Why Federal Crimes Carry Stiffer Sentences

If you commit a crime in Illinois, you may be dealt with in the state courts or the federal courts, depending on the nature of the offense.

Typically, federal offenses carry stiffer penalties. Not all attorneys are geared up to defend you from these offenses.

The majority of crimes are committed at a state level. They include DUI, property damage, theft, and battery.

Federal courts hand out stiffer sentences

Federal courts hand out stiffer sentences

However, the federal authorities may get involved when crimes cross state lines or national borders or are committed against federal property.

Cases dealt with at a federal level can include:

·         Robberies such as those involving a bank which holds deposits insured by a federal agency.

·         Bringing illegal drugs into the country or across state lines

·         Human trafficking

·         Child pornography cases that cross state lines.

·         Major gang cases

·         Use of the U.S. mail service to defraud people.

·         Other white collar crimes.

·         Terrorism

·         Immigration offenses

·         Healthcare fraud.

By their very nature, federal crimes can be complicated cases. They also carry very severe sentences. If you are accused of child pornography offenses, you can face a sentence of 12-2- years in a federal prison for a first offense.

If you are charged with a federal drug offense such as trafficking you will face a minimum of 10 years, even if it’s your first offense. Often you will serve at least 30 years, representing a vast chunk of your life.

Often, criminal defense attorneys who are lacking expertise in federal offenses will let a client plead guilty and be sentenced to a long term of incarceration.

Unlike in state jails, there is no prospect of parole in federal prisons. It was eliminated under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 for defendants convicted of crimes committed after November 1, 1987.

Although federal prisoners can no longer hope for parole release, they may nevertheless earn reduced terms for good behavior.

Given the serious nature of federal crimes and the high sentences they attract, it’s vital that you hire an experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer. Please call us at (312) 229-0008 for a free consultation.

The Role of Juvenile Courts in Illinois

If you are under the age of 18 and charged with a crime in Illinois, you may end up before a juvenile court. However, your mere age alone won’t be the deciding factor of whether you are a juvenile under the law.

There are two major factors that will decide whether you appear before a juvenile court in Illinois, namely:

1 Whether the offense you committed is a felony or a misdemeanor;

2 The age at which you committed the alleged offense.

You will be considered a juvenile and dealt with in a juvenile court if you commit a misdemeanor aged 17 or younger. If you commit a felony under the age of 18, the situation is more complicated. You may be treated as a Juvenile by the criminal justice system if you were 16 or younger at the time of the alleged crime.

 

However, the courts may determine that you should be tried as an adult and your case will proceed in the same way as it would if you were over the age of 18.

In 2015, Illinois passed a raft of measures intended to keep teens out of prison.

The new legislation prevented youths from being detained for some misdemeanor crimes and gave judges more discretion on whether teens should be tried as adults.

The legislation included a measure to eliminate mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of murder and a provision to keep children under 13 out of the justice system by moving to place them with community service providers instead of a juvenile detention facility.

What Happens When a Juvenile is Arrested?

If a juvenile is arrested in Chicago or one of the surrounding communities, police must make a “reasonable attempt” to contact the juvenile’s parents or legal guardians. If a parent or a guardian cannot be present police can appoint a “responsible adult” to be at the questioning. This individual is often called a “youth officer.”

The youth office has a remit to look out for the juvenile’s best interest. However, he or she is still a police officer and may use evidence that can be used in court against the juvenile.

To defend your rights, you should talk to an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer. Please call us at (312) 229-0008 for a free consultation.

Can Police Search My House Without A Warrant?

Usually, police must either have probable cause or a warrant to search an individual or his property.  

If evidence is collected through an illegal search and seizure (meaning that no probable cause was present or the police did not have a proper warrant to search the defendant or his premises), then the evidence must be excluded at court.  

Even though the exclusion of such evidence during trial is a constitutional protection that defendants should be granted, under the doctrine of inevitable discovery, sometimes the illegally obtained evidence may be allowed into court anyway.

When Does Inevitable Discovery Apply?

The doctrine of inevitable discovery means that even though evidence was illegally obtained, it would have been discovered if the police followed proper procedure.  

If the court determines that police would have discovered the evidence anyway, then the misconduct of the officers is excused and the evidence can be used against the defendant.

For example, imagine there is a burglary spree in Chicago where the perpetrator smashes through windows using a fire extinguisher to steal valuable jewelry from retail stores.  

Witnesses describe the suspect, and the police stop someone who matches the description near Millennium Park and search her trunk.  During the search, they find a fire extinguisher and several pieces of fine jewelry.  

Under normal circumstances, items found during this search would not be admissible in court because of the illegality of the search.  

But, the prosecution may argue that the police could have gotten a search warrant based on the description of the suspect and validly searched the defendant’s trunk, so the result would have been the same whether or not police followed proper procedure.  

If the judge agrees, the evidence will be admitted against the defendant despite violation of her constitutional rights.

Where Did The Inevitable Discovery Doctrine Come From?   

Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431 (1984) is a United States Supreme Court case that is considered the origin of the inevitable discovery doctrine.  Robert Williams, the defendant, was an escaped mental patient who kidnapped and murdered a ten-year-old girl from a local YMCA.

Two days later, the defendant turned himself in and told police they could drive him to the county jail if they agreed not to interrogate him during the ride.  

Despite his request, police questioned the defendant during the trip and eventually he led police to the victim’s body.  

The evidence of the body was used against Williams during trial and he was found guilty, but upon appeal, the court reversed the decision because the defendant’s constitutional rights had been violated.  

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the prosecution successfully convinced the justices that even if police had not interrogated the defendant, the body would have ultimately been found by law enforcement.  

The Supreme Court agreed, and the inevitable discovery doctrine officially became a recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment search and seizure laws.

Modern Day Inevitable Discovery     

Though this doctrine has been part of the law since at least 1984, it does not always succeed in court.  In a 2016 Illinois case, People v. Carter, 2016 IL App (3d) 140958, an appeals court held that inevitable discovery did not apply to a search that revealed a firearm.  

