Tuesday, October 25, 2011

City Turns To Cameras To Raise Revenue

The City of Chicago has formally asked the Illinois Legislature to allow it to use cameras to nab speeders in school safety zones.  The request comes at a time when the City of Chicago is facing major budget problems.  At $100 per ticket, the additional revenue would come in handy.  The City of Chicago owns its own red light camera system which is capable of detecting the speed of vehicles.  All the city needs to do is attach a strip on the ground to calibrate the speed of a vehicle.  The legislation was introduced last week by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.  The proposal would allow speeding tickets to be issued by cameras in school safety zones.  The mayor's office has compiled statistics to argue that the measure is needed to insure public safety.  But critics point out that even supporters of the measure agree that the revenue raised would come in handy during difficult economic times for the city.  It is not yet clear how many cameras would be used and how much money would be raised or exactly where this money would go.  It is not yet entirely clear what the prospects of passage of the measure will be in Springfield.  In the past few years, there has been a backlash against the use of red light cameras.  However, yesterday the measure passed through its first test in the State Senate when the Senate Executive Committee passed the measure 9 to 4, sending it to the full Senate for its consideration.

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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Washington D.C. Mayor Orders Police Not To Check Immigration Status of Suspects

The mayor of Washington, D.C., has signed an executive order which directs his police officers to not check the immigration status of suspects.  The only exception in the mayor's order is that police can check the immigration status of someone if their immigration status has something to do with the crime they are being investigated for.  The Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent Gray, is concerned that residents are unwilling to cooperate with police investigations if they fear that their immigration status will be questioned.  The mayor believes that their fear of cooperating with the police endangers the community and adversely impacts public safety.  The fact is that this has been the longstanding policy in the District of Columbia for a long time.  The mayor's signing of the order just makes it official.  By signing the order the mayor said he wants to make it clear that his city's police officers are not in the business of enforcing federal immigration laws.  This does not mean that the District of Columbia is going to opt out of the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities program which is expected to be in place nationally by 2013.  The Secure Communities program is designed to let local officials cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security and turn over individuals before they are released from prison to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation.

The issue of illegal immigrants still garners emotional responses from various groups.  But the fact is that illegal immigration is not the problem that it once was.  The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States is at the lowest it has been in 40 years.  Turns out that the lack of jobs has deterred illegal immigrants from coming to the United States.

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Record Number of Deportations

For the third year in a row, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that another record has been broken.  They report that for the year ending in September, 396,906 people were deported.  A little more than half of the people deported had felony or misdemeanor convictions.  This represents an 89% increase over 2008.  More than 1,000 of those were convicted of murder, 5,800 convicted of sex crimes and about 80,000 convicted of drug related crimes.  Roughly 66% of those deported had recently crossed the border or had been caught crossing into the United States repeatedly.  Part of the reason for the high number of deportations of criminals has been attributed to the increasing involvement of local law enforcement officials and the Department of Homeland Security who report illegal immigrants to federal officials who request that they remain in local custody until their cases are concluded and then pick them up and place them into deportation.  What is concerning some people is that some of the people being deported only committed minor crimes.  Questions are being raised about whether the increased deportation efforts are warranted because due to the economic slow down, the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States is at the lowest its been in 40 years.  

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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicago Protests

I drove by Grant Park tonight  - no protesters to find. I spoke to a cop and she told me that the City expects protesters tomorrow.  I have Court at 26th Street in the morning and plan to join the protesters thereafter.  I hope to inform as many people as I can of their civil rights, and further, represent those who have been or will likely be arrested in the future and are unable to afford an attorney. I think it is important for the protesters to know that legal help is available by attorneys who sympathize with the non-violent Chicago Occupy Movement. More arrests are likely to follow as the movement gains momentum as more and more people feel the pain of our "new" economy. I will keep you posted.  

