Man is Accused of the Kidnapping of Chinese University of Illinois Student

Kidnapping is a crime that shocks society and is treated with the full force of the law. In recent weeks the kidnapping and disappearance of a University of Illinois scholar from China has made headlines.

Yingying Zhang has been missing since June 9. Police have arrested Brendt Christensen over her disappearance.

Recently, the Sun-Times reported the suspect marched in a vigil for the victim.

Federal prosecutors said Christensen spoke about the characteristics of what makes an ideal victim and said he talked about how Zhang fought and resisted.

Fears rise over 'kidnapping' of Chinese student

Fears rise over 'kidnapping' of Chinese student

New details concerning the disappearance of the 26-year-old came to light at a detention hearing for Christensen at U.S. District Court in Urbana close to the central Illinois school.

 Judge Eric Long, a U.S. Magistrate, ordered that Christensen, 28, remain incarcerated pending trial. It was his opinion that the recent graduate student at the university’s physics department was a risk to the community and a flight risk.

Just a day before Christensen was arrested he was at a gathering on campus when people walked to the place the Chinese student was last seen.

Prosecutors said Christensen formed part of the vigil group that included Zhang’s father.

Zhang was abducted as she headed out to sign an apartment lease off campus in Urbana. Christensen is accused of luring her into his car after she got off one bus and attempted to flag down another bus. The Sun-Times report stated in April, his phone was allegedly used to view a forum called “Abduction 101.”

Kidnapping in Illinois is a Class 2 felony. Aggravated kidnapping is a Class X felony.

Under 720 ILCS 5/10-1, this crime occurs when a defendant knowingly and secretly confines another person against their will through the use of force, threat of force, enticement or deceit.  Kidnapping includes the confinement of someone who is mentally impaired and the confinement of a child less than 13 years of age without the consent of his or her parent.

Under Illinois law, a kidnapping becomes an aggravated kidnapping, if the perpetrator holds another person to obtain a ransom, inflicts body harm with a dangerous weapon and armed with firearms.  The kidnapping of a child under 13 years or a mentally retarded person also constitutes the offense of aggravated kidnapping.

If you have been charged with a kidnapping offense the consequences may be very serious. Call our Illinois criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.

Woman Convicted in Fatal Palos Park Home Invasion

Home invasions are crimes that instill deep fear in the community. People who commit them often receive long prison sentences.

Recently, a 21-year-old woman from Indiana was convicted of first-degree murder for her role in a home invasion in Palos Park in Cook County.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Sarah Risner was held accountable for the death of Anthony Dalton in a home invasion that went badly wrong. Dalton was one of the assailants in the crime. He was shot dead by the homeowner.

The Tribune reported three other people are facing first-degree murder charges over the shooting death on July 5, 2016, on West 118th Street.

The courts hand out stiff penalties for home invasions

The courts hand out stiff penalties for home invasions

While the four did not directly kill Dalton, they are charged with murder due to someone dying in the commission of a forcible felony.

The Tribune reported prosecutors in the murder case presented sufficient evidence during a trial to prove Risner was accountable for the shooting death of Dalton.

He was shot dead when he entered through the victim's front door, said Cook County Judge Stephen Connolly.

A video shown at Risner’s trial proved to be important evidence leading to her eventual conviction.

The three-hour video shown at the trial showed Risner being interviewed by police. She outlined “substantial steps toward commission of an offense,” the judge said.

Risner along with fellow defendant Brandy Marshall, 20, had agreed to have sex with the homeowner, an older man, in exchange for cash, Connolly said. The judge said in the ruling they had no intention of going through with the act.

The two women planned instead to run off with the money, according to reports. They allowed Dalton, Tyler Gulli, and Brandy Marshall's 21-year-old sister Paige Marshall into the residence to beat up the occupant and take whatever they could, the judge said.

The girls opened the door but the homeowner saw someone outside and had time to grab his gun.