In the case, police executed a valid search warrant for illegal drugs and contraband in a Rock Island duplex. In the basement of the duplex, where a man named Murray lived, police found contraband.  

Murray was placed in handcuffs and escorted outside.  The police also searched the main floor, where the defendant lived, and did not find any evidence or paraphernalia, so they concluded the search and exited the duplex.  

About fifteen minutes later, an officer returned to the duplex and told the defendant they needed to check one more thing.  The officer flipped the couch in the defendant’s living room and discovered a firearm.  

The defendant was arrested for possession of an illegal firearm and other related charges.  Upon review of the evidence, it was determined that the only reason the officer knew to search the couch was because Murray told the police, while detained, that all the contraband belonged to the defendant and that he was hiding a gun in his couch.

The prosecution argued that the gun would have been found anyway, because they could have obtained a warrant to re-search the premises.  They also argued that the search was still in progress when they re-entered the house and located the gun.  

The appeals court disagreed, and held that since all officers left the house and the firearm was not located during the valid search, that the legal search had concluded before the gun was located.  

The officers did not get permission to re-enter the home and search for the gun, nor did they have a valid warrant allowing them to re-enter the premises.

The only reason the police found the firearm was because Murray told them its location as he was trying to shift the blame for the contraband on the defendant.

Call Abdallah Law Today     

In cases involving guns and contraband, many defendants believe that just because something was found on their person or their property by an officer, the evidence will be used against them.

With experienced attorneys like those here at Abdallah law, evidence obtained during searches and seizures may be excluded.  

Contact us today at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation so we can begin to fight for you.  

Gun Demand Rises in Chicago at Time of National Fall

Gun sales have declined in many states. However, Chicago appears to be bucking the trend despite its strict gun laws.

A report in the Chicago Tribune noted the demand for legal firearms is continuing to rise in Chicago even as the appetite for more guns falls elsewhere in the country and in the rest of Illinois.

Gun vendors believe the election of Donald Trump, a pro-gun president, has led to the slackening of demand. Concerns that his predecessor Barack Obama would bring in gun restrictions led to an uptick in gun sales.

Gun demand rises in Chicago

Gun demand rises in Chicago

 

Obama called for greater gun controls after mass shootings in recent years including the massacre of children in Connecticut in 2012.

The fear of firearms controls has moderated with Trump's election. Gun sales have slackened, according to some vendors.

While gun manufacturers seldom release sales figures, statistics from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a safeguard for buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer, gives some idea of demand.

Federal background checks reached record levels during the Obama administration. They more than doubled from around 13 million in 2008 to 27 million last year, FBI figures state.

In Chicago, the fear of violent crime which spiked last year may be having an impact.

Officials performed about 1.9 million background checks in Illinois last year, a significant jump from 1.2 million in 2015.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association said:

"People are worried about protecting themselves in the Chicago area. People started seeing the value of a concealed carry license."

Illinois has strict gun laws. At Abdallah Law, we have been successfully challenging concealed carry denials since the Firearm Concealed Carry Act was put in place. You have a short time to act to appeal your denial. 

Please call us for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.

Is Chicago the Most Corrupt City in the Nation?

Corruption crimes are very complicated white collar crimes. Chicago is no stranger to these kinds of crimes.

A recent investigation found the Windy City remained the most corrupt major city in the country over the past four decades. However, Houston in Texas is coming up on the rails.

Research released in 2015 by the University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson found corruptions levels remain high in Chicago, reported ChicagoBusiness.com.

The research pointed to 45 convictions for public corruption in 2013 – the most recent year figures were available - in the U.S. court district that covers the Chicago area.

Is Chicago the most corrupt city in the country?

Is Chicago the most corrupt city in the country?

Corruption in Chicago was considerably higher than Los Angeles that had 19 convictions and the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) with 13. However, Houston recorded the most convictions for federal corruption charges in 2013 with 83. 

Chicago remained the most corrupt city in the longer term. In about 40 years since the U.S. Department of Justice began to collect data in 1976, the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago, Cook County, and 17 other counties, had 1,642 corruption convictions, according to Simpson. That compared to 1,316 in Los Angeles and 1,260 in the New York district, which includes the Bronx, Manhattan, and six other counties.

However, when the figures are compared on a statewide basis, New York state had 2,657 federal public corruption convictions from 1976 and 2013, California had 2,549 and Illinois 1,982.

Corruption is often dealt with at a federal level and carries a heavy penalty. Illinois has a Public Corruption Profit Forfeiture Act.

It describes the crime of corruption as “a far-reaching, continuing and extremely profitable criminal enterprise, which diverts significant amounts of public money for illicit purposes.”

In December, Ald. Willie Cochran, a former Chicago police officer who once campaigned as a corruption buster, was indicted on federal corruption charges, reported the Chicago Tribune.

He is accused of looting a charity fund for seniors seeking bribes from a developer for bribes and obtaining money from a liquor store owner while spending the cash on gambling and on college tuition for his child.

If you have been charged with a white collar crime in Chicago, it’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call the Abdallah Law Firm at (312) 229-0008.

The History of the Miranda Rights on Arrest

The history of the Miranda Warning dates back to 1966 when a landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court established the safeguard that suspects must be informed of their rights when they are placed under arrest.

Before 1966, police used a frightening array of interrogation methods that were once known as undergoing the “third degree.”

The Miranda Rights have provided a safeguard against police interrogation for the last 50 years.

The case of Miranda v. Arizona was decided on June 13, 1966. Ernesto Miranda, the defendant, was accused of robbery, rape, and kidnapping. He confessed to the crimes during police interrogation.

The case was appealed amid concerns Miranda’s Fifth Amendment Rights had been violated. When Miranda was arrested in 1963, police officers questioned him over a kidnapping and a rape.

A written confession was obtained after two hours of interrogation. The written confession was admitted into the original trial even though the defense attorney objected and police officers admitted they had not advised the defendant of his right to have an attorney present.

