When thinking about criminal prosecutions, most residents are familiar with police investigation and trial. But what about after a conviction? There are many post-trial issues to understand after a person is found guilty of a crime.
Sentencing in Illinois
If a defendant is convicted during a trial, or enters a guilty plea, the judge must determine the proper punishment, called a sentence. In many cases, especially for more serious crimes, there is a separate proceeding after the trial to determine the sentence. During this sentencing proceeding, the judge may weigh additional evidence to consider when sentencing. During this process, the judge receives a pre-sentence report with information about the defendant, including information about the family, background, and employment history.
State officials develop, implements, and administers a range of recommended sentences for use by judges in criminal proceedings. Although the recommended sentences are discretionary (i.e., judges are not required to follow the guidelines when determining the length and type of penalty for a crime), there are sometimes specific rules that judges abide by in making their decision. For some crimes, the law may require a judge to impose a prison term no less than a predefined amount of time (called a minimum sentence). Minimum sentences differ according to the crime.
Appeals in Illinois
If a defendant loses his or her criminal trial, the defendant may appeal the decision to a higher court.
Throughout the appeals process, defendants have certain rights. It is essential that individuals facing criminal charges have adequate legal representation.
Contact a Chicago Criminal Appeals Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, it is critical to contact a skilled Chicago defense lawyer. Understanding your rights may be the difference between freedom and criminal prosecution. The experienced attorneys at Barney & Hourihane are dedicated to representing Illinois residents in all types of criminal matters, including appeals. Contact us today to schedule your free 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.
It’s almost impossible to go literally one week without reading another story in the Chicago media about the city paying out another huge settlement in a police misconduct case. The latest settlement to get attention in Chicago newspapers and TV is for $3.2 million, but this is literally a drop in the bucket to what the city has paid out in recent year. Since 2004, the city of Chicago has paid out more than $500 million to settle complaints of police misconduct. And each of these latest claims alone has settled for more than $1 million.
So what police misconduct resulted in these latest settlements? Read on to find out.
Chicago Police Shootings Continue to be a Problem
Earlier this month, the City Council Finance Committee approved two misconduct settlements. The first is for $2.2 million, while the second is for $1 million.
In the first incident, a 23-year-old man reportedly hit another vehicle and drove off while on his way to his overnight job at a sausage factory.
Police claimed that after this initial hit-and-run the man forced a police cruiser off the roadway slammed into the back of another vehicle. Police then claimed that they blocked the man’s vehicle into an alley, and the man pinned one off-duty officer to the front of his car.
Chicago police officers then fired 42 shots at the man, striking him 16 times.
However, forensic evidence has raised serious questions about the account given by police officers. If indeed an officer was stuck by the man’s vehicle, he could not have fired his gun at him as he claims. In addition, tire tracks at the scene, purportedly from the suspect’s vehicle, appear to have to have been faked. Evidence later uncovered in the course of the lawsuit also showed that the off-duty police officer had been drinking before the incident, and Chicago police did not thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the suspect’s death. For example, rather than interview witnesses, one police officer submitted a report simply made up of a typed narrative from another officer.
The second settlement, for $1 million, also included allegations of the police fabricating that evidence. In that case, a 27-year-old man under investigation for alleged involvement a cell phone theft ring, was shot by police after allegedly pinning a police officer between two vehicles. However, just as in the other case, forensic evidence called that official story into question. It actually appears as if the man may have been shot while fleeing the scene rather than harming a police officer.
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Lawyer
There is perhaps no greater breach of trust than when police officers ignore the law to injure or kill innocent people without provocation. But as these latest settlements illustrate, such activity is all too common in the city of Chicago. If your civil rights have been violated by police officers, you too may be entitled to compensation from the city. Contact Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with a dedicated Chicago civil rights attorney.
For most people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, the most pressing concern is to have their conviction vacated so that they can be freed from prison or otherwise avoid a sentence. However, in some cases that doesn’t go far enough. Sometimes it can be so obvious that police acted unjustly and so much of a person’s life can be lost to a wrongful conviction that the only recourse is to pursue a civil lawsuit for violation of civil rights, as a recent case illustrates.