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.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Double Jeopardy Case

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an especially interesting 5th Amendment Double Jeopardy case.  Not especially interesting because of the legal issue, but especially interesting because of how clear the 5th Amendment violation was.  Now the facts of the case are not very pleasant.  Alex Blueford had been charged in Arkansas with the murder of his girlfriend's 19 month old child.  Prosecutors alleged that Blueford hit the 19 month old so hard that his eyes bled and brain swelled so much that he died.  Blueford admitted that he had struck the child with his elbow but only by accident after the child startled him from behind.  He also admitted that he lied to hospital personnel because he was afraid that they would not believe him.  After 4 1/2 hours of deliberations the jury sent a note to the judge that they were having trouble deciding on the capital murder charge.  The jury went back into court and informed the judge that they had voted 12-0 for acquittal on the capital murder charge.  They then informed the judge that they had voted 12-0 for acquittal on the first degree murder charge but were split on the misdemeanor manslaughter charge.  The jury had not even discussed the fourth charge, negligent homicide, which was also a misdemeanor.  So the jury had decided on not guilty on the murder charges but had not even considered the misdemeanor charges.  Even if they had found Blueford guilty of the misdemeanor charges he would have been released from prison because he had already served enough time in jail to satisfy any possible jail sentence that could be imposed.  Blueford's attorneys asked that the judge announce the verdicts on the murder charges but the judge refused, instructing the jury to go back and deliberate on the misdemeanor charges.  When the jury informed the judge that they were deadlocked on the misdemeanor charges he declared a mistrial.  Prosecutors immediately sought to retry Blueford for the murder and Blueford appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court claiming that Blueford's 5th Amendment rights against Double Jeopardy were being violated.  In a surprising decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court disagreed and found that the foreperson's statements in court that they had reached unanimous verdicts on the murder charges was not an actual verdict because they were not written down on paper and entered into the official court record.  They further found that the mere reading of a jury's verdict in open court did not amount to an official verdict until the judge accepts it and enters the order.  

It is clear from the facts of the case that the trial judge was not happy with the fact that this defendant was going to walk free on these serious charges and manipulated the law to avoid an ending that he was not happy with.  Like it or not, Blueford had won his case and the trial court took his victory away from him.  Many briefs have been filed by law professors and groups outraged that the Fifth Amendment was so clearly manipulated and violated in this case.  The role of the judge is to apply the law and not make the law.

In reviewing news releases about this case I was struck at the different descriptions of the case in different news articles.  One news article mentions that the jury foreperson made an "offhand remark" to the judge in open court that the jury had decided 12-0 for acquittal on the murder charges.  But the fact is that nobody is disputing that the jury had voted 12-0 for acquittal, not even the prosecutors who are opposing Blueford's appeal.  So whether this was an "offhand remark" in open court is irrelevant.  It is undisputed that the jury had found Blueford not guilty of murder.  Language used in a newspaper article to minimize the importance of the fact that he was found not guilty is clearly an attempt by certain media outlets to minimize the fact that he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.  It is clear that the court was searching for legal technicalities to avoid having the jury's verdict become final.

The case is Blueford v. Arkansas, 10-1320.  We should have a decision late next year.

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.

California Medical Assn Calls For Legalization of Pot

On Friday, the Trustees of the California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians in the State of California, approved a resolution at their annual meeting calling for the legalization of marijuana.  This is the first major medical association in the United States to call for the legalization of marijuana.  By taking this position, the association is not saying that there are enough benefits to medical marijuana to justify that it be legalized.  They actually state that there are few, if any, benefits to using medical marijuana.  Rather, they argue that the consequences of criminalizing marijuana greatly outweigh the hazards.  They believe that more research needs to be done to further determine if there are any benefits to medical marijuana and find themselves in a difficult position when they prescribe marijuana because they are violating federal law when they do so.  They agree that there are some dangers to using marijuana but those dangers can be addressed by regulating them the way that alcohol and tobacco are regulated.  In discussing the hazards of criminalizing marijuana, they point to the increased cost of prosecuting and imprisoning people, the damage this does to families and the racial inequalities that are present when defendants are sentenced.  

Not everyone agrees with the California Medical Association including the federal government which considers marijuana to be has bad as any other drug.  Recently, the Obama Administration turned down a request to reclassify marijuana under federal drug laws and has started cracking down on medical marijuana facilities in California including threatening to prosecute landlords who allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate out of their properties.  There is a slow but steady movement towards trying to legalize marijuana in California.  However, last year California voters voted down Proposition 19 which would have legalized the cultivation and possession of small amounts of marijuana while Los Angeles has recently passed regulations affecting medical marijuana dispensaries ordering the closing of hundreds of them.

