Monday, November 12, 2012

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Judge's Acquittal Made by Mistake

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a Michigan case which involves the Fifth Amendment.  The case involves a defendant charged with setting fire to a vacant house.  Midway through the trial, the judge stopped the jury trial and found the defendant not guilty based on a mistaken reading and interpretation of the law.  The question presented is whether the criminal defendant can be retried after he is acquitted by a judge  if the mistake is based on a mistaken interpretation of the law?  The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a defendant from being tried twice for the same offense.  This is commonly known as the Double Jeopardy Clause.  The Michigan courts ruled that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not apply and that the defendant could be retried because the mistake means that the defendant was not truly acquitted.   In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, the Justice's appeared to be reluctant to uphold the Michigan Courts interpretation of the Double Jeopardy Clause.  Both liberal and conservative justices expressed skepticism at the Michigan Courts reasoning and it appears as if the Michigan ruling will be struck down and that the defendant will not be retried again.

A ruling is should be coming by next June.  The case is Evans v. Michigan, 11-1327.

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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Supreme Court to Consider Whether Police Can Collect DNA at Arrest

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which will determine whether the police can collect the DNA of people who are merely arrested for serious crimes.  The case involves the rape conviction of Alonzo Jay King Jr. in Maryland.  The Maryland Supreme Court threw out his conviction because he was arrested for an unrelated charge years later and a cheek swab was taken which linked him to the rape.  26 states and the federal government routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested.  The Maryland Supreme Court ruled that DNA samples contained highly personal information and that the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from having to provide DNA samples before they have been convicted of a crime.  In July, Chief Justice John Roberts blocked the Maryland Supreme Court ruling which had been blocking the State of Maryland from collecting DNA from people who have been arrested.  Earlier this year, in a 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the strip searches of newly arrested citizens.  The decision in this case will have national ramifications.  Maryland is linked to a national DNA database which stores DNA samples.

Oral arguments will be held in February or March and a decision should be released by June of 2013.  The case is Maryland v. King, 12-207.

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.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Supreme Court Hears Immigration Warnings Case

The United States Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on animmigration case that could have sweeping ramifications for thousands of criminal defendants.  In March of 2010 in Padilla v. Kentucky, theSupreme Court ruled that immigrants must be informed of theimmigration consequences of a plea of guilty to a criminal charge.  The question before the Supreme Court in this case is whether the rule inPadilla should be applied retroactively.  If the court does apply the Padilla rule retroactively, this would open the door to countless criminal defendants who were sentenced for a criminal conviction and had never been informed about the immigration consequences of a plea of guilty.  These defendants could come back to court and seek to have their criminal convictions set aside of the court applies the Padilla rule retroactively.  Since the Padilla decision in 2010 courts have been split on whether to apply the Padilla rule retroactively.  The current case involves Mexican citizen Roselva Chaidez  who applied for citizenship in 2009 and disclosed that she had been convicted for an insurance fraud scheme many years earlier.  Chaidez had a green card.  Once the conviction was disclosed the government sought to remove her from the country because of the criminal conviction. Chaidez argued that her lawyer never informed her of the immigration consequences of her guilty plea, thus constituting ineffective assistance of counsel.  In August of 2001 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Chaidez by finding that since Padilla introduced a new constitutional requirement, based on Supreme Court precedent, the Padilla rule could not be applied retroactively.  In arguments before the United States Supreme Court, Chaidez's attorneys argue that Padilla merely confirmed a longstanding principle that criminal defendants have the right to a reasonably competent attorney.  The government argued that the 2010 Padilla decision announced a new rule.  Twenty-eight states joined the Federal Government fearing that if Chaidez prevails there will be a flood of old cases opened up seeking to throw out criminal convictions.

The case is Chaidez v. United States, No. - 11-820.

