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Illinois defense attorney, Illinois drug crimes lawyerThe abuse of heroin and opioids has become a major health crisis in the Chicago area; more than 1,000 people died of drug overdoses in Cook County in 2016, which was a significant increase over the 693 drug overdose deaths in 2015. Law enforcement officials are working to combat this epidemic, and some advocates have encouraged them to charge drug dealers with drug-induced homicide in addition to standard drug charges.

Drug-Induced Homicide in Illinois

In Illinois, a person can be charged with drug-induced homicide if they provided illegal drugs to someone and the use of those drugs resulted in that person’s death. Drug-induced homicide is a Class X felony, and it is punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison.

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Illinoiscriminal attorney, Illinois defense lawyerAnyone who has been arrested on criminal charges faces a great deal of financial hardship, including bail, court fees, fines, attorney’s fees, and the possible loss of income. But what many people do not know is that when they are arrested, police can seize their money or property if they believe that it was used to commit a crime. This is known as civil asset forfeiture.

While civil asset forfeiture is meant to provide law enforcement with tools to disrupt the activities of large scale criminal organizations, the practice has come under fire in recent years due to its increased use in a wide variety of criminal cases. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have argued that law enforcement officials disproportionately target lower-income individuals who do not have the resources to prove their innocence and reclaim their property.

These claims are backed up by studies from journalistic organizations such as Reason and the Chicago Reader, who analyzed data about civil forfeitures in Cook County. These studies showed that low-income neighborhoods in Chicago’s south side and west side were disproportionately targeted, especially for seizures of amounts less than $100.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysIf you are facing criminal charges, you may be overwhelmed by the legal process that lies ahead. Depending on the nature and severity of the alleged offense—along with your own criminal history—you could be eligible for probation in lieu of serving time in jail. But, what is probation and who qualifies? A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you make sense of a challenging situation.

What Is Probation?

Probation is a sentencing alternative that offers offenders substantially more personal freedom while they serve their sentences. In most cases, an offender on probation can live at home, go to work, and live most of a normal life, but always under the close supervision of a probation officer. An individual on probation is required to abide the terms set by the court and his or her behavior is closely monitored. In some cases, probation begins immediately upon a finding of guilt while in others, it begins after a reduced jail sentence.

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Cook County criminal defense attorneyDid you know that in 2015, more than 1,000 individuals at the Cook County Jail spent more time behind bars than they were actually sentenced to serve? These cases were not the result of clerical errors, lost files, or mistakes by jail staff. Many of them, rather, were the result of low-level criminal offenders not being able to afford cash bail. Instead of serving only their prescribed sentence, these inmates first sat in jail waiting for trial or for a plea bargain to finalize. Their crimes, in most cases, were so minor that their sentences were shorter than the amount of time they had already spent in jail.

Thanks to a new law signed last month by Governor Bruce Rauner, however, such cases should no longer be common in Cook County or anywhere else in the state. The measure, which took effect immediately, is being praised by criminal justice reform advocates as a significant step in the right direction.

Bail Basics

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysIf you were to lose your wallet, it would be fairly reasonable for you to get on social media and to ask for help in locating it. Similarly, if you found a healthy-looking, friendly dog wandering in your neighborhood, you may take to Facebook in an attempt to locate the dog’s owner. But, what if you found some type of illegal drug? While you would probably not jump on social media in such a situation, a local police department in Pennsylvania recently did just that.

A Deadly Drug Problem

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is a smallish city of about 40,000 people in Eastern Pennsylvania, situated in Luzerne County with a population of about 318,000. In 2016, however, Luzerne County experienced at least 137 fatal drug overdoses, with victims ranging from all walks of life. Amidst the drug-related struggles facing the area’s residents, local law enforcement officials are looking for ways to combat the deadly issue. The dark cloud over the region could also explain the rather sarcastic—almost bitter—sense of humor shown by the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department last week.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn popular culture, the crimes of assault and battery have acquired numerous meanings that are not entirely in keeping with the actual nature of the offenses themselves. This can cause potential problems when one is accused of such an offense and is not entirely sure what specific acts they are being accused of committing. If this situation ever arises in your life, it can be extremely helpful to know exactly what such an accusation includes and what it does not.