Risner also faced lesser charges of home invasion and residential burglary. They were dropped before the trial. She faces 20 to 60 years for first-degree murder.

The case highlights how home invasions can lead to extremely serious charges. If you have been charged with offenses of this nature, please contact our Cook County criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.

5 Ways Police Find And Arrest Gun Owners in Chicago

Chicago police say they are feeling pressure to keep illegal guns off the streets, and they have been coming up with new ways to detect and seize guns from citizens.  

People who carry guns in Chicago should be aware of these practices and make sure to have the required permits before carrying firearms on the streets.

1. Shot Spotter

ShotSpotter is a system used by officers to locate the source of a gunshot within 10 feet.  Police officers have set up microphones in areas of the city that are statistically prone to gun violence.

When a gun is fired, the microphone picks up the shot and immediately sends a signal to officers, who typically respond within 30 seconds.  Many of the microphones are set up in buildings and on rooftops, but the police will not release their exact locations.  

2. Neighborhood Watches

According to local officers, several arrests come from reports from fellow citizens.  Neighbors who are uncomfortable with guns or those who see what they believe to be illegal activity call the police to report what they observe around the neighborhood.  

These tips are used by police as justification to ride through neighborhoods and approach individuals they believe look suspicious, and if the tips are specific enough and involve serious crime, they can even be used to obtain a warrant to search a home.

3. “Stop and Frisk”

Stop and Frisk practices have had a controversial history in Chicago.  The term “stop and frisk” originated from a U.S. Supreme Court case, Terry v. Ohio, 3952 U.S. 1 (1968).  

In the case, the court held that police officers may stop individuals and perform a frisk to check for weapons if the police have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual might be armed and dangerous.  

Historically, many police used this as a free pass to stop people arbitrarily and search for weapons.  Because of overuse, new laws were put into place that require police to fill out a two-page report every time they conduct a warrantless frisk.  

This law helped reduce the amount of frisks conducted, but it did not outlaw these types of searches.  If police have good reason to suspect an individual has a gun, they can stop them and pat them down even without a warrant.

4.  Partnership with the ATF

In early 2017, twenty agents from the Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) agency joined forces with the Chicago police.  The goal of the partnership is to seize illegal firearms and prevent the entry of guns into the state.  

The ATF agents have access to registries for guns as well as a National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network, which means the agents are able to easily match shell casings to guns.  This can lead to arrests, and it can also link several crimes to the same person or group of people.  

For example, if the ATF agent can match a shell casing to a particular gun, and the same shell casings were found in two other places in the city, the agent may use that evidence to try to convince officials that the same person or people were involved in the crimes that occurred where other shell casings were found.  

The ATF also tracks shipments of guns from neighboring states, and tries to find the ways illegal guns are smuggled into Chicago.  If the agents discover a link between the traffickers and Chicago residents, serious weapon trafficking charges can be added to existing sentences.

5. Exceptions to Warrant Requirements

Police are supposed to have a warrant before searching a citizen’s home or vehicle.  The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  

Despite these rules, police have many ways of searching people, their homes, and their cars without a warrant.  If police pull someone over and that stop leads to an arrest, police are allowed to search that individual’s vehicle, including areas that may be closed such as glove compartments and consoles.  

If police arrest an individual for any reason, they can search his or her clothing, bag, wallet, or purse.  Even if someone is arrested for a crime unrelated to firearms, like an unpaid warrant, they can still be busted by the police if they are carrying an illegal firearm. In addition, if the police are called to a home for a complaint, such as a report of domestic violence or a medical emergency, they will most likely enter the home.  

If guns are visible to the officers (like if they are laying on the coffee table), the police can seize them if it is obvious the guns are illegal or if the homeowner is not allowed to have a gun due to a prior conviction or other reason.

Call Abdallah Law Today

Police have many ways to take guns from their owners.  Police in Chicago are especially interested in catching and punishing those with illegal guns.  