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

Schaumburg Police Getting Cameras

The Village of Schaumburg has appropriated $334,620 to equip all of their police squad cars and motorcycles with cameras.  The Village has hired CDS Office Technologies to provide 40 in camera systems for the Villages police cars and motorcycles.  The Village is paying $34,802 of the cost while the remainder is being paid by the State of Illinois.  The plan is to install the Panasonic Toughbook Arbitrator 360 degree system in all the squad cars.  The system will feature a forward facing camera in front of the squad car, a rear facing camera and two outward side facing cameras.  The camera installation is expected to be completed by January of 2013.  The purpose is to provide for officer safety and to provide evidence in criminal cases, such as DUI cases.  Another reason for installing cameras is to assist in cases where citizens file complaints against police officers.  A 2006 study the International Association of Chiefs of Police shows that roughly half of such complaints are withdrawn once video evidence is shown.  The cameras will only be installed in vehicles driven by patrol officers.  They will not be installed in vehicles driven by detectives, community service officers or canine units.

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 6, 2012

Troubling Fourth Amendment Ruling in Wisconsin

A federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they secretly placed cameras on private property without a warrant.  The police suspected that the defendants were growing marijuana in an open field in Wisconsin. They placed cameras on the field and recorded incriminating images and discussions by the defendants. They eventually obtained a warrant but want to use the images recorded by the cameras before the warrant was obtained.  The defendants were seeking to suppress the images obtained before the warrant was issued.  The federal judge presiding over the case denied the Motion to Suppress by ruling that the Fourth Amendment only protects private residences and not open fields far from any residence.  The property in question was heavily wooded and clearly marked by "no trespassing" signs.  In spite of this the judge did not find that this established a "reasonable expectation of privacy" requiring the application of the Fourth Amendment.  The judge reasoned that if the police could conduct surveillance in person they could use electronic means to conduct the same surveillance.  But aside from the fact that the property was clearly marked with signs indicating that the public was not invited, the fact that the court allows such surveillance is a dramatic increase in the power of government to infringe on the public's right to privacy.  Its much easier for the police to install electronic surveillance devices in more places than they could use officers to conduct that surveillance. That dramatically increases the power of government to conduct surveillance. The Courts should be looking at this type of surveillance in a much more strict manner than this case suggests.

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.

Supreme Court Hears Eavesdropping Case Today

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a lawsuit brought by lawyers, journalists and civil rights organizations challenging the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which allows for the government to eavesdrop on telephone and email communications between people in the United states and foreign countries without a warrant.  The plaintiffs claim that the fear that they may be intercepted causes them to adopt costly measures to avoid having their communications intercepted.  The Supreme Court is not considering the legalchicity of this law. Rather, they are considering whether the plaintiff's in this case have the legal standing to even bring such a lawsuit.  The warrant-less wiretapping program was put into effect by President Bush after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 without any Congressional authority. The program ended in 2007 but was reinstated by Congress in 2008.  The government is claiming that the plaintiffs cannot show that they have personally been harmed by the measure or by any wiretapping.  The plaintiffs argue that nobody could ever know if they are being wiretapped and that some of the people being listened in to would be foreign nationals who would not be allowed to contest the law anyway.  The decision in this case is not going to resolve this issue anyway.  The court is not considering the legality of this law at this time and even if it were to ever have to consider the legality of the law, the government could always claim that any challenge to the law would involve exposing state secrets.  

The case is Clapper v. Amnesty International.

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, October 31, 2012

Supreme Court Considering Dog Drug Sniffing Cases Today

On December 5, 2006 a "crime stopper" had tipped off the police that marijuana was being grown inside the home of Joelis Jardines home near Miami Florida. Armed with this tip, a police officer went to the door of the residence with a trained drug sniffing Labrador Retriever named Franky. Franky sniffed the door and sat down, continuing to sniff the bottom of the door. The dog had been trained to give that sign if it smelled marijuana. The police then obtained a search warrant of Jardines's home and entered to find Jardines was growing marijuana plants inside the home and charged him with possession of 25 pounds of marijuana and stealing the electricity used to power the equipment used to help grow the marijuana.  The Florida Supreme Court invalidated the search by finding that Franky's sniff was an "unreasonable government intrusion into the sanctity of the home" and found that there was a greater expectation of privacy in a home than in a motor vehicle.  The Florida Supreme Court cited a 2001 United States Supreme Court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia in which the court ruled that it was presumptive unreasonable for the authorities to use a heat detecting device to scan the inside of a home to determine whether marijuana was being grown inside the home. The issue in this case is whether the police can use a drug sniffing dog for a residence.

