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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
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Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, ban the box law, Illinois recently joined four other states in passing legislation that forbids employers to ask about criminal offenses until after the person applying for a job is either selected for an interview or is hired. Despite the hope that this “Ban the Box” legislation will give some of the estimated 70 million adults in the United States who have a crime on their record a chance at a career, there are other concerns people have about their prior offenses. Many people are aware that there are processes in place in which a person may have a criminal history expunged, or erased from public databases.

Understanding Expungement

Expungement is not the same as a dismissal; it will not change the ultimate disposition of your case. Expungement is, however, an opportunity for you to remove your criminal past from public record and to help you move forward. According to the law, to expunge means “to physically destroy records or return them to the [person requesting the expungement] and to obliterate the [person’s name] from any official index or public record, or both.” Juvenile records may also be expunged in some circumstances once the juvenile is no longer a minor.

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Illinois Criminal Expungement and Sealing

At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we have helped many people remove arrests from their criminal record through expungement and sealing petitions. These petitions help people move on with their lives after they have made amends for their mistakes. However, we realized over the course of time that there are some problems with the statute that governs these petitions. Not satisfied to just excuse the injustice that a "loophole" in the law causes regular people, we have taken action by asking the Illinois legislators to close this "loophole".

Ordinance Violations are tickets or charges that are brought against an individual pursuant to local city or village laws. Unlike state laws, city or village laws do not provide for jail time as a punishment. Additionally, any fines collected by the courts from violators are paid to the local city and villages, which eases their budget constraints. Often times, it is up to the arresting officer as to how to charge the person suspected of a crime. Whether a crime is charged under state statutes or local city and village ordinances is often an arbitrary decision. Current statutes do not allow the expungement of Class C misdemeanors, when they have been prosecuted as Ordinance Violations. This results in the perverse effect of denying expungements to those persons who have been found guilty of the most minor of crimes, while those who have committed far more serious offenses may obtain the relief of having their arrest records removed from the public eye through the expungement and sealing process.

Illinois Criminal Offense Background

Criminal offenses are generally of three types: petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. Petty offenses cannot result in jail sentences or fines that exceed $1,000. Misdemeanors are further broken down into lettered classes, A, B, or C, decreasing in seriousness from A to C. Whereas Class A misdemeanors carry the full range of misdemeanor penalties, Class C misdemeanors are limited to at most 30 days in jail and up to $1,500 in fines. Additionally, many municipalities choose to prosecute their own misdemeanors under their local municipal code or village ordinances.

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Posted on in Bail

bail processSome people who have been arrested and charged with misdemeanors and minor felonies may be released on bail until the date of the trial for their crime. In most misdemeanor cases, the amount of bail is a standard amount that is set by state law, depending on the crime committed. If the defendant cannot afford to pay the bail, he or she will be taken for a bail hearing. The rule is different in domestic violence cases.

In cases in which a defendant is charged with domestic battery, the defendant may be released on bail that requires the defendant stay away from the alleged victim or their shared residence for at least 72 hours after the incident. If the defendant violates this condition of the bail, he or she not only forfeits the bail money but may also be charged with a separate crime by violating the no-contact bail condition.

In more serious cases, the accused individual will be taken for a bail hearing before a judge. Hearings to set bail are called “bail hearings,” and they usually occur in the Circuit Court in the county in which you were arrested. Visit the Cook County website or DuPage County website for more information.

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illinois criminal defense lawyerTo some residents of the state, one of the more nerve-wracking parts of Illinois law is the doctrine of accomplice liability. Under this doctrine, it appears that sometimes being merely present at the scene of a crime may make someone just as liable as if that individual had actually committed the crime.

For example, people may worry about being convicted of shoplifting if a companion shoplifts or they may worry about charges of assault and battery for merely “having a friend’s back” during a bar fight. Though under Illinois law it is not necessary for one to physically commit a crime to be convicted of that crime, the law does not impose a straightforward “guilt by association” rule either. Certain conditions must be satisfied before a companion may be charged as an accomplice to a crime.

