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.

Fatal Shootings Soar on Chicago Expressways

A fatal shooting on a Chicago Expressway ramp in April served as another sobering reminder of the dangers of the roads in and around the city.

A report in the Chicago Tribune detailed how a man from Englewood was charged with fatally shooting a man driving on a Dan Ryan Expressway ramp.

The attacker is accused of making off with $600 cash. He was reportedly caught by police, including an off-duty police officer who witnessed the robbery in his rearview mirror, police reports stated.

Police reported Jeremiah Holt, a 20-year-old from South Aberdeen Street, was arrested for the shooting death of Jeremy Scullark on the northbound Chinatown exit ramp from the Dan Ryan Expressway.

A 19-year-old passenger in the car was shot but survived. Holt allegedly walked toward the car and fired several times into the vehicle. Scullark turned hard right and struck two other vehicles. He exited the driver's seat and attempted to flee north, collapsing a few feet from the car, prosecutors said. The 19-year-old escaped after he was hit in the elbow.

Police said Investigators obtained videos from businesses showing Holt before, during and after the shooting.  One video was said to show him going into the business and hiding the gun.

Holt was interviewed by state police investigators. Police said he admitted on video to shooting Scullark and taking the money from the car. The Tribune report said he knew about the money in advance.

Another driver was fatally shot on a highway near Chicago in April. Police said Eduardo Munoz, a 43-year-old truck driver, was fatally shot on the Reagan Memorial Tollway near Oak Brook.

He was shot dead on Interstate 88 in Oak Brook, according to a release from the Illinois State Police. Munoz, a trucker from Florida, was driving a semitrailer truck east on I-88 he was shot by someone traveling in same direction. State police said the motive for the killing was unclear.

In May 2016, The Tribune noted the steady rise of Chicago Expressway killings in recent years. The article warned violence from crime-ridden neighborhoods was spilling over onto the highways.

It reported the wounding of a truck driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway in May 2016 was the 20th shooting on the Cook County interstate system in 12 months and the second time gunfire erupted in a week on the Expressway, according to Illinois State Police.

In all there were 47 Expressway shootings around Chicago in 2016, the Tribune reported. That compared to 19 in 2014 and 37 in 2015.

Fatal shootings on the Expressways are often charged as first-degree murders. First-degree murder is the most serious homicide crime in Illinois. The state no longer has the death penalty meaning the maximum sentence is incarceration for life.

To prove a first-degree murder charge the prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt, that a defendant killed the victim without lawful justification and either:

§  Meant to kill the victim or do great bodily harm, or knew his or her act would have the impact.

§  Was aware the act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm; or

§  Was attempting or committed a forcible felony other than second-degree murder such as a sexual assault

If you have been charged with a shooting homicide death, it’s vital to obtain experienced legal representation. Call our Illinois criminal defense lawyers at (312) 229-0008.

or read more about our attorneys here.

Domestic Violence in Illinois – Agencies Face a Funding Crisis

Domestic violence in Illinois is a major problem. It has been exacerbated by a state budget crisis that has hit the agencies meant to provide support for victims.

The scale of the problem was highlighted recently by Peoria Public Radio. The article pointed out the state entered its 22nd month lacking a real budget in April.

The services most impacted by the ongoing political battle are agencies that help victims of domestic violence.

At the best of times, Illinois spends little on combating domestic violence. Well under a tenth of the state budget goes to these services. Since last summer, it’s spent nothing at all.

Domestic violence services were left out of last summer’s stopgap budget altogether. However, legislation to approve new state funding for services is advancing in the Senate.

Vickie Smith, the executive director of Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence represents 62 providers in the state.

Smith said some of the domestic violence groups were forced to lay people off. It means the victims of domestic violence in Illinois have nowhere to turn. Smith said:

“When people have to call us to come into shelter, they’re running for their lives, literally running for their lives. They’re calling us because they have no place else to go.”

Domestic violence is taken very seriously in Illinois and offenders can face tough sentences.

The law is governed by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act which defines the household relationships that can lead to a domestic violence charge fairly widely.

Family of household members are defined as:

  • Family members related by blood such as parents, children or siblings;
  • People who are married or used to be married to each other;
  • People who share or once shared a home, apartment, or other common living space;
  • Those who have or allegedly have a child in common or claim a blood relationship through a child in common;
  • Individuals who are dating, engaged or used to date, including same sex couples;
  • Disabled or elderly people and their caregivers.

The Illinois Domestic Violence Act sets out a range of crimes and sentences for people found guilty of these offenses.

Domestic Battery

If you are convicted of domestic battery you will face Class A misdemeanor which could entail up to one year in jail, a fine or possible probation.