The case is Florida v. Jardines, 11-564.

The other dog drug sniffing case being considered today involves whether a drug sniffing dog can be used for a motor vehicle.  On June 24, 2006, a Florida police officer pulled over Clayton Harris' pickup truck near Bristol Florida.  The officer determined that Harris' registration was expired and saw an open can of beer in the cup holder. He noticed that Harris was breathing heavily and would not give permission to the officer to search his car. The officer then brought out Aldo, a drug sniffing German Shephard for a "free air sniff" and Aldo became excited and sat down when he approached the driver's door of Harris's truck.  The officer then searched Harris's truck and found 200 pseudoephedrine pills and 8,000 matches, which are the ingredients used to make methamphetamine.  The Florida Supreme Court threw out the search based on Aldo's drug sniffing because they found that the state failed to show the dog's reliability as a drug detector.  The Florida Supreme Court found that the state cannot just claim in a broad statement that because the dog has been trained as a drug sniffing dog that it is sufficiently reliable and qualified to detect drugs and that the state needs to produce evidence to the court to determine that it is reliable. The question in this case is how qualified does the dog have to be to conduct a valid drug sniff?

The case is Florida v. Harris, 11-817.

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.

Supreme Court Tosses Wyoming Teens Life Sentence

The United States Supreme Court has thrown out the life sentence of a Wyoming teen convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.  The case involves Bear Cloud, who was 16 years old when he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to straight life in prison, while two other teens who were also convicted of the murder were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Wyoming law mandates a sentence of life or life without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of murder.  Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state laws which mandate life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. But while such laws are unconstitutional the Supreme Court did not invalidate these laws. The Court only required that the laws provide that courts need to consider alternatives to life in prison before imposing sentences to juveniles.  The Supreme Court sent Bear Cloud's case back to the Wyoming Supreme Court so it could consider what further steps should be taken.  The most likely outcome is that the case will be sent back to the trial court to conduct a hearing to determine the level of maturity of the defendant, intelligence and potential for rehabilitation.  The trial court must consider the potential for rehabilitation.

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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

RECENT VICTORY - Aggravated UUW Against Security Guard Dismissed

Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon charges against a licensed private security guard have been dismissed by Cook County prosecutors. The client was licensed by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation and carried a TAN cared which gives him the right to carry afirearm when he is on duty. The client was pulled over by the police for not wearing his seat belt. The client told the officer that he was on his way home from his security job and was carrying a loaded firearm. The police arrested the client and charged him with Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon. We went to court with copies of the statute and the paperwork from the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation and convinced the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against our client.

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, October 15, 2012

Chicago Camera Vendor Under Investigation

The company that is providing red light cameras to Chicago is under investigation for bribery.  The company, Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., admitted that they paid the $910 luxury hotel bill for the city official in charge of its camera contract with the city and failed to inform the city for at least two years after they found out about the ethical breach.  The attorneys for Redflex say that the executive vice president who did this was sent to "anti-bribery" training but failed to inform the City of Chicago until reporters started snooping around and asking questions.  The implications are huge. The City of Chicago has brought in over $300 million in revenue from tickets issued by these cameras.  The Traffic Safety Coalition, a lobbying group in Springfield, which helped Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel convince the Illinois Legislature to allow the city to put speed cameras in speed zones and school zones is heavily funded by RedflexRedflex is considered the leading bidder to get the contract to install and operate these new speed cameras.  According to Mayor Emanuel's budget for next year, he is counting on at least $30 million in revenue from these cameras.  Reporters and other independent investigators are discovering troubling links between Redflex and people with ties to the City.  Troubling ties between a deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation and the executive from Redflex who is the liaison between Redflex and the City of Chicago.  The payment of the hotel bill involved the deputy commissioner.  Last year, the man who had been in charge of Redflex's contract with the City of Chicago retired and was immediately hired to a handsome salary by Redflex.  Redflex denies any impropriety and insists that their internal investigations failed to reveal that anything seriously wrong occurred.  We will keep an eye out on the relationship between Redflex and the City of Chicago.

