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.
In the city of Chicago, allegations of police misconduct made by citizens are supposed to be investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). This board is tasked with determining whether police officers are acting in accordance with the law, and it’s supposed to hold them accountable if they act out of bounds. Yet one recent study by the city found that the IPRA is chronically understaffed and underfunded. The IPRA can’t even fully investigate 40 percent of the complaints that come before it.
That has long led to many Chicago leaders calling for the IPRA to be disbanded and replaced with a civilian organization. Those calls have long been ignored, but in the wake of constant reporting on Chicago’s police misconduct epidemic, it looks like the city is now finally going to do something about the IPRA’s ineffectiveness.
Emanuel Calls for Independent Board to Replace IPRA
In a Chicago Sun-Times editorial published earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote that it is time to replace the IPRA with a civilian board that will increase accountability and oversight of police officers in the city.
Emanuel’s comments come in the wake of the release of a report from the Task Force on Police Accountability that he created. After a four a month report, the task force issued a report last month that also called for the current IPRA to be abolished. The report claimed that Chicago police have little regard for the rights of minority suspects.
Emanuel did not previously introduce plans to replace the IPRA and claimed it was not part of his agenda prior to reviewing the task force’s report. The mayor was complimentary to toward the current leadership of the IPRA, but said that replacing it with an independent civilian board is necessary to rebuild trust between Chicago police and residents. He has also pledged to increase funding and resources for the board that replace the IPRA.
Many of those critical have been supportive of the mayor’s plan. Still, it’s important to note that there are many unknowns about Emanuel’s plan. The mayor has not disclosed exactly what this new board will look like, who will be eligible to sit on it, or how it will be able to better investigate complaints of police misconduct. These details should be brought before the city council at an upcoming meeting, and while the initial proposal has found support, it still remains to be seen whether the council will embrace the details of the proposal.
Chicago Police Misconduct Lawyer
If the city of Chicago wants to rein in police misconduct, replacing the ineffective IPRA with a civilian board is a good step. However, it still doesn’t end the rampant police misconduct that many Chicago residents live in fear of, or compensate past victims for their injuries. If you believe Chicago police officers have violated your civil rights, an attorney may be able to make you whole ago. Contact Barney & Hourihane online or on the phone to discuss your case today.
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.
Last week, we told you about the problem of “testilying” in Cook County. This is an all-too common practice in Cook County in which police officers take the stand at a criminal case and give knowingly false testimony. And sadly, judges and prosecutors rarely call police out on their lies, even if they’re glaringly obvious. However, the recent attention given to this issue has finally motivated the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to Act, and defense attorneys in some cases are now receiving disclosure notices letting them know that a police officer may have given false testimony in a case they handled.
Six Chicago Police Officers Under Investigation for False Testimony
A follow-up article by the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Police Department has begun an investigation into whether as many as six police officers lied on the stand in the course of criminal proceedings. The department has already removed one officer from patrols because of his suspected false testimony.
In the case of that officer, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has filed a disclosure notice to defense counsel in a case reported on in the Tribune’s previous article. In that case, the officer was suspected of lying about how whether he had reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop that resulted in a $50,000 drug bust. The state’s attorney’s office may issue disclosure notices in other cases involving this officer, as well as additional officers who may have lied on the stand.
The disclosure notices do not automatically vacate a conviction, but they let a defense attorney know that a witness may have provided false testimony, or at the very least that new evidence has rendered that testimony highly questionable. The disclosure notice can be the basis for appealing a conviction, and some attorneys are already using this information as grounds to testimony the credibility of this officer in other cases.
In addition, prosecutors are reviewing the transcripts of prior cases involving these officers to determine whether perjury charges may be appropriate. Perjury is a criminal action that can carry substantial prison time in the event of a conviction. And if prosecutors do decide to pursue criminal charges against these officers, those prosecutions could reveal evidence that could also make it easier for the wrongfully convicted to pursue appeals or even civil rights lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department. This could also motivate the department to pursue stronger internal discipline actions against officers who lie in court.
Chicago Criminal Defense Law
A fair jury trial is the cornerstone of the American criminal justice system. Defendants have a right to not have their conduct called into question by untruthful testimony, but sadly recent stories in Chicago media show that hasn’t always been the case in Cook County. If you believe a police officer falsely testified against you and it resulted in a wrongful conviction, you may be able to get your conviction vacated on appeal. For more information, contact Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
It’s been hard to miss the news the past few months about the criminal prosecution of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing teenage boys while a teacher and wrestling coach decades ago in Yorkville, Illinois. But with the statute of limitations long past on those alleged crimes and little evidence remaining, federal prosecutors instead chose last year to indict Hastert on charges that he violated federal banking laws and made false statements to the FBI when he wired money to keep an alleged victim, now an adult, quiet about the misconduct. Hastert reportedly agreed to pay the victim $3.5 million, and had already sent him $1.7 million at the time that the FBI began investigating him.