Miranda’s conviction was later overturned due to the allegedly intimidating police interrogation methods. A second trial was ordered which brought in witnesses and other evidence.

Miranda was again convicted of the crimes. His trial was, however, deemed to be fair, and the original conviction was upheld.

The Miranda Rights became consolidated after another trial. In 1964 the case of Escobedo v. Illinois, established a suspect has the right to legal counsel being present during police interrogation or to consult with a lawyer before being questioned by police officers if the officer intends to use answers against the suspect at a trial. The right to an attorney was established if a defendant is detained and questioned against his or her will.

California deputy attorney general Doris Maier and district attorney Harold Berliner provided finalized text for the Miranda Warning in 1968.

Before the Miranda Warning was established by the U.S. Supreme Court, confessions only had to be voluntary on the part of the suspect. Police faced a difficult situation because defendants would often claim at trial that they were not of sound mind when they gave their confession.

The Miranda Warning clearly explains the options of the defendant and makes it clear he or she does not have to say anything but any information they do give can be used against them. The Miranda Warning is used across the United States, although its wording varies from state to state.

The Miranda Warning is important because it make a defendant’s rights crystal clear and establishes the right to legal counsel.

At Abdallah Law we recognize the importance of a defendant’s rights in Illinois. If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense, please schedule a free consultation via our contact form.

Illinois Wrongful Conviction is Highlighted in Murder in the Park Documentary

As criminal defense lawyers, we are well aware of the long history of miscarriages of justice in Illinois. However, few are as high profile as that of Alstory Simon.

Simon who is now 66, served 15 years and 8 months in an Illinois prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The high profile wrongful conviction has been made into a documentary by a Cleveland film company.

Former Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez vacated Simon’s conviction in 2014 The case he was caught up in led to the demise of the death penalty in Illinois.

TV show highlights wrongful conviction

TV show highlights wrongful conviction

 

The documentary film is called "A Murder in the Park," Its recent release on Netflix has given the case a higher profile.

A report on Cleveland.com noted the man convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Jerry Gollard and Marilyn Green, 19, in 1982 in a park on Chicago's South Side was Anthony Porter.

He was freed from death row many years later, following a private investigation by a Northwestern University professor, a private investigator, and the academic’s journalism students convinced a judge in 1999 that Porter was wrongfully convicted.

Porter's scheduled execution in 1998 was stayed by the Illinois Supreme Court due to concerns about his low IQ. The students then took on the case.

After the investigation, Illinois Gov. George Ryan pardoned Porter and halted executions in the state. The death penalty was abolished more than a decade later.

The team from Northwestern was convinced that Alstory Simon was the real culprit of the murders in the park. The new film documents their efforts to prove it.

Simon's ex-wife testified. She said she saw the shooting and Simon did it. Simon confessed on tape to an investigator working for the Northwestern crew. He admitted to the crimes and was sentenced to 37-1/2 years in prison.

Later the conviction started to unravel. Simon claimed his confession was coerced out of him by an armed private investigator and a defense lawyer was in cahoots with the private investigator.

In the new film, Simon's ex-wife admitted lying about his involvement. The filmmakers point to flaws in the case made by the Northwestern crew in the exoneration of Porter. They claim the team failed to talk to several witnesses or even read the police report properly.

Simon was released from jail in 2014. Judge Thomas Byrne later said Simon was innocent of the double murder he served time for but denied him a “certificate of innocence.”

Byrne said Alstory Simon played a “role” when he pleaded guilty to the double murder case that led to Porter being freed, reported the Sun-Times.

At Abdallah Law, we have a long track record of seeing the big picture. We are dedicated to fighting wrongful convictions. Read more about us here or call us at (312) 229-0008.

Pharmacy Robberies are Fueling the Opioid Crisis in America

America is in the grip of an opioid crisis and robberies at pharmacies may be fueling it, according to a recent report.

A report on Pharmacist.com stated police responded to more than 500 pharmacy robberies in Illinois and Indiana since 2012. In many cases, robbers are demanding opioids and medications to treat anxiety, according to evidence from security cameras.

Tighter controls have been put in place to curtail the robberies and limit the supply of drugs. In Illinois, for example, prescriptions for hydrocodone dropped by 350,000, as tighter controls were placed by the state on opioid analgesics.

Pharmacy robberies fuel the opioid crisis

Pharmacy robberies fuel the opioid crisis

 

However, the move has led the street value of the drug to rise because the drugs are in higher demand.

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy executive director Carmen Catizone warned one of the unintended consequences of the spike in robberies is some pharmacies may stop carrying these prescription drugs, restricting the access of patients to the drugs they need.

The Scale of the Opioid Crisis in Illinois

The opioid problem in Illinois is rapidly increasing in line with many other states.

Date from the Illinois Department of Public Health found there were 2,278 drug-related overdose deaths in 2016. This represented a 44.3 percent increase over the 1,579 drug-related overdose fatalities reported just three years earlier 2013.

Of the drug overdose deaths recorded in Illinois in 2016, over 80 percent (1,826) were opioid-related fatalities.

The Illinois Department of Public Health figures found opioid-related deaths in 2016 represent an increase of 70 percent in the number of deaths reported three years earlier.

The 1,826 opioid-related overdose deaths represented a 32.1 percent increase over the 1,382 opioid-related overdose fatalities reported by IDPH a year earlier in 2015.

A study by the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University found the Chicago area led the nation for emergency room visits related to heroin use, reported NBC.

If you are charged with armed robbery at a pharmacy, you are likely to be facing a long stretch in jail.

The Illinois criminal code defines the crime of armed robbery as a Class X felony. It carries a mandatory sentence of 6 to 30 years. If, during the commission of the offense, another person was seriously harmed, the court must add at least 25 years of imprisonment to the defendant’s sentence.

If you have been charged with a violent crime like robbery or a drug offense, you are likely to be facing serious consequences. Our Chicago criminal defense lawyers can help you. Call us today at (312) 229-0008.