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. 

Supreme Court Considers Mental Competence and Appeals

Last week the United States Supreme Court considered a case which will decide whether a federal judge has the authority to indefinitely stay a criminal defendant's appeal pending a determination that the inmate is mentally competent to assist their attorney in the appeal.  A defendant appealing a death sentence in federal court has a legal right to an attorney but there has never been a determination that the defendant has to be mentally fit to pursue that appeal.  This case involves Sean Carter, who was convicted in Ohio of the murder of his grandmother after he had been released from prison in 1997 and was sentenced to death.  The other case involves Ernest Gonzalez, who was convicted of first degree murder during a burglary in Arizona in 1999 and sentenced to death. The federal judge handling Carter's appeal stayed the appeal until he was mentally competent but the Court of Appeals changed the ruling to allow the part of the appeal that did not require his cooperation to proceed.  In Gonzalez's case the trial judge ruled that his appeal would not be delayed while the Court of Appeals stayed the appeal until he was ruled mentally competent.  The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on these cases, which involve a common question of whether a defendant must be mentally competent while an appeal is pursued on their behalf.  Court observers who were at the oral arguments seem to think that the majority of the Court is leaning towards ruling against the proposition that an inmate has to be mentally competent. The Court is expected to issue its ruling later this year.

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Federal Judge Tosses Search In Spite of Strong Odor of Marijuana

A federal judge in Chicago has suppressed the search of a vehicle in spite of the officer's testimony that in addition to seeing a jar with a green leafy substance inside the vehicle, he also noticed a strong odor of marijuana. In spite of this evidence, the federal judge presiding over the Federal drug case ruled that the police did not have sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle and excluded the evidence recovered during that search, namely, 10 grams of marijuana inside a mason jar, $8,600 in cash and what the government was alleging were drug recipes and a drug ledger.  The underlying drug case against the defendant is still proceeding to trial. The government still has plenty of evidence to support their case.  They have the statement of the defendant, the testimony of a co-defendant, surveillance of the drug making operation, receipts of chemicals and equipment needed to grow and make the illegal drugs, recipes that detail how to carry out the drug manufacturing and emails sent to a co-defendant who didn't realize he was communicating with an undercover federal agent.  What is interesting about this case is how the attorney for the defendant was able to exclude the evidence recovered during the search of the vehicle.  After the police officer curbed the defendant's vehicle, he noticed a mason jar inside the vehicle that contained a "green leafy substance."  That jar has since been lost by the police, so the judge ruled that the jar could not be used to justify the search of the vehicle. The officer then testified that he noticed the strong odor of marijuana and proceeded to search the vehicle. The defendant had been inside a facility that was growing marijuana plants. The government was alleging that the strong odor of marijuana came from the clothes of the defendant. A federal agent even testified that he had been inside the same facility and that the strong odor of marijuana remained on his clothing after he left. The attorney for the defendant hired an expert witness who testified that in order for that strong odor of marijuana to be present, the marijuana plants must be a certain age and at a certain stage of growth to cause the smell to remain on clothing. The expert reviewed a video taken of the marijuana operation and testified that the plants were too young to cause the type of odor that the government was alleging was present at the time of the stop of the defendant's vehicle.  As a result, the judge ruled that the police did not have sufficient probable cause to search the vehicle and excluded all the evidence recovered during that search.