Those who wish to carry a gun in Chicago should make sure to be up to date with all licensing and permit requirements, and avoid taking firearms into places where they are not allowed.

Contact the offices of Abdallah Law at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation to discuss your rights today.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Laws To Keep Sex Offenders off Social Media

Laws that prevent sex offenders from accessing social media sites have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled social media networking sites have become such an important source of information that sex offenders should not be barred.

A law in North Carolina classified social media sites in the same way as places like schools which are no go areas for sex offenders. The Supreme Court ruled the ban was too broad.

Ban on sex offenders and social media is overturned

Ban on sex offenders and social media is overturned

The case concerned a sex offender called Lester Gerard Packingham who made a posting on a Facebook page after escaping a traffic ticket and committed a felony at the same time under North Carolina law.

The Supreme Court justices said laws like the one in North Carolina and other states that restrict sex offenders’ access to sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat violated the First Amendment, reported USA Today.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

"To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights. Even convicted criminals — and in some instances, especially convicted criminals — might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular, if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”

Although North Carolina's was more restrictive than the laws applying to sex offenders in most states, Packingham's victory represented a strong victory for free speech rights for some of the nation's most unpopular citizens.

America has about 850,000 registered sex offenders. Kennedy said the case was significant because it was one of the first times the nation’s highest court has addressed the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet.

USA Today reported 13 states defended the controversial North Carolina law in legal papers. They claimed the illicit use of social networking sites like Facebook is involved in one-third of Internet-related sex crimes that result in an arrest.

North Carolina passed its law in 2008. It claimed it was adding “virtual” neighborhoods to physical locations in which sex offenders are barred from like schools and playgrounds. The justices disagreed.

If you have been charged with a sex offense you will likely be facing a serious sentence. Your family and friends may shun you if you are convicted and your ability to hold a job in the future will be impacted. Call our Illinois criminal defense team today for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.

Chicago Man is Accused of Stabbing his Parents to Death

The majority of homicides in Illinois occur between people who know each other.  Often there appears to be no obvious motive and they shock communities.

Last month, a man was charged with the fatal stabbing of his elderly parents in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, reported CBS Chicago.

Chicago police said 47-year-old Dexter Barnes, faces two felony counts of first-degree murder. Police said the victims were his elderly parents.

Man was accused of stabbing his parents to death

Man was accused of stabbing his parents to death

The crime was discovered when one of the couple’s three sons returned to the home in North LeClaire. Police said he found his parents 69-year-old Shirley Ervin and 67-year-old Johnnie Ervin dead with multiple stab wounds.

 Subsequent autopsies revealed both of them died of multiple sharp force injuries and their deaths were ruled as homicides.

Barnes reportedly returned to the home and was later identified as the alleged attacker, police said. He lives on the same block as the victims.

Additional details on the crime emerged at a bond hearing for Barnes.

Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr denied him bail, according to reports. The judge said:

“These unimaginable facts speak for themselves.”

A report revealed Shirley Ervin previously obtained a protection order against her son.

However, it expired in November. Barnes was said to be living with his parents when he allegedly killed them.

Prosecutors said Barnes is on probation for an aggravated battery case in 2015. He was convicted of attacking a nurse who was treating him for an allergic reaction to a bee sting, prosecutors said. From November 2014 to late last year, Barnes' mother took out an order of protection against him for a domestic-battery case.

His public defender said Barnes suffers from a medical condition and has seizures.

Domestic violence against family members is a major problem in Illinois and the issue is hampered by a state budget crisis, we noted in our blog.

At Abdallah Law, we defend people who are charged with serious crimes like murder. Read about our case results here or call us at (312) 229-0008.

The Penalties for Armed Robbery in Illinois

Armed robbery is a very serious offense in Illinois which has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the nation.

Depending on the circumstances of the offense, a convicted robber can face 3 to 7 years or up to 30 years in jail for armed robbery.

