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Posted on in Theft

Illinois law, Illinois defense attorney, stealing,Theft is one of the most common crimes in Illinois, but many people do not actually understand the law behind it. The law of theft is surprisingly complex because theft in Illinois is such a broad crime. It covers mugging, pickpocketing, and shoplifting among other types of theft. The legal framework used to cover this crime is found at 720 ILCS 5/16-1. That section of Illinois law lists the basic elements that make up theft, as well as the aggravating factors, which are specific circumstances that increase the severity of the crime in the eyes of the law.

Basic Theft in Illinois

At its core, the law defines theft as taking unauthorized control of another person's property. In the past, the law used to make distinctions about the methods used to take control. For instance, it considered taking by threat of force to be a different crime than taking something by deception. Some jurisdictions still operate under these rules, but for the most part Illinois has abolished them. In Illinois, theft is all the same, regardless of whether someone uses the threat of force, deception, or simply takes something.

That simple form of theft starts as a Class A misdemeanor, assuming that the property was not actually taken off of a person, and that the property's value was less than $500. If that is the case, then the offender would be subject to the ordinary penalties for a Class A misdemeanor, a jail sentence of up to one year in length and a possible fine of $2,500. However, there are also a variety of aggravating factors that can seriously increase the severity of the punishment.

Aggravating Factors

The law recognizes many aggravating factors that increase the punishment for theft. One of the most expansive factors is the value of the property that the person stole. The law contains a set of ranges of value of stolen property that merit different punishments. For instance, the theft of between $500 and $10,000 would be a Class 3 felony, punishable by between two and five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. More serious thefts are punished by progressively more serious jail sentences.

Another common aggravating factor is whether the thief actually took the property from out of the person's physical possession. If that happened, then the theft is upgraded one ranking in severity up to a certain point. Thus, if a person stole less than $500 from a person's physical possession it would be treated as a Class 3 felony rather than a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Theft is a common crime, but the punishment for it can still be quite serious. If you are facing prosecution for a theft, contact an experienced Kane County criminal defense attorney today. Our firm is here to help make sure that your rights are protected.

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Illinois RICO Act, Kane County criminal law attorneyA DuPage County jury recently became the first jury in the county to convict a person under a recently-passed Illinois law designed to combat gang violence. The man was convicted of being part of a drug ring operating throughout the county. Other alleged members of the drug ring are currently awaiting trial.

The Illinois law that the man was convicted under is known as the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, but is often shortened to Illinois' RICO. The law is modeled after a federal law that was supposed to give police and prosecutors more advanced tools to deal with the more sophisticated types of organized crime that have arisen recently. Illinois' RICO has a similar goal, with a particular focus on making it easier to shut down street gangs. However, these laws can also be controversial. Despite their positive goals, some people believe that they make it too easy for prosecutors to threaten stiff penalties for people with little relation to the gang's activities.

Illinois' RICO Law

Illinois' RICO law is designed to combat groups engaging in criminal activity, which the law refers to as "enterprises." An enterprise is any group of people who are "associated in fact" to engage in some conduct. The phrase associated in fact means that the group need not be a formal group, such as a club or a company. Something like a street gang, which is an informal organization, would count as well, as long as it is (1) an ongoing group, (2) has various members functioning as a unit, and (3) has an ascertainable structure beyond simply being a group engaging in conduct.

In order to violate RICO the conduct the group engages in must be a "pattern of predicate activity." Predicate activity is legal jargon for certain specific crimes. The list of crimes in the law is long, but some examples include homicide, robbery, street gang recruitment, and the sale of drugs. In order to be a pattern, there must be at least three separate, but related, acts within three years of each other.

RICO Controversy

While many prosecutors celebrate this law as providing tools necessary to clean up street gangs, there are also concerns about the power this gives to police and prosecutors. RICO violations come with serious penalties, such as a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 30 years, which are placed on top of the sentences for the underlying crimes that made up the predicate acts. This means that someone only vaguely related to the gang or running minor errands can end up facing penalties that are disproportionate from their crimes.

If you have recently been charged with RICO violations or some other crime, reach out to an Kane County criminal defense attorney today. Our firm is here to help you defend your rights.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

police search warrant in Illinois, Elgin criminal defense lawyerThe U.S. Constitution provides people with a variety of rights and protections with relation to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. One of the most important of these rights is the protection from unlawful searches provided by the Fourth Amendment. Usually, what separates a lawful search from an unlawful one is whether the police had a warrant to perform the search. Whether a search is performed with a valid warrant can make all the difference in the outcome of a criminal case because of a legal doctrine known as the "exclusionary rule."

The exclusionary rule is a rule of evidence that governs whether the prosecutor is allowed to use evidence during a trial. Its name comes from the fact that it excludes any evidence that was recovered during an unlawful search. It also excludes from the trial any evidence that the police found because of evidence they uncovered during an illegal search. This rule is designed to discourage police from performing these sorts of searches because anything they discover will be useless to the prosecution at trial.

