Police misconduct constitutes a variety of illegal and bullying acts in which law enforcement agents partake. Misconduct includes excessive use of force, unwarranted property seizure, malicious prosecution, coercion of confession, failure to intervene, bribery, false arrest, intimidation, false imprisonment, creating false evidence, tampering with witnesses or evidence, and more. Police officers have a tremendous amount of power, and when that power is used in unlawful ways, it has a tendency to ruin lives and rip communities apart.
Unwarranted police violence has wreaked havoc on Chicago over the last half century and the problem is not being solved. While there is currently an ongoing civil rights probe of the Chicago police department that began in 2015, a consent decree may be overturned by the new white house administration. If you have had your civil rights violated by a Chicago law enforcement officer or agency, do not hesitate to call an experienced lawyer with the law firm of Barney and Hourihane today at 312-854-0906.
Black Citizens’ Complaints Dismissed at Four Times the Rate of White Citizens’ Complaints
Police misconduct in Chicago is at a crisis level, and citizens’ complaints are not being addressed when it comes to false arrest, tampering with evidence, intimidation, and excessive use of force. While the city paid $520 million in settlements and other legal fees relating to police misconduct from 2004 to 2014, according to bettergov.org, complaints from black citizens are largely being ignored. From 2011 to 2015, there were 10,500 complaints filed by African Americans.
Only 166, or 1.6 percent, of those complaints were “sustained” or ended in discipline of an officer after an internal investigation, according to The Huffington Post. Moreover, black Chicago citizen's complaints were dismissed at four times the rate of white Chicago citizen complaints. In total, the city sustained just 2.6 percent of all 29,000 citizen complaints during that time period. In comparison, the national level of all citizen-initiated complaints being sustained is between six and 20 percent. While the national average varies greatly, it is evident that police misconduct is not being addressed in Chicago in the manner that it should.
Over 400 Shootings Since 2007 and Only Two of Wrongdoing Found Valid
Punishment has essentially been non-existent, though. Since 2007 and the creation of the disciplinary system Police Review Authority, there have been over 400 shootings, as of 2015, according to the New York Times. In only two of those cases have wrongdoings by the officers been found valid. While discipline is rare within the Chicago police department, settlements and payouts from lawsuits are common. If you have been injured, a family member has been killed, or any other civil rights of yours or your family’s were violated, there is still hope for some justice.
Call The Chicago Civil Rights Violations Attorneys of Barney and Hourihane Today
The Chicago civil rights violations attorneys of Barney and Hourihane are experienced with all types of police misconduct, and have successfully represented clients in all manners of cases. Call us today at 312-854-0906 to set up an appointment for as soon as possible.
Former Bolingbrook Police Sergeant Convicted for Murder is Heard by Illinois Supreme Court
Sometimes, even the most unlikely cases are appealed. While there may seem to be no hope in overturning a ruling, that a mountain of evidence is in favor of the court’s initial decision, and momentum in the defendant's favor is gone due to unfavorable public opinion, there is still a chance that an appeal will be successful. Not all cases can go to appeal. There needs to be some proof of wrongdoing or mistake on the behalf of the court, prosecution, or the defense. If you believe that such mistakes happened in your case, contact an experienced Chicago criminal appeals attorney with Barney and Hourihane today .
38-Year Sentence Appealed at Appellate Court in Ottawa
A former Bolingbrook, Illinois, police sergeant was convicted of murder in 2012. He was sentenced to serve 38 years in prison for killing his third wife in 2014, and was later sentenced to an additional 40 years when it was found that he had attempted to hire a hitman to kill the state attorney who originally convicted him. However, his case went to appeals court. The initial court decision was upheld by the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa, according to the Chicago Tribune. Allegations that the lead defense attorney had a conflict of interest and that his counsel was ineffective were found to be untrue. However, the story does not stop there.
No Confession, No Eyewitness, and No Known Time of Death
The death of the defendant’s third wife was initially thought to be an accident. However, when she was unburied, signs of foul play were detected. The defendant's fourth wife came forward with allegations that he had murdered the third wife, but she went missing and was never able to give testimony in court. Her disappearance was thought to be the work of her husband, and in order to admit her testimony in court, prosecutors admitted it with a 2010 hearsay law, called Drew's Law, that allowed her witness testimony to be heard “beyond the grave.” Despite there being no confession, eyewitnesses, or known time of death, prosecutors were still able to convict this man of murder, though not without a prolonged fight.
