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shoplifting, Lake County criminal defense attorneyShoplifting is one of the most common crimes in the country, but it can have effects that are far-reaching to businesses, lawmakers, and to society as a whole. The crime is so common, in fact, that there is a National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, working to both reduce the number of shoplifting incidents in the United States and to discourage would-be shoplifters from committing such crimes. More than 10 million individuals have been arrested or accused of shoplifting in the last half decade, and current estimates suggest that 1 in every 11 people in the United States have shoplifted at one time or another.

Common Misconceptions

Because it is frequently a minor misdemeanor crime, shoplifting is often considered alongside crimes committed by juveniles, which are often offenses that do not, and cannot, affect one’s permanent record. Yet, the effects of shoplifting do, in fact, stay on a person’s record for a long time and can effect a person’s ability to find work—perpetuating an ugly cycle that, in many instances, led to the incident in the first place.

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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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teen sexting, sex crimes, Cook County criminal defense attorneyEarlier this year, four Chicago-area teens were charged in relationship to sexting, a practice that is becoming increasingly common for young people and adults around the country and throughout the world. In separate case, a North Carolina teen was listed on a warrant as both the defendant and the victim in a sexting-related arrest. The constant availability of electronic communication, combined with the often questionable decision-making skills of teenagers, has led to growing concern over an issue that, in many jurisdictions, is tantamount to the dissemination of child pornography.

What is Sexting?

The word “sexting” has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years, and its precise definition varies depending on the situation. An amalgamation of the words “sex” and “texting,” the term generally refers to the sending of nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit images by cell phone or other electronic device. Most often, sexting includes “selfies,” or photos taken by the sender for the express purpose of sharing them electronically. According to studies, more than half of all American teens have sent or received sexting messages, prior to reaching age 18.

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According to the Innocence Project, “more than half of DNA exonerations involve faulty forensic evidence from crime labs and unreliable methods such as bite-mark analysis.”

Because of these high statistics, the US Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced the first ever national commission on forensic science. This 37 member commission will include forensics practitioners, scientists, lawyers and members of law enforcement. The commission’s goal is to offer guidelines on training standards and standards in certification as required by law. The group met for the first time last week.

The NIST will also be establishing a second commission, which is being referred to as a “forensic-science standards board.” This group will offer recommendations on which standards should be set for criminal laboratories. Over the past few years, several studies which have been done on forensic practices in this country have produced critical results. In 2009, the National Research Council (NRC) announced its findings on forensic methods, concluding that almost every analytical testing technique was unreliable and contained too many variables. The study said the only reliable testing technique was DNA evidence. The goal is to create standards that will be followed by federal, state and local laboratories. Currently, there are too many differences each organization’s “standard testing” procedures, even in DNA testing. Other test reliabilities have also been questioned in past studies. In 2003, the NRC found that polygraph tests are too unreliable, but, a decade later, many law enforcement agencies still rely on those tests. Another study done in 2011 revealed that one in every 1,000 fingerprints was incorrectly matched and actual matches were missed in almost 10 percent of the examinations. If you’ve been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you need to contact an experienced Cook County criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights in the courtroom are protected.

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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