A Longer Than Expected Sentence But No Appeal
Hastert pleaded guilty last year before a federal judge in Chicago to the charges of structuring financial transactions to conceal payments and making false statements. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors recommended that Hastert serve a sentence of between zero and six months in prison. However, the judge, imposed a sentence of 15 months in prison based on the numerous allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert.
Hastert could have appealed the sentence because it went beyond federal guidelines, but chose not to as the deadline for the appeal passed last week. He now must report to prison.
While Hastert would have been perfectly within his rights to file an appeal, his case illustrates several reasons why sometimes it’s best to avoid an appeal. Of course, the sexual abuse allegations against Hastert are appalling. Even though he cannot be convicted of any crime based on those allegations at this point, the conduct that led to his violations of federal banking law will not win him much favor with an appellate court.
And federal prosecutors only promised to recommend a lighter sentence for Hastert. When entering a plea agreement with prosecutors, there is never any guarantee that a judge will follow the agreement, and this alone is not enough to win a lighter sentence on appeal.
There is also the possibility that if Hastert had appealed his sentence and dragged out the process for another year or two, prosecutors might have discovered more evidence of wrongdoing. If such evidence were discovered while the case was pending on appeal, it could have actually resulted in Hastert receiving a longer sentence than what was initially imposed by the court.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Appeals are a complicated area of the law. There are many more procedural requirements for pursuing a criminal appeal in either state or federal court, and there are also strategic concerns. It might be better to appeal on some issues rather than others, and as this unique case illustrates, in some cases it might be better to not file an appeal at all. To learn about appeals, contact Barney & Hourihane today to talk an attorney about your situation.
It’s well established that courts will not admit at trial evidence obtained through police misconduct. This means that police can’t coerce you into making a statement and they need to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a criminal investigation of you.
Courts have also long recognized claims for malicious prosecution, meaning that an individual or agency cannot use the court system to harass someone. For example, you can’t keep filing frivolous lawsuits against someone you don’t like just to make them go through the time and expense of continually going to court.
But what if police misconduct is so egregious that it goes beyond merely a momentary illegal search? What if the entire investigative process is tainted? Does such activity allow you to pursue a civil rights action for malicious prosecution against police? That’s the question that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon answer.
Manuel v. City of Joliet
In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Manuel v. City of Joliet. In Manuel, the plaintiff, who is black, was stopped by several white Joliet police officers. The officers allegedly used racial slurs and accused the man of possessing ecstasy tablets. The man told the police they were lying and he only possessed vitamins.
Over the course of seven weeks, the man remained in jail, and police officers testified in court that the man possessed illegal drugs. Finally, a test of the pills revealed that the pills were in fact completely legal vitamins, and the man was released.
Both the district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals have held that the man could not sue for malicious prosecution, but other circuits have upheld similar claims.
In Manuel, the plaintiff is arguing that a malicious prosecution claim attaches when the Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure is violated. The Seventh Circuit has previously held that the right to not be victimized by malicious prosecution is actually a due process right, and so a viable claim does not arise until judicial proceedings have begun.
The argument may seem academic, but the consequences could have a big impact on civil rights lawsuits. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiff in Manuel, it will open the door for malicious prosecution claims against police departments. If it rules against him, then those claims can only be pursued against plaintiffs and prosecutors.
While the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, it has not yet set a date for oral arguments. However, a decision is expected by the end of the year.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer
Civil rights law is constantly changing. What courts may not recognize as a viable claim today could be the basis for a lawsuit tomorrow. Or a unique new case could be the basis for a change in established case law. If you believe the actions of police or another government agency have violated your civil rights, contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with an experienced civil rights attorney.
Courts have long recognized the civil right of the accused to have counsel present during custodial interrogations. If you are suspected of a crime and the police bring you in for questioning, they must end the conversation if you ask for an attorney. This is one of the hallmarks of the well-known Miranda warning police must recite in the course of an arrest.
Curiously though, the right to counsel doesn’t automatically extend to minors in all cases in Illinois though this population is the among the most vulnerable for self-incrimination. However, a new law may soon change that.
When Minors Do and Do Not Have the Right to Legal Counsel in Illinois
Under the current law, any minor under the age of 13 must have an attorney present if police wish to question him or her about a murder or sex crime. If the minor says anything to police without an attorney present, it will not be admitted at trial.
While this law is good for extremely young defendants, it has long left those between the ages of 13 and 18 out in the cold. This group is more likely to be accused of a serious crime than extremely young defendants, and may not fully understand the legal consequences of speaking with police officers.
Senate Bill 2370 now looks to change that, however. As it currently stands, the bill would require an attorney to be present anytime someone under the age of 18 is questioned about any crime, not just the most serious offenses. Any sort of oral or written statement made while outside the presence of legal counsel would be inadmissible in court unless a prosecutor could show by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was reliable and made voluntary without any coercion from police officers. In addition, minors could not waive the right to counsel under any circumstances.
The law would also broaden the definition of what constitutes an interrogation for a minor to include any situation in which the minor would reasonably believe that he or she is in police custody and which might elicit an incriminating response.
