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March 2015 Archives

Man's Failure to Use Proper Process for Obtaining Access to Video Evidence in Retail Theft Case Did Not Pose Sixth Amendment Violation, Illinois Appellate Court Rules

A man's decision to represent himself may have been a fateful choice in his retail theft trial. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected his appeal, ruling that the man was not, in fact, denied access to a crucial piece of video evidence in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights, but rather that he merely failed to take the appropriate steps needed to view the video footage.

Independent Corroboration Gives Police Probable Cause for Search of Vehicle and Passengers

A man suspected of drug crimes was stopped only on a seat belt violation but was removed from his car, handcuffed, and transported to a police station, where he and his car were searched - all without a warrant. The Illinois Appellate Court concluded that this police activity was allowed under the Fourth Amendment, since the police had independently corroborated evidence from an informant that gave them probable cause to believe the man and his car were involved in criminal activity.

Man's Role in Transporting Unopened Box of Cannabis Enough to Support Drug Conviction

The Illinois Appellate Court recently affirmed the conviction of a man who transported an unopened FedEx package that contained cannabis inside it. The court's ruling declared that, in some cases, an accused person's suspicious behavior "in the vicinity" of illegal drugs can be enough to prove knowledge that the drugs were present.

Woman's Peculiar, But Not Illegal, Driving Patterns Not Enough to Warrant Stop by State Trooper

A woman's DUI conviction was recently overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court because the state trooper who stopped her did not have the appropriate legal grounds to do so. Although the woman engaged in some odd driving, including pulling onto a private lane, turning off her lights, and parking behind a barn, the trooper could not point to anything the driver did that made him believe that she had committed a crime or was about do so.

Trial Court's Overly Broad Reading of 'Ambiguous' Domestic Violence Protection Order Leads to Overturned Conviction

A man convicted of violating a domestic violence protection order successfully persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court to throw out that conviction due to flaws both with the order and with his trial. The order was ambiguous and confusing, but the statute governing "stay away" orders like the one issued in this case requires the state to prove that the abuser came impermissibly close to the victim (or his or her residence) and did so intentionally, neither of which the state proved.

Appeals Court Begrudgingly Upholds Driver's Drug Conviction... And Issues a Warning

For the case of one man arrested in Henry County on drug charges, it was a "good news, bad news" situation in the Illinois Appellate Court. The good news was that the court found his arguments regarding the police's search tactics were persuasive and offered a well-reasoned case for a Fourth Amendment violation. The bad news was that the Illinois Supreme Court had already ruled in 2011, on a strikingly factually similar case, that the sort of police tactics this suspect challenged were, in fact, legal.

Man's Domestic Battery Conviction Stands Despite Prosecutor's Use of Past Domestic Violence History

The actions one man undertook in one alcohol-fueled summer night ultimately led his conviction on several domestic violence charges. The trial court's decision to allow the state to tell the jury about the man's previous domestic violence conviction did not entitle him to a new trial, however, since the information had more valid usefulness to the jury than it had probability to unfairly bias the jury. The Illinois Appellate Court's decision shows how challenging obtaining new trials can be in these situations, even when the previous conviction disclosed to the jury is identical to the one for which the accused is on trial.

Chicago Police Justified in Stopping, Not Searching, Man Suspected of Selling Drugs

A man arrested after police stopped and searched him while he stood near a street corner in Chicago's South Side got his conviction overturned by the Illinois Appellate Court because, while the police had sufficient grounds for stopping the man, they did not have a valid basis for searching him. The outcome highlights that police cannot use as grounds for a search the claimed fear that the suspect might have a gun, based solely on suspicion that the suspect was engaged in the drug trade.

Appellate Court Tosses Jail Term, Substitutes Probation for Nurse With Absence of Criminal History

A nurse who was driving an all-terrain vehicle when it crashed and killed her cousin will not have to serve out the remainder of her 42-month prison sentence, since the Illinois Appellate Court recently reduced her sentence to probation. Although the woman had been drinking on the night of the accident, she pled guilty only to reckless homicide, not aggravated DUI. Given that charge, and the woman's positive character and history, the trial court should not have sentenced her to jail time.

Cannabis Evidence Not Admissible Because Search Warrant Did Not Extend to Warehouse

A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision highlights the obligation of law enforcement to abide by the letter of the search warrants they obtain, and the consequences of failing to do so. In that recent case, a fateful decision by police regarding when to execute a search warrant prevented the state from legally using the drugs obtained by police against a man in his possession of cannabis case. Since the warrant obtained by police covered only those vehicles or premises in which the drugs were located, and the police stopped the man while driving a forklift outside, the warrant did not allow them to also search a nearby warehouse.

Appeals Court Upholds Six-Year Prison Sentence in Teen Driver's DUI Case

A teen's fateful decision to drive after having smoked marijuana ultimately resulted in one death and the teen receiving a six-year prison sentence for DUI. The Illinois Appellate Court issued a ruling in the case, deciding that marijuana's inclusion in the DUI statute did not violate the Constitution and, even when the person convicted of DUI is a youthful, inexperienced driver with no history of criminal transgressions, sentences that include jail time are not inappropriate.

