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underage, underage drinking, Illinois Juvenile Crimes Defense AttorneyIn Illinois, it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21-years-old to consume, be in possession of, or deliver alcohol. Depending on the nature of the violation – as well as the charging agency – anyone found guilty violating the law faces punishment of receiving an ordinance violation, punishable by a fine, all the way to a Class 4 felony, which can be punishable by one to three years in prison. Under the state's’ Zero Tolerance policy, anyone under the age of 21 who is found guilty of consuming or possessing alcohol receives an automatic suspension of their driver’s license for three to six months – even if they were not drinking and driving.

If a young person is charged with underage drinking, it is important to consult with an attorney regarding defenses to the charge. For example, under the law, if the young person is drinking under the supervision and approval of at least one of their parents, then they cannot be charged with violating the law.

There have been several cases, however, where the court found that exception did not apply. In one case, People v. Finkenbinder, a 19-year-old who lived at home with his parents had his mother’s permission to consume alcohol at a family party his parents were hosting at their home. The mother and son were not in the same rooms of the house during the entire party, but the mother said she witnessed her son drink two to three beers. At approximately 3 a.m., the young man was arrested by a police officer who found him walking the streets. He admitted to the officer he had been drinking. The officer performed two breath tests; one test read .09 and the second .097. The young man then admitted to having shots of alcohol, in addition to three beers. The court ultimately ruled that the underage drinking law exception did not apply to this case since the mother was not only unaware her son had consumed the shots of alcohol, but was also unaware that he had left the house.

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speeding, work zone, Illinois criminal defense attorneyAlong with the warm weather comes road construction. Whether it is a road requiring repair from the ravages of winter weather, or the expansion of an existing roadway, Illinois drivers can count on seeing the orange cones all over the state during the spring, summer, and fall months. They can also count on severe penalties for ignoring the state’s rules for driving in road construction zones.

Under Illinois law, a road construction zone requiring decreasing the posted speed limit is one in which either the Department of Transportation, Toll Highway Authority, or other local agency has posted signs which alert drivers that they are approaching a maintenance or construction speed zone. Such a zone also includes areas in which one of the aforementioned agencies has posted signs stating that the established posted speed limit is not safe or reasonable due to current or expected conditions in the area.

However, in order to be in compliance with the law, the signage which posting agencies use must fall within the guideline of the statute. The sign must be of an approved design and must clearly state that the driver is approaching a road construction area. The signage must also indicate what the maximum speed limit allowed in the road construction area is, as well as what the minimum fine could be for failing to comply.

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statute of limitations, sex crimes, Illinois criminal defense attorneyA bill which would extend the statute of limitations for certain sexual offenses has passed through the Illinois Senate and is now heading to the House for consideration. House Bill 1418 passed by a unanimous vote of 51-0.

The crimes which would be considered sexual offenses under the proposed bill are armed robbery, home invasion, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnaping if they occur during the commission of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

A statute of limitation provides the period of time in which a person can be charged with a crime. The countdown begins the day the crime is committed. The statute of limitations depends on the particular law pertaining to the specific charge in question. Once the amount of time prescribed by law has passed, a person can no longer be charged with that crime.

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FBI, flawed testimony, DuPage County criminal defense attorneyMany criminal trials involve the presentation of evidence which has been analyzed at a law enforcement laboratory and is then offered into testimony by a person who is somehow associated with that laboratory. Our legal system is based on the fact that the expert is qualified in performing that analysis, and that the testimony, which is then entered into evidence, is based on knowledge and truth. However, a recent admission by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) decades of flawed FBI testimony raises questions on the legality of hundreds – if not thousands – of guilty convictions.

According to a statement released by the DOJ, there have been approximately 1,500 cases identified as requiring a review after determining that FBI experts from the agency’s microscopic hair comparison unit who testified at these trials overstated the existence of positive forensic matches. So far, the DOJ and FBI have reviewed 342 cases and found that the FBI provided flawed testimony in 268 trials. In 95 percent of those cases, the flawed testimony was in the prosecution’s favor.

