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Posted on in Theft

Chicago criminal defense attorneyIt is estimated that there exist approximately 27 million shoplifters in the United States. That means that one in 11 people have shoplifted at some point in their lives. In the last five years, over 10 million of those people have been caught. Shoplifting is so prevalent that there is even a community of proud shoplifters showing off pictures of items they have swiped on the social networking website Reddit. The community, which has over 30 thousand subscribers, is a forum for shoplifters to share methods, advice, and tricks of the trade. The welcome message touts “Welcome to Shoplifting! If you're here to preach morals, enjoy your very brief stay. If you're here to learn and share, please help contribute to our wonderful community of allegedly corrupt and soulless individuals.”

Shoplifting Can Cost More Than You Might Think

Although shoplifting is often seen as a minor crime, the consequences can be serious. If a person is caught shoplifting, they could face criminal penalties including fines, community service, or even jail time.

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Chicago DUI defense lawyersYou can probably imagine what it feels like to be pulled over by the police on a night where you have had a few drinks, even if it has never happened to you before. The lights flash behind you and your heart sinks. By the time the officer is at your window, you are probably extremely nervous, but you want to make this go as smooth as possible so that you get home quickly. As expected, the officer asks if you have been drinking, and you honestly answer that you had a couple earlier. Then, the officer asks if you will take a breathalyzer test. Can you refuse?

Understanding the Law

According to Illinois law, drivers give their implied consent to submit to blood alcohol content (BAC) testing by operating a motor vehicle on the streets and roadways of the state. There is an important caveat, however. Implied consent only refers to testing that is conducted incident to an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). This means that you are under no obligation whatsoever to take a BAC test unless and until you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI. Regardless of what the officer tells you, if you have not been arrested, you cannot be forced to take a breathalyzer.

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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 attorneysMost drivers in Northern Illinois have been stopped by police for traffic violations at some point in their lives. In some cases, a driver may be stopped for a moving violation—such as speeding—only for the officer to discover other offenses—such as driving with an expired registration. As the citations pile up, it can lead to serious problems for a driver, but things may soon get a little easier for drivers in certain situations, as Cook County has announced a plan to limit prosecution on specific, financial-related traffic violations.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was elected in November, and since then, she has been changing the way the county’s prosecutors handle non-violent, low-level cases. Part of her efforts have been aimed at reducing crowded jails and prisons, but a reduction in available resources is also a major factor. According to some sources, county prosecutors are operating on about 70 percent of the resources they had just ten years ago, meaning that cuts must be made somewhere.

A New Approach

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyPrescription opioid abuse is now a full-blown epidemic in the United States. Between 1999 and 2015, an estimated 183,000 people died from opioid overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,000 people per day are treated in emergency rooms for misuse of opioids. Drug overdoses now cause more deaths annually than automobile crashes, and opioids are the leading cause of overdoses by a wide margin.

Many individuals who become addicted to opioid-based medication begin taking the medicine for a legitimate reason and have a doctor’s prescription. After the bottle of pills—often hydrocodone, oxycodone or meperidine—is empty, however, individuals look to illegal sources. Many turn to heroin, fentanyl, and other street products with potentially devastating effects. A new study suggests, however, that starting down the path of opioids is not the preferred solution for most patients in need of pain medication

What Patients Want

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyMost people are aware that likely know that the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for the average adult driver in the state of Illinois is 0.08 percent. But, what does that number represent? Is there a magic number of drinks that reaches the threshold, which consumers are forbidden to pass and then drive a car? Does it matter what the drink of choice is? While 0.08 is the one substantial factor, several others contribute to surpassing that limitation and possibly being charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

What Was in Your Glass?

This is where it pays to go to a reputable establishment to consume alcohol. Did you know that each beverage has a glass in which it should be served? Classifications break down into glasses made specifically for beer, wine, or spirits and further into each subclass. The idea behind specialized glasses ensures consumers not only enjoy the best taste of their beverages but are also not consuming too much without knowledge. By serving inappropriate amounts of alcohol per glass, a vendor may set their customers up for disaster. Consider that the following measurements are all equal to one standard drink:

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn a recent memo, Unites States Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” when it comes to prosecuting drug crimes. This is a complete reversal of the direction drug crimes prosecution was going under the previous administration.

A Departure From Recent Years

Under the Obama administration, then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors to change the way they handled non-violent cases, including those involving drug charges, directing them to allow lower-level agencies—such as local and state prosecutors—to handle these types of cases. Over the past several years, as the drug epidemic has spread throughout the country, there has been more focus placed on criminal justice reform, particularly figuring out ways to get those facing drug charges the help and rehabilitation they need instead of just throwing them into prison. The Justice Department under the Trump administration, however, appears to be rolling back those reforms and instead, going back to harsher penalties and implementing mandatory minimum sentences. 

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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 attorneyAt some point or another, even the most prudent of Illinois drivers will likely be stopped by a law enforcement officer for an alleged traffic violation. While some of these encounters will resolve themselves in a matter of a few minutes and result in a warning or a ticket being issued, other traffic stops can result in lengthy delays and, in some cases, arrests. In certain situations, however, such stops may be or may become illegal.

Understanding Illegal Traffic Stops

“Illegal” is a general and non-descriptive term when used to refer to traffic stops. An illegal stop can be one that is not permitted by law from the outset, or it may refer to a stop that started just fine but, as the stop progressed, violated some statutory or constitutional provision. Using this general definition, an “illegal” traffic stop may include a stop that:

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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 criminal defense attorneysA total of 29 states have adopted medical marijuana laws and eight have legalized the drug for recreational use. Several others have also started to decrease the legal consequences for illegal possession of cannabis and related products. Illinois was one of the ones to recently join these ranks, bringing fairly substantial changes to the state’s approach to charges related to marijuana.

Small Possessions Considered a Civil Penalty

Last year, Governor Bruce Rauner approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now, citizens found with up to 10 grams of the drug receive only a civil penalty, which is similar to a traffic ticket. Consequences include a fine of $100 to $200 per offense. In addition, citations are automatically expunged twice per year.

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