Monday, November 30, 2009

Frye Hearing Scheduled for Lidar

On November 9, 2009, we published a post about how speeding tickets issued with Lidar machines are being routinely dismissed in Chicago.   Lidar, or laser, is the main type of detector used by Chicago police.  Cook County judges have been dismissing those tickets because they have not been accepted as scientifically reliable  in court.   In order for new technology to be admissible in court, a hearing must be held in court with testimony and evidence for the court to determine if the machine is scientifically reliable.  This hearing, known as a Frye hearing, has not yet been held in Chicago.  Now comes word that such a hearing will be held in the next couple of months.  The case involves a man pulled over for speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) on the Chicago Skyway.  Lidar uses light beans rather than radio waves.  In October, prosecutors began seeking Frye hearings in which defendants were represented by attorneys but their attorneys always backed out, thus leaving the issue of whether the Lidar devices are scientifically reliable undecided. The uncertainty surrounding this device will soon be decided.  If the court finds them to be scientifically reliable, motorists will no longer be able to expect that these tickets will be routinely dismissed.  We will keep our readers updated on any developments.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alarming Jump In Number Of Hate Crimes

Today, on its official website, the FBI reported that the number of hate crimes reported from 2007 to 2008 increased 2 percent.  That may not seem like much but it represents the biggest jump in hate crimes since 2001.  This may not mean much because the number of law enforcement agencies that have agreed to participate in the reporting of such crimes increased in 2008.  Also, the number of hate crimes based on someone's religion also increased.  The only decreases were reported in crimes involving someone ethnicity or national origin.  The Anti-Defamation League called for a coordinated response by government to put a stop to such crimes.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Changes Illinois Gun Law

On October 8, 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court released a decision which has made some substantial changes to the law regarding Unlawful Use of Weapon (UUW) in Illinois.  The case is People of the State of Illinois v. Diggins, Docket No. 106367.  In Diggins, a Peoria police officer observed the defendant make a right turn without using his turn signal.  The officer pulled over the vehicle and asked the driver for his license.  The driver could not produce a license but did produce an FOID card.  The officer asked the driver if he had any guns in the car and the driver told him he had guns in the center console.  The driver and the passenger were placed under arrest.  The officer observed that the center console was ajar but locked.  The passenger gave the officer keys to the console and after the officer unlocked the console he found a .45 caliber handgun and a .357 Magnum revolver.  Both weapons were unloaded.  He also found a magazine loaded with 8 .45 caliber rounds and six .357 Magnum rounds in the same center console.  In the rear compartment area of the vehicle he retrieved a duffel bag containing several boxes of additional ammunition.  At trial, Diggins was found guilty of UUW and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Under Illinois law, as long as someone has an FOID card, they can transport a handgun provided that it is unloaded and in a case.  Diggins is important because the court changed the previously accepted definition of the word "case."  Before Diggins, "case" was thought of as being a container of some type.  However, the Illinois Legislature never defined "case" so the Supreme Court made an exhaustive analysis of what "case" means and determined that the center console is a "case" within the meaning of the Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon statute.  The court also said that the glove compartment would also be a "case" within the meaning of the statute.  The practical effect of this case is that so long as someone with an FOID card has the gun unloaded in their glove compartment, along with their ammo in the same compartment, they would not be guilty of a UUW if they were pulled over.
In response, gun rights advocates were thrilled at the expansion of gun rights.  Police officers were alarmed.  They argue that allowing motorists to have guns and easy to load magazines so easily accessible to motorists adds additional danger to their work.  Some law enforcement personnel indicated they will push the Illinois Legislature to fix the law while gun rights advocates feel emboldened to try to legalize conceal and carry in Illinois.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicago To Impound Vehicles Driven By Suspended Motorists

Yesterday we published an article about a Chicago City Council Committee approving a proposal to impound vehicles driven by motorists arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license.  Today the full City Council approved the measure.  Beginning on January 1, 2010, anyone arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license in the City of Chicago will have their vehicle seized and impounded.  They can get their car back if they pay a $500 fine and a $165 towing charge.  Last year, 22,904 people were pulled over for driving on a suspended or revoked license in Chicago.  The City of Chicago stands to generate millions of dollars in revenue because of this new measure.

