richmond $400,000.

Richmond has now been accused of a new crime. He has been charged with deceptive practice/bad checks and conspiracy to commit a financial crime of more than $100,000 Prosecutors want his bail to either be revoked or increased to a million dollars.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

The controversy US attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald has stepped down as of Wednesday, June 27, 2012. He is most known for going after popular officials, governor Rod Blagojevich and Lewis “Scooter” Libby in corruption investigations. His resignation came as a surprise to Attorney General, Eric Holder. Holder received the phone call from Fitzgerald announcing his resignation only hours before informing it publicly he would be stepping down. Reasons stating he would be stepping down for personal reasons, unbeknownst to the public for now.

The position will not be left in foreign hands. Set to take his place is second in command as first assistant US attorney, Gary Shapiro. He is well experienced in the office serving for 14 years before taking this new acting position in Fitzgerald’s place. Gaining praising remarks from Fitzgerald, Shapiro has worked diligently fighting mobsters and corrupt political features. Before serving as the first assistant, he worked from 1984 to 1990 as the chief of office’s criminal division.

US Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk have a hefty job waiting for them to pick a permanent replacement. Hoping to compromise on a great applicant, both senators will pick 3 panel members. The panel will then review applicants and come to an agreement on the best fit for the position. This helps to ensure a bipartisan pick for the role. With the upcoming 2012 Presidential election, the replacement will take some time as the focus will be shifted for quite some time until the office is stabilized.

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The Seventh Circuit has decided John Wysinger was entitled to a lawyer when asking if he could call a lawyer. Based on the videotape given to the jurors, the tapes show Wysinger being read his Miranda rights in an ambiguous way according to the courts.  Instead of being read he could have counsel before and during the questioning, he was offered counsel before or during counseling. Wysinger reported he thought he had to choose between the two options of when to ask for counsel.

During the interrogation process, John Wysinger admitted to distributing cocaine and being involved in a drug ring. Even after admission the question arose as to whether this admission was taken in violation or not. The courts decided that in fact he had asked for counsel and was not granted any. Wysinger argued this act violated his 5th amendment rights to have proper counsel. The courts said any video taken after asking for counsel would not be permitted. This included his admission of guilt in both distribution and activity in the drug ring.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

The Supreme Court ruled on June 25th that it is no longer constitutional to sentence juveniles to a mandatory life sentence without parole when the crime involves murder.  Two cases came into play during the ruling. Not all judges agreed as the vote was split 5-4. Justice Elena spoke out for the majority saying the old law is “cruel and unusual punishment.” She then went on to talk about teenagers being capable of change.

Two cases were cited during the ruling. Miller vs. Alabama and Jackson vs. Hobbs played a huge part in the justices determining the meaning of the Eighth amendment.  In the case of Miller vs. Alabama, the teen set fire to a neighbor’s trailer after severely beating him. Due to smoke inhalation, the neighbor passed away. Miller was convicted of capital murder after the case was sent to adult court. The defendant’s attorney argues that Miller being only 14 should not be given adult consequences for his actions.

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