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, October 12, 2012

RECENT VICTORY - Domestic Battery Dismissed

The prosecutor dismissed Domestic Battery charges against our client on the even of trial after we came to court ready for trial. Our client was charged with committing a Domestic Battery against her sister.  Our client was 4 months pregnant at the time and after the incident, went to court to attempt to obtain an Order of Protection against her sister. When she arrived in court she was arrested and charged with Domestic Battery. Our client currently has a Pardon Petition pending before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to try to obtain a pardon from the Governor for a criminal conviction that had occurred many years ago. A conviction for a Domestic Battery would have ruined her chances of obtaining a pardon.

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.

RECENT VICTORY - Drug Charges Dismissed

The prosecutors dismissed misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges against our client on the eve of trial after we called their bluff and proved to them that we were ready for trial. Our client is currently on felony probation for a Class 2 felony for Battery to a Police Officer. The probation department has already filed a Petition to Violate our client's probation. The judge on the Violation of Probation case warned us that we had to win the misdemeanor possession of marijuana case or else he would violate our client's probation and sentence him to prison. Another client has been spared a potentially lengthy prison sentence.
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, October 4, 2012

How the Feds Are Tracking Us

Evidence is mounting that the federal government is working hard to find new ways to track us.  This effort is not receiving the attention that it deserves. The federal government is constantly developing new technologies that will become more and more intrusive and will continue to eat away at our privacy. This article will discuss some of the new technologies that are on the way.

The FBI has just started rolling out its Next Generation system. The program costs $1 billion and will involve a gigantic national database of mug shots, DNA samples, iris (eye) scans, voice records and fingerprints collected from more than 100 million people that is designed to identify and arrest criminals.  The federal government has already secured the cooperation of many state agencies, and by the time its fully deployed in 2014 will have the photographs of over 12 million faces.  The problem is that they intend not only to obtain the photographs of known criminals but to obtain photographs of any and all citizens. They want to be able to take a picture of a crowd and be able to identify all the people in that crowd, not just criminals. They will be able to capture photographs of people on social media sites or from any other public source.  This will make it possible to track people's movements and who they associate with.

The website, Wikileaks, recently released some secret documents about a new system called, TrapWire.  TrapWire is a technology that collects data from individuals and then uses a complex computer program to predict criminal behavior.  The Wikileaks release involved emails from Stratfor, a private security firm, in which they discussed this new software in detail.  So basically they input all this data about an individual into this computer program and it predicts what they will do.  According to the emails released by Wikileaks this program is already being used in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, some Canadian cities and by some privately owed Las Vegas Casinos.  If they are able to develop a computer program that will be able to predict an individual's propensity to commit criminal acts, it will not be hard to tweak the computer program to be able to predict the religious beliefs of a person, their political beliefs, their values, their character, etc.  Highly troubling stuff.

Attention Apple users.  There is compelling evidence that the FBI is storing the Unique Device Identifier numbers of Apple mobile device users. Everyone who owns a mobile Apple device, such as an iPhone, has a Unique Device Identifier (UDID) number. Think of it as your customer number. That UDID has your name, address, cell phone number and email address.  That information is supposed to be securely stored by Apple.  Last week, a hacker known as AntiSec, published more than one million UDID's that he claims he obtained from a laptop that was stolen from an FBI agent.  The FBI denies that any of their laptops have been stolen but iPhone users who are looking up their UDID on the list are finding their UDID on that list. If this is true then we need to know why the FBI is collecting UDID numbers and how did they get this information?  Is Apple turning over their customers private information to the FBI without their knowledge and consent?  Click here to check if your device has been compromised.

On the legal front legislation is currently pending in front of Congress that would allow companies to share the private data of their customers with the Federal government without a warrant and without their customers permission. The legislation is known as CISPA in the House, and SECURE IT in the Senate. In January the United States Supreme Court ruled that police violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights when they placed a GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a warrant. Prosecutors have chosen to retry the man and in pretrial discovery, prosecutors have disclosed that they have cell phone tracking records of the defendant for five months.

As technology becomes more complex, we need to constantly be looking at how it is being used to track us. We also need to ask why?  Why does the government feel such a compelling need to be able to follow us and monitor every single move, every step we take.  The public needs to take a greater interest in monitoring the steps that are being taken to track us and infringe on our privacy.