Definitions

The popular perception of assault is that it involves unwanted physical contact with a second person. This, however, misstates several aspects of the legal definition. Assault in Illinois is defined as a person engaging in a course of action “which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” In other words, one need not even touch another to commit assault against him or her. The crux of the issue is the fear that the victim is made to feel, whether it is subjective or not.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyThe Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that approximately 28 percent of the current U.S. population is comprised of immigrants, both with and without documentation. Many people operate under the misunderstanding that once immigration status is achieved, it cannot be taken away. Thus, it may come as an unpleasant surprise to discover that this is not the case.  It is possible to lose one’s legal immigration status if convicted of specific crimes, or if convicted of crimes that speak to a negative character trait such as deceit. While most criminal lawyers are not well versed in immigration law, having one who understands the interplay between the two disciplines can mean the literal difference between life and death, in extreme cases.

Crimes That Establish Removability

While in theory, any crime may be enough for an immigrant to get the attention of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there are two specific classes of offenses that render the perpetrator removable in most cases. Aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude both essentially present an immigrant as unable to prove good moral character, which is a requirement for both lawful permanent resident status and citizenship. These crimes also render the person inadmissible because, with such an offense on their record, they would not have been granted a visa in the first place. If one is inadmissible, he or she will usually be issued an Order of Removal.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIf you have been charged with any type of crime that may require you to register as a sex offender, you should understand what sex offender registration entails. Because registration is required for at least 10 years, and possibly for the remainder of the offender’s life, many people convicted of a sex offense believe that registration is the most onerous part of their sentence.

Convictions That Require Registration

Anyone convicted of a crime that Illinois law lists as a sex offense is considered a sex offender. All convicted sex offenders must register with the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Offenses that require registration upon conviction include:

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Chicago criminal If you have been charged with possession of cocaine, you could be facing serious penalties. While every case is different, courts tend to adhere to the penalty ranges set forth in the law. A qualified defense attorney can help you understand the applicable statutes and your available options.

Charges for Possession of Cocaine

Cocaine is considered a controlled dangerous substance (or CDS). The penalties for cocaine possession are generally determined by the amount of the drug recovered. Possession of cocaine is considered a felony and a conviction will result in severe consequences:

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyWhen you are arrested, charged with a crime, and released on bond, there are certain conditions that you must meet. If you fail to meet them, you could be charged with a bond violation. The following information can help you learn more about the consequences of this offense, how to avoid them, and what you can do if you are charged with a bond violation in the state of Illinois.

Who Sets the Requirements?

Before you are released, a judge reviews your case to determine if you are eligible for bond. This same judge also sets the amount of your bond and outlines what your requirements are while you are out on bond. This might include going to drug or alcohol counseling, undergoing regular drug or alcohol testing, checking in regularly with a person or group of people (or not contacting certain people). You will also be instructed not to leave the state, and may not even be permitted to travel more than just a short distance from your home. Further, you must appear for all your court hearings once you are released.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneySome crimes—such as armed robbery, aggravated assault, or the possession of heroin—are clear to most people and carry criminal penalties that may be life-changing. Other offenses, may be less obvious but could still be extremely serious. In fact, seemingly minor misdemeanor charges such as those for disorderly conduct and the like can have consequences that affect the offender’s life for well into the future.

Disorderly Conduct Defined

Defining disorderly conduct, however, can be tricky, as there are several factors that may affect such a charge, and some of them can be rather subjective. Generally, a disorderly conduct charge can be filed if a person is acting in an unreasonable manner with the intention of disturbing or attempting to provoke a “breach of peace.”

