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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, right to a speedy trialYou probably know that the United States Constitution guarantees your right to a “speedy trial” if you are accused of committing a crime. The Illinois state constitution has a similar requirement. But what exactly constitutes “speedy?”

In state criminal cases, Illinois law says that a defendant who is taken into custody must be tried within 120 days. If the defendant is released on bond, he or she must be tried within 160 days after filing a written demand for a trial.

Prosecutors Cannot Engage in “Piecemeal Litigation”

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, DUI charge, field sobriety testWhen an Illinois police officer suspects you of DUI, you may be asked to take one or more field sobriety tests. By law you do not have to agree to such tests. Moreover, if you take a test and “fail,” based on the officer's judgment, it may be used against you as evidence in court.

Court Rejects Peoria Officer's Arrest Based on HGN Test

However, not all field sobriety tests are afforded the same weight by judges. Nor does failure necessarily prove that you were intoxicated above the legal limit in Illinois. Therefore, it is important to challenge any test result that may be inaccurate or improperly administered by the police.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, DUI, marijuanaWhen it comes to DUI, there is a critical difference between alcohol and illegal drugs such as marijuana. You probably know that drunk driving is only a criminal offense if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher. This means that most people can have one or two beers in their system and not worry about legal liability.

However, when it comes to illegal drugs, Illinois law states that “any amount” in a person's system is unacceptable. In other words, if police find any amount of THC—the active ingredient in marijuana and cannabis products—in your system, you are guilty of DUI even if there is no evidence that you were impaired. Additionally, if you are arrested for a DUI where someone else is seriously injured, you can be charged with an “aggravated” DUI which carries stiffer criminal penalties.

Illinois Supreme Court Rejects “Medical Condition” Defense in Aggravated DUI Case

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Orland Park DUI defense attorney, Illinois police, drug userDUI does not just refer to drunk driving. It is against Illinois law to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal. However, police must have reasonable grounds to believe that you are actually under the influence of drugs.

Officer Lacked “Probable Cause” Based on Questionable Drug Test

This can be a problem when an officer lacks appropriate training and simply jumps to the conclusion that a driver was using drugs without adequate proof. Given that a drug arrest can not only lead to a criminal charge, but also carries a “civil penalty” in the form of an automatic driver's license suspension, such mistakes can be devastating to innocent individuals.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, convicted of a drug crimeIf the police conduct a lawful search and find drugs on your person—i.e., in your coat pocket—you can be charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance. However, even if you are not actually carrying any drugs, you may still be convicted of a crime if you had “constructive” possession of narcotics.

Constructive possession means that drugs are found in an area determined to be under your control.

The Elements of Constructive Possession

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Orland Park drug crimes defense lawyer, drug chargesIf you are arrested on drug charges, such as possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, the burden is on police and prosecutors to prove you did something wrong. This includes establishing your identity and presence at the crime scene—i.e. where the alleged drug transaction took place. Many criminal convictions rely solely on police officer testimony to establish a defendant's guilt.

You Have the Right to Present a Defense

It is therefore critical that the court allow the defendant to present evidence that contradicts police testimony. This can include something as seemingly trivial as a tattoo. In fact, an Illinois appeals court recently overturned a drug crimes conviction precisely because the trial judge refused to look at the defendant's tattoos.

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Orland Park criminal defense lawyer, drug convictionIf you are on trial for a violent crime, such as assault and battery, prosecutors will make every effort to discredit you in front of the jury. Should you choose to testify—and remember, the Constitution protects your right to remain silent at trial—prosecutors may look to introduce evidence of prior criminal convictions to attack your credibility.

How “Impeachment” Works in a Criminal Trial

In legal terms, this is known as “impeachment.” Illinois courts have strict rules about what kinds of information may be used to impeach a witness. For example, evidence of a witness' prior criminal conviction is admissible under the following circumstances:

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Orland Park drug crimes defense attorney, police searchA good criminal defense lawyer will always tell you two things: Never voluntarily answer police questions—remember, you have the right to remain silent—and never consent to a warrantless search of your car. If you are pulled over on a traffic stop, you must provide the officer with your license, registration, and insurance information. But you do not have to answer any questions, even something basic like, “Where are you going?”