However, in some cases the offense can be charged as a Class 4 felony if the defendant has a criminal history that includes one of the following:

§  Battery involving a minor

§  battery using a firearm,

§  battery entailing sexual assault

If you are convicted of a Class 4 felony you could end up in prison for one to three years. A prosecutor may ask for additional punishment based your criminal history or the sentencing extension laws in Illinois.

Aggravated Domestic Battery

Aggravated domestic battery is a Class 2 felony carrying a potential sentence of three to seven years in prison. If the court allows a probation request, the defendant must spend 60 days incarcerated.

However, a defendant who has a previous conviction for aggravated domestic battery must be sentenced to three to seven years in prison.

The term can rise to an extended term of up to 14 years if a prosecutor can meet all the criteria established by state law.

At Abdallah Law, our attorneys have a long track record in representing people charged with domestic violence offenses. Please read our frequently asked questions.

 

 

Supreme Court is Skeptical About Restricting Social Media Use by Sex Offenders

Increasing numbers of people get their news from social media and sites like Twitter are used for important announcements by President Trump. It’s a development that has put laws banning social media use by sex offenders in the spotlight.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the legality of such a law in North Carolina.

The case concerned Lester Gerard Packingham who praised Jesus on his Facebook page after dodging a traffic offense and committed a felony at the same time under North Carolina law.

Supreme Court is skeptical about social media bans on sex offenders

Supreme Court is skeptical about social media bans on sex offenders

Packingham is a registered sex offender. He was not soliciting minors on Facebook but his mere use of the site constituted a crime in his state.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices appeared to signal a willingness to strike down laws that make it a crime for registered sex offenders to use social media after completing their sentences or serving probation.

At the age of 21, Packingham pleaded guilty 15 years ago to having sex with a 13-year-old. He received a suspended sentence. However, in 2010 his message about escaping a traffic court sentence on Facebook violated the state’s social media prohibition, reported the Washington Post.

North Carolina’s case was backed by 13 other states which have social media prohibitions for sex offenders.

However, some of the justices indicated their opposition to such laws. They claimed they undermine First Amendment rights.

Justice Elena Kagan thought North Carolina had gone far enough in restricting sex offenders’ use of the Internet to violate their First Amendment rights.

She said Trump tweets and all 50 governors and members of Congress maintain social media accounts or Facebook pages to inform the public of their actions.

Packingham said he was being cut off from an important source of information and news. His attorneys pointed out former President Barack Obama once conducted a town hall on Twitter. Obama described social media sites as an essential part of modern democracy. He said sex offenders should not be completely banned from these sites.

North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery said the state wasn’t restricting everything online.

He maintained sex offenders could read and write blogs and do podcasts as well as accessing news sites.

If you have been charged with a sex crime it can ruin your life and you may end up on as a registered sex offender. It’s vital to get experienced legal advice as soon as possible. Call our Chicago criminal defense team at (312) 229-0008.

The Most Important Thing To Know About Firearm Possession

Chicago law enforcement is aggressively going after citizens with guns.  In order to lawfully carry a firearm in Illinois any place besides one’s home or business, an individual must have both an FOID card as well as a concealed carry license.  

If law enforcement finds a gun on someone’s person or nearby (e.g., in the glovebox of the car they are driving) and that individual does not have a concealed carry license, they may arrest the carrier for “Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon” (the most common gun charge in the state) or other related crimes.  

But what if the gun is not actually on the person who is arrested?  What if, for example, the gun is in a roommate’s closet and the police find it during a search?  

In situations like these, law enforcement can attempt to charge the defendant with what is known as “constructive possession.”

Definition of Constructive Possession

Constructive possession is a charge brought upon a defendant when law enforcement cannot charge with a standard possession charge (e.g., the defendant is a passenger in a vehicle containing a gun that does not belong to her).  

To be found guilty of constructive possession of a firearm under current Illinois law, an individual must have knowledge of the presence of a firearm and ammunition, and must have the capability to use the firearm.  

That means simply knowing the gun is in the home or area is not enough – the defendant must actually be able to access and use the gun in order to be guilty of constructive possession.

Normally, cases of constructive possession involve guns found in homes or cars.  Constructive possession can also apply to other contraband, such as narcotics.

Examples of Constructive Possession

The Roommate

In the example above, the defendant could be found either guilty or not guilty depending on the circumstances.  

For example, if the defendant knew that his roommate had a gun in her closet, but he was unable to access it because it was in a safe or his roommate kept her door locked, then it would be difficult for the state to prove that the defendant had constructive possession of the gun.  