8 Places A Firearm Can Not Be Carried

Illinois and federal laws restrict citizens from carrying firearms in certain locations.  It is important to understand these provisions in order to avoid getting ticketed or otherwise penalized for having a firearm in a place where they are prohibited.

Before Carrying

Before carrying a gun, make sure to have an up to date concealed carry permit as well as an FOID card.  Carrying firearms without these items is prohibited in every location besides one’s home and business.

Firearms are prohibited within a personal vehicle and cannot be concealed on one’s person without a permit and FOID card.  Open carry laws are not recognized in the state of Illinois.

1. Government Buildings

Generally, any building or facility that is funded partially or fully by government funding have firearm prohibitions. This includes locations such as courthouses, administrative or other local government buildings, libraries, jails and detention centers.  

It also includes public transportation that uses government funding and at fairs, festivals, parades, or other public events funded by the government.  Public parks and playgrounds are also generally funded by the government, and as such do not allow firearms.

2. Education Facilities

Firearms are not allowed on school campuses, including primary school (grades K-12) and college campuses.

They are also prohibited at childcare facilities and any common areas controlled by such facilities, such as walkways, parks, and libraries open to the public. This restriction extends to any remote school centers, school busses, playgrounds, or off-campus school events.

3. Areas with Large Crowds

Firearms are allowed in some densely populated public areas, such as convention centers which do not specifically prohibit them. To be safe, contact the company providing the event or view the website of the venue to determine whether concealed carry is permitted.

Firearms are prohibited in airports and sporting locations such as a stadium, arena, or at a sporting event.  They are also not allowed in museums, zoos, and amusement parks. Likewise, racetracks and off-track betting locations prohibit the carrying of firearms.

4. Healthcare Facilities

To protect patients, firearms are not allowed in hospitals, nursing homes and mental health care facilities.  Smaller healthcare locations, such as specialists’ offices or dental care facilities may allow firearms at their discretion, but one should always check before carrying in such locations.

5. Locations that Serve Alcohol

By law, bars and clubs (or any location that generates half of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages) must prohibit firearms. These prohibitions are a matter of public welfare, as the use of alcohol can make some individuals more prone to violent acts or altercations.  

Restaurants and other areas that serve alcohol, but do not rely on alcohol sales for the bulk of its income, may allow firearms.  Whether they are allowed is at the discretion of the business owner.

6. Miscellaneous Locations

Some locations which do not fall into specific categories such as those listed above also prohibit firearms. For example, firearms are not allowed at nuclear power plants nor their parking lots.  Also, the Cook County Forest Preserve does not allow firearms.

7. Private Businesses

Any owner of a private business has the right to prohibit firearms.  In order to enforce the restriction, the business must display a sign that informs patrons that the restriction is in place.

8. Residences

A homeowner or renter can prohibit firearms on their property.  No signage is required, and the homeowner has the right to ask the carrier to leave the property or keep their gun outside of the home.

What To Do About Firearm Restrictions

In the event that a location does not permit conceal and carry even with a license, do not argue with the owner or try to bring the gun in undetected.  

With the exception of nuclear power plants, keep the firearm in the vehicle.  Place it in the trunk or glove compartment where it is out of view to those outside of the vehicle.

Non-residents

The restrictions for carrying firearms apply to those who are residents of Chicago as well as business travelers or tourists.

Firearms can be carried without an FOID card if the firearm is unloaded and in a case, the firearm is within a permitted hunting area with an appropriate hunting license, within a target range, if the owner is licensed to carry a firearm in their state of residence, or at a gun show that is recognized by the Department of State Police.

Penalties

Carrying a firearm in a location where they are prohibited is a Class B misdemeanor, and a subsequent violation is a Class A misdemeanor.  Being charged with this offense can result in a suspended or revoked license, as well as fees and jail time.

Call Abdallah Law Today     

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime involving the carrying of a firearm, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer.  

Contact us today at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation so we may review your case and defend your right to carry. 

Police Say New Technology is Driving Crime Down in Chicago

The relentless rise in violent crime in Chicago in recent years has been high on the media agenda. However, a modest fall in offending recorded this spring may be attributable to new technology.

Chicago Police noted a modest reduction in shootings for the city of Chicago at the end of April.

A report on WTTW  noted shootings are down 13 percent in the city. April was the second month running that shootings have decreased citywide.

New technology impacts crime in Chicago

New technology impacts crime in Chicago

While police recorded 45 murders and 308 shooting victims, the figure was 9 percent fewer victims compared to this time in 2016.

The report stated the use of new predictive technology in some of the city's more crime-ridden districts may be having an impact.  The department detailed the expansion of its Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) in six districts.

The report described these support centers as “nerve centers” where police officers can track trends across a range of software platforms that inform them where crime is occurring in the district or where it could potentially happen.

The systems in question include ShotSpotter. Although the district has been using the tool for some time, it has only adopted it recently in combination with other tools.

ShotSpotter is described as an “ear in the sky.” The system detects when shots are fired. Within just 30 seconds it can relay the location with an accuracy of 25 yards to police officers in the nearest SDSC. On its website, ShotSpotter claims the system helped reduce gun violence in San Francisco by 50 percent.

CPD Lt. Patrick O’Donnell of Chicago police said in the past police would have to scour three or four blocks following reports of gunshots. The ShotSpotter system gives greater pinpoint accuracy.

The police department is also using more eyes in the sky. When police dispatch receives a call about criminal activity in a certain area, it’s now able to geo-locate it on a map, pull up cameras and see what’s happening before sending in officers.

The cameras allow police to see car plates and even mugshots of known gang members associated with a certain area.

Technology is rapidly changing the way police operate, states Police Magazine. However, criminals are also using the latest technology to operate and are taking advantage of communications methods such as social media.

This fast-moving climate creates a challenge for police, prosecutors and defense attorneys and raises questions about the legitimacy of new means of evidence-gathering.

Our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys keep ahead of technological advances. Read more about our attorneys here or call us at (312) 229-0008.

Chicago Public School Teacher is Charged with the Assault of a Teen Girl

Sex assault cases involving teachers and students have made headlines across the country. Earlier this year, a Chicago Public Schools teacher was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a school on the South Side.