The bill has garnered more than a dozen co-sponsors on the Illinois Senate, and amendments added to it in committees have only strengthened its protections for minors accused of crimes. The bill is scheduled for a third reading in the Senate in May.
Chicago Defense Lawyer
The right to counsel is one of America’s post important constitutional rights, and should be extended to minors in all circumstances. If you ask for an attorney to be present while being questioned by police and officers refuse to provide you with counsel, anything you say may be barred from evidence at trial, and this could be used as grounds for an appeal of your conviction. For more information about the right to counsel and the appeal process in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation about your case.
The U.S. Supreme Court issues opinions all the time, but rarely does a decision have such a drastic effect that can result in hundreds of prisoners around the country, including Illinois, being released. Earlier this month in Welch v. United States, the Supreme Court resolved a months-long split among the circuits that another decision from last year is retroactive, and defendants who were wrongly convicted under a provision of the Armed Career Criminals Act can be released if they appeal their convictions.
A Vague Law is Struck Down
The Armed Career Criminals Act states that if a defendant is convicted of a crime involving the use of a firearm, and has three or more previous convictions for a “serious drug offense” or a “violent felony,’ then a court must sentence a defendant to a minimum of 15 years in prison for the new crime. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
The act defines a “violent felony” as a crime punishable by more than one year in prison involving force, arson, burglary, explosives extortion, “or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”
Last year, in Johnson v. United States, the Court took issue with this language, finding that it was so vague that it was unconstitutional. After all, virtually any criminal conduct could cause some physical injury, but many of these crimes are not nearly as serious as burglary or arson.
Almost as quickly as Johnson was decided, renewed challenges to the Armed Career Criminals Act flooded federal courts. The issue was whether challenges to the law could retroactively result in sentences being reduced. The Court’s decision in Welch was that Johnson can indeed be applied retroactively to Armed Career Criminals Act convictions.
This means that there are potentially hundreds of inmates who have been convicted under this “residual clause” of the act who can now appeal their convictions.
However, it’s important to note that the Court’s decision isn’t exactly a “get out of jail free card.” The conviction of the defendant in Welch was remanded to the original court for review. The court cannot let the conviction stand on the grounds that a firearm was used in connection with illegal conduct that poses “a serious potential risk of physical injury to another,” but if the lower court finds that the defendant’s conduct fell under some other provision of the Armed Career Criminals Act, then the conviction will stand. It’s still a developing area of the law, so if you or a loved one have been convicted under a provision of the act, you should consult with an appellate attorney to discuss your options.
Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
The law is always changing, and when appellate courts strike down laws, that may mean that you can get a sentence reduced or vacated. There’s no reason to deal with an unnecessarily harsh sentence for a moment longer if it will no longer hold up in court. Appeals can reverse convictions and sentences. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
Technology is pretty great overall. It’s given us a much higher standard of living and makes most jobs a lot easier. Computers reduce the time it takes to do almost anything. And of course if it wasn’t for computers or cell phones, you wouldn’t be able to read this blog right now.
But unfortunately, technology has a dark side as well. Sometimes it can give law enforcement a little too much power to invade the privacy of innocent people. And when technology oversteps what the constitution allows, lawmakers need to step in to limit how that technology can be used.
Stingrays: More than Just Marine Animals
Originally developed by the military, stringrays are devices used by law enforcement that act like cell towers. When in use, stringrays can tell police the exact location of a phone, or extract information from the device. Police can also use stringrays to jam the communications of a cell phone.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously in favor of SB 2343, a law that would require police to obtain a warrant for using stringrays in the course of an investigation. Police would also be limited to identifying and tracking cell phones described in a warrant. Violation of the law would result in a presumption that any other evidence obtained by a stingray is inadmissible in court. Police would also be required to destroy any information obtained from cell phones that weren’t described in the warrant. The bill now goes before the Illinois House for consideration.
This legislation comes on the heels of a decision earlier this year by a Cook County judge order the Chicago Police Department to turn over information about its stingray program. The city claimed that having to reveal information about the program would allow criminals to figure out ways around it, disregarding the civil rights of innocent civilians who may be caught up in an investigation involving stingrays.
Stingrays are often provided to local police departments through federal grants. The feds, however, require that investigators sign non-disclosure agreements before using stingrays in their investigations. This prevents police from releasing any information about how stingrays are used. In some cases, police officers have even refused to discuss stingrays while testifying in court. Prosecutors have also been told to withdraw evidence obtained by stingrays if defense attorneys press the issue. The federal government simply doesn’t want to deal with a constitutional challenge to the use of stingrays, which is exactly why it’s so important for state legislatures to consider this issue.
Chicago Criminal Defense Law
If police are investigating a crime, they have to do it within certain constitutional limitations. If evidence is obtained unconstitutionally, it must be suppressed at trial. On appeal, convictions can be vacated if law enforcement officers don’t follow these rules, particularly when new technology is involved in an investigation. For more information about the appellate process, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today to speak with an attorney about your case.