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What Are My Rights If I Am Pulled Over During An Illinois Traffic Stop?Traffic stops are one of the most common ways that police come into contact with the general public. According to data from the Stanford Open Policing Project, there were more than 12.7 million traffic stops conducted by state police in Illinois between 2011 and 2017. There are dozens of reasons why a police officer would want to pull you over. Maybe your tail light is out or you forgot to signal a lane change. Maybe the officer noticed that you were on your cell phone while you were driving. Maybe the officer suspects you are driving under the influence because your driving was erratic. Whatever the reason, there are certain rights that you have when you are pulled over by police.

Police Must Have Reasonable Suspicion

If an officer pulls you over, they must have a reason for doing so. It is not lawful for an officer to perform a traffic stop for no reason. It is a violation of your Constitutional rights if they perform a stop without having reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime.

You Do Not Have to Offer Up Information

When you are pulled over, the police officer will almost always ask for your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. This is information that you are legally required to give to the officer if he or she asks for it. During the stop, the police may also ask you other questions, such as where you are going to or coming from or if you have had anything to drink that night. These are questions that you do not – and should not – answer. Offering up any sort of information could be used against you later.

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What is the Difference Between Burglary, Theft, and Robbery?Most of us know that it is wrong to take something from someone without asking. Not only is it not nice, but it is also illegal. You have heard the terms “theft,” “robbery,” and “burglary” before, but many people use them interchangeably. In reality, these words are three different things in the legal world. They each have their own definitions and their own punishments if you are convicted of them. While these three crimes all do involve the unlawful taking of property, the differences lie in the circumstances around how the property was taken.

Theft

General theft is a crime that occurs when a person obtains control over property without the authorization of that property’s owner. Theft crimes vary in seriousness depending on the value of the property taken and where it was taken from. For example, property that was taken that is valued at less than $500 is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. If that property was taken from a place of worship or belonged to the government, the crime is elevated to a Class 4 felony. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, theft can carry penalties of up to 30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

Robbery

Robbery is similar to theft but involves the taking of property from a person using force or the threat of force. Robbery can be charged as up to a Class 1 felony, which carries as long as 15 years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines. Armed robbery occurs when a person commits robbery and uses or is armed with a dangerous weapon or firearm. Armed robbery is charged as a Class X felony, meaning the person faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

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Three Things You Should Know About Your Miranda RightsIf you have ever seen any of the various law enforcement shows on TV, you have probably at least heard of your Miranda rights. The 1966 Supreme Court case Arizona v. Miranda further enforced that a police officer is required to notify you of your constitutional rights when you have been taken into custody. The case involved a young man, Ernesto Miranda, who was a suspect for rape and kidnapping. Before police informed him that he had a right to an attorney and the right to remain silent, he confessed to the crimes. This was a landmark case in the Supreme Court that is still upheld today and affects the way all criminal cases take place now. Here are a few things you should know about your Miranda rights:

  1. Your Miranda Rights Are Your Constitutional Rights: The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens certain rights, some of which are the basis of your Miranda rights. You always have the right to remain silent, the right against self-incrimination and the right to seek legal representation. There is no situation in which you do not have the freedom to exercise your Miranda rights. 
  2. The Police Are Legally Required To Inform You of Your Rights: This is one of the areas that the general public is often misinformed on. Police are required to inform you of your Miranda rights, but only after you have been arrested and before you are questioned. After they read you your rights, they must also get a response from you that you have acknowledged that you were read your rights and you understand them.
  3. Any Information Gathered Before You Are Read Your Rights Might Be Inadmissible as Evidence: If police begin to question you prior to your arrest and you offer up information, this can be used against you if you are prosecuted. However, if you have been arrested and you were not read your rights, any information that is gathered from you will most likely be inadmissible as evidence in court. Likewise, if a police officer uses force to get information from you, this will also be inadmissible as evidence.

Contact a Tinley Park, IL, Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away

Your Miranda rights are rights that are given to you by the U.S. Constitution. If you are taken into police custody or you are questioned by police, you have the right to request legal representation from a skilled Cook County criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Office of John S. Fotopoulos, P.C., we can help you exercise your rights and provide you with the legal advice that you are entitled to. Call our office today at 708-942-8400 to schedule a free consultation. 

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Understanding Illinois Hate Crimes and Their ConsequencesIn the past couple of years, law enforcement officers and legislative officials have focused more attention on hate crimes. More time, energy and resources have been put into thorough investigations of hate crimes, and laws have been made even more strict than before. In Illinois, officials do not have a tolerance for hate crimes and often punish offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Though every situation is different, a hate crime committed in Illinois is charged as a felony offense, which means you face serious consequences if you are convicted. Dealing with accusations of a hate crime can be daunting, which is why retaining counsel from a skilled Illinois criminal defense attorney is crucial.

What is Hate Crime?

In simple terms, a hate crime occurs when a person commits a crime against another person or group of people because of that group or person’s perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. Often, the type of actions that are committed against people in a hate crime is violent in nature and can include crimes such as:

  • Assault or aggravated assault
  • Battery or aggravated battery
  • Intimidation
  • Stalking
  • Theft
  • Criminal trespassing
  • Criminal damage to property
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Harassment through electronic transmission

Illinois Sees Rise in Hate Crimes, Despite National Drop

Sadly, hate crimes are not uncommon in Illinois. In fact, Illinois saw an increase in the number of hate crimes that occurred between 2017 and 2018, while national statistics saw a slight decrease. Nationally, hate crimes dropped from 7,171 in 2017 to 7,120 in 2018. Illinois, however, saw an increase from 89 hate crimes committed in 2017 to 125 in 2018.

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Dealing With Instances of Juvenile Retail Theft in IllinoisWhen it comes to teens and crime, there are certain types of crimes that are rather popular with teens, such as underage drinking and drug use. One of the more common crimes committed by those under the age of 18 is retail theft. According to the latest statistics from the FBI, there were more than 93,000 juveniles arrested in 2017 for committing theft or larceny. A juvenile is defined as someone who is under the age of 18, but the state of Illinois does not prosecute all juveniles the same. If a juvenile is at least 17, they can be prosecuted as an adult if the crime is serious enough. Juvenile court is different from adult court, but consequences for retail theft can be serious either way.

Consequences for Retail Theft 

In general, retail theft is a crime that occurs when a person intends to deprive a merchant of the benefit or retail value of their merchandise by:

  • Taking possession of it
  • Carrying it away
  • Transferring it from the store
  • Aiding someone in any of the previous actions. 

If the value of the stolen merchandise does not exceed $300, the crime is classified as a Class A misdemeanor which carries up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines and up to two years of probation. If the merchandise exceeds $300, the charge is elevated to a Class 4 felony which carries one-to-three years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines and up to 30 months of probation.

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