Criminal Defense in Illinois

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day which is celebrated through out the world, but is like New Years and the 4th of July rolled in to one in Chicago.  There are tons of parades, parties and bar specials this weekend.  When you add in college basketball, the occasional warm weather and Opening Day around the corner, it’s a really big party.

With big parties come criminal activities.  I’m in my 22nd year as a lawyer so I’ve seen a lot of St. Patty’s day arrests.  Here are the top five reasons people will get arrested in Chicago this weekend:

1. Fighting – There will be guys who can’t handle their booze.  Women who can’t handle their booze.  Some lunatics who get too pissed off because they got bumped in a bar or a beer was spilled on them.  Someone who will throw a beer thinking they are funny.  Way too handsy guys.  All of these things can lead to punches being thrown which means a lot of battery arrests this weekend.  If you are at a bar you can bet that the bouncers will call the cops and blame everyone involved.

2. Disorderly conduct – If you are drunk in the street or just annoying the police or if they are just arresting everyone on b.s. charges, this is the fallback option. It’s a very vague charge, but unfortunately it happens all the time and is a misdemeanor which can be punishable by up to a year in jail.

3. Public intoxication – This one is a no brainer.  There is so much drinking going on this weekend and often it’s amateur night.  When you add in the spring breakers from college it gets out of control.

4. Public urination Sadly, this weekend, the streets of Chicago will become a toilet.  It sometimes is combined with disorderly conduct or a charge unto itself.  And if you reveal too much of yourself and there are kids around you might accidentally get really serious charges.

5. Domestic battery – It’s shocking to me that any man would hit a woman, but this weekend especially there will be a lot of drunk boyfriends and husbands.  This leads to some of them getting too physical when their significant other is too flirty with others.  And some women will hit men when they can’t handle their alcohol too.

If you or someone you gets arrested this (or any other) weekend it’s really important go get a lawyer in your corner who does nothing but criminal defense all day every day. If you have questions or want a referral please call us at 312-346-5320.

I’ve been helping people find the right lawyer for their case since 2001.  I’ve helped almost 400,000 people and I almost never see a situation where I don’t know a lawyer for the person who needs help.

But I’ve come across a person who is so difficult that he keeps losing lawyers.  He claims to have a lot of money and it’s a really high profile case.  Attorneys love clients with money and they love high profile cases, but nobody wants to go near this case.  This guy not only claims to be hugely rich, but also says that everyone says so.  Yet top criminal attorneys like Dan Webb want nothing to do with him.

Part of the problem is that this potential client thinks he’s smarter than every lawyer out there.  He doesn’t need their advice because he knows more about law than all of them.  Everyone says so he claims.  When the lawyers tell him to stop tweeting about his case because it makes defending him more difficult and increases the chances he will be charged and convicted of a crime he shows them who’s boss and just tweets more.

It’s not too hard of a job really.  The number one thing a lawyer would have to do is prevent him from testifying under oath because if he does he will surely get charged with perjury and not the “it depends what the definition of “it” is type of perjury.  In fact, given how often he’s been sued in his life, it’s kind of a miracle that he hasn’t gone down for perjury already.

What qualifications does a lawyer need to represent this amazing client who can’t find a lawyer that wants his case?  Getting on Fox News would be a good start. Not being an uggo like Ted Cruz’s wife or a fatso like Rosey would certainly help, unless you are a man then you can look however you want.  The biggest qualifications would be the ability to silently listen as your client regales you with stories of the different women who want to f him, the people he knows who are total losers and on some days, stories of classified national secrets.  Knowledge of international finance laws and the Logan Act are probably helpful too.

Bonus available if you have no problem with your advice being ignored and getting yelled at for delivering bad news.  The client allegedly is worth billions, but would prefer to have you bill him and pay later as he says he always pays his contractors except for the losers and haters who he will gladly pay once he gets sued.