There are still another 1,200 cases that the FBI has identified as needing review, including 700 cases in which prosecutors and/or law enforcement had not responded to the agency’s request for transcripts from the trials and other information. The cases involved come from all over the country for over two decades. There are 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, in which state prosecutors and defendants are being notified of the situation in order to determine if these defendants have grounds for appeal. Four of the cases were tried in Illinois courtrooms. Thirty-two of the defendants who were found guilty were given the death penalty. Fourteen of those defendants have either already been executed or have died in prison.

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price switching, retail theft, Chicago Criminal Defense LawyerDo-it-yourself checkout lanes are becoming increasingly common in grocery stores and retail centers throughout the country. Self checkout systems allow for retailers to maintain more open checkout lines while efficiently managing staff and payroll concerns. They also provide customers an alternative to waiting in extended lines to purchase just a few items. The convenience they offer may make self checkouts seem ideal for both customers and management, but retailers are finding that the machines may provide some shoppers an opportunity for illegal price switching.

Standard checkout lanes, when in use, are staffed by no less than one cashier per register. Self checkouts, on the other hand, are typically supervised in groups, with a single store employee responsible for as a many as eight separate units. This may not present a problem in most cases, as a vast majority of customers simply scan and bag their items, enter their payment, and are on their way. An individual with other intentions, however, may find the lower level of oversight a situation to be exploited.

Changing tags, or price switching, is a method commonly used to pay less than the appropriate retail price for an item by switching the Universal Product Code (UPC) or price tag with that of a less expensive item. With retailers relying on computerized scanning equipment, items are often scanned and bagged in standard checkout lanes without cashiers paying very close attention to the prices. In self checkout lanes, cashiers are able to devote even less attention to each customer. Thus, it may seem quite easy, for example, to take a UPC from one shirt and switch it with that of a lower-priced shirt. At the self checkout, the switched tag is scanned, the shirt goes in the bag, and the individual pays the lower price, all without attracting notice from the computer system or store personnel.

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Illinois weapons laws, DuPage weapons defense lawyerThe State of Illinois boasts some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country. In 2010, a controversial case stemming from Illinois litigation led to the United States Supreme Court. This decision, McDonald v. Chicago, placed an emphasis on Second Amendment Rights (where we get the “right to bear arms” from) and shut down what had been a long-standing ban on gun possession in certain areas. The Illinois legislature responded by implementing more stringent requirements for gun ownership, including requiring background checks, fingerprinting, fees, and mandatory gun training classes.

Despite the rules presently in place, gun violence is still a monumental problem on our Chicago streets. With more than 500 murders taking place on Chicago streets in 2012 alone, Chicago has some of the highest gun offense numbers in the country. Not only are the numbers high regarding murder rate, but also for unregistered weapons and unlawful possession. Also of grave concern is the fact that up to 60 percent of the unregistered or unlawfully obtained weapons found in Illinois are actually coming from other states, meaning it’s not necessarily that Illinois gun control laws are not working, but that people are still able to find ways around the laws.

Gun Charges in Illinois

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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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sealed record expungementWe all make mistakes, some of which involve the criminal justice system. Whether you were arrested, cited, charged, or ultimately convicted, your actions left a record somewhere. This record may make it difficult for you to obtain employment or housing, or may negatively impact your relationships. Regardless of how “minor” or how long ago a conviction may have been, that record will follow you forever.

The good news is that depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible under Illinois law to have this record removed from the criminal database in a process called expungement. Sealing a court record is also possible in some situations. Both offer different results, but each are important to understand if you have a criminal record you wish to have removed.