Accomplice Liability in Illinois

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illinois entrapment defense lawyerAccording to Illinois Statutes (720 ILCS 5/7-12), entrapment occurs when an individual commits criminal conduct that “is incited or induced by a public officer or employee, or agent of either, for the purpose of obtaining evidence for the prosecution of that person.” The law is careful to state that entrapment does not occur when “the person was predisposed to commit the offense and the public officer or employee, or agent of either, merely affords to that person the opportunity or facility for committing an offense.” Individuals accused of certain crimes often have questions about what type of officer conduct rises to the level of legal entrapment.

Illinois Entrapment Law

In plain language, entrapment occurs when a public official encourages an individual to commit a crime that the individual would likely not have decided to commit on her own. The public official’s behavior must have been such that it implanted an idea to commit a crime into the alleged offender’s mind. Moreover, if an officer suggests that an individual commit a crime but that individual had already planned to commit that crime anyway, entrapment has not occurred.

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how to pick an attorneyIf you have ever searched for an Illinois criminal defense attorney online, whether for a simple traffic violation or a more serious charge, you know there are a lot of lawyers out there who claim they are able to do the job. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you also may already be aware that selecting a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can have a significant effect on your case’s outcome. Many of the lawyers you find will have professional-looking websites and helpful office staff and will otherwise seem competent to handle your case; but how can you really know you are in good hands? Helpful Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

  • Have you ever handled a case like mine before?  How much of your case load is dedicated to helping people in circumstances similar to mine?
  • What range of outcomes can you expect in a case like mine? (i.e. what is the best and worst case scenario?)
  • Can you explain what I can expect from each phase of the criminal justice process (such as during arraignment, pretrial and trial phases)? How long does it usually take to obtain a final verdict?
  • What is your office’s policy about keeping contact with clients?  When do you call clients and how frequently should I expect to meet with you?
  • How should I best reach out to your office if I need to contact you?
  • Do you have a good relationship with the criminal prosecutor’s office that is prosecuting my case? How often do you negotiate deals with this particular town’s prosecutor’s office?
  • How much do you charge and how do you calculate your fees?  When are payments for legal services due?
  • Which attorney from the firm will be representing me in court and what is his or her experience and background in relation to matters like mine?

Preparation for Your Criminal Defense Meeting Getting the most out of your experience with a new criminal defense attorney can be a two-way street. Many clients are pleased to know they can play a role in maximizing the efficiency of their meeting with a criminal defense attorney. One of the best ways to do this is to come prepared for the meeting ahead of time, with appropriate documents in hand, such as:

  • Any charging documents you received at the police station;
  • Any documents you received from the court that state your charges and the date of your next court appearance(s);
  • A police report (if you can obtain one);
  • Any paperwork the police gave you if your property or car was searched or if your personal items were retained by law enforcement officers;
  • Copies of any documents you signed while in custody; and
  • Photo identification, personal contact information, and emergency contact information.
  • If you possess additional information or documents that you believe can help in your defense, it may be helpful to bring these as well.

Contact Us Today At Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C., we understand that criminal defendants, especially first-time offenders, can feel overwhelmed and extremely anxious about the criminal process. We try our hardest to evaluate cases thoroughly and honestly and promptly keep our clients informed of all relevant case developments. If you would like to schedule a meeting with one of our criminal defense attorneys, call our DuPage criminal defense lawyers at 630-472-9700 to schedule a meeting.

illinois expungement attorneyIf you are an Illinois resident over age 18, any criminal trouble that you faced could follow you indefinitely. If you have been convicted or even if you have been arrested and the charges have been dropped, it may be possible for friends, family or even past and current employers to learn about this information.

Evidence of prior criminal convictions can affect your social reputation and the way current and future employers and social contacts may view you. Specifically in Illinois, some criminal misdemeanor or felony charges can lead you to become illegible to perform certain jobs, hold a liquor or lottery ticket license for your business or even operate a motor vehicle. These are just a few examples. The list of prohibitions that result from past criminal convictions, even minor ones, is extensive.