Armed robbery is defined as an offense in which the perpetrator is armed with or carrying a dangerous weapon.

A dangerous weapon is usually a firearm. In Illinois, you must have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID) card to carry a gun. Knives, razors, metal knuckles and a broken bottle are also defined as dangerous weapons under the Illinois criminal code.

Armed robbery is a Class X felony. Depending on the nature of the armed robbery, the sentence ranges from between six years in prison to 55 years to life in prison.

The main factor that determines how heavy the sentence will be is the extent of force or threat of force used and/or if the weapon was just carried, or used and if an injury or death occurred. The offense of armed robbery carries a maximum fine of $25,00. On release, the mandatory parole period is three years.

Armed Robbery is a Common Offense in Chicago

Despite the severe sentences for armed robbery in Chicago, these offenses make headlines on a very regular basis.

A report in Oak Park Patch noted how five teens from Chicago were charged with two separate robberies in Oak Park in early June.

A 15-year-old and 16-year-old were arrested and charged with robbery and attempted robbery. One of the juveniles was accused of hitting the victim in the face while demanding his phone. A second victim reportedly ended up on the ground as the other suspect demanded his phone. Both suspects were located shortly after fleeing the scene.

Police reported a second incident in North Maple. Three juveniles approached a victim and one teen pulled out a semi-automatic weapon when demanding money and an iPhone.

The Chicago Tribune reported the three teens were charged with armed robbery and detained at the juvenile detention center.

Particular businesses are regular targets of robberies. We recently noted how pharmacy robberies are fueling America’s opioid crisis.

If you have been charged with armed robbery, you should speak to a Chicago criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Abdallah Law Firm at (312) 229-0008.

Is Smart Policing Driving Down Crime in Chicago?

Advances in technology have led to claims that smart policing is having an impact in reducing gun crime in Chicago.

That point of view was put forward in an article by Police Superintended Eddie Johnson in the Sun-Times in June.

Johnson was in Springfield for the signing of the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act. The new state law promises stricter prison sentences for repeat gun offenders in Illinois.

Johnson said the bill is an “important component of the broader public safety strategy we have implemented throughout the first six months of 2017.”

Officers discuss the impact of smart policing in Chicago

Officers discuss the impact of smart policing in Chicago

The police superintendent said during the first six months of 2017 the Chicago Police Department implemented a smart policing strategy that shows early signs of progress.

Chicago Police made a conscious decision to make “district-level intelligence” the driver of its crime fight, Johnson said.

He pointed out five of the traditionally most violent police districts on the West and South sides of the city were given new strategic nerve centers, gunshot detection technology, and more robust integrated camera networks.

At the same time, analysts from the University of Chicago Crime Lab started working closely with police officers in the new nerve centers.

Johnson said this created actionable intelligence that not only helped police respond to crime but prevents crime from occurring in the first place.

He noted some dramatic declines in parts of the city, namely.

  • Englewood which saw a 30 percent reduction in murders, and a 32 percent reduction in shootings.
  • ·An 18 percent reduction in murders, and a 35 percent reduction in shootings in North Lawndale.

Johnson said Chicago Police Department is on course to meet Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aim of 1,000 new police officers and detectives. They are being trained to use body cameras, Tasers and given de-escalation and mental health awareness training.

The senior police officer’s opinion piece was written before a violent July 4 holiday in Chicago. The police department was reported to be conducting “a very comprehensive review” after the city saw at least 102 people shot between late Friday afternoon and early Wednesday over the July 4 holiday.

This year, the violence was mainly confined to the south and west sides of the city where hundreds of officers on overtime were deployed over the July 4 holiday. 

Firearms offenses are taken very seriously in Chicago. If you have been charged, please request a free case evaluation with the Abdallah Law Firm.

