Dennis Hastert seemed to be the quintessential American success story. A wrestling coach and schoolteacher from the suburbs of Chicago, he went into politics, rising all the way up to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was third in line to the presidency while Bill Clinton and George Bush were in office, and was the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history.
Yet, according to some claims Dennis Hastert had a secret that nobody knew about. Before he became a legislator, some allege that a beacon of family values had betrayed the position of trust that he enjoyed at Yorkville High School. So much time had passed since his transgressions of thirty or more years ago, that when they first came to light it was already too late to hold him legally accountable for his actions, even if they occurred with under-aged boys.
Understanding the Law in Illinois - Statutes of Limitations
The reason why the former Speaker was not tried for allegations of sexual abuse has to do with the statute of limitations for these offenses. Interestingly enough, the controlling factor is not the dates of the abusive acts, but the age of the person who is seeking relief. The current law in Illinois states that a victim has twenty years from the time they turn 18 to file a claim for damages against their abuser or, in the case of repressed memories, five years after they discover that abuse has taken place.
Notice that the age of the accuser is the relevant factor, and not when the abuse took place. Under the law those claiming abuse must be willing to come forward and name their abuser, and admit to the abusive acts occurred.
In this case, Scott Cross, for example, was 53 years old when he testified about the actions of Coach Hastert. The statute of limitations had long expired, and there wasn't any way for him to bring legal action against Hastert.
The addition of an extra five-year period opens up the possibility of claims being brought after a victim's 38th birthday has passed. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has proposed eliminating the statute of limitations for crimes of this nature, but this would require legislative action.
This issue is an example of the myriad of rules that affect criminal law cases. No two cases are the same, and it is critical that everyone accused of a crime be given a fair chance to defend themselves. Claims made decades after the alleged incidents often place the defendant at a advantage as they try to muster evidence to show their innocence. Issues like the statute of limitations are one way that the rights of criminal defendants are protected.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Law Attorney
If you, or someone you love, has questions about the statute of limitations in this regard, contact the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Barney & Hourihane to arrange for a consultation.
What is privacy?
Privacy means a lot of things, but in criminal court, and in the context of the 4th Amendment, it specifically means that an officer of the law cannot use evidence against you that he or she did not obtain through constitutionally approved search and seizure methods. These methods are complex and lend themselves to various interpretations, but essentially, they boil down to the following fundamental components:
1. An officer must have probable cause to perform a search.
2. If a search was illegal, then evidence seized cannot be used against someone unless an intervening event took place that would have created probable cause regardless of the illegal search (this is known as the “Attenuation Doctrine”)
The 4th Amendment protects against unlawful searches and seizures and has been a cornerstone of our expectations of justice since its ratification in 1791. As part of the Bill of Rights, the 4th Amendment and subsequent interpretations of it, dictate the limitations on our country’s police authority to infringe upon on our freedom. Essentially, our founding fathers deemed privacy to be a basic human right constituting a major component of freedom.
What are my Rights Regarding Unreasonable Search and Seizure?
Monday, May 21, 2016, the definition of privacy was changed as traditionally understood in the context of the 4th Amendment. In Utah v. Strieff, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing drug evidence, which was found as a result of an illegal stop, to be used against the defendant in criminal court. The arresting officer suspected the defendant of illegal drug activity and followed him to a convenient store and asked for his identification without cause. During this illegal stop, the police officer ran the suspect’s name through the database and discovered that the suspect had a warrant out for his arrest for a prior traffic violation. Upon learning about the warrant, the police officer performed a search of the suspect and did indeed find illegal drugs on him. The officer claimed that the discovery of the warrant satisfied the Attenuation Doctrine, so even though the stop was illegal, information obtained because of the stop gave the officer probable cause to search and subsequently arrest the suspect. The evidence was then allowed in court resulting in the suspect’s incrimination. The Supreme Court agreed.
There is of course the following argument: If John Doe has a traffic warrant out for his arrest, then he should be arrested. The polarizing issue here, however, is that the arresting officer suspected him of drug activity, and after performing an illegal stop, was able to use incriminating evidence found during the illegal stop. Essentially, the officer was able to justify the search based on a warrant for an unrelated traffic incident that he wouldn’t have known about except for the fact that he made the illegal stop. The concern is that an illegal stop can now become a means to an end, meaning a person abiding by the law now has a very different expectation of privacy. Not only has the interpretation of 4th Amendment changed in regards to a person’s basic freedoms, but we now must ask how what incentives remain in place for the police force to abide by the mandates of the 4th Amendment.
What do I do if I suspect I’ve been illegally stopped and searched?
It is critical to protect the delicate relationship between law enforcement officers and the rights of community members. If you experienced any violation of your civil rights as a result of police misconduct, contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney.