Interested parties can apply in person at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave or just @ him and see how that goes.  Act fast as many top law firms and lawyers want to represent him despite none of them actually doing so.

Recording a police officer is illegal, right? Not anymore. According to an amended Illinois law 720 ILCS 5/14-1, citizens now have the right to record any police officer without their consent. Apparently this amendment is a step in a good direction, however there are some areas that citizens need to be aware of before they decide to video tape that traffic stop.

One of the exceptions to the legality of recording a police interaction is called the surreptitious exception. This means you may not secretly record the interaction. The issue with this exception is that typically if someone is aware you are recording them, they will probably change their behavior.

The other exception is called the reasonable expectation of privacy. This is hard to prove for the simple reason that it is very hard to imagine a police officer would expect privacy during any interactions with a citizen.

One of the steps backwards with this amendment is that it allows for officials to be able to eavesdrop on private conversations and use them without a warrant. One of the steps forward is citizens who are found guilty of recording a police officer will now have less of a penalty.

Before you decide to record any police interaction under this newly amended law, make sure you are aware exactly what your rights are and what the penalties may be. This will save you from being the guinea pig in legal action that has not yet come under the scrutiny of the courts.

A common request we get when people call us looking for an attorney referral is to find a “cost effective” lawyer. We get that. We don’t like to spend more than we have to on anything.

That said, lawyers in Illinois, at least the ones that we know, do not work on a sliding scale or charge based on your income. It’s not much different than going to a restaurant. The price is what it is and you can either afford it or not. It sounds harsh, but it’s true and we always tell the truth.

So unless you were injured where an attorney will work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if they win, you have to pay an attorney what their rate is.

This isn’t a big deal for most people if it’s a minor issue like a traffic ticket. It becomes a problem for some people when it comes to getting a divorce where you usually need at least $2,000.00 up front in order to hire a good law firm.

But it’s a huge problem if you or a loved one is charged with a major crime like murder.

There simply is no such thing as a low cost murder defense lawyer in Illinois. If you get convicted you are obviously going to be in jail for a very long time if not for the rest of your life. So you need an attorney who has a track record of having defended these cases before.

Beyond that, there is a ton of work that needs to be done to defend one of these cases. We are talking hundreds of hours of work. So the attorneys we know of charge between $50,000.00 and $100,000.00 to take on a client. That’s a ton of money.

Most people can’t afford this amount and I don’t blame them one bit. What you can’t do is find a cut rate lawyer who won’t actually do the work. It would be a HUGE waste of money. So what do you do?

The only realistic option is to get the Public Defender who is appointed by the Judge to defend you. While lawyers in that office are over worked and underpaid, usually the ones on murder cases have great experience. And they are free. So while your chances aren’t as good as if you hired a private firm, it’s way better than hiring someone who has no experience or is so cheap that they won’t put in the hours needed to get the best result.

This advice is really true for all types of criminal cases. If you hire a cheapo attorney, you’ll probably just get talked in to pleading guilty. You can do that for free.

If you get arrested for a DUI, your life is pretty much on the line as you can go to jail, lose your license and/or have a huge fine. This can have a whack-a-mole effect as it can lead to loss of your job, marriage or other things that are important to you.

So to say the least, getting a good attorney to defend you is really important. It should be a lawyer who does a lot of work in the court where the case is being heard (e.g. don’t hire a Joliet lawyer for a Rolling Meadows DUI case). It should be a lawyer who is experienced with a real track record of success. The attorney needs to communicate with you and fight for you.

But what does a top DUI lawyer in Chicago or anywhere else in Illinois cost?

The answer is that a lawyer can charge whatever they want and in some unethical cases, they’ll charge as much as they think that they can get from you.

As a consumer, know that just because someone is more expensive doesn’t mean that they are worth it. Some lawyers (including many who we recommend) have developed a reputation as someone “you have to work with” so their clients will often pay whatever it takes to get them.