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Posted on in Theft

Chicago criminal defense attorneysTheft is a crime which can span the proverbial gamut in terms of gravity, at least in Illinois. From a minor retail theft offense to a Class X felony, theft charges can be a minor inconvenience or a life-changing mistake. Either way, if a person has been charged with a theft-related offense, it is imperative that they familiarize themselves with the potential consequences, but also with their rights and responsibilities in responding to such a charge. Misconceptions abound with regard to theft crimes, and if a defendant is not aware of the potential penalties for each charge, he or she may receive an unpleasant surprise upon sentencing, should it progress that far.

Types of Offenses

As you might expect, there are multiple theft charges specified under Illinois law with varying degrees of punishment in the form of fines, jail time, or both. The reason there are so many types of potential charges is that there are multiple factors that must be considered in each case—not only the market value of the property in question, but also the degree of physical harm inflicted (if any), and the intent and circumstances surrounding the taking. The statute specifically defines theft as taking property from someone else, without their permission, with the intent to use, conceal, abandon or otherwise deprive the original owner of the item. All these criteria must be met, as well as assessing the value of the stolen item and other relevant factors.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyAs it perhaps ought to be, most people believe the accuser when charges of domestic violence are brought against a person. By not doing so, there is a risk of sanctioning significant harm to innocent victims. However, there are occasions when such charges are false, most often brought to attempt to impugn one’s character or otherwise take an opportunity away from someone. If you have been drawn into this unfortunate situation, it is vital that you take steps as soon as possible to attempt to clear your name.

Potentially Serious Consequences

Domestic violence in Illinois is defined very widely, encompassing “physical abuse, harassment … interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation,” and it applies not only to spouses but also to other household members. “Household members” include a diverse group of individuals such as current and former spouses and in-laws, as well as roommates, stepparents or stepchildren, and dependents including disabled family members. This wide net can assist true victims, but it can also make it easier for false accusations to be levied.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyThe criminal justice system in Illinois was designed with two primary goals in mind. First, those convicted of breaking the law, in most cases, are provided with opportunities to rehabilitate themselves and turn their lives around. The second goal is punitive in nature, meaning that actions have consequences, and when a person commits a crime, he or she is subject to certain penalties which vary depending on the offense.

In some cases, however, a person may be convicted of a crime that he or she did not commit. A wrongful conviction can be tragic, as a lengthy prison sentence and other penalties can be devastating to the convicted individual and his or her family. But, as a recent case from Chicago demonstrates, being wrongfully convicted is not always enough to deter some people from a life of crime.

A $25 Million Settlement

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Chicago drug crimes defense attorneyDrug addiction continues to be a serious problem in Illinois and across the United States. Unfortunately, many of the laws and measures that have been enacted in the so-called “War on Drugs” over the last few decades have focused primarily on harsh penalties for drug offenders. While there is something to said for creating deterrents to criminal behavior, a lengthy prison sentence or hefty fine is likely to do little to solve the underlying issue of addiction. With that in mind, states around the country, including Illinois, have developed programs designed to help non-violent, drug-addicted offenders kick their destructive habits and focus on rehabilitating their lives.

Mandating Treatment

One of the most effective programs for drug-addicted offenders is known colloquially as Drug Court. The program may have a more specific title in each of the counties in which it has been established, but most Drug Courts—especially in Illinois—are similar in their goals and procedures. The importance of such programs has escalated in recent years with the continued concerns over methamphetamines and resurgence of heroin abuse as a nationwide epidemic. Many addicts will only get treatment if they are somehow coerced into doing so, and subsequent to an arrest, that is exactly the intent of Drug Courts. In most cases, the results of coerced treatment are the same, if not better, than voluntary treatment, making a strong case for the continuation of such programs.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyThroughout the country, states and local jurisdictions have been looking for ways to help drug offenders turn away from a destructive lifestyle and toward becoming more productive members of society. Initiatives such as the Deferred Prosecution Program in Cook County have shown great promise in rehabilitating non-violent offenders while helping them avoid lengthy prison sentences and other harsh criminal penalties. This week, a program with similar goals in a neighboring county began seeing results, as Will County Adult Redeploy Illinois recognized its first graduating class.