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quinn Grants 50 Pardons

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is continuing to work on the mountain of clemency petitions he inherited from former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  When Quinn took office he inherited over 2,500 petitions that were sitting on his desk.  Since he took office, Quinn has acted on 1,356 clemency petitions.  He has granted   clemency 517 times and granted 506 pardons while denying 839 requests.  He has authorized 10 people who he granted pardons for to seek expungement of their records and granted one commutation.  In addition, earlier this year the State of Illinois abolished the death penalty which resulted in him commuting the death sentences of 15 inmates sentenced to death to life in prison.  On Friday, Quinn granted 50 pardons while denying 111.  The cases that he acted on Friday were filed between 2003 and 2009.

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.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Supreme Court Hears Strip Search Case

It is estimated that about 700,000 people are jailed every year for minor misdemeanor offenses.  Albert Florence had been jailed twice over a six day period in New Jersey for an unpaid traffic fine.  Both times he was strip searched.  He argued that the strip search violated his constitutional privacy rights by subjecting him to unreasonable searches.  During oral arguments before the Supreme Court today, the justices asked detailed questions about the intrusiveness of different kinds of searches such as a jail guard's visual inspection of a naked detainee, a body cavity search and making a detainee squat and cough.  The also questioned how close a jail guard can get to a prisoner when they are required to change clothes and take a shower when they enter a jail.  The attorneys for the jails and the Obama administration argued for an across-the-board rule that allows jail guards to strip search anyone who enters any jail for any reason.  They cited the growing problem of drugs in jails to justify such a position.  They also argued that jail guards must make quick decisions and cannot afford to be wrong.  The attorney for Albert Florence argued that jail guards should have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before they could strip search an inmate.  

The Supreme Court considered a strip search case in 1999 when they upheld the strip search of prisoners after they had contacts with prisoners.

The case is Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, No. 10-945.  A decision is expected by early next year.

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cook County Use of Electronic Monitoring Surges

Cook County officials are reporting that the use of electronic monitoring at Cook County Jail is increasing.  I want to take this opportunity to discuss how the electronic monitoring program works at Cook County Jail because I frequently receive phone calls from clients and it has become obvious that there's a general misunderstanding of how it works.  Generally, electronic monitoring is an alternative to confining a defendant in Cook County Jail while their cases is pending in court.  First, electronic monitoring only applies to defendants charged with non-violent offenses.  In order to be eligible for electronic monitoring, a judge has to determine that a particular defendant is eligible to be placed on electronic monitoring.  This is usually done at the bond hearing when the attorney for the defendant asks a judge to make that determination.  The judge will sometimes make this determination in lieu of a bond or as part of a bond or an alternative if bond is not posted.  The ultimate decision about whether a defendant can be placed on electronic monitoring is made by the Sheriff's office.  If the jail is overcrowded, the Sheriff starts placing inmates on electronic monitoring to ease overcrowding.  A bracelet outfitted with a GPS device is placed on the defendant's ankle.  If a defendant strays from their home, or the designated boundaries of their confinement, an alarm is triggered and an investigator is sent to go arrest the defendant.

Cook County officials are starting to realize that its much cheaper to place defendants on electronic monitoring than it costs to keep them confined in Cook County Jail.  As a result, they are taking a more pro-active approach in trying to put more people on electronic monitoring.  The daily cost for keeping someone locked up in Cook County Jail is $142.60 while the daily cost for keeping someone on electronic monitoring is $64.74.  Cook County Jail has a maximum capacity of 9,300 prisoners.  As of yesterday the number of prisoners in Cook County Jail was 9,100 prisoners.  The President of the Cook County Board is noticing the economic benefits placing more defendants on electronic monitoring and has asked that the Public Defenders ask that judges allow defendants to be placed on electronic monitoring.  In 2010 the daily average number of defendants on electronic monitoring was 395.  As of September 27 of this year, 829 people were on electronic monitoring.  These numbers are expected to go higher as Cook County officials are looking to use electronic monitoring more and more as they attempt to shave costs and save valuable dollars.

