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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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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 attorneyShoplifting, along with other forms of retail theft, cost retailers billions of dollars each year. It is perfectly reasonable for retail companies to take serious measures in protecting themselves from these types of losses. Sometimes, however, overzealous store personnel can focus their attention on the wrong individuals—people who have done nothing but come into the store to shop. A recent example in the Chicago suburb of Algonquin demonstrates how problematic false accusations of shoplifting can be, especially when social media becomes involved.

Targeting a 12-Year Old

Late last month, a 12-year-old girl and her 13-year-old friend were dropped off at the Target location in Algonquin, Illinois, to do some Christmas shopping. According to reports, the girls walked around the store for about an hour and a half, and each of them bought a few things. The girls say that a little while after they made their purchases—while they were waiting for their ride—store employees began following them. The 12-year-old told news outlets that one the employees accused them of shoplifting and told them to put back the items in their bags.

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysOver the last three decades or so, the approach to crime in the United States has changed dramatically. In the past, communities have tried to fight criminal behavior with harsh penalties and long prison sentences. While the overall crime rate in the United States is lower than it was 20 or 30 years ago, the hardline approach to crime has—in the eyes of many—only served to fill our prisons and perpetuate a criminal lifestyle among convicted offenders. In an effort to stop the cycle of crime, Cook County introduced a program in 2011 that allows certain individuals accused of shoplifting, retail theft, and certain other non-violent crimes to avoid a conviction and prevent them from falling into a criminal lifestyle.

Deferred Prosecution Program

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office developed the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) as an alternative to traditional conviction and sentencing for adults charged with certain felonies. As a diversionary program, the DPP is intended to address the issues that led the person to commit the offense and to help them modify their behavior to avoid future crimes. To be considered for Deferred Prosecution, a criminal suspect must:

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Chicago criminal defense attorneysRetail theft in the form of shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the United States. It occurs so often that many retailers frequently do not even report incidents to the police because full participation in every alleged shoplifter’s prosecution would be impossible. Of course, when a shoplifter steals merchandise of a particularly high value, retailers are more likely to stay involved. According to Illinois law, stealing retail merchandise valued at $500 or more may constitute a felony offense. A recent announcement by Chicago’s top prosecutor, however, indicates that a significant change is coming regarding how Cook County will pursue felony charges for shoplifting.

New $1,000 Threshold

This past November, Kim Foxx was elected to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney after beating the incumbent Anita Alvarez in March’s Democratic primary. As one of her first major policy decisions, Foxx announced in December that she was amending prosecution guidelines for retail theft charges in Cook County. According to the Chicago Tribune, she has instructed county prosecutors that charges for retail theft, including shoplifting, should remain misdemeanors unless the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000 or the defendant has 10 or more prior felony convictions.

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Chicago criminal In a recent post on this blog, we discussed in detail how the approach to marijuana has evolved in recent years in the state of Illinois. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, taking low-level possession of the drug from a potential felony to a civil offense comparable to a parking ticket. For many, the new law is a welcome change, as, under the previous statutes, a person could be prosecuted for low-level drug possession just for riding in the same car as another person with marijuana in his or her possession.

The new law, however, has also created a number of questions, particularly in regard to how law enforcement officers approach an investigation into possible drug possession. With low-level possession of marijuana no longer considered a crime, could drug sniffing dogs be largely out of job?

Reasonable Suspicion, Probable Cause, and Drug-Sniffing Dogs

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Chicago criminal defense attorneyIn June 1971—following the cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1960s—President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. Over the next several years, the Nixon administration dramatically increased the size and scope of federal anti-drug agencies and began pushing for harsh sentences for even non-violent drug offenders. In the decades since, the United States government and others around the world have continued to fight against drugs, locking up millions and creating a thriving black market for illegal substances of all kinds. In many states, including Illinois, a person can be arrested just for riding in the same car as a person in possession of drugs.

Time for Change

After 45 years, however, there is growing pressure throughout the country for a new approach to America’s drug concerns. Perhaps the most telling indication of the evolution that is taking place is the national attitude toward marijuana. While the federal Drug Enforcement Agency continues to consider marijuana a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act—alongside drugs like heroin and LSD—individual states are taking action on their own. A Schedule I drug is one that has no currently accepted medical use, yet 28 states and the District of Columbia have created legal medical marijuana programs. Following this year’s general election, there are even six states that have legalized recreational use of the drug.

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