Chicago Criminal Defense Blog

The police didn't give you a Miranda warning: Now what?

If you have even a passing understanding of how the American criminal justice system works, you've heard of a Miranda warning. The statement that begins, "You have the right to remain silent..." is heard on countless television shows and considered an important protection for criminal defendants.

What if the police officer who arrested you for drug trafficking or some other charge didn't "Mirandize" you first? Does that matter?

Why the cash bail system in Illinois should end

Imagine this: You're accused of a serious crime. You know you're innocent, and you think that you will be able to prove your innocence in court -- if the prosecutor's case doesn't fall through before then.

Just the same, you're hustled off to jail and separated from your family, your job and your life and told that you can only go back if you post hundreds or thousands of dollars in bail -- and you simply don't have it. Neither do your family members and friends. You're forced to sit for months behind bars while you're life unravels outside.

9 alleged gang members busted in DuPage County

On Feb. 28, Illinois authorities arrested eight men and a juvenile male on multiple drug and weapons charges. The defendants are all alleged members of the La Raza street gang in DuPage County.

According to media reports, ATF and DEA agents took the defendants into custody following a series of raids conducted between 6 a.m. and noon. Three of the defendants, ages 23, 29 and 41, were charged with a single count of felony delivery of a controlled substance, and a 33-year-old defendant was charged with two counts of felony delivery of a controlled substance. A 24-year-old defendant was charged with felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member, felony criminal damage to property and two misdemeanors. A 26-year-old defendant was charged with felony unlawful possession of a firearm and felony unlawful possession of body armor, and an 18-year-old defendant was charged with two counts of felony criminal damage to property and one misdemeanor count of criminal defacement of property. Finally, a 22-year-old defendant was charged with two misdemeanor counts of possession of a firearm without a Firearm Owners Identification card and one count of possession of ammunition without a FOID card.

Cash bail system needs urgent reform

Someone who the police have arrested can expect to face a judge for arraignment. The judge will formally read the charges and set bail. If the defendant can come up with the bail money, the court will release him or her from jail until the time of trial arrives. If the person does not have the money or resources to make bail, he or she will likely remain in jail for weeks or longer until the trial.

In a system that seeks justice, this may seem grossly unfair to you. Fortunately, Illinois is making moves toward reforming the cash bail system that is now in place. Other states have eliminated their cash bail systems, and so far, these efforts have shown success. You may be among the many who hope state lawmakers will manage to find a workable system in Illinois, despite the protests of special interest groups.

Racial bias poses a continued threat in criminal cases

Many people in Illinois have raised serious concerns about the continuing impact of racial bias on prosecution, conviction and sentencing in criminal cases. One of the most important areas of study has been implicit bias, when people's decisions are affected by unconscious stereotypes and prejudices. Implicit bias rests on the acceptance of socially propagated stereotypes about a racial group rather than a conscious commitment to racist beliefs. Because it is unconscious, it can be more difficult to prove and challenge successfully. However, when implicit bias goes unchallenged, the cost for defendants of color could be substantial, including longer sentences and a higher likelihood of detention before trial.

Some criminal defense lawyers have suggested strategies to address the issue of implicit bias in the courtroom. Jury instructions given before testimony, opening statements or deliberations could instruct jurors to avoid stereotypes and personal feelings of liking or disliking the parties when considering the case. Because implicit bias rests on an unconscious framework, bringing the discussion of racial bias into the open could prompt decision-makers to consider the reasoning behind their beliefs. Other lawyers have even made a full presentation on implicit bias to potential jurors before jury selection.

Former Illinois state senator enters guilty plea for bribery

Martin Sandoval, a 56-year-old former Illinois state senator, pleaded guilty in late January 2020 to tax fraud and bribery charges. He has admitted to taking $250,000 in bribes from a local red-light cameral company as well as other individuals and their business interests. As part of the plea agreement, he also admitted to having his accountant underreport his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service from 2012 to 2017.

Sandoval is working closely with authorities as investigators continue to look into the scandal. He said that he approached an employee of SafeSpeed, a red-light traffic camera company. He told them that he would oppose legislation that would ban the cameras from being used and encourage them to be used in more communities. SafeSpeed has denied any wrongdoing in the incident. Sandoval was paid $5,000 a month by the SafeSpeed employee for his assistance. He received more than $70,000 in total from the company.

Illinois pastor charged with stealing $800,000

An Illinois pastor at a Chicago church has been indicted on charges of stealing over $800,000 of money that was designated for a food program to help needy children. The 45-year-old man had previously been charged with fraud for taking $100,000 from an elderly man in 2011.

The pastor ran a daycare at a local church, which received funding from the Illinois State Board of Education's Child and Adult Care Food Program. These funds were intended to provide meals and snacks over the summer to children at the daycare. Authorities launched an investigation after finding the pastor owed the program $3.3 million. The pastor and church have been barred from participating in the program in the future.

DNA evidence may show innocence in old cases

A number of people in Illinois and across the country have been exonerated even many years after a criminal conviction on the basis of DNA evidence examined later on. While DNA evidence is often entered at trial by both the prosecution and the defense, there are circumstances where DNA could be re-examined after a conviction. These kinds of requests, especially for older cases before the routine use of DNA analysis, have become so common that standard procedures have been developed to determine how a new analysis can be requested by those who say they were wrongfully convicted.

Across the country, at least 266 wrongfully convicted people have been freed from prison or had their records wiped clean as a result of post-conviction DNA testing and analysis. There are two ways in which DNA analysis can contribute to winning the release of a previously convicted person from prison. In most cases, the level and clarity of DNA analysis currently available was not accessible at the time of the conviction. The person may be excluded entirely as a result of the analysis or a much higher level of reasonable doubt may be introduced, depending on what is determined by the results.

Illinois man facing many drug charges after search of his home

Police in Dixon have placed a 67-year-old man in Lee County Jail on accusations of selling cocaine in the area. A news release from the Dixon Police Department named him as a suspect in a drug investigation. Investigators reported finding 30 grams of cocaine during a search of the man's home located in the 200 block of Willett Avenue.

Law enforcement agents who searched the home claimed to find equipment associated with packaging cocaine for sale. After collecting this evidence, police arrested the man.

Criminal justice system still fraught with racial disparity

Black people in Illinois and across the country are still more likely to be imprisoned than white people, although one study points to a positive trend in reducing racial disparity in the criminal justice system. The Council on Criminal Justice reported declining racial gaps in imprisonment rates in local jails and state prisons as well as probation and parole authorities. The council includes bipartisan members from government agencies, police organizations and the criminal justice reform movement. The study noted that declines in racial disparity were found in all major crime categories but were most pronounced in terms of drug offenses.

Racial gaps in drug prosecution and sentencing have drawn serious attention from criminal justice reformers over the years, especially as many people were serving long sentences for nonviolent crimes, including simple possession. While black people in 2000 were 15 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses than white people, that multiple dropped to five times by 2016, still a staggering number. Various factors have changed the situation for drug sentencing, including the opioid crisis and cannabis legalization.

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