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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
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solitary confinement, Illinois policy, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyA federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has led to a settlement which will ban the practice of solitary confinement in juvenile correctional institutions in the state. This makes Illinois the twentieth state in the country to do so.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit, R.J. v. Jones, against the state in 2012 because of the serious conditions the organization says existed in Illinois juvenile correctional facilities. Instead of fighting the lawsuit, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice agreed to negotiate with the ACLU in order to come up with proposals to improve those conditions. One of the issues the lawsuit addressed was the use of placing children in solitary confinement as punishment, a practice which Adam Schwartz, senior lawyer with the ACLU of Illinois, calls “one of the most abusive practices used in prisons in the United States.”

There are currently approximately 700 juveniles who are being held in the state’s six juvenile correctional facilities and the new policy will apply to all six of those institutions. The policy requires that juveniles at these locations spend a minimum of eight hours daily outside of their cell. The only time a juvenile is allowed to be placed into solitary confinement is if the child has become a threat to others around them, but even under those circumstances, they may only be separated for short time periods. If a juvenile is placed in solitary, he or she will now continue to receive any mental health and/or education services throughout his or her confinement in isolation.

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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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stop and frisk, search and seizure, Illinois criminal defense lawyerIn March, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released the results of a study they had conducted regarding the Chicago Police Department’s activity when it came to stop and frisk practices.  The report was critical of the department, accusing the department of “misuse” of the law, alleging a disproportionate amount of stop and frisk searches for black people. According to the statistics cited by the report, 72 percent of all stop and frisk searches the Chicago PD conducted between May and August of 2014 were on black individuals. That report is now being cited in a lawsuit filed by six black men who say they were subjected to “suspicionless” street stops, which were in violation of the constitutional rights.

Chicago police officers are required to fill out contact cards for anyone they stop but do not arrest. Information collected for the card includes the age, address, race, and distinguishable marks or tattoos the person stopped may have. They must also fill out the reason for the stop, as well as the time and location of the stop.

During the fourth months the ACLU conducted their study, Chicago Police conducted 250,000 stop and frisks which did not result in an arrest. The report found that in it at least 50 percent of those stops, the officer gave inadequate legal basis for reasonable suspicion to make the stop.

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possession, drug crimes, Oakbrook criminal defense attorneyThe Cook County state's attorney recently announced that her office will no longer prosecute the majority of misdemeanor marijuana charges and will instead recommend nonviolent offenders who are charged with low-level felony possession of cannabis, cocaine, Ecstasy, and heroin be enrolled in drug treatment programs.

Currently, a person who is charged with a Class 4 felony possession faces either one to three years in prison, a $25,000 fine or both. The state attorney said in her announcement that instead of facing criminal charges, an alternative prosecution program will be created to help keep drug addicts out of the criminal justice system and, instead, get them into rehabilitation programs. By treating chronic drug addiction has a public health issue – instead of a criminal one – prosecutors hope to help alleviate the overcrowding of the Cook County court system.

The Cook County courts have been bogged down for years, dealing with these low-level drug possession cases. Statistics from the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that in 2010, there were 33,000 people arrested in the county for possession of marijuana. This comes out to 91 arrests per day.

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