Adult Redeploy Illinois

Created as a diversion program for non-violent offenders, Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) was established by legislation in 2009 based on a similar program that has been used in the Illinois juvenile justice system for a number of years. The aim of ARI is to reduce the number of offenders being sent into the state’s prison system and to ease the associated burden on taxpayers.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyWhen you have been charged with a crime—especially a non-violent crime such as drug possession—a criminal defense attorney will do everything he or she can to help you avoid a conviction. In some situations, however, the circumstances and the evidence against you may simply be too much. Or perhaps you really did possess illegal drugs or otherwise committed the crime of which you have been accused. While such a situation may seem hopeless, nothing could be further from the truth. There are several options that may be available to help minimize the penalties associated with your prosecution. One of the most common ways of reducing a sentence is by reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain or plea agreement is the result of a series of negotiations between prosecutors and a criminal defendant—usually handled through his or her attorney. In many cases, the negotiations also include a judge who has the authority to approve alternative sentencing options in advance. When developing a plea agreement, prosecutors will generally offer to lessen the defendant’s sentence by reducing the number or severity of the charges against the individual. Sometimes, a plea deal will even allow the defendant to participate in deferred prosecution or other diversionary programs instead of receiving a standard conviction and sentence. In return, the defendant will usually need to plead guilty or no contest to the agreed upon charges.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn 2013, Illinois lawmakers—led by State Representative Lou Lang, D-Skokie—passed legislation to create an experimental medical marijuana program in the state. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act was signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn so that state officials could determine the effectiveness of allowing marijuana to be used in the treatment of certain illnesses and ailments. Supporters of the program were excited by the idea that eligible patients could get relief without fear of prosecution on charges related to the possession or consumption of marijuana.

Good Intentions

As a pilot program, the initial medical marijuana measure contained a sunset clause, meaning that the law would automatically be repealed four years after it went into effect on January 1, 2014. If the program was a success, new legislation would be needed to make it permanent.

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Chicago retail theft attorneysWhen you think about shoplifting, there is a good chance you picture an individual surreptitiously sneaking an item or two under his or her jacket or into a handbag. This type of retail theft certainly does occur and retailers lose billions of dollars each year to small-time shoplifters. Sometimes, however, shoplifting can be a much bigger operation—even rising to the level of organized crime. Such was the case involving a seemingly well-to-do couple living on Chicago’s North Shore, as they were recently sentenced in federal court for running a large-scale retail theft ring.

Federal Investigation

According to court records, federal authorities followed the couple as they, along with their children, embarked on a four-day, multi-state stealing spree. The couple reportedly went into stores like Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, and Starbucks, coming out with the wife’s dress “seemingly bursting at the seams,” as she attempted to hide stolen merchandise. The husband, wife, and their eldest daughter were arrested in March of 2014. In 2015, they reached a plea agreement with federal authorities in which they admitted to stealing more than $9.5 million in merchandise over the last 12 years.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIf you have ever watched the reality/documentary show COPS, you have probably heard many of the typical claims a suspect often makes when he or she is found to be in possession of what looks like illegal drugs. “That’s not mine,” “I have no idea where that came from,” or “My friend must have left that in my car.” While such excuses ring extremely hollow, there may be situations in which the driver of a vehicle is not aware that one of his or her passengers has cocaine or ecstasy in his or her possession. (Possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana was recently decriminalized in Illinois, making marijuana a less likely candidate for this type of case.) If you are a driver in such a situation, could you be responsible for the drugs your friend is carrying?

There is not a simple answer to that question. As with most areas of the law, it depends entirely on the circumstances of the situation. Important elements include where the drugs are being carried or hidden and whether you really did know that drugs were present in your car. Over the next few weeks, we will look at the factors that can affect a drug possession charge, helping you get the information you need to protect your rights.

Two Types of Possession

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