Anthony Frontera, a teacher at the Chicago Military Academy in Bronzeville, was charged with having a six-month sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who was his student at the time.

A report in the Chicago Tribune said the girl turned 16 over the school year. The report said she may have been 15 when sexual assaults began, prosecutors said.

Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. set bail at $750,000 in May. He said the accusations were “egregious.”

A school teacher was charged with the assault of a teen

A school teacher was charged with the assault of a teen

 

Frontera, of the 3800 block of North Ottawa Avenue, is charged with criminal sexual assault of a victim between the age of 13 and 17, reports stated.

The Tribune report said the teacher started having sex with his student in his office on a regular basis. Prosecutors say he locked his classroom and drew the shades. Several witnesses say they saw Frontera alone with the girl in his classroom during the school year.

Chicago Public Schools said Frontera was removed from his teaching role after CPS investigators discovered the teacher was “potentially harming a student.”

The charge of criminal sexual assault carries severe penalties.

Criminal Sexual Assault v. Criminal Sexual Abuse

Illinois makes a distinction between criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse in the Illinois Criminal Code.

In Illinois, criminal sexual abuse can be a Class A misdemeanor or a felony. The offense is charged as a misdemeanor when the person who commits sexual misconduct is under the age of 17.

The offense becomes a felony if the defendant commits the sexual conduct either under force or the threat of force or when a victim could not give knowing consent to the act. It can be a defense if an accused reasonably believes the victim was at least 17 years of age.

Criminal sexual assault differs from criminal sexual abuse. It generally refers to rapes and entails sexual penetration combined with the threat of force.

Defendants may be charged with criminal sexual assault even if the sex was apparently consensual if a victim is unable to understand what was going on or unable to give knowing consent.

The charge can be brought when a victim is under 18 and the accused is a family member or when a victim is aged 13 to 18 and the accused is at least 17 or holds a position of authority, trust or supervision like a teacher of a counselor.


If you have been charged with a serious offense of this nature, you should hire an experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyer. Call us for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.

Gang Activities Are Targeted in Chicago Police Crackdown

Gang activities have been targeted in a Chicago police crackdown in recent weeks with a series of round-ups of alleged members of organized groups.

The people arrested included a man who works for an anti-violence group, reported the Chicago Sun Times.

Federal prosecutors said Francisco “Smokey” Sanchez was charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

Gang activity is targeted in Chicago

Gang activity is targeted in Chicago

Sanchez describes himself as a “violence interrupter” for CeaseFire. Police allege he is part of the Gangster Two-Six Nation street gang.

The Gangster Two-Six Nation gang is a well-established street organization in Chicago. It was founded in 1964.

Sanchez’s CeaseFire organization was the subject of an award-winning documentary. However, funding for the organization shrank in recent years. The organization once had a budget of $4.5 million. It now relies on private donations.

In announcing the arrests last month, Acting U.S. Attorney Joel Levin highlighted the link between street gangs and violence. He said.

“Most of the transactions that have been charged in this case occurred in areas of Chicago that have been plagued by violence.”

The arrests were made during a joint federal-state investigation, dubbed “Operation Bunny Trap.” According to reports, police seized 118 firearms including shotguns and assault rifles as well as more than 800 grams of cocaine, 280 grams of crystal meth and in excess of 250 grams of fentanyl.

Features of the round-up included:

·         The uncovering of alleged drug and gun transactions in a Brighton Park pizza parlor.

·         The busting of two alleged illegal gun deals in a grocery store parking lot.

·         The uncovered of illegal gun sales in South Side neighborhoods, including Chatham, Chicago Lawn, Clearing, and Englewood, and in the suburbs of Homewood, Berwyn, and Alsip.

In all, 48 alleged gang members are facing federal or state charges after the round-up, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.

Illinois has some of the toughest sentences for firearms offenses in the country. The drive to target street gangs meant the state.

Recently, legislation tightened up the penalties for repeat gun offenders, we noted on our blog. If you have been charged with a gun or a weapons offense in Chicago, call us for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.

Outlining Chicago’s Strict Gun Possession Laws

Chicago has some of the strictest gun possession laws in the United States, notwithstanding the high rates of violent crime in the city.

This means you can be facing a long stretch in jail if you are convicted of a crime like possessing a firearm or concealing a weapon in public.

Last year, as gun crimes rocketed in Chicago, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner approved a new law that imposes a stiff penalty on anyone who brings a gun into the state without a gun-owner identification card.

abdallah-gun-possession.jpg

The law was strengthened amid fears firearms are coming in from neighboring Indiana which has laxer gun laws than Illinois.

The crime is now a felony that carries a prison sentence of four to 20 years. Repeat offenders could be locked up for as long as 30 years.

The 2016 measure was a major strengthening of the law. Previously, gun owners apprehended for the first time without proper ID were charged with a misdemeanor and typically ended up serving less than a year. Repeat offenders would get up to five years.


House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the new law was targeting crime in  Chicago. In 2016, Chicago registered 767 gun killings, making it the deadliest year in almost two decades. The guns in about 60 percent of the gun crimes were bought out of state, Durkin said.


In Chicago, you must have a firearm owner’s identification card, or FOID card, if you have a firearm in your home or your car.

Even the incorrect transportation of a gun with a valid FOID card is a crime. Illinois law states a firearm must be enclosed in a case or another container. It also must not be loaded.

You can be charged with a gun crime if you are carrying an uncased firearm under the seat of your car or in your glove compartment.

Unlawful use of a weapon in Illinois is a Class 4 felony. You can be sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison.

You should be aware that traffic stops can quickly escalate in Illinois. Often the cops pull over a driver for a traffic violation and discover a weapon being improperly transported or one belonging to someone who lacks a valid FOID card.

Suddenly, you will find you have been charged with a felony and are being taken to jail.

If you are not from the State of Illinois you may not understand the severity of these laws. As a convicted felon, you will be barred from gun ownership for the rest of your life.