5 Things To Know About Police Home Searches In Illinois

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Citizens have a right to protect their homes from unjustified invasion by the government.  A person’s home is one arguably the most protected areas under the United States constitution and most state statutes.  

Because of the interest citizens have in protecting their home, police need to have a good reason to come in.

1. Police should have a warrant

Generally, in order to search a home, the police must have a warrant supported by evidence, signed by a judge.  That means police can’t barge in on a hunch. If police ask to search someone’s home, the person at the door should demand to see a warrant.

If they don’t have one – simple, they can’t come in.  Though the general rule requires a warrant, there are some exceptions which can be used by police to bypass the warrant requirement.

2. Consenting to a home search destroys the requirement for a warrant

If someone at the home consents to a search, there is no longer a need for a warrant. Consent to search the home can be given not only by the homeowner, but anyone who lives there or otherwise has the authority to consent to the search.  

If the police get consent from someone who they believe lives in the home, but who actually does not have the authority to consent to a search, the police can still use any items obtained in the search at trial.  

For example, if an aggrieved ex-boyfriend still has the keys to his former girlfriend’s apartment, and the police think he lives there, they can use his consent to search the home even though this is an unfair result.  

Therefore, it is in every homeowner or renter’s best interest to make sure that former roommates, partners, or anyone else who lived in the home returns the keys.  People with roommates or other living partners should make sure that they know to refuse consent to a search.

3. The “plain view doctrine” is a big exception to the warrant requirement

The plain view doctrine is a legal term that means if police can see something without digging around, it can be used as evidence.  

If police are in a home for any valid reason, or if they are outside of a home and can see through an open window, opened garage door, or something similar, contraband that is in plain view can be seized.  

This means that if police are called to a home after receiving a call about, for example, a domestic dispute, and they step through the front door and see drugs, paraphernalia, or other contraband, they can seize it without a warrant.  

The plain view doctrine does not allow police to open drawers or otherwise tamper with an item to determine if it is illegal (e.g. police can’t read the serial number on a TV and check it with the stolen property registry).  

The plain view doctrine usually applies when the police are in the home because of an emergency call.

4. Home searches can be limited

Even if the police have a warrant to search a home, the warrant doesn’t mean they can look through everything.  They are limited to searching for whatever is listed in the warrant.

For example, if the warrant says that police can search the house for a stolen TV, they can only look in places where the TV could be.  A TV would obviously not fit in a kitchen drawer, so if the police open a kitchen drawer and find drugs, the drugs could be excluded from trial didn’t have a right to search the drawer.  

Also, if the police are given consent to search a home, they are only allowed to search the areas consented to.  So, if one roommate gives the police consent to search an apartment, but lets police know that the master bedroom belongs to his roommate and his roommate is not home, the police should not search the master bedroom because they don’t have the consent to do so.

5. Evidence obtained in home searches can be fought against and excluded

Some people believe that if police find something inside one’s house, the evidence will show up in trial.  However, a good attorney can fight against that evidence ever being presented in trial.  

For example, he can examine the warrant to make sure police didn’t exceed their authority, he can determine whether the search was carried out legally, and he can argue that evidence obtained should be excluded because it was not included in the warrant and not in plain view.

Contact Abdallah Law Today

The team at Abdallah Law is experienced in cases involving home searches and are ready and able to fight against police invasion.  

Contact us at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation to discuss how bankruptcy may help you manage your debt and obtain a “fresh start” to your financial life.  

Feds Step In To Help Gun Crime Fight in Chicago

Escalating gun violence in Chicago has made headlines over the last two years. Politicians have spoken about federal assistance. The Chicago Police Department is now receiving some help from federal law enforcement to investigate gun violence.

A report in Chicago Tonight revealed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is lending Chicago access to technology that police believe will help close thousands of gun cases opened every year.