Our firm works with residents who are appealing their criminal conviction in Chicago. Grounds for appeal are varied. One reason that a prior conviction may be overturned on appeal is when the rules of evidence are misused or violated in an original trial.
There are many forms of evidence in criminal cases, and one particularly common form of evidence is witness statements. Witnesses can tell the court about what they saw or heard or about what they personally perceived or thought about a situation, person or circumstance. So long as a witness testifies about things he or she personally knows or said, the evidence is generally admissible in court. However, witness testimony evidence can become increasingly unreliable when the witness tells the court about something he or she heard someone else say. This unreliability comes from the fact that Witness A is telling the court about something Person B said… why not simply have Person B tell the court the same thing? In some situations, this type of witness testimony can constitute “hearsay” evidence, and there are special rules of evidence when it comes to hearsay statements.
What Is Hearsay?
In order for evidence to be useful in court, it must be reliable. Hearsay is a complicated form of evidence because sometimes it is unreliable, while other times it can be highly reliable. As such, the admissibility of hearsay evidence in court is govern by a lot of special rules (Illinois Rules of Evidence Rule 801-806). Things can get complicated because there are:
Hearsay is a statement that can be made in writing, made orally or made through non-verbal conduct (e.g., a thumbs up gesture or a shrugging of the shoulders gesture), that is made outside of the courtroom by a declarant (i.e., the person who utters the statement), which is offered as evidence in court to prove the truth of the matter that is being asserted. As a rule, hearsay is generally inadmissible evidence in court.
As previously mentioned, hearsay is generally excluded as evidence in court because of its inherent unreliability. To demonstrate this unreliability, consider the following example. If Witness A testified in court to hearing Declarant B say, “Defendant D told me that he stole the television,” there is an element of unreliability here because Witness A is telling the court something that Declarant B said regarding Defendant D. The testimony would have more credibility if Declarant B told the court directly what Defendant D said to him.
Illinois Rules of Evidence Rules 803 and 804 provide a number of specific situations that constitute hearsay exceptions. These exceptions apply to statements that are hearsay (i.e., they are out-of-court statements offered for the truth of the matter asserted), but for other reasons these statements fall into the category of exceptions to the hearsay rule, and are admissible, because they are highly reliable statements.
For example, one exception to the hearsay rule is directed to recorded recollections. A recorded recollection, such as a police statement made by a witness after a car accident, can be read to the court during trial. While the reading of the police report to the court is the reading of an out-of-court statement, as it is a written record made by the witness, that is offered for the truth of the matter it asserts (i.e., the police report is being read to the court as proof of the truth of the matter asserted), it is admissible since it is a highly reliable form of evidence.
Additionally, 725 ILCS 5/115-10 specifically provides a number of scenarios that are hearsay exceptions. These exceptions to the hearsay rule exist to promote justice in cases involving the physical or sexual abuse of children or those who are intellectually disabled. There is a strong public policy reasoning for hearing all of the evidence that is available in cases that involve particularly vulnerable victims.
Contact Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyers
It is important that you be represented by a sharp and experienced criminal defense lawyer at your trial and, if necessary, your appeal. When you are facing criminal charges so that inadmissible hearsay evidence stays out of your trial. Contact the legal team at Barney & Hourihane today to ensure that your rights are respected throughout the legal process.
Police officers are empowered with certain rights and obligations to uphold and enforce the law. Society has recently called into question the age old notion of “protect and serve”. As more and more cases of police brutality are reported and spread across media outlets, debates over how much force an officer should use have ensued. While police officers have the right to use appropriate force to control dangerous situations, civil rights laws provide remedies when willful police conduct violates an individual’s civil liberties. The fine line rests between the appropriate amount of force and police misconduct in a particular situation.
Understanding the Rules
The Chicago Police Rules and Regulations state that the use of reasonable physical force may be necessary in situations which cannot be otherwise controlled. Officers are permitted to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to protect others or themselves from bodily harm. The law also states that the use of excessive and unwarranted force or brutality will not be tolerated under any circumstances. In the wake of several recent cases of police misconduct, it’s important for Chicago citizens to understand legal rights and remedies when stopped and questioned by a police officer. Police officers cannot search your vehicle without permission. You have the right to ask for a lawyer and to be protected by your Constitutional rights.
While citizens have the right to protection from misconduct, police officers have rights to stop and question suspects. Respect and cooperation is suggested. However, if your rights are violated, always write down the officer’s name and badge number. If you are injured, seek medical attention and take photos of the injury as soon as possible. Lawyers like [name of the client] can support you in your effort to seek remedy for violation of your rights
Beyond mere remedial efforts, the City of Chicago is taking recent events into account as officials seek reform. In an effort to better scrutinize issues of police misconduct, Chicago passed a new mandate requiring police officers to issue “stop receipts” after approaching someone. This mandate, amongst law enforcement reforms, have bi-partisan support and the backing of police unions. These measures are a positive step in the path to justice.