Gun crimes of these nature can be extremely complex. Don’t really on your instinct to fight these charges. 

Abdallah Law can help you. Contact us here for a free evaluation.

How To Protect Homes and Individual Rights from Illegal Searches

“Illegal search and seizure” is a term that is often mentioned in the news, but what does is mean for citizens and their guns?

The Basics

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from illegal searches and seizures, meaning that any government agent (FBI, ATF, police, etc.) must have a warrant supported by probable cause before searching or seizing a person or their property.

A warrant is a document that must be signed by a judge or magistrate.  Probable cause means that there must be a valid link between the person or place being referenced in the warrant and criminal activity.  

A search is an invasion of a place or person.  When searching a place, it is only considered a true search if someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in that place – such as a home.

A search of a person includes things such a pat-down, or more invasive searches such as a blood draw. A seizure is when the police either confiscate an item or take an individual into custody.  

When The Police Don’t Have A Warrant

In some situations, the police can search and individual or his property without a warrant. The first exception is when there are exigent circumstances (i.e. an emergency situation) which justify an immediate search.  

A search is warranted if the officer believes a crime will occur if he or she does not immediately conduct a search.  An example of a valid warrantless search is if a wanted fugitive runs into a residential home.  

The police will not wait for a warrant to search the home because doing so will give the fugitive time to escape. Another exception to the warrant requirement is searches in places which don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

 The best example of this type of warrantless search is in an airport.  The use of drug sniffing dogs and the thorough searches conducted by TSA have all been found as valid uses of warrantless searches by the United States Supreme Court.

Even if you do have a reasonable expectation of privacy for a certain place, the police can search it if you consent.  If the police come to your door and ask to search your home, you have the absolute right to refuse the search and demand to see a warrant.

The police are also able to search a person, their vehicle, and their personal effects as an incident to arrest.  This means that if you are pulled over for a valid traffic stop, and that stop leads to an arrest (for example, if the police take you into custody for suspicion of a DUI after a traffic stop), then the arresting officers can search your vehicle, backpack, purse, etc.  

Stop and frisk is a controversial procedure which allows officers to stop random citizens who look like they might have a gun and pat them down without a warrant.  Chicago tried using stop and frisk in the past, but the practice was ended after it was determined that minorities were searched disproportionately to other citizens.  

A similar policy in New York was recently found unconstitutional for similar reasons.  While stop and frisk is currently not standard policy in Chicago, it does not mean that it will remain that way forever.

Finally, police can seize something that is in plain view.  For example, if you have a handgun in the waist of your jeans and it is clearly visible when you are in public, the police may stop you and seize the weapon.  

For those that have concealed carry licenses, this means that you must keep the gun out of sight when in public (unless your job allows you to carry it openly).  If the police must remove or adjust anything (e.g. open a bag to view what is inside), then the plain view exception does not apply.

What Happens If The Police Conduct An Invalid Warrantless Search?

Even though there are many exceptions, the general rule is that police must have a warrant to search an individual.  If the police search someone without a valid warrant and they did not have a legal exception for the search, then any contraband or weapons found cannot be used against the defendant.  

For example, if the police pull someone over for no reason, arrest the individual for a DUI, and find a gun in the glove compartment, the police cannot use any of the evidence collected (including the gun) against the individual in court.  In fact, the entire stop would have to be excluded from mention in the case.

Call Abdallah Law Today

The laws regarding search and seizure are complicated, but the experts here at Abdallah Law are experts in the field.  

We will review your case and work hard to protect your constitutional rights.  Contact our offices today at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation today. 

Appeals Court Upholds 14 Year Sentence for Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Public corruption cases don’t come much bigger than that of Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois.

Blagojevich received a 14-year sentence on corruption charges after he was accused of attempting to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was vacating following his election as president in November 2008.

In the fourth year of his imprisonment, Blagojevich sought to have his sentence commuted by the Justice Department. However, when Obama made his final grants of clemency shortly before leaving office, Blagojevich’s name was not on the list. He is not due to be released from prison until 2024.

Judge upheld sentence on former Illinois governor

Judge upheld sentence on former Illinois governor

His appeal also failed in April, the Sun Times reported. The newspaper reported the appeal was heard by the same three judges in the U.S. Appeals Court who said in 2015 it was not possible to call 168 months in prison too high for the former governor’s crimes.

The court quickly affirmed the 14-year prison sentence that Blagojevich was given in 2015 by U.S. District Judge James Zagel. It took the panel just three days after hearing arguments to announce the decision. Previously, the three judges took almost two years to give their answer.

What Was The Basis of Rod Blagojevich’s Appeal?

Lawyers for the 60-year-old former governor said Zagel should have given him a break. They presented letters from more than 100 fellow inmates who said Blagojevich is a changed man.

U.S. Appellate Judge Frank Easterbrook was unmoved. He wrote:

“Blagojevich’s treatment of fellow inmates may show that outside of office he is an admirable person, but the court was entitled to impose punishment that reflects how Blagojevich behaved when he had a different menu of opportunities and to deter those who hold office today,”

Lawyers for Blagojevich have maintained he was prosecuted for something that isn’t a crime and amounted to political deal-making rather than corruption.

Blagojevich has attempted to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court refused to hear from him early last year. 

The Department of Justice has ramped up its efforts to prosecute officials on public corruption charges in recent years, but these cases are always complex and open to challenge.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated out the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell who was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014.

McDonnell, was found guilty of violating the law by receiving, gifts, money, and loans from the CEO of a Virginia-based company, in exchange for acts interpreted as favorable to Williams and his business. The justices said prosecutors were taking an over broad approach to what constitutes ‘official action’ under federal corruption law.

If you have been charged with corruption in Illinois, you should contact one of our experienced Illinois criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation or call us at call us at (312) 229-0008.

Your Rights if You Are Stopped by Police In Chicago

Many people do not realize they have rights if they are stopped by the police in Chicago or elsewhere.

If you are stopped in a car when a police officer initially pulls you over what you do and say can have a major impact on subsequent legal proceedings.