Case Taken to Illinois Supreme Court
After the appellate court ruled in favor of the initial court’s decision on a 38-year sentence for murder, the former police sergeant's attorneys took the case to the next step up. The defendant’s arguments were heard before the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 12th. Just getting the hearing was rare, as 95 percent of appeals requests are rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court, according to Chicago 5. A decision is expected to be reached at some time next year, according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Attorney Today
Was your trial rushed through? Was their key evidence not taken into account, or bias within the courtroom? Contact a Chicago civil rights attorney at Barney and Hourihane law today at 312-854-0906 for immediate assistance.
There are various types of appeals that can lead to a case being reviewed by either an appellate court or the Supreme Court. An appellate court hears appeals from lower courts and makes a decision that usually brings the case to a final end. However, an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court in rare circumstances, and in even rarer circumstances the Supreme Court may hear the appeal. If you were penalized for a crime that you did not commit, the penalty is uncommonly severe, there was an unfair hearing, or your rights were violated in any other way, call an experienced criminal appeals attorneys at Barney and Hourihane today at 312-854-0906 for immediate assistance.
What are the Possible Outcomes of an Appeal?
Appeal stems from disagreements of how the law should be applied, and from a constitutional rights violation. No new evidence is permitted during an appeal. The decision can be affirmed, meaning that the lower court’s original decision will be upheld; the decision can be remanded, meaning that the it will be sent back to the lower court for decision and review according to the higher judge’s advice; or the decision can be reversed, meaning that the appellate judge annuls the decision that came out of the previous lower court trial.
Supreme Court Hearings are Rare
Any case that involves the federal law or the constitution can be heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court gets around 7,000 requests each year, though it only hears 80 cases a year, roughly, and makes a decision on an additional 50 without hearing an argument, according civilrights.org. Two thirds of the cases are appealed from federal courts, one third are appealed from state supreme courts, and sometimes, though very rarely, the Supreme Court takes on cases that were not previously heard by a lower court.
Writ of Certiorari
A writ is an order issued by a higher court to a lower court. Cornell Law states that while writ of certiorari is rarely used, the Supreme Court commonly uses writ of certiorari to determine which cases to hear. When a writ of certiorari is issued, all the evidence and case files are sent up to the Supreme court for review.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
A writ of habeas corpus is issued by a court to the authority detaining a person and requires the detained person’s attendance in court so their case can be reviewed. It is possible in this scenario that the court finds the reason for detention illegal and releases the individual.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
All appeals are “as of right” appeals, or “discretionary” appeals, depending on the specifics involving the case. The court has to hear appeals as of right, which is enforced by constitutional principles. A discretionary appeal is not mandatory for an appeals court to hear, and is only heard at the discretion of the court. If you wish to file an appeals, you need an experienced attorney with knowledge specific to Illinois appeals law. Call Chicago appeals attorney Barney and Hourihane today at 312-854-0906 for immediate assistance.
Appeals Court Frees Schaumburg Manslaughter Defendant Pending Appeal
Schaumburg resident Bonnie Liltz walked out of a prison downstate today after an Illinois criminal appeals court order, The Chicago Tribune reports. A Cook County court convicted Liltz of killing her disabled adopted daughter Courtney. Liltz plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter after she gave Courtney a fatal dose of prescription medicine and then attempted to kill herself, ABC 7 Eyewitness News reports. The judge sentenced Liltz to four years in prison. After serving only 72 hours of her sentence, the appeals court ordered that Liltz could post a $5,000 bail bond pending her appeal.
Liltz Killing “an Act of Mercy”
Many observers of the case expected that the Cook County court would have given Liltz probation for her crime. Liltz told the court that she was facing severe medical issues herself, and acted out of fear for Courtney’s future. Advocates for Liltz described the killing as an act of mercy. It also seemed unlikely that Liltz would kill again. Liltz requires treatment for kidney problems that arose from chemotherapy for ovarian cancer several years ago. It would be difficult for her to obtain such treatments in prison.
Illinois Appeals Court May Set Bail Pending Appeal
It is unusual for an appeals court to grant bail to a defendant whom a lower court has sentenced to prison time. Illinois law does give the court the ability to set a higher bail or to let the original bail stand during the appeal. The appeals court has the power to review any errors that the lower court may have committed which significantly affected the rights of the defendant. If they find that such errors occurred, they can reduce the sentence, send the case back to the lower court, or overrule the conviction.