These are usually good attorneys, but there are plenty of them and others who won’t rip you off. In one horror story that I heard recently, a Chicago DUI attorney charged a client $18,000.00 to handle the case and told the client that he wouldn’t do anything other than have the case continued until he was paid in full.

What that tells you is that he cares only about his bottom line and not about the best interests of the client. It’s possible he could have resolved the case in one or two court dates, but didn’t do that so he could make more money. That is ridiculous.

So how much is reasonable? You should beware lawyers that are too cheap (anything under $1,500 in my opinion). There is a lot of work that is involved to succeed in most cases and I don’t believe that you can find a good lawyer willing to handle a case for less than that amount.

I think you’ll find that $2,500.00 is around average for a first time offender in the Chicago area. Even if you have a felony DUI I wouldn’t recommend paying more than $7,500.00 unless your case is unique.

Big picture, I strongly suggest that you talk to a couple of firms to make sure you are comfortable with their experience and strategy. It’s not much different than shopping for a TV or anything else. If a lawyer is much cheaper than everyone else it’s a warning sign. And if they are way more expensive it’s a warning sign too.

If you would like our help in finding the best Illinois DUI lawyer for you, call us at (312) 346-5320 to speak with one of our lawyers. It’s always free and confidential.

Any episode of Law and Order, and every other cop show out there will bellow them out. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” There is another part of Miranda rights that are often left out, yet implied which is if you choose to speak without an attorney present, you do have the right to stop the interview at any time.

However, is it true that if you are arrested police MUST give you those rights at the time of the arrest? The answer is no. If and when you are arrested, the police only have to give you those rights if they plan on using whatever your answers are, as direct evidence of your guilt. The part that is true of course is the timing of when these rights are read to you.

If an officer wants to interrogate you, it doesn’t matter the physical location. It could be at your front door, on the side of the street, the back of the police car or even at the station. Nothing you say prior to being read your rights can be used to incriminate you at a trial to determine your guilt. If you have not been placed in police custody, your rights do not need to be stated. There are also a few other exceptions to the Miranda rights rule. One is called the emergency exception to the Miranda Rule. This exception allows for scenarios where the public may be at risk if the officer does not obtain vital information quickly enough.

As a rule of thumb, if you are arrested and taken into police custody, the only time the police can ask you specific questions that could be incriminating is during the booking process because those questions are not meant to draw out a specific answer that may be incriminating; those questions are answered by all people being booked into jail. If you are only a “suspect” you don’t have the right to an attorney and don’t necessarily need to have been read your Miranda rights. Once you have been arrested and are in police “custody”, to be questioned, you will need your rights read.

I often get calls from people who think that they can have their criminal charges in Illinois thrown out because the Miranda rights weren’t read.  Hopefully you realize from this post that they are incorrect and it’s a terrible strategy for defending a case. I’ve talked to people who went in front of a Judge alone as they were confident this argument would set them free.  Some made the Judge laugh, others pissed the Judge off and only made their case worse.  You don’t want to have that happen to you.  Blaming that you are uninformed because you watch too much TV won’t get you out of trouble.

In 1992, an Illinois case eliminated the “marital exemption” to rape laws. So how is it now in 2015 we are still pondering the question of can a husband rape his wife? Does being married change a woman’s right to say no? According to a Grundy County judge, yes, a man can be convicted of and go to jail for raping his wife.

In 2013, a woman was hospitalized after a brutal sexual incident involving her husband.  She made the claim that she woke up to her husband sexually assaulting her in an attack that resulted in a four-day hospital stay. Her husband claimed the sexual contact was 100% consensual and any injuries incurred were strictly accidental. The drama of the case played out in the court room with both parties testimony being called into question. The husband, through his attorneys are claiming that while his wife was in fact drunk on the night in question, but that she gave full consent. This defense brings up the question of the definition of rape in Illinois, “Unable to give knowing consent to sex”. If a wife is in a drunken pass out state, does she have the ability to give knowing consent?

