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prosecutor, election, Skokie criminal defense attorneyRegardless of how you may feel about the subject, the reality in Illinois is that, sometimes, politics and criminal law directly affect one another. On certain levels, of course, you probably realize this to be true, as representatives, senators, and governors must be elected before they can draft legislation, amend and vote on bills, and enact new laws. Politics and public opinion can also directly impact the application of the law, as many other positions within the government are also filled by popular election. Using the power of the vote this week, the people of Cook County have spoken by voting out incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, effectively deciding that it is time for a new chief prosecutor.

Role of the State’s Attorney

Cook County, Illinois, is the largest consolidated court district in the entire United States, serving a population of more than 5.2 million residents. The Cook County State’s Attorney is tasked with representing the people of Illinois in prosecuting crimes committed within the jurisdiction of the county court. The State’s Attorney’s Office operates as a branch of county government and currently employs more than 900 Assistant State’s Attorneys who help in the prosecution of criminal activity throughout the county’s six municipal districts.  State’s Attorneys are elected by popular vote to a term of four years.

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public indecency, lewd acts, Lake County criminal defense attorneyThe laws against public indecency cover a wide range of individual offenses, including sexual offenses as well as incidences of public exposure. While these types of crimes are very common, they still carry serious consequences for anyone charged, sometimes the effects of which can last for a very long time as a person may be added to the national or state registry of sexual offenders, affecting a person’s ability to find work, live in certain neighborhoods, or work in a job where children may be present.

In Illinois, public indecency is defined as (including but not limited to):

  • A public act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct; or
  • A lewd exposure (ie: flashing, public masturbation) done with the intent to arouse sexual desire in the victim.

The state legislature specifically calls out that in no situation will breast-feeding in public be considered an act of public indecency. A public place in this instance means anywhere that another person could witness or be present. It does not have to be a crowded public space: If a person exposes himself, for example, on a private street as only one other person is walking by, he or she could still be charged with public indecency. Another common type of citation for public indecency can include public urination—if, for instance, a person is out drinking and relieves himself on the street, he can be charged. This seemingly innocuous act could then stay on his record forever.

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post-conviction, appeals, Cook County criminal defense attorneyFor some criminal defendants, their cases are not over once they have been convicted. The U.S. and Illinois Constitutions have many safeguards in place to prevent wrongfully convicted people from remaining locked up. However, it often takes a skilled lawyer to help navigate all of the rules and procedures that govern post-conviction relief.

What Happens Once You Have Been Convicted?

In a criminal case, once you have been convicted, you will be sentenced. In some cases, you are able to remain free on bond waiting for your sentencing hearing. In others, you may be taken into custody and begin serving time while you wait for your formal sentencing hearing.

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warrantless, dog sniff, Northbrook Criminal Defense AttorneyWhen you are going though an airport, you understand to a degree that civil authorities are looking to keep air travel safe, and sometimes that means that your luggage may be subject to dog sniff by an animal trained to detect explosive materials. Like it or not, submitting to such measures is part of the trade-off in being granted the privilege to travel by air. Your home, however, is a different story. Under the constitution, you are protected against unlawful search and seizure of your property which, as the United States Supreme Court has decided, includes a warrantless sniff for drugs by a police dog.

Warrantless dog sniffs were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florida v. Jardines back in 2013. In that case, police had received a tip that Miami man was growing marijuana in his home. A detective went to the home and after observing for 15 minutes without approaching the door, brought a drug-sniffing dog onto the premises. The dog apparently detected the scent of marijuana and alerted his handler. Based solely on the behavior of the dog, police obtained a search warrant and proceeded to search the home, finding a number of marijuana plants.

At trial, the warrant and seized plants were suppressed on the grounds the warrant was based on an unreasonable search—the sniff conducted by the dog. On appeal, however, the appellate court disagreed, holding that the sniff was legal. The Florida Supreme Court, and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with original trial court that a warrantless sniff of a person’s home violates the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the opinion of the high court, law enforcement has the right to approach a home without a warrant like any private citizen, knock, wait for a response, and engage in conversation with the home’s occupant. Introduction of police dog, however, is deemed by the court to be an elevated level of investigation that requires a warrant issued on the basis of probable cause.

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NPR recently reported on a new study that says the U.S. Justice Dept. regularly intimidates defendants who have been charged with federal drug offenses with stiff sentences prison sentences, or piling on additional charges, in order to pressure those defendants to plead guilty.

The study was conducted by Human Rights Watch, who issued their findings in a report, “An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty.” The report gives details about federal prosecutors charge defendants with crimes that carry severe mandatory prison sentences if they are found guilty – the group refers to the severity of the sentences as “draconian” in their report. In attempts at plea-bargaining, the federal prosecutors then offer much lighter sentences in exchange for guilty pleas.

Typically, the choice is plead guilty and receive a ten year prison sentence or go to trial and risk receiving a life sentence if found guilty. According to the study, 97 percent of defendants take the deals that federal prosecutors offer them, especially since most defendants charged with drug offenses are found guilty in federal courts.

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