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.

Connecticut Legalizes Medical Marijuana

On Monday Connecticut became the 17th state to approve medical marijuana. The measure will not take effect for a few months but once it does, people who have one of 11 medical conditions specified in the legislation, including AIDS, glaucoma, Parkinson's Disease and multiple sclerosis. The law is being called one of the most restrictive in the nation but the goal of the legislators in Connecticut is to avoid the problems that exist in California. In order to be allowed to access the medical marijuana in Connecticut, the doctor must first register the patient with a state agency known as Consumer Protection. The doctor must certify that the patient has been diagnosed with one of the 11 medical conditions specified in the legislation and certify that the patient would benefit from the use of the medical marijuana.  The patient must then register with the agency which will require that the patient provide personal information and will be issued a photo identification. Use of the medical marijuana will not be allowed in schools, workplaces, or any other public places and not in the presence of anyone under the age of 18.  The marijuana that will be used must be grown in Connecticut in an indoor and secure facility. Only 10 producers will be licensed to grow the marijuana in Connecticut and a network of regulated pharmacists will be allowed to distribute the marijuana

It will be interesting to see if this restrictive measure in Connecticut works. If it does, it may make it easier to pass similar measures in other states if its proven that it can be done in a way that makes it more acceptable in more conservative states.

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, October 2, 2012

Security Screeners at Kane County Courthouse Make Drug Arrest

An Aurora man entering the Kane County Courthouse in St. Charles set off the metal detector. Deputies asked him to empty his pockets and when he did so he placed a small plastic bag or what appeared to be cocaine in the tray. He was arrested by Kane County Deputies and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance.  The incident happened last week at around 8:30 a.m. This is a busy time at the courthouse when several hundred people are lining up to enter the courthouse. The screening is similar to the type of screening you would expect at an airport. You must pass through a metal detector and are required to empty your pockets before going through security.  

This individual, who will remain unnamed in this article, will receive the Moron of the Week Award.

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, October 1, 2012

Jury Nullification in New Hampshire

A jury in New Hampshire has applied the principle of jury nullification and found a defendant not guilty of growing and possessing marijuana.  Jury Nullification is an age old principle which allows a jury to find a defendant not guilty and release them even though they are technically guilty of the crime.  This principle is applied in order to protect citizens from an overly zealous prosecution and to curtail the power of the government.  In June of this year, the governor of New Hampshire signed into law which would allow a jury to be informed that they could apply this principle to a case. This law does not take effect until January of 2013 but has been discussed a great deal in New Hampshire.  Last month, Doug Darrell, a 59 year old Rastafarian piano tuner and woodworker, a peaceful member of the community, and a man who had been married for almost 40 years, was put on trial for a drug offense which carried the possibility of seven years in prison.  There was no doubt that Mr. Darrell was growing marijuana plants in the back yard of his house. A National Guard helicopter flying over his property spotted the marijuana plants growing in his back yard. Prosecutors offered Mr. Darrell a deal that would have avoided jail time but required that he plead guilty to a misdemeanor drug offense.  Mr. Darrell, citing his religion and his view that marijuana is a sacrament, rejected the deal and went to trial. After hearing all the evidence, the jury decided to acquit Mr. Darrell and set him free.  The jury determined that Mr. Darrell was a peaceful man and decided to vote their conscience and find Mr. Darrell not guilty. The jury was concerned about what kind of precedent it would set for the government if they would convict an otherwise law abiding man of such a crime. There is a national movement among civil liberty groups to push the notion of jury nullification to the forefront of the public debate as a way to curtail the power of government and put more power in the hands of the citizens. This case in New Hampshire is an opening shot which may start the debate moving forward.

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.