Alderman believe that this new measure will make people think twice about driving with a suspended or revoked license.  I'm sure that the additional revenue helps.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Virginia Carries Out Execution By Electrocution

On Tuesday the State of Virginia carried out an execution by using the electric chair.  You would think that the electric chair is no longer used but 7 states currently allow the use of the electric chair.  2 other states allow the use of the electric chair only if lethal injection is ever ruled unconstitutional.   The last time the State of Virginia carried out an execution by electric chair was in 2006.  The last such execution was carried out in South Carolina in June of 2008.  Larry Bill Elliott, 60, a former Army counterintelligence officer, had been convicted of a 2001 double murder.  He killed the victims to win the love of a stripper who had been involved in a bitter custody battle with one of the victims.  Elliott had chosen the electric chair as his means of execution.  The execution had originally been scheduled for October 5, 2009, but Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine had pushed it back in order to take time to consider whether to stop the execution.  Elliott was the 105th person executed in Virginia since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.  Virginia ranks second to Texas in the number of executions.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

DUI Charges By Questionable Cop Dropped

On October 6, 2009 we published an article about a video of a DUI arrest by Chicago Police Officer Richard Fiorito.  The video sparked controversy because it showed that Fiorito had lied on his police report and that the motorist he arrested for DUI did not appear intoxicated or fail any field sobriety tests.  Yesterday, Anita Alvarez, the current Cook County State's Attorney, ordered that DUI charges against several defendants arrested by  Fiorito be dismissed.  According to a spokesperson for the Cook County States Attorneys' office, the charges were dropped because Fiorito was no longer considered "credible."  In addition, at least 20 other motorists who have previously been convicted of DUI are seeking to reopen their cases and challenge Fiorito's arrest.

It looks like the flood gates are opening and now everything Fiorito did will be scrutinized and called into question.  Congratulations to Anita Alvarez for doing the right and honorable thing.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Chicago's Cameras

On June 11, 2009, we posted an article about Chicago's expanded use of surveillance cameras.  Today, the national media has taken notice and the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article about the same thing.  Civil libertarians are worried that Chicago's expanded use of cameras will usher in the era of Big Brother.  What's interesting about Chicago's use of cameras is not only the 1,500 cameras that police have placed in potential trouble areas, but the integration of private security and surveillance cameras with the city's network.  If you read our article of June 11, 2009, even homeowners have been invited to allow their cameras to feed into the city's network.  One professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago estimates that at least 15,000 cameras feed into the city's network of surveillance cameras.  While there is no way that all 15,000 cameras can be monitored at the same time, when a call is placed into the 911 Emergency Call Center, the system identifies the location of the caller and immediately places a video feed from the nearest surveillance camera on the operators computer screen.  The Chicago police insist that these cameras have aided in the arrest and prosecution of thousands of people arrested for crimes.  The ACLU has made several requests for information about the surveillance cameras but the city has refused to provide the information.  Needless to say, the potential for abuse is great.

To read the Wall Street Journal article, click here.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.thelegaldefenders.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Chicago May Impound Vehicles Driven By Suspended Motorists

Today, the Chicago City Council's Police and Traffic Committee approved an ordinance that would require that vehicles driven by drivers pulled over for driving on a suspended or revoked license be impounded.   The procedure for dealing with impounded vehicles would be the same as for any other reason that the city impounds vehicles.  This is not the first time such an ordinance was proposed.  The previous proposal was defeated because the construction on the Dan Ryan Expressway was not making it possible to have enough room at the city pound for these additional impounds.  The chances for passage are thought to be better this time because the Dan Ryan project has been completed and the overcrowding concerns at the city pound no longer exist.  The entire City Council is expected to take up the measure very shortly.  We will keep our readers informed of any developments.

For more information about the Chicago Criminal Defense Attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AMA Changes Stance On Marijuana

On Tuesday the nation's largest group of physicians changed its stance on marijuana.  The American Medical Association urged the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances.  Schedule 1 is the most serious classification for controlled substances.  It includes such dangerous drugs as heroin and LSD.  Since 1997 the AMA has maintained that it should be on the list of Schedule 1 drugs.  The American Medical Association has about 250,000 members.  The AMA has changed their stance on marijuana because they seek to conduct more clinical research on the risks and benefits of marijuana and try to develop medicines based on marijuana.  The change in the AMA's stance is another step in the evolving view of the risks and benefits of marijuana.  We have been reporting on the changes to various state laws which have led to the legalization of medical marijuana in 13 states.  However, the AMA did warn that this change in their stance should not be viewed as endorsement of the legalization of marijuana or support for medical marijuana.  The AMA is not the first major doctors organization to change their position on marijuana.  In 2008, the American College of Physicians, the nation's second largest physician group issued a statement calling for research into the therapeutic uses of marijuana.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at, or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Juveniles And Life In Prison