Appeals Court May Reduce Liltz Sentence
In a case like Bonnie Liltz’, it makes sense that the appeals court would take the unusual measure of allowing Liltz to go free on bail while her appeal is pending. Because Liltz requires specialized medical treatment, her supporters expressed concern that she would die in prison if she served her four year sentence. Given the nature of her crime, Liltz seems unlikely to kill anyone else. This means that there is little danger to allowing her to stay free on bail pending her appeal. Also, since Liltz is in poor health and requires regular medical treatment, she poses little or no flight risk. The court’s decision to grant her bail pending her appeal might also signal that the court is considering reducing her sentence to probation.
Get Legal Help
If you or someone you know has been wrongly convicted of a crime, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals attorney at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today to get the justice you deserve.
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Federal District Court Overturns Brendan Dassey’s 2007 Conviction for Rape and Murder
The Eastern District Court of Michigan this past week released a decision to throw out the confession of Brendan Dassey, a Wisconsin man who has been serving a life sentence in prison after a conviction for raping and murdering a woman in 2005, according to The New York Times. Dassey was the 16-year-old learning disabled nephew of Steven Avery, who the court also sentenced to life for raping and murdering Teresa Halbach, a 25-year-old photographer. The court found that the detectives who interrogated Dassey pressured and led him to give an involuntary confession that he assisted in Avery’s rape and murder of Halbach. Without the confession, the state can either appeal the federal district court magistrate’s decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, retry Dassey, or release him from prison.
Dassey Investigators Used False Promises to Coerce a Confession
Civil rights groups have already criticized Dassey’s conviction; he was even the subject of a Netflix original series called Making a Murderer. NBC 5 Chicago reports that the federal court magistrate found that Dassey’s investigators made false promises, and gave him the impression that he was not a suspect in the investigation and didn’t have to worry about criminal charges. Because of these misleading tactics and the fact that Dassey had a low IQ and no experience dealing with the police, the magistrate found that Dassey made an involuntary confession.
Defendants May Suppress Involuntary Confessions
Many criminal defendants make plea deals wherein they agree to accept a particular conviction in exchange for leniency from prosecutors. But these plea deals are different from an actual confession. A confession is when a criminal defendant to police that they committed criminal acts. Such a confession makes it very difficult for a defendant to avoid a conviction at trial.
A defense lawyer may, however, exclude a confession from the trial if they can demonstrate that the defendant did not give the confession freely. The Illinois Code provides that the defense may move to suppress an involuntary confession. In determining whether or not the confession was voluntary, the court will examine the totality of the circumstances (every relevant fact), including both the nature of the interrogation and the character of the defendant. This can include how much pressure the interrogators used, the setting of the interrogation, its duration, and the age, experience and mental abilities of the defendant.
Age, Intellect and Interrogation Make Dassey Confession Involuntary
In Brendan Dassey’s case, the court had plenty of reasons to find that the confession was not voluntary. Dassey’s first interrogation did not result in any kind of confession. The investigators had to interrogate Dassey four times before he confessed. The investigators promised Dassey they were on his side and that he didn’t have to worry as long as he told the truth. Dassey was still a teenager at the time, had never dealt with the police, and had a borderline intelligence score. Many of the questions interrogators asked several times, and hinted strongly at what they wanted Dassey to say, even after he had changed his testimony several times. In the end, the picture emerges of investigators who manipulated a vulnerable person into telling them what they wanted to hear. Unfortunately, Dassey has already served almost a decade in prison. If he is released, it’s likely he will sue the state to compensate him for all he has suffered.
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If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today to get the justice you deserve.
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Court of Appeals Threw Out Several Corruption Counts
A criminal appeals court is set to hear arguments in the resentencing hearing for former governor Rod Blagojevich on August 9, according to The Associated Press. The court will decide whether to reduce the sentence of 14 years in prison that a federal district court handed down in 2011. Blagojevich originally received the sentence after the district court convicted him of 18 counts of corruption. Last year, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out five of the counts of corruption that the district court conviction contained. Blagojevich has already served four years of the original sentence. His lawyers will argue that the sentence should be reduced to five years total, leaving only one more year.