Bill Introduced to Require Warrant to Search Emails or Trace Cell

A bill has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives that would require that law enforcement authorities obtain a warrant before looking through your emails or tracking your cell phone. Readers of this post know that we have been carefully following this precise issue.  Whether authorities need to obtain a search warrant before looking through your email or tracking your cell phone has been a gray area in the legal arena.  As recently as August of this year, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that police did not need a warrant to get the location information of a suspects cell phone.  The current bill was introduced by Representative Joe Lofgren, a Democrat from California.  The legislation is backed by Microsoft, Google, Apple and Twitter.  The need for legislation to address the various privacy issues that have arisen with the rise of cell phones, and now smart phones, is obvious. Some of the measures that have been used to deal with these privacy issues were enacted back in the days of the regular cell phone. Now with devices using the "cloud" more and more, the time has come for legislation to address the privacy concerns and protect our traditional notions of privacy.

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, September 25, 2012

3 States to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana in November

Three states are set to allow voters to decide whether to legalize the use of marijuana in their states for recreational use this fall.  The three states are Colorado, Oregon and Washington.  A recent poll by MSNBC indicates that nationally, 51% of the public believe that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use.  On reason that states are moving in the direction of legalizing marijuana is financial. These states stand to gain additional tax revenue if marijuana was legalized and would save substantial sums of money by not having to spend money arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people charged with violating these drug laws which make the mere possession of marijuana illegal.  If these measures pass, then it will be interesting to see how the Federal Government responds. There will be a conflict between state law and federal law and it will be interesting to see how that conflict plays out in the political and legal arena.

We will keep our readers updated on the progress and outcome of these ballot measures.

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, September 20, 2012

Kane County Puts Brakes on Courtroom Expansion Plans

The Kane County Board has stopped plans to address issues at the courthouses in Kane County which would have expanded the Judicial Center in St. Charles, converted two third floor courtrooms into one, and installed a new elevator in the courthouse in Geneva.  The expanded courtroom on the third floor would have benefited the civil division by providing for a larger courtroom which is required in civil cases in which there are multiple plaintiffs and defendants with many sets of lawyers.  The elevator in Geneva is also in need of replacement and this has been delayed as has the plan to expand the Judicial Center in St. Charles. One of the Board members noted that the cost for the new elevator in Geneva has already been dropped by $43,000 and are hoping to get further reductions for the judicial center and courtroom expansion projects in St. Charles.

The Kane County Board is scheduled to take up these matters again in October.

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.

Twist in Illinois Law Puts Breaks on Chicago Camera Plans

Earlier this year, the Chicago City Council and the Illinois Legislature gave the go ahead to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to pepper the City of Chicago with speed cameras that would cover school safety zones and start generating tickets to people caught speeding.  The plan was to start sending out $100 tickets by early next year. However, a quirk in Illinois law has put the brakes on Mayor Emanuel's ambitious plans. Turns out that an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General from 38 years ago requires that children be "visibly present" in order for tickets for speeding in a school safety zone can be issued. This means that the picture of the vehicle speeding must also include a picture of a child present. This has presented a technical challenge which has placed the entire plan to implement the program in jeopardy. There's also an obvious legal challenge. If a speeding ticket in a school zone is issued by one of these cameras and does not include proof that a child was present, a criminal defense attorney could raise this 38 year old legal opinion from the Illinois Attorney General as a way of getting the ticket dismissed in court.  The technical challenge is to be able to come up with a way for a camera to recreate what a police officer can see and testify to. There currently is no such camera in existence which could accomplish this.  If such a camera or system could be developed, it must be developed in such a way that it is cost effective and worth it to the company providing the service to the City.  And here's another problem which I have though of. Even if another camera is set up to photograph pedestrians or humans, how could you tell from the camera that the individual is a child and not an adult?  The technical and legal problems have placed the entire plan in jeopardy. My prediction is that Mayor Emanuel will convince the Illinois General Assembly to change the law so as to remove the legal challenges and alleviating the need for any technical challenges. There's too much money at stake.

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.