So what can a past criminal offender do to reclaim his reputation?

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illinoisRecently, Illinois Senate approved a bill, SB 977 that would expand the use of foreign language interpreters in criminal proceedings.  Formerly under Illinois law a juror would have to be county resident, age 18 or older, and “free from all legal exception, of fair character, of approved integrity, of sound judgment, well informed, and able to understand the English language.” The new bill seeks to remove the English language requirement for jurors in Illinois’s five largest counties.

Senate Bill 977 proposes a two-year pilot program in Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, and Will Counties that provides court interpreters to jurors in the select counties who do not speak English as their first language. Specifically, the bill states:

“If any juror's predominant language is not English, the juror may be accompanied by an interpreter. In the case of a non-English speaking juror, the interpreter shall be available throughout the actual trial and may accompany and communicate with the juror throughout any period during which the jury is sequestered or engaged in its deliberations.”

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illinois criminal defense lawyerDuring the week of May 19th, National Public Radio ran a series on its investigation into the practice of jailing individuals for unpaid debts to the criminal justice system.  Calling it the resurgence of “modern day debtor’s prisons” in America, NPR correspondents highlighted the effects these practices have on low income individuals who were fined for minor crimes.

They told a story of a 19-year-old father in Ionia County, Michigan who was fined 155 dollars for catching a fish that was out-of-season.  He was unable to pay the debt or borrow money to pay the entire debt, which had escalated to over 200 dollars by the time of the hearing.  Citing the need to have respect for the law even for minor violations, the presiding judge sentenced the man to jail time.  The story also covers an account of a 23-year-old mother of two who served an 11-day jail sentence for failing to make payments on a fine for driving without a license that escalated to 1,400 dollars.  In another segment, NPR correspondents summarized how serving jail time can destroy a defendant’s ability to keep a current job or get hired at a different job again in the future.

These stories illustrate to Illinois residents that failing to pay for fines and fees even when you are unable to do so is a serious matter that may result in jail time and the adverse social and employment related consequences that come with it.  Under Illinois law, you may be held in contempt of court and jailed for failing to pay court-ordered fines for criminal offenses.

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illinois underage drinkingAs the season for high school and college graduation parties rolls around, many parents and other party hosts face the difficult task of having to monitor their guests’ alcohol consumption.  Typically risks may arise with two types of guests: those who are intoxicated who may pose a risk to themselves and others, and guests under the age of 21 who try to consume alcohol. This article focuses on the second risk area regarding alcohol consumption of underage guests. If you are planning on throwing a party where alcohol will be served, it is helpful to keep in mind the risks and protections afforded by Illinois law.

Alcohol Consumption of Minors

Illinois criminal and civil laws work in tandem to deter and penalize party hosts, also known as “social hosts” from permitting underage guests to consume alcohol.

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crime in warm weatherAs warmer weather finally begins to reach the state of Illinois, residents call to mind thoughts of upcoming barbecues, festivals, parties and camping trips. Speaking from a defense attorney’s perspective though, warmer weather also brings about something else: a rise in violent crime.

Recent studies suggest that the rise in temperature in seasonal climates like Illinois accompanies a rise in violent crimes such as murder, rapes, assaults, and thefts. One study even goes so far as to suggest the temperature increase due to warming would trigger violent crimes to rise by one to three percent over the next century, with social costs estimated to run as high as $115 billion.

Increase in violent crime rates in warmer weather may occur for a variety of reasons. First, summer gatherings beget more opportunities for socializing, which in turn leads to a rise in social confrontations and tension. Second, given that a large percentage of violent crimes are perpetuated by juveniles, the onset of summer break may be another factor that contributes to the rise in crime. Third, police officers, like most other Illinois residents, simply enjoy the nice weather. Officers are more likely to work overtime, be more attentive while working, and accept assignments patrolling high crime areas, often by foot.