Chicago Civil Rights Attorneys
If you or a loved one feel a police officers has used unjustifiable force in an encounter, please contact our office today to see how we can help. Our Chicago police misconduct lawyers have years of experience in police misconduct and civil rights cases. We will discuss the facts of your case with you and explore whether you may have a civil rights claim.
Chicago is a city that has seen years of corruption, political and otherwise. It is a city that seems constantly displeased with its elected officials, as they cannot seem to stay within the boundaries of the law. One of the best examples of this is former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for putting a price on an open Senate seat. Just last month, the Supreme Court denied his appeal.
Blagojevich’s troubles began in 2008, when Barack Obama became the president elect and left behind an open Senate seat. The governor was accused of corruption, of seeking money and favors in exchange for the seat, and he was arrested on these charges. In the beginning, he denied the charges, but then wiretaps disclosed multiple conversations in which he discussed his illegal activities. For example, one recording heard him state that he was not involved in any illegal activity, to which someone responded “unless prospectively somebody gets you on a wire.” This clearly infers that Blagojevich could be found guilty of illegal acts if anyone were to hear him talk.
After his arrest, residents and politicians alike called for his resignation or removal from his position. As the governor, he remained in position to not only continue his duties, but also kept the authority to determine who would fill the Senate seat at issue. Ultimately, the governor received eighteen corruption convictions and was sentenced to fourteen years in prison.
This is not the first time that Illinois has seen a corrupt politician, but the citizens of the state are hoping it may be the last. Blagoevich’s sentence of fourteen years may very well be a deterrent to politicians who are considering acting in ways that could get them into trouble. Additionally, it seems as though Blagojevich himself recognizes that what he did was wrong; he apologized publicly to the court, his family, and the residents of Illinois.
Despite his apology, the former governor appealed his convictions. The appeals court denied the appeal, stating that he crossed a line when he actively sought some form of compensation in exchange for the open Senate seat. After that, Blagojevich appealed to the Supreme Court, who turned it down on March 28, 2016. The reason for this appeal was new; Blagojevich claims that, because the federal appeals court threw five of the counts out, prosecutors would not be retrying him on them. As such, his chances for a retrial were taken away. He claimed that these facts made his case a “better candidate” for the Supreme Court, who ultimately did not agree. His appeal was denied without comment this week.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
While this appeal was denied, every case is different. If you or someone you know is considering appealing a verdict, talking to a lawyer is an important step. There are many factors to think about, and an attorney can help you decide the best way to approach this. Contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago attorney.
It’s no secret that the city of Chicago has been having a difficult time trusting the Chicago PD. There has been a rise in police violence and more and more officers have been accused of misconduct. There are currently over one hundred misconduct cases being investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), and the citizens of the city are not happy. Last week, however, the IPRA did something unprecedented; they released the files of these misconduct cases online for the public to view.
Police misconduct cases have been in the headlines more often than not lately, and this release comes as one of the first positive pieces of news. The country has been on high alert for reports of police brutality, and the citizens of Chicago especially so after the delayed release of the video that shows Laquan McDonald being shot.
The release includes records from as far back as five years ago, and the public can now access videos, audio recordings, and early reports from all of these cases. The common theme seems to be the firing of a gun; if a firearm went off in the presence of a police officer, the record is now likely available. The videos include some graphic incidents. One shows a man who assaulted a bus driver being shocked with a Taser and shot by the police, and another shows a van coming onto the sidewalk at a group of officers who then fired at the vehicle, killing one of the passengers. Others show very little action, and include footage of officers waiting around or an empty parking lot.
What This Means
This release comes at a good time for Chicago. The increased level of transparency will help to improve the relationship between the PD and those who live in the city, which will in turn help improve morale as a whole. While most are praising this decision, some have found aspects that they find more harmful than helpful. For example, identities of witnesses could be made public if they are recognized either in the videos or audio clips, and due process could become an issue as these are still pending cases. Others think that the release was a good idea but have found issues with the details. The timing of the videos’ release is one concern, as some believe that the 60 day allowance for posting is too long.
This release did not happen voluntarily on the part of the IPRA, however. The Police Accountability Task Force, a group hand picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, issued a mandate calling for the release. The interesting part comes next; not only did the Task Force issue the mandate, but they have recommended dissolving the IPRA as a whole. This is mainly due to the lack of confidence the public has in the group, as they do not have a good history of conducting their investigations. In fact, there is talk of the next group being comprised of independent civilians, which will hopefully increase the trust between the group and the public and overall bolster the PD’s reputation.