District Court Convicted Blagojevich of Attempting to Sell Senate Seat
CNN reports that the corruption charges that the criminal appeal deals with originated from Blagojevich’s attempt to sell Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat in 2008. The counts included wire fraud, extortion, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. When Barack Obama won the 2008 election and became the next President of the United States, he resigned from his post as United States Senator from Illinois in the middle of his term. The Illinois Constitution allows the Governor of Illinois to appoint a replacement senator in this situation. Blagojevich sought an appointee who would agree to provide some form of kickback, including contributions to Blagojevich’s campaign, appointing him to a lucrative non-profit post, or appointing his wife to a corporate board.
Federal Appellate Courts Have Broad Authority to Change Convictions
If a federal court convicts a defendant of a crime, the defendant can appeal to a federal appeals court. The court can hear any errors that the district court committed during the original trial if those errors substantially affected the rights of the defendant. The appeals court can send the case back to the district court with instructions for retrying the case, or it can directly change the outcome by reducing the sentence, throwing out specific counts, or even reversing the whole conviction.
Bad Jury Instructions Led Court to Throw Out Convictions
As The Chicago Tribune points out, some of the corruption counts that the appeals court threw out were related to Blagojevich’s attempt to sell Obama’s senate seat. The problem with these convictions was that the instructions to the jury in the original federal district court trial were not sufficiently specific. The instructions to the jury for whether or not Blagojevich was guilty of attempting to sell Obama’s senate seat would have treated all kickbacks alike, but the appeals court ruled that only specific kinds of kickbacks (like the award of private sector jobs) would count as crimes. The appeals court threw out the convictions that used vague jury instructions. Now the district court has to decide whether this change in the convictions means that Blagojevich should serve less time.
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If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals attorney at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today to get the justice you deserve.
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Lawyer Argues for Exclusion of Canine Evidence
A criminal appeals lawyer for an Aurora man is appealing his 2013 conviction for murder, arguing that the trial court should not have allowed some of the evidence in the trial, The Chicago Tribune reports. A jury convicted the man, Aurelio Montano, of murdering his wife. The wife, Maria Guadalupe, died in 1990. Montano’s lawyer argues that the trial judge should have excluded testimony about the use of dogs to search for the wife’s body. Montano, who is 60 years old, was already serving a prison sentence for two other murders in Aurora in 1996.
Police Dogs Found Rug with Scent of Cadaver, but No Body
Prosecutors charged Montano in 2008 with murdering his wife, Montano family members found a rug buried on the farm where they Aurelio Montano and his wife had lived and worked. Police investigators connected interviews with different family members that seemed to indicate that Montano had disposed of Maria Guadalupe’s body after she vanished. During the trial, the prosecutors also introduced testimony regarding dogs that police used to search for Maria Guadalupe’s body. They testified that the dogs found the scent of a human cadaver on a rug and in the hole where the rug was buried. Testimony from the family indicated that Aurelio Montano may have wrapped Guadalupe’s body in the rug before burying her.
Montano’s lawyer argues that the judge should not have allowed the testimony about the dogs to come before the jury because there was not enough scientific evidence to show that the dogs were able to detect the scent of a dead body. Without such scientific evidence, the lawyer argues, the canine testimony is “unduly prejudicial”—that is, it distorts the jury’s perception of events without really proving anything. He also argued that, because police never found a dead body, there was not sufficient evidence to prove that anyone killed Maria Guadalupe. The state criminal appeals prosecutor argues in response that scientific research has established the ability of trained canines to locate the scent of a cadaver. According to The Guardian, the kind of dogs used to investigate Maria Guadalupe Montano’s disappearance cannot naturally detect the scent of a cadaver; police canine trainers must teach them how to do it.
When Courts Allow Prejudicial Evidence, Defendants can Appeal
Rule 403 of the Illinois Rules of Evidence states: “Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” In Illinois, a defendant may appeal a criminal conviction to the Illinois Appellate Court. On appeal, the convicted person’s lawyer may point out any errors that may have significantly affected the defendant’s rights in the original trial. This includes occasions where the trial judge violated rules of evidence by allowing testimony which the judge should have excluded. If the judge determines that the judge should have excluded the evidence and that the inclusion of the evidence seriously changed the outcome of the trial, the judge can order the trial court to retry the case, or even reverse the conviction.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, you need expert legal help. Get in touch with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer at Barney & Hourihane today to find out more about your options.
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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.