On the other hand, if the defendant knew that his roommate had a gun in her closet because he put it there and there were no locks or safes preventing him from accessing the gun, then the state might be able to convict the defendant of constructive possession.

Joyriding

In a 2011 case, People v. McIntyre, 2011 IL App (2d) 100889 (Dec 14, 2011), a defendant rode in a car with his friend to a man’s house.  

The defendant thought his friend was going to fight the man at his home.  When they arrived, instead of fighting, the defendant’s friend pulled out a gun and began firing.  

The state arrested the defendant and charged him with constructive possession.  The court, however, found the defendant not guilty because even though he was aware of the presence of a gun (since he saw his friend fire it), there was no evidence that the defendant had any control over the gun.

Other Factors of Constructive Possession

Constructive possession can be brought against two defendants, even if there is only one firearm.

For example, if a couple is taking a road trip and they pack their belongings, including a firearm, in the same suitcase and store the suitcase in the trunk, it may be assumed that both defendants had constructive possession of the firearm.  

But, if the couple has two suitcases and the husband is unaware of a gun in the wife’s suitcase, then perhaps only the wife would be found guilty of possession.

Constructive Possession Can Be Fought

A defendant who is arrested and charged with constructive possession is not automatically guilty just because there was a gun in the defendant’s vicinity.  

To find the defendant guilty, the state must prove the defendant knew the gun was present and the defendant was able to use the gun.  

If the state cannot prove those elements, the defendant must be found not guilty. In addition, the state must have had a valid reason to search the defendant and her surrounding area.  

For example, an officer must have probable cause to pull over a vehicle.  Probable cause means the officer must have observed the driver breaking a traffic law, observed a problem with the vehicle (such as a broken taillight), etc.  

If there was no probable cause, the officer had no right to pull over the vehicle and any charges resulting from the stop must be dismissed.  This applies to invalid searches of homes, businesses, and other areas.

Call Abdallah Law Today

If you have been arrested for constructive possession of a firearm, contact the lawyers at Abdallah Law today.  Our experienced legal team is ready to fight on your behalf.

Call Abdallah Law today at 312-229-0008 for a free consultation.

Bill Increases Sentences for Repeat Weapons Offenders in Illinois

Repeat weapons offenders in Illinois are the target of the new Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act, which advocates tougher sentencing guidelines for frequent gun offenders.

The legislation was put forward by Illinois state senator Kwame Raoul. It proposes tougher sentences for repeat weapons offenders in Illinois.

However, critics warn the bill could increase overcrowding in the state’s already teeming jails.

Sentences increased for weapons offenders

Sentences increased for weapons offenders

The Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act progressed after extensive consultations with legislators and judges on both sides of the aisle. If you commit multiple weapons offences, this legislation stands to impact you.

What Would the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act Mean for Repeat Weapons Offenders?

The legislation creates a more stringent sentencing guideline for repeat offenders. Rather than judges considering sentences in the typical range of three-to 14-years, the act encourages them to hand out sentences ranging from seven to 14 years in jail, depending on the offense.

Raoul said the bill is intended to stop people who are more likely to repeatedly commit gun crimes from being able to do so. He argued they can be rehabilitated during their prison terms in an effort to make them less likely to offend in the future.

What Are Opponents of the Bill Saying?

State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, who represents the 5th Senate District of Illinois, wrote a scathing critique of the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act in the Chicago Tribune.

She said it was a myth to claim this is not another tough-on-crime law that will lead to the “mass incarceration of black and brown males.”

Although some of the provisions in the bill started life as recommendations from a bipartisan commission, Van Pelt said Raoul’s proposal to increase sentences for people arrested for unlawful possession of a gun was not a commission recommendation.

She said the proposed legislation is worse than mandatory minimum jail sentences under a different name because it retains mandatory jail minimums for offenders with second-time gun possession convictions.

It then “stacks” another method of sentencing on top of them. She claimed jail sentences would be doubled for most people.

An analysis of the bill’s provisions by the nonpartisan Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, estimated the change would add at least 200 people every year to already overcrowded prisons in Illinois and cost as much as $8 million in the first three years.

The bill’s authors claim it will be a deterrent leading to a decrease of 1,471 weapons offenders over a decade.

Van Pelt also took issue with the claim judges will not lose their discretion in sentencing and will do nothing to address to flow of illegal guns into crime-ridden communities.

At Abdallah Law, we are committed to providing a vigorous defense to people who are charged with weapons crimes. The prospect of even higher sentences for repeat weapons offenders in Illinois, makes it vital to obtain experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Call us at (312) 229-0008.