The Warrant Process

The warrant process is important because if it is not followed correctly then it can trigger the exclusionary rule. Warrants are legal documents issued by judges that give the police permission to search. This means that the police officers must speak to the judge and present that judge with evidence they already have about the crime. Their goal in doing this is to convince the judge that they have probable cause to believe that the search they want to perform will result in their finding the evidence of a crime. If they convince the judge of this, then the judge will issue a warrant. This warrant will give the police the right to perform a specific search, usually only looking for specific items at a specific location.

Reasons Warrants May Be Invalidated

Warrants can be invalidated through a variety of different issues, usually either because of problems with the process of how it was issued or of how the search was performed. Common issues with the process relate to the type of information that the police were giving the judge. For instance, if the police provide the judge with old information, then the warrant might be invalid since it would not relate to the likelihood that the search would actually turn up evidence of a crime. Conversely, an issue of execution would be exceeding the scope of the search warrant. If the police have a warrant to search for a large item, like a stolen flat screen TV, then opening drawers and finding drugs would exceed the warrant's scope.

If you have been charged with a crime after what you believe was an unlawful search, contact a Kane County criminal defense attorney today to learn more about your rights.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

certificate of good conduct, Kane County criminal attorneyMany people with criminal records have trouble finding good jobs because the record makes them less attractive to potential employers. Some people can solve this problem using remedies like getting their records expunged or having them sealed. However, not everyone qualifies for those processes either because their record includes convictions or because their crimes were too serious. In these cases, Illinois law provides another option, the Certificate of Good Conduct.

What Certificates of Good Conduct Do

Unlike expungement or record sealing, which prevents many employers from seeing the criminal record, the Certificate of Good Conduct leaves the record publicly available. However, it provides an official finding by the court that the offender has been reformed, which can often make employers more willing to hire people with criminal records. Beyond that, the Certificate helps with employment in other ways. For instance, there are certain jobs that Illinois law forbids people with criminal records to hold. These Certificates allow the court to override those laws, so that the person can take the job despite their record. Additionally, the Certificate makes it harder for employers to be sued based on the actions of the employee, which can put many businesses at ease.

Who Qualifies

A person must meet a variety of qualifications in order to receive a Certificate. First, a certain amount of time must have passed after their convictions. For misdemeanors, the person must wait at least a year after the end of his or her probation or parole, and the waiting period for felonies is at least two years. Second, the person must be an eligible offender under the law. This means that he or she cannot have a variety of types of convictions. These convictions include:

  • Class X felonies, which are the most serious crimes like murder;
  • Any felony convictions involving great bodily harm to a person; and
  • Any convictions that require a person to register after their release.

Finally, the person must demonstrate that he or she been rehabilitated. This requirement is not as concrete as the other ones, and it tends to depend on the types of crimes on the record. For instance, with drug crimes, the courts will want to see that the person has stopped using drugs, and for gang-related crimes, the judge may look for whether the offender has cut ties with the people whom he or she knew in the gang. Often the best way to show these sorts of reformation is through a combination of letters of support from people who know the offender, as well as testimony by those people during the hearing for the Certificate

If you believe you qualify for a Certificate of Good Conduct and are interested in learning more about the process, reach out to an experienced Kane County criminal law attorney today.

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new law for physciatrist evaluation, Kane County criminal lawyerOne of the prerequisites for a defendant's being tried for a crime is that he or she is mentally and physically fit to do so. From a legal standpoint, fitness means that the person is able to understand what is going on in the legal proceedings, and he or she is able to assist in his or her own defense. Illinois courts believe it is important that the accused be able to understand and engage with the legal process so that they can be sure of getting the fairest trial possible. Now, Illinois has passed a new law that provides judges with more information about these psychiatric evaluations by requiring the analysts to turn over their notes and other background materials to the court, a requirement that is soon expected to spread to other states.

The Purpose of Psychiatric Evaluations

Psychiatric evaluations are a way for both sides in the case to produces evidence about the defendant's fitness to stand trial. They are not necessary in all cases because the court presumes that a defendant is capable of being tried. A defense attorney is required to raise a "bona fide" question as to that fitness.

If the defense attorney is capable of doing that, then the defendant will undergo psychiatric evaluations, usually from multiple psychologists or other qualified experts. In the past, these experts were required to simply submit a report with a diagnosis, an explanation of how that diagnosis was reached, and an opinion on whether the diagnosis impairs the defendant's ability to understand the process and participate in his or her own defense. These reports could be fairly sparse, which created problems when the experts disagreed with each other. The judge, who has to make the final decision in many instances, had very little information to go on for settling the disagreement.

The New Rule

The new law, which was passed in August and goes into effect at the beginning of next year, attempts to solve this problem by providing the judge with more information. The experts are now required, upon a written request, to turn over their background materials such as notes, other evaluations, and videotaped interviews of the defendant. Additionally, the law now mandates that the experts must videotape their interviews with the defendant, unless doing so would be impractical.

Many practitioners are hailing this law as revolutionary, and believe that this new method of disclosure will come to represent best practices, since the judges will have more information to make more accurate decisions.

Criminal charges can be extremely serious, and may carry life-altering consequences. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, seek help from a dedicated Kane County criminal defense attorney. Our law firm is here to help ensure that your rights are fully represented and that your side of the story is told in the courtroom.

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