In this specific case, the answer is no, due to her drinking and being passed out, the wife was not able to give consent; even to her own husband. Therefore, her husband was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 8 years in prison for the incident. She has since filed for divorce, while her husband starts the appeals process. Her husband is expected to serve at least 85% of the time he has been sentenced to serve.

Bigger picture, being married doesn’t mean you are happy.  Being married doesn’t mean you have to have sex whenever your spouse wants it. Being married doesn’t mean you give up your rights to say no.  Being married doesn’t mean that consent is automatic.

This is no different than going to jail for beating your spouse or any other crime that you can commit against them.  It’s amazing that we still have to have these conversations just like apparently some people don’t think that a porn star can be raped.

While I’m sure there were other issues in this marriage, the reality is that you could have the best marriage in the world and if you climb on top of your passed out spouse and penetrate her, you are committing rape.  And if you end up in jail as a result you’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.

 

 

 

Surprising news for most parents, if your child is being bullied at school, your hands could be tied when it comes to litigation options. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? If a child is in the schools care, isn’t it their job to ensure that the child is safe and unharmed from bullies? Not according to the law.

While it might not make commons sense, as a parent you do not have the right to sue the school on behalf of your child because individual states do not the actual duty to protect individuals from mental or physical harm created by a private party. The state is in fact liable for the actions of a private party, but only if it creates or contributes to the danger or makes a citizen more vulnerable to that danger.

In plane English, if the principal is watching your kid get beat up and does nothing about it, but encourages the kids to fight, the school is in trouble.  But if it’s just happening at school, even if the school is aware of it from your complaints, the school isn’t liable.  So your kid could get pummeled in to a coma and you might not have a claim.

In a recent case, a young girl in Indiana was ridiculed daily by her peers while the staff of the school stood by the wayside. In this case, the child was not just teased and mocked. She was followed; she had her chair kicked out from under her in the middle of class. She was forced to participate in sports events with broken toes. All the while her teachers joined in the laughing.

So, if a teacher hears about the bullying, and goes so far as to laugh about it, unless she joins in the bullying she has done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law. If there is no proof that teachers, coaches and other professionals have done anything to further the bullying, and perhaps have even disciplined the bullies once in a while, that’s called “good enough.” If classmates torture a child for five years throughout elementary school, and all of the educational professionals are aware of the issues, but still do nothing to stop the bullying, same result. No harm/no foul.

Parents put themselves in a very hard situation at that point. If they approach the bullies themselves, they face the consequences of perhaps not being allowed on school property, or worse. What if it is a small town feel kind of county and as a parent you tried to protect your child by switching schools. The new school taking a bias to your child right off the bat because they are aware of the constant complaining about the bullying. What do you do?

Again, in the eyes of the law, nothing. Unless you can prove that your child was intentionally treated differently from other kids in a similar situation, unless you can prove the educational staff and professionals actually engaged in the bullying and teasing, unless you can prove that the school was aware of the mistreatment your hands are legally tied. I’m shaking my head too and don’t understand.

You would think with the big media push on anti-bullying these laws would change. That something would change. You would think in this day and age we wouldn’t still have to be worrying about a bully in our schools wreaking havoc on our children. It still exists. Bullying is an epidemic taking over our schools. Hopefully a solution will be found soon.  The law as it stands is ridiculous.  But one thing we’ll never do as attorneys is tell you that you have rights which don’t exist just because it’s what you want to hear.

While most criminal charges in Illinois are filed in state courts, some crimes are prosecuted in federal courts, including white-collar crimes, some drug cases, and violations of federal law. Although the basics are the same, federal court operates a bit differently, with unique rules for motions, hearings, and timelines.