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney
This new level of transparency will hopefully help to improve the city’s relationship with its police department. However, if you or someone you know has questions or concerns related to this, contact us. Our attorneys can help you better understand these changes and discuss your cases.
The statute of limitations is a key factor in any court case; it can truly make or break the case as a whole. In the case of Park Ridge Police Commander Jason Leavitt, for example, a Cook County judge ruled that the statute of limitations had run. However, this May, a panel of judges on the First District Appellate Court overruled that judge, and Leavitt is once again facing criminal charges for the alleged beating of two teenagers in 2006.
Today, stories of police misconduct are all over the news, but it is rare to see something that happened ten years ago. One night in October, 2006, Leavitt was driving home from work in his civilian clothes when something shattered his back window. Two teenagers, whose names have not been disclosed due to their juvenile status at the time, had been shooting rocks at passing cars using their slingshots. According to the teens, Leavitt chased them as they ran, catching one and knocking him down. Leavitt then hit one boy in the head, knocking him down, then straddled him and continued to punch him. Another officer removed Leavitt, who then attacked the other teen as he was brought to the police car by more officers.
Both of the teens filed federal suits in 2007, which were settled. Then, in 2009, prosecutors looked more closely at the case, fearing a police cover-up. Later in 2009, two days before the statute of limitations was to expire, Leavitt was indicted by a grand jury in Cook County, and the indictment was sealed. This is where it gets tricky; after this happened, prosecutors investigated the department for 13 months to see if other officers played a part in the alleged beating or in covering for Leavitt. In 2012, the Cook County judge found that the statute had run during that time period, and as such dismissed the charges. The appellate court, however, found that the investigation was a justified delay, that Leavitt’s ability to put on his case was not harmed, and therefore that the statute had not run and the case could continue.
What This Means for Leavitt
That brings us to today. The details of the incident have remained the same over the past ten years, and the teen who was knocked to the ground testified at the trial this May. While his story remains the same, he has admitted that he can not identify the person who assaulted him. He was the only witness to take the stand, though the officer who pulled Leavitt off the teen was petitioned to testify, and so the case is waiting for that to continue, most likely on June 15, 2016.
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney
The relationship between police officers and community members is a delicate one. It is built on trust and protection, and when a police officer violates that trust, a community can be thrown off kilter. In this situation, it is important for the officer to be charged and punished accordingly for his behavior. If you experienced any altercation or witnessed police misconduct, contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney.
A major topic in the city of Chicago recently has been the Chicago PD. More specifically, the corruption, brutality, and racist tendencies frequently exhibited by its police officers. The conversations came to a head this past year when Mayor Rahm Emanuel hid the video footage of the death of Laquan McDonald, and then kept the cop who shot him on the payroll for the following year. Even without Emanuel’s misstep, however, the police department has been facing scrutiny for their overall policies, practices, and mistakes. The community has lost its faith in the Chicago PD, and it is clear that changes need to be made.
The reputation of the police department has been called into question consistently over the past few years, as Chicago has seen a rise in crime and, in response, gotten more media attention. The death of McDonald on October 20, 2014 brought these issues to light again, as the officer charged with first-degree murder denied what had happened. Additionally, the other officers on the scene were accused of lying about the incident, and Mayor Emanuel hid the video for over a year. These facts did not surprise many Chicagoans, as such behavior has occurred in the past.
This particular shooting death comes on the heels of many other police shootings across the country, and perhaps this is why the PD has come under such intense scrutiny. The country is on alert for corrupt cops who are trigger-happy and don’t face consequences for their actions. There is now a call for police departments to be reorganized in a way that will help the officers better protect us while following the law. For example, some believe the officers should be retrained in all areas, such as search and seizure, how to properly frisk, and the use of force and what is considered excessive. This would be a good place to start to build the PD’s reputation back up; at the very least, it would help for Chicagoans to see its officers trying a new tactic and attempting to make amends.
Is Race An Issue?
While the police department itself is quick to deny that race is a factor in the performance of their jobs, the numbers say otherwise. Black citizens in Chicago make up 72 percent of the street stops, and 74 percent of those shot over the past 7 years were black. Even Mayor Emanuel admitted to this fact after McDonald’s death, but quickly turned the focus on what they were going to do about it. Some suggestions included adding a Deputy Chief of Diversity to the department, releasing videos of incidents with 60 days, and generally being more transparent. The inclusion of these could help bolster their reputation, as citizens will be better able to understand what goes on and trust that the officers are doing their best.
Need Legal Help?
Cases involving police brutality or misconduct are becoming all too common. Each case is different, though, and often the facts can get confusing or overwhelming. Contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney. For more information, see related blogs posts.