Cameras Coming to Cook County Courtrooms Soon

The Chief Judge for Cook County has come out in strong support of putting cameras inside of courtrooms in Cook County. In fact he is so much in favor of placing cameras in court that he is considering reassigning judges who are opposed to having cameras placed in their courtrooms.  Chief Judge Timothy Evans has stated that he expects the cameras to be installed by the end of the year and is expecting that cameras will be placed in the criminal and civil courtrooms as well as in the suburban districts.  The camera program began in January of this year when the Illinois Supreme Court began a pilot program allowing cameras in courtrooms. The program began outside of Cook County and has slowly been expanded in other counties and has been moving closer and closer to Cook County.  Judge Evans seems to be moving towards enacting a more expansive program than the Illinois Supreme Court envisioned.  For instance the Supreme Court gave trial judges discretion in deciding if cameras will be allowed in their courtrooms. Evans indicated that he may use his authority as Chief Judges to reassign judges who resist.  He wants to explore finding a way to televise bond hearings even though the Supreme Court provided for a 14 day period of notice by the media before televising a court hearing. He also is considering placing cameras in each one of the suburban courthouses and transferring high profile cases to that courtroom so they could be televised. 

It looks like big changes will be coming to the Cook County courthouses shortly. Stay tuned.

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, August 9, 2012

License Plate Scanners Raise Privacy Concerns

License plate scanners, which are known as Automatic License Plate Readers, are being used by police departments throughout the country in increasing numbers.  Scanners are placed in the front of police cars which scan the license plates of vehicles within their field of vision searching for the license plate numbers in a national database.  Police in Columbia South Carolina report that roughly 20 stolen motor vehicles have been located by the use of these license plate scanners.  Civil liberty groups fear that these scanners could help compile data would could be used to create a national data base which would record the location and date of every single license plate on every vehicle that is scanned.  This data base could be used to track everybody's movements which could help create a gigantic government database which would help the government track each and every citizen of this country.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent record requests to 38 different police departments throughout the United States requesting that they be provided information on how the information obtained from these license plate scanners is used and if and where it is stored.  The ACLU also wants to learn if third parties have access to this information and whether the police departments store this information from the license plate scanners.  Instead of targeting particular individuals, like GPS devices do, license plate scanners have the potential of tracking everyone, regardless of whether they are suspected of doing anything illegal.  Officials in Maine retain the data for 21 days while in New Jersey the data is retained for five years.  The ACLU has yet to receive the information that they requested.

Since this is a relatively new technology, it is important that citizens get as much information as possible to determine the extent to which our privacy is being infringed upon.

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, August 8, 2012

It Is Now Legal For Government To Wiretap You Without A Warrant

In a sweeping decision which has the effect of amending the United States Constitution, a Federal Appeals Court has ruled that the government may wiretap its citizens without a warrant.  To understand the impact of this court ruling, you must understand the history of this case.  Shortly after the Watergate scandal, Congress passed a series of domestic surveillance laws which prohibited the government from wiretapping its citizens without a warrant.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the Bush Administration invalidated the law and gave the ok to law enforcement to wiretap citizens phones without a warrant.  In 2008 Congress gave the Bush Administration the go-ahead to continue with the warrant-less wiretapping.  Five years before Congress authorized the warrant-less wiretapping the National Security Agency had illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of two attorneys with their clients in Saudi Arabia.  The Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program had been exposed in a 1995 New York Times article.  The illegal wiretapping of the attorneys phone calls with their clients had been  revealed in documents that had been turned over by the government by mistake in an unrelated case.  The attorneys sued the federal government for violating the domestic surveillance laws that Congress had enacted after Watergate and won.  Each attorney was awarded $20,000 plus $2.5 million in attorney fees.  The government appealed the attorneys victory and yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the government and dismissed the lawsuit and threw out the damages award.  In reaching this decision, the court ruled that when Congress passed the domestic surveillance laws after Watergate, it did not specifically waive the government's sovereign immunity, meaning it did not give citizens the right to sue the government when the government is caught illegally wiretapping them.  The Plaintiffs have indicated that they will continue to appeal this decision, but if it is not overturned, it effectively ends the court challenges to the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping program since this is the only legal challenge to the once secret program.

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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