Chicago Criminal Defense Blog

What you should know about warrantless car searches

The Fourth Amendment generally protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers may, however, lawfully search your vehicle after a traffic stop without a warrant depending on the reason for your detention. Law enforcement officers can also lawfully search your vehicle with a warrant provided that you permit them to do so.

The law provides a person with a lower expectation of privacy inside a car versus in their residence. Police officers may conduct a warrantless search of your vehicle provided that they have probable cause that there's evidence related to a crime located inside of it. They may also search your car if they reasonably believe that they need to protect themselves from possible weapons or harm.

How do you defend against white collar charges?

White collar prosecutions usually take people by surprise. Sometimes, they have no idea that what they did was even illegal. Other times, they got caught up in circumstances that spiraled out of control before they realized it, and they simply never took the time to think about the potential consequences.

If you're facing charges, it helps to understand the kinds of defenses that can be offered in white collar cases. Here are some of the most common:

  • A lack of evidence: Each crime has specific elements that have to be proven. If the prosecution's evidence is weak, inconsistent or relies on witness testimony, which is prone to error or bias, you may find ways to discredit the case against you.
  • A lack of knowledge: If you were far removed from the actual criminal activity and can demonstrate that you never knew anything about what was happening, that can definitely help your case.
  • You lacked intent: If your actions were the result of a misunderstanding, confusion or mistake, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove that you intended to do something illegal, especially if there's a logical reason behind your actions.
  • You were coerced: If someone threatened you or your family members with physical harm or something equally disastrous, you may have a valid defense. More than one person has been coerced into criminal activity by other people.
  • There was entrapment: The police have certain rules they have to follow. If agents or investigators used some kind of deceit to entice you to commit a crime, that could be a legitimate defense.

Can a work environment encourage white collar crime?

The motivation behind why a person carries out a particular action can play an important role in any given situation. In particular, authorities often look for motive when investigating crimes, and in some cases, people of interest may have no motivation to commit certain crimes, which make them less likely to be suspects. However, even if motive does exist, it does not necessarily mean that a person acted on his or her own accord.

You may have concerns about the type of information authorities are looking into if they suspect you of white collar crime. Even if no formal charges have come against you, you may already know about the investigation into your activities. If so, it is smart to start gaining information on what this means and what you can do.

Former UI employee pleads guilty in book theft

A 71-year-old former employee of the University of Illinois (UI) pleaded guilty to the theft of two rare musical books from the school's library in revenge for perceived wrongs in the way that he was treated.

The books were valued at more than $500 each. Their absence didn't go unnoticed, but nobody had any idea who had taken them until the thief sold one of the books to a vendor. The vendor, in turn, unwittingly tried to resell the book back to the university. A sharp-eyed staff member noticed that the copy of the "Le Quattro Stagioni" offered for sale had the same markings as the copy that had gone missing.

What's 'Zoom-bombing,' and can it get you into big trouble?

You've heard of Zoom, the video conferencing app that everybody from schoolchildren to senior executives is using these days, right? It creates electronic "rooms" for meetings that can be joined by anyone with the right link.

Those electronic rooms can also get invaded by hackers, who "Zoom-bomb" the meetings they manage to invade with all sorts of questionable (or offensive) videos, electronic content or pornographic material.

Tax avoidance and evasion: What's the difference

Tax season -- even though it has been extended this year -- is still a stressful period for a lot of professionals. The tax code is increasingly complex, and that often leaves people worrying that they're going to get into trouble for some kind of mistake -- especially when they're self-employed.

A lot of people are confused about the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. It essentially boils down to one thing: Tax avoidance involves legal maneuvers that are designed to reduce your taxes, while tax evasion involves illegal maneuvers that are designed to help you evade taxation.

What kinds of actions are considered credit card fraud?

You'd never even steal a $20 bill from someone's unattended wallet, so how did you find yourself facing charges of credit card fraud? It can happen more easily than you might think.

Credit card fraud is a type of identity theft, and it's a common problem in this country. While many instances of fraud involve online predators from far-flung lands, home-grown credit card fraud is also an issue. People can commit credit card fraud in a variety of ways. For example:

  • You have been using your spouse's credit card for purchases for years -- but now you're getting a divorce. You didn't think anything of continuing to use a card that was in your spouse's name, even though they'd withdrawn their permission for you to do so.
  • You borrow your girlfriend's credit card to pay for a new tire on your car -- with permission. While you're at the auto shop, you find out the car's brakes need replacing. You charge those, too -- and your girlfriend is furious and accuses you of fraud.
  • You borrow a roommate's credit card without their permission to buy concert tickets online. You expected to be able to pay the bill before they even noticed -- but you lost your job and couldn't.
  • You take out a credit card in your own name and splurge, but you have no capacity to pay the bill when it comes because you lied about your income on the application.
  • You have a company credit card. Money gets tight at home due to an unexpected expense and you decide to take a chance, hoping your bosses won't notice. They do.

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.

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