If you see a police car is following you with its emergency lights flashing and siren on you should safely and promptly pull over to a safe place and come to a complete stop.

When you stopped by a police officer, you should be careful about what you say. Anything you say before or after an arrest can be used against you.

Your rights if stopped by police

Your rights if stopped by police

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, your best protection is to invoke your right to silence. However, you must verbalize your right to remain silent.

The 2013 case of Salinas v. Texas established that a defendant must invoke his or her right to remain silent to benefit from it. You should tell an officer you are going to remain silent and then say nothing further.

You have the right to remain silent when being detained or after you have been arrested by a police officer. You should not volunteer information if the police officer asks if you know why he or she pulled you over.

Anything you say can be used against you. If you do not incriminate yourself, a police officer will have an uphill task wrongly accusing you of a crime.

Anything you say or do can and likely will be used against you at any point by a police officer.

You also have a right to ask the police officer if you are free to go. If you do not ask this, the police officer may think you are voluntarily remaining to talk. If the police officer says you are being retained, you have a right to say you are going to remain silent and will not answer questions.

You also have a right not to be searched unless the officer has a search warrant. If an officer asks your permission to be searched, you should politely decline. The officer would not be asking you if he had the right to search you.

If a police officer ignores your wishes and carried out a search, you should firmly say you don’t consent to a search. While a law enforcement officer has a right to pat you down to feel for weapons, he is not allowed to go in your pockets and pull out property. You are not obliged to remove anything or to take your shoes and socks off.

There is widespread ignorance in the community about what to do if you are pulled over by a police officer. In Illinois, more than 190,000 students are enrolled in a school driver’s education programs which contains a section on what happens if you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

Your rights if you are stopped by police are important to your subsequent case. At Abdallah Law, we will vigorously defend your rights. See our case results here or call us at (312) 229-0008.

Junk Science Fears as Attorney General Scraps Forensic Science Commission

Forensic science has developed rapidly in recent years. Methods such as bite mark comparisons and hair analysis were seen as powerful tools before they were discredited and branded junk science.

Although these methods are linked to wrongful convictions and even executions, they are still used.

The recent announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists raises fears more innocent defendants will be convicted by junk science.

The partnership was meant to raise forensic science standards. Sessions has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony into several under-fire forensic techniques.

sessions review raises junk science fears

sessions review raises junk science fears

Instead, the Department of Justice will pursue new strategy led by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.

At the end of March, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science. The commission is a panel made up of about 30 judges, scientists, crime lab professionals, prosecutors and defense lawyers. It was chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.

The announcement left a lot of unanswered questions, the Washington Post reported. The panel was working on new standards for reporting and examining forensic evidence in criminal courts nationwide. Now the Department of Justice is suspending work on setting uniform standards for forensic testimony.

The new direction is alarming because the panel uncovered major problems with some forensic techniques widely used to secure convictions.

Former President Barack Obama pushed changes to forensic science during his time in the White House.

Last September, a White House science panel asked for the court to further question whether four heavily used forensic techniques were admissible.

The techniques in question were:

1.    Bullet techniques;

2.    Bite mark;

3.    Tire Marks;

4.    Complex DNA samples.

The Justice Department announced a wider review of expert testimony in criminal cases. Forensic techniques are highly influential with juries even if they are junk science. Likewise, experts often sway juries.

The FBI Laboratory championed the tracing of crime-scene hairs based on microscopic examinations for decades as well as bullets based on chemical composition.

In 2015, The FBI and the Justice Department formally acknowledged almost every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit handed out flawed testimony in nearly all of the trials related to hair samples over more than 20 years before 2000.

As many as 32 defendants were sentenced to death. A report in the Washington Post said 14 of them were executed or lost their lives in prison.

Sessions’ recent announcement leaves many of these possible junk science techniques still in use in the courts and increases the risk of wrongful convictions.

If you have been charged with a serious offense you should hire an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney to fight back against junk science evidence. Call us today at (312) 229-0008.

Cook County State Attorney Calls for New Social Media Tools to Fight Crime

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Fox has called for new social media tools to fight a spike in gun violence in and around Chicago.

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times detailed how Foxx sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General asking for resources to tackle the wave of violence gripping the Chicago area.

She reportedly described a city plagued by its worst outbreak of gun violence in two decades. Foxx cited the avowed aim of the Trump administration to tackle violent crime and keep communities safe.

Cook County State Attorney wants more social media tools

Cook County State Attorney wants more social media tools

The report said she singled out the massive growth of social media and its role in crime. She requested tech support and social media analysts. She also asked for a personal meeting with Sessions.

The demand for new social media tools represents an acknowledgment that social media is driving violent crime in and around Chicago.

The Need for Social Media Tools – Is Online Activity Driving Violent Crime in Chicago?

A recent Newsweek article highlighted the possible link between social media and an upsurge in gang activity in Chicago.

Earlier this year, Cook County prosecutors filed hate-crime charges against four defendants who are accused of holding an 18-year-old mentally disabled man captive, torturing him for a prolonged period and posting videos of acts on Facebook

Prosecutors are treating the incident as a race attack. They claim the six-hour torture session by four African-Americans involved racial slurs against the white victim.

Police in Chicago say the gang rape of a teen girl in March was streamed to Facebook live,

Foxx made additional requests to Sessions. She wants support for the setting up of an Arrest Alert system. It would allow assistant state’s attorneys to be notified when defendants in priority targeted cases are arrested for unrelated offenses. This would allow cases to be combined to make prosecutions more effective.  

Last year, Chicago recorded 762 murders – the highest in 19 years. A report in the Chicago Tribune in February suggested 2017 may be on course to surpass last year’s grim total.

President Trump has described Chicago as more dangerous than most places in the Middle East and at one point threatened to “send in the Feds,” although he did not elaborate on what he meant.

At Abdallah Law, our attorneys represent many defendants who have been arrested on serious felonies such as gun crimes and homicides. Please call us for representation at (312) 229-0008.