Defendant Faces 12 Years in Jail After “Routine” Traffic Stop

Remember, police are trained to be suspicious. Even in the context of a routine traffic stop, officers are looking for any possible sign of criminal activity, such as DUI or drug trafficking. Mere suspicion, however, does not justify an arrest or even a search of your vehicle.

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Orland Park DUI defense attorney, DUI arrestDrunk driving in Illinois carries both civil and criminal penalties. On the criminal side, a person convicted of a first DUI offense faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Separately, the Illinois Secretary of State's office can “summarily” suspend the license of any driver who either fails a blood-alcohol test or refuses to take one at a police officer's request.

A summary suspension is a civil matter. This means the Secretary can suspend your driver's license even if you are never charged or convicted of a criminal DUI offense. Additionally, while you can challenge a civil summary suspension in court, the state's burden of proof is much lighter than in a criminal prosecution.

License Suspension Upheld Despite Police Losing Evidence

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Orland park criminal defense attorney, stop-and-frisk searchYou are walking down the street minding your own business. A cop approaches you and starts asking questions. After a few moments, the cop decides to frisk you and discovers illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia in your pockets. You are arrested and charged with possession.

Is this legal? Can the police just “stop and frisk” you without a warrant? Unfortunately, in many cases they can and do. Illinois courts afford police wide discretion to conduct stop-and-frisk searches where a “reasonably prudent person” would believe his or her “safety was in danger.”

In theory, police are entitled to conduct these types of warrantless searches to protect against a person with a dangerous weapon who might try to hurt someone. But in practice, stop-and-frisk often leads to over-broad policing that unfairly targets certain groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois notes that Chicago police disproportionately target African-Americans, who represented “72 percent of stops, yet constitute just 32 percent of the city's population.” Additionally, the majority of stop-and-frisks do not recover dangerous weapons or any other illegal activity.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, sex crimes caseA sex crimes charge can permanently brand the accused as a “sex offender” in the eyes of the law and the public. One factor to keep in mind is not all sex crimes involve physical assault. For example, if a person “engages in a sexual act” in the “presence or virtual presence” of a child, he or she may be charged with “sexual exploitation.” This is a misdemeanor for a first offense but a felony if the defendant has any prior sex crimes conviction.

Ex-Wife's Testimony Used to Convict Defendant

In pursuing a sex crimes case, Illinois prosecutors will not hesitate to introduce any evidence designed to make the defendant look as bad as possible to the jury. Judges are supposed to keep unduly “prejudicial” evidence away from the jury, but prosecutors still have quite a bit of leeway in making their case. This includes allowing evidence that supposedly proves a defendant's motive or intent.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, DUI chargeNormally an Illinois police officer must have probable cause to stop you on suspicion of a DUI. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all individuals against “unreasonable” seizures by the police. However, what if an officer stops to speak with you for another reason and subsequently discovers evidence that suggests drunk driving?

Court Reinstated Driver's License Suspension

The Fourth Amendment does not apply to “consensual encounters” with the police. In other words, if you speak to the police voluntarily, and not under coercion or detention, you cannot later invoke the Fourth Amendment to claim any evidence obtained against you was an illegal search. Of course, it may not be obvious to you at the time that an encounter was “consensual.” Consider the following case in point. 

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, prescription drugsAlthough DUI is usually associated with drunk driving, Illinois law actually prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug or controlled substance. This can even include a legal prescription drug. To avoid a DUI conviction, a defendant must prove not only that he or she had a valid prescription, but he or she also used the drug in a manner that did not prevent him or her from driving safely.

Driver Must Prove Xanax Did Not Impair His Driving

In a recent Illinois case, police arrested a man for DUI after blood and urine tests revealed the presence of alprazolam in his system. Alprazolam, better known as Xanax, is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety disorders. The defendant held a lawful prescription for Xanax, with instructions to take two pills per day.

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Orland Park criminal defense lawyer, proving my innocenceAlthough television legal dramas might lead you to think the criminal justice system is infallible—the heroic police and prosecution always manage to catch the clearly guilty defendant—the reality is there are many people in Illinois sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. In fact, the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan reports 195 wrongful convictions in Illinois—most of them from Cook County—have been identified and overturned since 1989.

