criminal defense Archives

What is 'attempted' murder?

Murder is just about the most serious criminal charge anybody can face -- and attempted murder is treated no more lightly. If you're convicted of attempted first degree murder, for example, that's a Class X felony that carries a minimum 20-year sentence (with an additional 15 years tacked on if a firearm was used).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Unconscious bias could affect judgments in court

Bias in the criminal justice system is a major concern in Illinois and across the country. Disparate sentencing and penalties have led to nationwide calls for criminal justice reform. However, one of the most concerning aspects of bias are the forms that are unintentional or subconscious. It can be more challenging to prove unconscious bias, but the effects on a defendant may be significant. Unconscious bias is a major field of study for natural and social scientists looking into how brain activity can affect behavior. Results have indicated that unconscious beliefs and social stereotypes can affect judgment even in contradiction with expressed beliefs.

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