How Firearm Enhancements Can Add Years To Sentencing

Under Illinois statute, certain crimes have enhancements if they involve firearms.  

Enhancements mean that in addition to the punishment for the underlying crime, a certain number of years are added to the sentence because of the presence or use of a firearm.

Which Crimes Have Enhancement Clauses?

Under current statutes, the firearm enhancement punishments apply to the following crimes:

  • Armed robbery
  •  Aggravated vehicular hijacking
  • Attempted murder
  • First degree murder
  • Intentional homicide to an unborn child
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Aggravated battery of a child
  • Home invasion
  • Aggravated criminal sexual assault, or
  • Predatory criminal sexual assault of a child

How Do The Enhancement Charges Apply?

If an enhancement charge is part of a case, the prosecutor will try to convict the defendant of the original crime (for example, she will try to convict of home invasion) and prove that the defendant either had a firearm or discharged a firearm during the commission of the crime.  

If the firearm element is proved, then a certain number of years will be added to the minimum sentence for the underlying crime.

How Many Years Are Included With The Enhancements?

The time added to a sentence for a firearm enhancement depends on the manner in which the firearm was used.  

If the defendant only had a firearm on their person, but did not discharge it during the commission of the crime, then 15 years are added to the sentence.

If a firearm was discharged, but didn’t harm anyone by doing so, then 20 years are added to the sentence. If you discharged the firearm and it caused bodily harm to someone, then 25 years up to life in prison is added to the sentence.  

The enhancements also apply to accessory crimes (e.g. being charged as an accomplice to first degree murder).  If the defendant is charged as an accomplice to a crime listed above in which a firearm was discharged, then an additional 15 years is added to the sentence, unless they were the one who discharged the firearm (which would result in a separate charge).

For example, attempted first degree murder is a Class X Felony, and it is punishable by a minimum of 20 years to 80 years in prison.  If a defendant attempted to murder another person by pointing or shooting a firearm, but missed the person and did not harm them, then the defendant could be charged with attempted first degree murder.  

If he is found guilty, then he may be sentenced for 20-80 years for the attempt crime, plus an additional 20 years for discharging a firearm.

Can The Number Of Years For An Enhancement Charge Be Reduced?

Unfortunately, current Illinois laws state these enhancements are mandatory, meaning they cannot be reduced or altered.  

If you are found guilty of one of the crimes listed above and the firearm enhancement applies, then the additional time must be added to the sentence.  

That is why it is imperative that you hire experienced counsel to fight for your rights and help you avoid excessive punishment.

What Is The Crime I Am Charged With Already Includes Firearm Charge?

Even though it seems unjust, Illinois courts have determined that enhancement clauses can be added to sentences even if the statute the defendant violated includes using a gun as an element.

For example, armed robbery occurs when a defendant robs a person or establishment using a deadly weapon or a firearm.  

If a defendant is charged with armed robbery with the use of a firearm and found guilty, then he can be sentenced to a number of years in prison for the armed robbery plus the 15-year enhancement for having a firearm on one’s person during the commission of the crime.  

Is There Any Way To Fight The Enhancement Charge?

There are defenses available in every case.  If the crime you are charged with involves a gun or it is one of the crimes above that includes a potential enhancement for the possession of a firearm, an experienced attorney can fight to defend you against the charges of the underlying crime and work to avoid an enhancement clause by showing you either did not possess a gun or did not use it during the commission of any crime.  The defenses in your case can only be determined after a thorough review of the evidence in your case.  

Contact Abdallah Law Today

Felony crimes are serious, and when they involve a firearm, the Illinois court system tries to impose long prison sentences.  

If you or a loved one are facing a felony firearm charge, contact Abdallah Law as soon as possible so we can fight for your freedom. Call Abdallah Law at 312-854-2677 or contact us today for a free consultation. 

Former Field Museum Worker Gets Prison Time for Stealing

Theft offenses are among the most common crimes that occur in Illinois. Although stealing won’t always result in your imprisonment, it depends on the scale of the theft.

Recently, a former data specialist at the famous Field Museum in Chicago was sentenced to three years in a federal prison for stealing almost $1 million from the museum.

The Chicago Tribune reported Caryn Benson funded a “lavish lifestyle” with the items she stole including jewelry and luxury cars. She even managed to pay rent for a friend’s apartment on the South Side.

aballah-museum.jpg

Lawyers acting for Caryn Benson pointed out she had never previously been in trouble with the law. They argued for as little as a year behind bars.

However, federal courts frequently hand down heavy sentences. U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang explained the three-year term by pointing out Benson abused the trust of a not-for-profit museum.

The judge pointed out she stole about $906,000 in membership fees and other proceeds over six years. He said the money could have been used for good causes such as boosting Chicago’s standing. The judge said:

"This is an important Chicago institution. It makes important contributions to the city and to the world, not just through visitors but all the behind-the-scenes scientific and historical research that it performs."

Museum officials pointed out Benson’s acts had an impact on the museum’s reputation. In a victim-impact letter, they said private donations fell off since her arrest. The museum's chief marketing officer said two years ago Benson stole from a museum at a time when it was struggling financially. It had to lay off employees.  

Benson, a 39-year-old woman from Chicago, admitted one count of embezzlement last year.

In a plea agreement, she said she routinely took membership payments between June 2008 and April 2014. She kept money paid by patrons for drink tickets at events at the natural history museum.

Benson said in her plea agreement she took a total of about $400,000. Prosecutors pointed to an internal museum audit. They said the actual amount she took was $906,000. More than $550,000 passed through her checking accounts although her salary during that whole that time totaled only about $140,000, prosecutors alleged.

Prosecutors said she splashed out. She bought a four-carat diamond Joe Rodeo watch valued at $1,500, Gucci shoes and a handbag valued at over $1,400, as well as a gold chain worth 1,500, according to FBI reports.

The seriousness of theft crimes in Illinois depends on the value of good stolen. If you have been charged with a theft crime, please call our Chicago criminal defense lawyers at (312) 229-0008.