Differences Between Expunging and Sealing

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

drug paraphernalia IllinoisMany of us know of someone who has been convicted of some drug-related crime in their lifetime. Some of us may try to minimize the severity of the crime by suggesting that it was “just marijuana” or “just a little bit.” The truth of the matter is, it does not matter whether it is your first or fifth drug offense, whether it is marijuana or methamphetamine, or whether it is a bong or a needle. While each of these crimes vary in punishment under the eyes of the law, they each can have a significant impact on your future. Even if you are caught “just” possessing drug paraphernalia, without any drugs at all, you still may be subject to steep criminal penalties.

What is Drug Paraphernalia?

Drug paraphernalia, according to Illinois law, is all equipment, products and materials that are intended to be unlawfully utilized to plant, cultivate, prepare, inject, ingest, inhale, or use any synthetic drug or controlled substance. The full definition of drug paraphernalia is part of the Illinois Drug Paraphernalia Control Act. The drug methamphetamine has an entirely separate section and associated punishments under the act.

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IllinoisLong after the 16 year old thrill of having a driver’s license for the first time wears off, people often forget the amount of responsibility we hold behind the wheel. We have obligations to other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and our own passengers. We must always be alert, and we must discontinue phone use when driving, stop playing with the GPS, and certainly stop fiddling with the iPod. Our thrill turns from fun into responsibility, from exciting adventures with friends to a monotonous commute to work.

It is easy to take this seemingly simple thing, our driver’s license, for granted because we rely on it every day. What if you had one too many speeding tickets and suddenly could no longer drive to work or drive your children to school? Did you know that your license could be suspended if you have three traffic ticket violation convictions within a 12-month period?

This is a reminder that driving is a privilege, and your license can be revoked or suspended by the state of Illinois for any number of things. This is also a reminder that there are legal measures you can take before your small mistakes become big problems.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

sexual abuseThe crime of child sexual abuse carries an enormous stigma. This is particularly true where the allegations arise between a child and a person of influence in the child’s life, such as a parent, coach, counselor, or teacher. In criminal prosecutions, the child’s word is often taken over the educator’s. Regardless of the circumstances behind the situation, even being accused of child sexual abuse can severely negatively affect one’s life. Convictions could lead to sex offender registries, restrictions on living arrangements, and loss of employment. In other cases, convictions will lead to hefty prison sentences.

Criminal Sexual Abuse Versus Criminal Sexual Assault

In Illinois, there are two primary crimes often associated with child-educator sexual abuse allegations: sexual abuse and sexual assault. In short, sexual abuse involves touching, but not penetration. The more serious offense of criminal sexual assault must involve penetration to be convicted. Sexual assault may include touching through clothing or fondling the victim’s sexual organs. If the victim was someone subject to the accused’s authority (i.e. a teacher), the penalties can be more severe than other types of sexual abuse.

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Illinois sentencing guidelinesOne of the obvious first questions criminals have after being arrested is “how long will I be in jail?” The answer to that depends on a host of factors, including the crime, the circumstances, the accused’s criminal history, whether the accused is a juvenile, and where the crime was committed. Most cases are tried against criminals in municipal, city, or state level courts. Federal crimes are more serious and carry much stiffer penalties associated with them than state crimes. Federal crimes usually involve more than one state, or illegal items such as weapons being transported from one state to another.

A Brief History of Sentencing

Congress formed an agency entitled the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984. The Commission was tasked with implementing a new sentencing scheme to improve uniformity and fairness in sentencing practices. Before the creation of this Commission, judges nationwide enjoyed vast discretion in sentencing, a sentencing scheme known as indeterminate sentencing. Judges ultimately got to consider the circumstances, the criminal’s history, and anything else they deemed relevant in making sentencing decisions.

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property crimeWhen you think of “property,” your mind likely goes straight to your house, apartment, or land. Keep in mind that there are actually two types of property: personal property and real property. Real property is anything that is attached in a permanent state to land, while personal property is everything else. Personal property can be tangible, i.e. a cell phone, or intangible i.e. securities (stocks and bonds).