The new technology is called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

Feds help gun crime initiative in Chicago

Feds help gun crime initiative in Chicago

According to the ATF, the system was set up in 1999. It provides state, federal, and local partners with an automated ballistic imaging network. NIBIN is the only national network that facilitates the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to assist in investigations and the prevention of violent crimes involving firearms. ATF states on its website:

“NIBIN is vital to any violent crime reduction strategy, because it provides investigators the ability to compare their ballistics evidence against evidence from other violent crimes on a national, regional and local level, thus generating investigative links that would rarely be revealed absent the technology.”

ATF has rolled out a new $300,000 van that operates as a hub for the technology. Every time a firearm is fired, it leaves markings on the shell casings like a fingerprint. The technology allows investigators to analyze the markings and compare them to casings found at other shooting scenes.

When a weapon is fired, it leaves several sorts of markings on the shell casings, like a fingerprint. This technology allows police to analyze those markings, and compare them to casings found at other shootings.

Although the network isn’t new, the speed of results is. The Chicago Police Department at present has access to this information in its own crime lab in Homan Square. Use of the van will allow police to get access to the information much faster: two to six hours, as opposed three weeks.

In late June, Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Eddie Johnson took tour of the van.

Johnson explained when a shooting incident occurs in the city, the police notify ATF to meet them at the crime scene.

The unit will recover casings from the scene and test fire a gun if a weapon is recovered.  Casings will be put into the national system. Johnson said each casing is like a fingerprint. The system allows the cartridges to be associated with other shootings and hence offenders.

We recently noted how Chicago Police have enlisted predictive technology in the fight against crime in the city. The technology being used after shootings includes ShotSpotter, described as an “ear in the sky.”

Our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys are well versed in the new technology being used by the police and how it may affect your rights. Call us at (312) 229-0008.

Cook County State’s Attorney Announces Bail Reform

Bail reform has been on the cards in Chicago for some time because the poverty of inmates is keeping them behind bars. As many as 300 people are jailed every day in Cook County because they cannot afford to post bail of $1,000.

However, the political momentum for reform appears to be gathering pace. Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported prosecutors in Cook County will no longer oppose the release of detainees held for certain nonviolent offenses because they can’t afford bonds.

The State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced the change that was promptly praised by an aide to Sheriff Tom Dar as consistent with the efforts to cut the county jail's population.

The move is welcome because it marks the first time a state’s attorney has taken a strong stand on the issue of bail, according to Cara Smith, the sheriff's policy chief.

Initially, the impact of the decision will affect just a handful of inmates – probably just a few dozen of more than 7,400. In the longer term Foxx believes the move will lead to a fairer criminal justice system.

The change is also likely to mean savings for taxpayers. A year’s stay in a jail costs more than $60,000 per inmate according to the Tribune report. The cost is even higher when mental health problems are present.

The change means people charged with some minor offenses will be released rather than being forced to pay bail. Foxx said in a statement:

"Routinely detaining people accused of low-level offenses who have not yet been convicted of anything, simply because they are poor is not only unjust — it undermines the public's confidence in the fairness of the system.”

Bail reform is announced in Cook County

Bail reform is announced in Cook County

Foxx believes there is a consensus that something is wrong when some inmates facing violent charges can bond out if they have cash while many charged with nonviolent offenses remain in jail because they cannot stump up few hundred dollars.

Chicago’s cash-bail system has been criticized at a national level. It is accused of being discriminatory because it adversely affects people in poverty.

The system was meant to ensure that defendants don't flee or cause harm to other people before trial. However, critics say judges often lack knowledge of key case details when they set a cash sum.

Cash bail systems are under fire across the nation. An article in The Atlantic described how a young man recently died in a New Hampshire jail after he was unable to post $100 bail. He was booked for possession of marijuana.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office says 250 to 300 people are jailed every day on average because they are unable to post $1,000 cash or less.

If you have been charged with a criminal defense, you should hire a Cook County criminal defense lawyer. Find out more about Abdallah Law here or call (312) 229-0008.

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.