In order to be successful in defending federal charges, we believe you need someone who has years of experience and understands how to evaluate and defend federal criminal cases. In other words, just because a lawyer is great at defending cases in Illinois state criminal courts does not mean they are the right lawyer to defend a federal criminal charge in one of the Illinois federal crime districts.

We are a lawyer referral service dedicated to helping people find a lawyer who is a great fit. Federal charges can be serious and we know that you want a referral you can count on. When you give us a call, we will talk to you about your situation and recommend the Illinois lawyer who we believe can best handle your defense.

When recommending an attorney, we consider their background, reputation, experience, advocacy skills, personality, customer service, and anything else that is important to you. We know some of the most experienced and successful attorneys and law firms in Illinois with practices focused on federal criminal defense work. While we cannot guarantee a certain result, we can ensure that your case is evaluated and handled by an incredibly qualified attorney.

Federal experience isn’t the only characteristic we look for when recommending an attorney. Here are some other qualifications we think are important:

  • They have at least ten years of experience representing federal criminal defendants.
  • They have represented at least 100 clients in federal criminal matters.
  • They are usually former federal prosecutors, federal public defenders or have been doing federal criminal defense for so long that they have established relationships with current prosecutors and judges.
  • They have extensive knowledge of the intricacies of the federal court system.
  • They have a strong reputation in the legal community for federal criminal defense work.
  • They have demonstrated success measured in results on previous cases.
  • They keep their clients informed of all important developments, plea offers, and evidentiary discoveries in the case.
  • They treat their clients with respect and promptly return all phone calls and e-mails.

There is no such thing as the “best” federal criminal defense attorney. Instead, we try to help you locate the best federal criminal defense attorney for your unique case. If you have any questions about federal criminal laws or would like a referral to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney in Illinois, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our service is always free.

Blinkgla

I’m a big fan of the book “Blink” and what it teaches about snap judgments.  Sometimes our initial impressions are right on, sometimes our snap judgments reflect our inner-biases even when that snap judgment is dead wrong.  The best example from the book is how orchestras used to have auditions where you could see the musician and know their name, resulting in a male to female ratio of about 19 to 1.  They now do blind auditions where you only hear them play the instrument.  As a result the ratio is now close to 50-50 and women who before couldn’t get a shot at traditional “male” instruments now can.

So what does that have to do with defending a criminal case in Illinois?  I was called for jury duty yesterday for the first time in my life.  On a daily basis I help people find Illinois criminal defense attorneys and have seen hundreds of innocent people get charged with felonies or misdemeanors.  The jury I was considered for (I didn’t get picked because no one wants a lawyer on a jury) was regarding a felony burglary trial.  The defendant was dressed kind of sloppily and had a mohawk that led to somewhat of a menacing look.  My snap judgment was that this guy must be guilty.  Of course you can’t reach that conclusion without hearing the evidence and I know nothing about his case.

All that said, I think his attorney did a poor job preparing him for the jury selection (or tried and failed) because those snap judgments of what someone looks like do matter.  I caught many potential jurors just staring at him and while I don’t know what they were thinking, it’s reasonable to guess that they were a tad skeptical of him already.

Some have proposed that trials don’t allow for any live testimony, but rather actors who would read the answers to questions of a witness or the accused.  While I see the merits of that, after being a part of hundreds of trials and depositions, I do think you can tell how sure someone is of an answer they are giving based on their response.  However, I wonder if the disparity between blacks and whites being convicted of certain crimes would change.  I also wonder if some innocent people would get convicted.  It’s certainly worth studying.

For you, if you are a criminal defendant, think about the first impression you are making on the prosecutor, Judge and jury.  It shouldn’t change the outcome of a case, but surely it does all of the time.

Since 2001, illinoislawyers.com has been the leading resource for Illinois attorney referrals and legal guidance. If you would like our help please contact one of our lawyers via our on-line form or call (800) 517-1614. We are based in Chicago, but help people find attorneys for legal matters throughout Illinois.  All inquiries are free and confidential.