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dupage county criminal attorneyThe primary duties of a criminal defense attorney include protecting your rights and building a strong defense for your case that will allow for successful prosecutor negotiations or a dismissal in court. While the specific defenses that can be used against criminal charges vary depending on the specific allegations and details of each case, the following are some common defense strategies used by experienced Illinois criminal lawyers:

Learn the defendant's story. Sometimes, criminal defendants openly confess to the crime to their attorneys, while other times they completely deny involvement. In additional instances, a defendant may admit to only part of the offense, but provide an alternative explanation for their involvement. A qualified defense attorney will listen closely to what the defendant states and decipher the truth of what happened.

Compare the defendant’s truth with the prosecutor's "truth." Even if both the defense attorney and the prosecutor heard the same basic story regarding the events in question, they may each present the facts of what happened in two different ways. For example, a prosecutor may state a defendant punched their client because he or she was angry. However, a defense attorney may tell a different version, claiming that the defendant punched the accuser because he or she swung first and made them fear for their own safety. Explaining the facts and truth of a case in an alternate manner is an important skill for a defense lawyer.

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On Monday, August 12, 2013, the Obama administration revealed its plan to eliminate long-term mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses.  With U.S. federal prisons nearly 40% above capacity, with almost half of the inmates serving time for drug-related offenses, the goal is to reduce the length of a non-violent offender’s sentence, while simultaneously reducing the prison population and saving billions of dollars for the U.S.

Rather than following the current mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is recommending sending people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment programs and community service programs.  The intent is changing from convicting and incarcerating to getting help and treatment for the significant number of inmates suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Other efforts are also being made to take into consideration early release for those inmates convicted of non-violent crimes who are elderly or suffer from serious medical conditions and have already served a significant portion of their sentence.

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By now we have all heard the story and the apology of the Oscar-winning actress, Reese Witherspoon, about her embarrassing behavior during the recent DUI arrest of her movie-agent husband, James Toth.

According to CNN, Witherspoon was in Atlanta working on a movie entitled "The Good Lie".  While there, she was charged with disorderly conduct for interfering with the arrest of her husband on a drunk driving charge.

According to the arresting officer’s account, Witherspoon began to hang out the window of the car and say that she did not believe that he was a real police officer.  In response, the officer asked her to sit down and be quiet.  As the squad car video showed, Witherspoon did not follow the officer’s instructions.  Instead, she exited the passenger side of the vehicle that was being driven by her husband and continued to engage the officer.  She even attempted to avoid being handcuffed by the officer.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

With two months left to go in the year, Chicago homicides have already reached the 2011 total. Sunday night, around 11 p.m., Fitz Bariffe, 68, became the city’s 435th homicide victim of 2012.

Within one weekend, there were at least six people killed and an additional 14 wounded in gun violence.

It was reported that Bariffe had constructed a fence around his property to separate himself from drug deals, which is now being looked into as a possible reason for his death. The other shootings during the weekend all victimized men ranging in age from 20-35.

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A confession in a criminal case must be backed up by independent evidence, but that evidence doesn&t need to match the confession detail for detail, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

A unanimous court upheld the predatory criminal sexual assault conviction of a Cook County man whose admission, which he later retracted but which was presented to the jury, told a more serious story than that related by the then-8-year-old victim.

Jason Lara confessed to digitally penetrating the genitalia of the girl, whom his mother was babysitting, on two occasions in 2005, when he was 19. But the victim testified that Lara had only touched her on the surface.

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An Illinois man, who was communicating with a 14-year-old girl on the Internet, is facing a second-degree felony charge after a sting operation by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office was completed in the Katy area Tuesday night.

James Wean Jr., 49, is charged with Attempted Aggravated Kidnapping after being arrested near a gas station in the 3500 block of Pin Oak at about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012.

For the past two weeks, Wean has been communicating online with a Sheriff’s Office Special Crimes detective posing as a teenage girl. Wean drove to Texas from his home in Pearl City, Ill., which is a small town southwest of Springfield, Ill., near the border with Missouri.

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