It is common knowledge that if you go to trial and lose, chances are you can appeal the ruling. People on death row appeal as many times as they are able, hoping to reverse the decision that may lead to their death. Parents can appeal when they lose custody of their children. And most recently, Chicago State University appealed a ruling that James Crowley, their former attorney, was unfairly fired. What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is just how costly and time-consuming appeals can be.
Crowley v. Watson
First, some background. In 2014, Chicago State University fired James Crowley after he refused to withhold documents and acted as a whistleblower. Crowley sued under the state ethics act, an act that protects employees such as Crowley who disclose employer activities that they believe might be illegal. The University claimed that instead Crowley was fired for misusing university resources. A Cook County jury found that Crowley was in fact unfairly fired, and awarded him two million dollars in punitive damages and back pay in the amount of $480,000.
Needless to say, the University appealed, primarily citing the large punitive damages award. But here we see how appeals can do more harm than good. In March, the appellate court in Cook County not only upheld the jury’s award, but the judge ordered attorneys’ fees to be paid to Crowley in the amount of $300,000 and doubled the amount of back pay he would receive. Additionally, the university was ordered to pay Crowley his salary until all appeals were completed, in the amount of $120,000 a year. After this appeal, the total cost to the University went from about 2.5 million to 5 million, plus some if the appeals continue for multiple years.
State Supreme Court
On May 25, 2016 the Illinois Supreme Court denied the University’s appeal, making both appeals unsuccessful. Now, the case will go back to the trial judge for the final determination of how much money Crowley will receive.
This decision has effects that go beyond just Chicago State University. Of course, the decision of the Supreme Court reinforces the fact that the University was in the wrong; this is the third time that Crowley was found to have been unfairly fired. This is hurtful to both the University’s pocket and their reputation. But the positive there is that all employers will take note; they will be held accountable under the ethics act that Crowley used. Unfortunately for them, this positive came only at the expense of the University.
This case is not unusual; while appeals that are successful frequently make the news, a good many are not successful. In that case, the appeal takes time and money, and sometimes the ruling may ultimately cost you more money. In order to decide whether an appeal makes sense, it is important to keep these facts in mind.
Contact a Chicago Appeals Attorney
Appeals are a very complex, costly, and time-consuming process. If you received a verdict that you wish to appeal, consulting an attorney can only help. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to appeal and the attorneys in the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane are here to help you. Contact us today for a consultation.
A recent decision from the Illinois Court of Appeals has strengthened protections for when police officers may enter a home without a warrant. As most Americans know, the Fourth Amendment requires that police officers get a warrant to enter someone’s home without permission, or at least have a very good reason to avoid this rule, such as a reasonable suspicion that someone’s life is in danger if they don’t enter.
Of course, whether the police are right to enter a residence without a warrant is rarely a clear cut issue. Sometimes police believe they have every right to enter a home without getting a warrant first, and if that action results in an arrest, the suspect may need to go to court to have any evidence police find suppressed, and making sure that decision is upheld can even require going before the appellate court.
People v. Swanson
In People v. Swanson, decided earlier this month, the defendant was coming home from a bar when he lost control of his vehicle on an icy road and crashed into a ditch approximately two miles from his home in Hinckley, Illinois.
The airbags deployed and the man only cut his finger, but the vehicle would not start, so he locked his car and went to a nearby home for assistance. At the first home, the residents would not let the man home and even pulled a gun on him. No one was home at the second residence, so he decided to return to his own home.
In the meantime, police officers found the abandoned vehicle and contacted the defendant’s wife to tell him that her husband and been involved in a car accident and could not be located.
The man soon returned home, however, and his wife contacted dispatchers to let them know that he was safe. This was not enough for police officers though, who insisted on coming to the home to see for themselves.
Stories conflict about what happened next, though it did result in the man being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, and several other misdemeanors. The woman repeatedly insisted before the trial court that she did not give the police consent to enter her home, though police claim she did. The trial court sided with the woman, and granted the man’s motions to suppress evidence and rescind a statutory summary suspension of his license.
The state appealed this ruling, but finding the woman to be credible and no applicable exception that would have allowed the police to enter without a warrant, the appellate court upheld the ruling of the trial court.
Contact a Chicago Defense Appeals Lawyer
Sometimes the ruling of a trial court is not enough to clear your name, and you must file an appeal to have evidence suppressed or get a conviction vacated. Criminal appeals are complex matters best handled by experienced Illinois appellate attorneys. If you’re considering an appeal in a criminal case, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation about your case.