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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Forbes Most Dangerous Cities

Forbes Magazine has released their list of the country's most dangerous cities.  In order to qualify, a city has to meet some basic criteria.  The city must have a population greater than 200,000.  The statistics are compiled by looking at the number of violent crimes per 100,000 citizens.  Violent crimes is defined as murder, voluntary manslaughter, forcible rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault.  The top five cities are set forth as follows:
1.  Detroit, Michigan - First place with 345 murders and 1,111 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens.  
2.  Memphis, Tennessee - The poorest large city in the United States.
3.  Springfield, Illinois - Springfield just barely qualified to be included in this survey because they only have a population of 206,601.  The high crime rate is associated with the fact that 44% of Springfield's population is under the age of 44.  Crime is associated with the youth.
4.  Flint, Michigan - High unemployment for a long period of time.
5.  Anchorage, Alaska - Anchorage has been hit by a big methamphetamine problem.  Plus, there is a high rate of forcible rapes.

Rounding out the top ten is Lubbock, Texas at number 6, Stockton, California at number 7, Tallahassee, Florida at number 8, Las Vegas, Nevada at number 9, and Rockford, Illinois at number 10.  

Other than Michigan, Illinois is the only other state with the distinction of having 2 of its cities on the top 10 list of the country's most dangerous cities.

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. 

Supreme Court Hears Missed Deadline Capital Case

In 1995, Cory Maples shot and killed two friends in an Alabama bar after a night of drinking and doing drugs.  He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  Maples wanted to appeal the death sentence because his attorneys failed to argue that he was impaired at the time of the murders so as to avoid the death penalty.  His initial appeal was denied and the court clerk sent his attorneys notice that under local court rules that they had 42 days to file an appeal.  The two young attorneys that were handling his appeal had left the law firm and the notice was returned to the Clerk of the Court marked "Return to Sender - Left Firm."  The 42 day deadline to file the appeal expired and Alabama prosecutors took a hard line and fought Maples' efforts to pursue his appeal claiming that the time to file an appeal had expired and his case was over.  The United States Court of Appeals in Alabama agreed and barred Maples from pursuing his appeal.  Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court took up Maples appeal.  The issue is whether a defendant sentenced to death can pursue his appeal even though he missed court filing deadlines?

According to published reports, during oral arguments, the majority of judges seemed sympathetic to Maples.  Only one justice, Antonin Scalia, seemed to be siding with the prosecutors.  Scalia seemed to believe that since Maples had a local lawyer, he had ample opportunity to be informed of his appellate rights.  But the Chief Justice pointed out that the local lawyer did nothing on the case and only seemed to have his name on the case. Even Samuel Alito, another very conservative justice, seemed to indicate that Alabama prosecutors were wrong to oppose Maples' attempts to pursue his appeal.

The case is Maples v. Thomas, 10-63.

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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Potentially Landmark Gun Control Case

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a potentially landmark Second Amendment case that gun control advocates and opponents had been watching closely.  The case is Williams v. Maryland.  In the Williams case, police noticed Charles Wiliams rummaging through his backpack at a bus stop.  The officer drove past Williams and noticed that he placed something in a bush next to the bus stop.  The police officer recovered a gun and arrested Charles Williams.  He was convicted on the gun charge and ended up serving one year in state prison.  Williams appealed his conviction claiming that Maryland's gun laws were too restrictive because he was not doing anything illegal and was merely transporting the gun from his home to his girlfriend's home when he was stopped by the police and arrested.  The Maryland Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Maryland's gun law noting that the United States Supreme Court's previous decisions established a right to possess a firearm inside the home, not outside of the home.  Williams argued that the Supreme Court had established a right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, including outside of the home.  

The Supreme Court's decision to deny review of the case suggests that previous Supreme Court precedent establishing the right to own a firearm is limited to owing a firearm inside one's home.  The Supreme Court is waiting for brief's on one more Second Amendment case that may be reviewed this term and there are other gun cases working their way up to the Supreme Court.

The case is Williams v. Maryland, 10-1207.

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.

Sheriff Sting Nabs 100 Fugitives

The Cook County Sheriff nabbed 100 wanted fugitives in an interesting hoax that lured them to a warehouse where Sheriff's deputies were waiting.  Details of the operation will be revealed in a press conference scheduled for today but it appears as if the Sheriff's office set up a fake company called "C.W. Marketing."  C.W. Marketing stands for Central Warrants, the office in charge of handling the operation.  Officers mailed bogus offers for free electronics devices to the last known addresses of wanted fugitives.  When the wanted fugitives showed up at the warehouse to claim their free items, they were arrested.

This operation is similar to other operations carried out throughout the United States that have been used to nab wanted fugitives.

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.

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