Illinois Man Exonerated After Years in Jail

Defendants in sexual assault cases are especially vulnerable to false convictions based solely on the testimony of an unreliable accuser. An Illinois appeals court recently looked at whether or not an accuser may challenge a defendant's actual innocence even when the state concedes there was a wrongful conviction.

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Orland Park personal injury lawyer, personal injury settlement, medical liensFollowing a car accident, your first priority is seeking treatment for your injuries. As we all know, medical care is expensive, especially if you lack sufficient insurance. Even a simple accident can lead to thousands of dollars in unpaid bills. Additionally, Illinois hospitals are not shy about collecting on those bills, even if the injured victim has yet to receive any compensation from the parties responsible for his or her accident.

Court Rules Hospital Did Not Have to Bill Victim's Insurer

Illinois law permits all health care providers—hospitals, doctors, et cetera—to file a lien against “all claims and causes of action” held by an injured person who seeks treatment. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident, the hospital that treats you can legally claim part of any potential personal injury lawsuit that you file. The law limits such medical lien to “reasonable charges” for the care provided, which in no case may be more than 40 percent of the “verdict, judgment, award, settlement, or compromised” secured by the injured victim.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, criminal trialIf you are facing felony charges, it is important to make sure the court respects all of your constitutional rights. While even the best judges make honest mistakes, such errors can prove costly when you are facing the loss of your freedom and the permanent taint of a felony conviction. Therefore, a defendant should never hesitate to object—or in some cases appeal—when a judge fails to follow the law.

Murder Conviction Overturned After Judge Kicks Out Defendant's Grandmother

A recent Illinois case illustrates how a seemingly minor procedural error can be a big deal in a felony case. The defendant here was tried for murder. A jury convicted the defendant and the judge sentenced him to 100 years in prison.

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Orland Park medical malpractice attorney, patient informed concentMedical malpractice involves more than a physician's negligence. A doctor can be held liable if he or she fails to inform the patient about the “general nature” of a procedure and the patient is subsequently injured. Informed consent in this context includes explaining the “risks involved, the prospects of success, the prognosis if the procedure is not performed, and alternative treatments."

Court Reinstates Malpractice Claim Over Child Injured During Delivery

Informed consent often comes up when dealing with birth injuries. There are cases where a doctor fails to properly warn an expectant mother of the risks of natural childbirth. As a result, the child may be injured during delivery and suffer lifelong consequences.

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, surveillance location privilegeThe Constitution affords all criminal defendants, such as those facing drug charges, the right to “confront” the witnesses against them. This means that if you are arrested and charged with a crime, you have the right to cross-examine the arresting officer and any other prosecution witnesses at trial. However, law enforcement often tries to undermine a defendant's right to confrontation by withholding information that might benefit the defense and undermine the prosecution. 

 

Drug Conviction Reversed After Improper Invocation of Privilege

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Orland Park criminal defense attorney, police handcuffDrug crime cases often begin with seemingly routine traffic stops. Illinois law enforcement officers may use a minor traffic crime, such as speeding, as a pretext to stop and search a vehicle suspected to contain evidence of illegal drug activity. While the Constitution is supposed to protect all citizens against “unreasonable” searches, in practice there are a number of loopholes that judges allow police to exploit.

Court Reinstates Drug Charge After Questionable Search

One recent Cook County drug case, which is still pending, began with an unverified “tip” from an unidentified informant. Someone allegedly informed a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent in San Diego that a woman was illegally transporting drugs to Chicago. This agent then told his counterparts in Chicago. 

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Orland Park personal injury lawyer, motorcycle accidentApproximately 4,500 people are killed each year in motorcycle accidents, according to federal safety statistics. Even a non-fatal motorcycle accident can leave a driver with serious injuries and cost thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost income. Therefore, when an accident is the result of another party’s negligence, it is important to hold him or her accountable.

Lying in Road Not an “Overt Action”

Sometimes a motorcycle accident may not be directly caused by another person, but there is still a question as to how a person’s actions may have led to the victim’s injuries. An Illinois appeals court recently addressed such a case. The central question was whether two dog owners’ alleged carelessness led to a motorcycle accident.

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