Fifteen Years in Prison for a Murder He Didn’t Commit
Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about a Waukegan man who was found guilty in 1999 for the murder of a mentally disabled Kane County woman. At the time, the man admitted to police that he beat the woman before dumping her body in a woman area, but forensic evidence that came to light last year showed that the woman had lightly been abused for weeks before she died, and her injuries were not consistent with how the man killed her. The defendant had no prior relationship with the woman.
In fact, the defendant’s “confession” was an egregious case of police misconduct. Police officers refused his requests for an attorney to be present during his interrogation, and repeatedly threatened him until he confessed to a version of the crime that they fabricated. Other witnesses in the case claim that they were similarly intimidated by police to cook up a false version of events.
Last year, the man was released from prison, and Lake County has issued him a certificate of innocence. That has paved the way for him to file a civil lawsuit in federal court against the officers involved in his case on the grounds that they violated his civil rights.
The case illustrates serious questions about how police in both Waukegan and Chicago handle felony cases The Chicago Tribune reported that defendants in six major felony cases in Waukegan have been exonerated since 2010 after forensic evidence came to light proving their innocence. The city has paid out more than $27 million to resolve civil rights cases involving police misconduct since 2006. And Waukegan is second only to Chicago when it comes to wrongful convictions.
But the most troubling allegation in the Waukegan case is how widespread police misconduct may have been there. In his lawsuit, the newly exonerated man claims that it was a common practice for police at the department to coerce confessions and fabricate evidence, and in many cases police officers were promoted for that conduct.
Contact a Chicago Civil Rights Attorney
If police have used faulty evidence to convict you of a crime that you didn’t commit it, you don’t have to accept this unjust verdict. Illinois law allows several paths to clear your name in appellate court. And in addition to winning your freedom, you may also be able to pursue a lawsuit against the police for violating your civil rights. To discuss how to file an appeal and pursuing a civil rights lawsuit, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “probable cause” fairly often in connection with criminal cases. The words seem somewhat self-explanatory, but they actually have a specific meaning in a legal context, and if police fail to show that they have probable cause to take an action in connection with an arrest, it can mean that charges are dismissed, or a conviction can be reversed on appeal.
The Law Requires That Police Have Probable Cause
Law enforcement must show that they have probable cause to either get a search warrant or make an arrest. The concept is rooted in the Fourth Amendment requirement that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” but the term isn’t defined in the Constitution, leaving it up to courts to interpret.
Given the somewhat abstract nature of the concept, the line is that probable cause must be something more than a mere hunch. A police officer cannot say he just felt that someone looked like a drug dealer to make an arrest (even if that person is found to have drugs in his or her possession). But the officer is not required to obtain the same amount of evidence that would be required for a conviction in order to have probable cause either. In this case, he wouldn’t necessarily have to wait around for the defendant to sell drugs to make an arrest.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois v. Gates, probable cause was somewhat vaguely defined as “practical, non-technical" term that relies on an individual analysis of the facts and circumstances of the case. Determining probable cause largely comes down to determining whether a reasonable person would believe that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. This means that it’s often up to an attorney to argue that no probable cause existed.
What Happens When Police Lack Probable Cause?
As probable cause is the basis for any action by law enforcement in a criminal case, lack of it can destroy the prosecution’s case. Any evidence that is seized from a search that police undertook without probable cause should be suppressed by the court. In many cases, if this is the only evidence the state has related to the crime, the charges will be dismissed.
Similarly, if it appears that the police did not act reasonably in finding probable cause when making an initial arrest, anything discovered related to that arrest will not be allowed in court. These issues can be raised at the beginning of a case in the hopes of having charges dismissed, or later on as the basis for reversing a conviction on appeal.
Chicago Defense Law
Probable cause can be the difference between a criminal conviction and charges being dismissed. For this reason, if you believe law enforcement lacked probable cause to make an arrest in your case, an experienced appellate attorney may be able to get your criminal conviction vacated on appeal. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.