DuPage County Judge's Instruction to Jury on 'Reasonable Doubt' Didn't Violate Due Process Rights of Man Accused of Liquor Theft

In a case involving a man accused of retail theft for stealing nine bottles of liquor, a DuPage County trial judge's decision to tell a jury that it must decide for itself what constitutes reasonable doubt did not violate the accused man's rights, according to an Illinois Appellate Court ruling. The judge's statement, by itself, was insufficient to prove that the jury convicted the man using a standard below the proper "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Motorcyclist's Illinois DUI Conviction Thrown Out Due to Judge's Improper Answer to Jury Question

A motorcyclist received a reprieve when the Illinois Appellate Court threw out his DUI conviction arising from a fatal crash. The appellate ruling serves as a reminder that, in criminal jury trial cases, a judge's answer to a jury question should clarify legal issues for the jury, but it should not decide the ultimate issue of the case for them.

Plea Bargain Not a Requirement to Receive First Offender Probation

A woman found guilty of drug possession got her sentence overturned recently after her lawyers persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court that the trial judge improperly inserted his personal beliefs into the sentencing process. The woman qualified for the first offender probation program, and the trial judge should not have refused her that option based solely on his opinion that the accused person should have pled guilty and entered a plea agreement in order to gain entry into the program.

When the Police Can Take Your Blood Without a Warrant in an Illinois DUI Case

The US Constitution's Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. A US Supreme Court case from last year made it clear that this protection bars law enforcement from taking a driver's blood without a search warrant simply because the police fear losing evidence of the driver's driving under the influence. A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision reached the same outcome, ruling that the police did not face an emergency, so they should have gotten a warrant before taking a driver's blood.

Excessive Duration Turns Legal Traffic Stop into Fourth Amendment Violation, Unravels Drug Conviction

When the police pull you over for a traffic violation, they can investigate you for other crimes, including searching you and your vehicle, but only if they have probable cause to do so. If they do not have reasonable suspicion that you've committed some other crime, they cannot simply delay you indefinitely until probable cause emerges. A recent drug case decided by the Illinois Appellate Court demonstrated this principle, as a police officer's excessively slow handling of a traffic stop made his search of the accused's vehicle improper.

Friends Were Not Unbiased, So Their Testimony Not Enough to Prove Informant Lied to Judge Who Issued Search Warrant

Search warrants are integral to many criminal cases, but the testimony used to secure a warrant must be truthful. A man's attempt to challenge a search warrant used against him, based on his claim that the information supplied to the court to secure the warrant was false, fell short because he did not have enough evidence from unbiased witnesses to support his argument. Supplying the partial alibi testimony of the man's two roommates and his girlfriend was insufficient, the Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled.

Use of Old Convictions Prevents Man from Getting Fair Trial in Domestic Battery Case

A man convicted of aggravated domestic battery and sexual assault was recently awarded a new trial by the Illinois Appellate Court because the jury heard about parts of his criminal history that they never should have. The law prevents using convictions more than 10 years old to try to damage a person's credibility. The use of two such old convictions in this man's trial potentially improperly swayed the jury in assessing his credibility and prevented the man from getting a fair trial.

Officers Not Allowed to Stop, Search Citizens Based Upon a 'Hunch' Regarding Criminal Activity

An Illinois Appellate Court ruling from earlier this year counted as a notable victory for the rights of citizens to be free from excessive police intrusion. A Chicago police officer stopped and searched a man based upon a hunch after seeing the man shove his hands down his pants. That hunch was not enough to constitute the sort of reasonable suspicion needed to warrant a stop and conduct a legal search.

Appeals Court Rejects Felony Sentence for Theft of Batteries from Pharmacy Due to Lack of Notice Regarding Enhancement

The law contains various provisions for enhancing seemingly minor crimes into more substantial ones if the accused has a criminal history. In fact, one man recently received a 18-month prison sentence for stealing batteries from a Walgreens store. The Illinois Appellate Court invalidated that sentence, though, since the state did not give the accused man the proper notice that it intended to prosecute his retail theft case as a felony.

When You Can (and Can't) Get Around Going Through an Illinois DUI Police Checkpoint

DUI enforcement points, commonly known as roadblocks or checkpoints, are a frequently used tool of law enforcement to curtail drivers driving under the influence. So, if you're approaching a roadblock, what are your options? Can you choose to reverse course rather than go through the roadblock? According to a recent Illinois Appellate Court decision, you can in certain situations.

What Happens If I Don't Attend a Scheduled Court Appearance?

You can be required to show up in court for any number of reasons - jury duty, a traffic ticket, or other criminal offenses. Whatever the reason for your scheduled appearance, you are expected to be there at the specified date and time. If you're not, it is only right to assume that consequences are likely to follow.

What are the Most Common Forms of Probation Violation?

Probation is essentially an alternative to going to jail. The convicted offender is given certain rules and requirements that they're expected to abide by instead of spending time in jail. While it is certainly a favorable option, the terms of probation can be difficult for many people to abide by.

Can Disorderly Conduct Charges Affect My Employment?

In today's day and age, disorderly conduct can occur under almost any circumstances. At restaurants, the beach, or even a sporting event, it is not uncommon to spot someone exhibiting rowdy behavior. Law enforcement is serious about cracking down on individuals who 'disturb the peace' and depending on the extent of the behavior, it can lead to an arrest and possibly a conviction.