The Felony Class System in Illinois

Regardless of whether the crime committed involves real or personal property, being convicted of these crimes can have severe consequences. For example, in Illinois, a residential burglary conviction is a Class 1 felony. which requires a sentence between four and 15 years. The class system in Illinois provides for four “classes,” plus a fifth, “class X,” which was recently added to the system. Class X is considered the most severe, followed by Classes 1, 2, and 3. Class 4 is the lowest level felony, meaning it carries the shortest sentences. However, it is still a felony, which means it can have a significant impact on one’s future personal and professional life.

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white collar crimeThe biggest misconception about white collar crimes is that they are committed only among the wealthy. Anyone, from any socioeconomic background, within any demographic, can be susceptible to being involved in white collar crimes. These crimes are financially motivated, but may also involve taking clients from other businesses unlawfully, shifting accounts, reallocating resources, committing fraud, or unlawfully receiving government aid.

White Collar Criminals Can Be Anyone

Though the media focuses its attention on politicians, business moguls, celebrities, judges, and other individuals in “high powered” positions, it is not just the wealthy committing white collar crimes. For example, critics slammed the Social Security Administration for failing to adequately screen people before providing or continuing financial benefits. If someone is collecting government funds and their condition changes (i.e. they no longer are disabled, they return to work, or their medical condition improved), those people are under an obligation to notify the authorities of their changed status. Unfortunately, at the expense of taxpayers and honest recipients who dutifully report changes, thousands of people are collecting benefits that are no longer, or were never, eligible.

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sign and drive lawAccording to a recent press release from the Governor’s office, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn enacted new legislation to end the practice of requiring Illinois drivers from having to post their driver’s licenses as security for certain traffic offenses under the Illinois Vehicle Code. Formerly, Illinois drivers given a citation for certain offenses had to relinquish their driver’s licenses to police until their fine was paid or until they attended a required court appearance.  When the new legislation, called the “Sign and Drive” law, becomes effective, motorists will only need to give their signatures as a promise that they will comply with terms of the citation and will pay their fines or appear in traffic court as required.

Drivers Can Now Keep Their Licenses

These charged drivers will be permitted to hold onto their driver’s licenses and use them for identification as needed. As before, drivers who do not comply with the terms of citations may still have their licenses suspended. Illinois’s “Sign and Drive” law was first proposed by State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin), and State Representative John D’Amico (D-Chicago).

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misdemeanor IMAGEIn Illinois, misdemeanors, like felonies, come in several classifications, depending on the type of crime committed. If you have committed several violations of the law, you may be charged with multiple misdemeanors. Regardless of the charges, you should seek experienced legal counsel capable of addressing the criminal charge or charges.

Misdemeanor Classifications

In order of most to least severe, the misdemeanor classifications in Illinois are: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Information relating to Class C misdemeanors can be found at 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-65, but generally the sentence for this charge is not more than 30 days. The resulting fines are up to $1500 for each offense, or the amount specified for the offense, depending on the larger amount. Class B misdemeanors are addressed at 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-60, and the sentence that a conviction carries is not more than six months. The resulting fine will not be greater than $1500 for each offense, or the amount specified for the offense, also depending on whichever is greater. Class A misdemeanors are the most severe. The provisions for Class A misdemeanors can be found at 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55. The sentence of imprisonment will be less than one year. The fines are up to $2500 for each offense or the amount specified for the offense, whichever is greater.

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In Illinois, the Child Passenger Protection Act guidelines state that all children under the age of eight must be secured in a child safety seat. When police saw a car full of people with two children in the vehicle who were not in car seats or wearing seat belts, they immediately pulled the driver over. Officers were shocked at what they discovered. One of the children, a three year old girl, was holding what turned out to be loaded handgun.

When one of the officers tried to coax the weapon away from her, the child threw the gun to the floor of the vehicle. The weapon was identified as a 9 mm handgun and contained eight live rounds. Police reported that at no time did the gun discharge.

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