Today the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving whether it is constitutional to sentence juveniles convicted of crimes not involving murder to life in prison. We first discussed this in a post we published on May 10, 2009. The case before the court involves two juveniles sentenced to life in prison in Florida. The first case involves Joe Sullivan convicted of raping a woman in 1989 when he was just 13 years old. His attorneys have described Sullivan as being mentally retarded. The second case involves Terrance Graham who started serving a life sentence in 2005 for his role in an armed robbery when he was 17 years old. At the time of the armed robbery, he was on parole for a robbery. There are currently 109 teenagers serving life in prison. Roughly 84 percent of those juveniles are African American while only 13 percent of the U.S. population are African American. There are about 2,500 prisoners serving life in prison for crimes that were committed when they were teenagers. Other than Israel, the United States is the only country that routinely sentences juveniles to life in prison. Opponents of this practice are urging the Supreme Court to adopt the same reasoning it adopted in 2005 when it found the imposition of the death penalty against juveniles to be unconstitutional.

The cases are Sullivan v. Florida, 08-7621 and Graham v. Florida, 08-7412.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Secret Out On How To Beat Speeding Ticket In Chicago

In the past few days, the Chicago newspapers have published articles about how motorists can beat traffic tickets issued by the Chicago police. Let me explain how it works. The vast majority of police departments in Illinois use the LIDAR laser detection device. It's the primary speed detector used by the Chicago Police. It differs from radar in that it uses light detection rather than radio waves. However, in order for the technology to be accepted in Court, the prosecution is required to conduct a "Frye" hearing in which the prosecutor brings experts to court and proves that the technology is sufficiently reliable that it should be accepted in Court. No such hearing has ever been held when it comes to LIDAR devices. The main reason is that when a defendant challenges the technology and the state gears up to conduct such a hearing, the defendants back out and plead guilty rather than conduct a long and expensive hearing over a simple speeding ticket. As a result, the courts have not accepted the technology and are routinely dismissing tickets generated by the use of the LIDAR devices. However, this has not deterred the City of Chicago from accepting payment of fines from motorists who just mail in their tickets and pay the fine. But for the motorists who show up to Traffic Court, the tickets are just routinely being dismissed when the judge sees that the LIDAR device was used to measure the speed of the motorist.

The lesson is to show up to traffic court rather than to just pay the fine.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Supreme Court Considers Prosecutors Immunity

Today, the United States Supreme Court considered a case involving immunity from civil lawsuits against prosecutors who fabricated evidence. The case out of Iowa involves the conviction of 2 men for first degree murder in 1978 and sentenced to life in prison. Both men were released 25 years later after their convictions were thrown out. It turns out that prosecutors failed to reveal to anyone that they suspected another man had committed the murders and intentionally omitted his name from any police reports and failed to inform the defense attorneys that the suspect had failed a lie detector test. Both of the men filed civil lawsuits against the prosecutors claiming that the prosecutors coerced witnesses and created false evidence prior to the trial. However, prosecutors are immune from civil lawsuits based on their work at trial. The 2 men are suing the prosecutors for the work they did prior to the trial. The case involves whether the immunity of prosecutors stretches to work done before trial.

The court is expected to release its decision next year.

The case is Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, 08-1065.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Charges Dismissed Against Ticket Writing Cop

On February 23, 2009 we published a blog about John Haleas, a Chicago police officer charged with perjury, official misconduct and obstructing justice by lying on police reports regarding arrests for DUI cases. Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Obbish ruled that prosecutors improperly used statements given by Haleas to Internal Affairs investigators during an administrative investigation by the Chicago Police Department. There is a Supreme Court case specifically on point which prohibits prosecutors from using statements given in an administrative proceeding in a subsequent criminal proceeding. Haleas had no choice but to give the statements to the investigators in the internal affairs investigation. The prosecutor who had been working on the case testified that he was careful to keep the statements given in the administrative investigation and the criminal investigation separate but this was not able to be verified because the prosecutors office lost the file.

Haleas had been given awards for being the most prolific enforcer of DUI laws when he led the state in the number of arrests. According to prosecutors Haleas failed to perform field sobriety tests and lied in his police reports.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Expansion of Medical Marijuana Passes in Maine

Yesterday, Maine voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure expanding the medical marijuana laws in the State of Maine. The measure passed by a 59 to 41 percent margin. The measure would create dispensaries to disperse marijuana and increase the number of ailments eligible for a prescription. Most of Maine's newspaper editorial boards opposed the measure on the basis that the lack of oversight of the dispensaries would create problems for law enforcement. The passage of this measure bodes well for a measure that may be placed on the 2010 ballot which would decriminalize marijuana in Maine.

Maine becomes the fifth state to allow for dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana. In the recent months the federal government has announced that federal agents will stop raiding local marijuana dispensaries and distributors so long as state law allows for their existence and operation.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

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