Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Landmark Ruling By Supreme Court Today

For the first time, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that defendants have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel even when they are offered a chance to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.  In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court ruled in favor of two men who claimed that their lawyers were incompetent.  One case involved Galin Frye who was charged in Missouri of driving on a revoked license.  Because he had been convicted three previous times for the same offense, he was facing up to four years in prison if he had been convicted.  The prosecutor sent a letter to Frye's attorney offering his client a 90 day jail sentence in return for him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.  Frye's lawyer never informed his client and the offer expired.  After this offer, Frye was arrested again for driving on a revoked license and this time he plead guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.  The other case involved Anthony Cooper who was charged in Michigan with intent to murder and three other crimes.  The prosecutor offered Cooper a sentence between 51 and 85 months but Cooper rejected the offer after he was convinced to do so by his lawyers who incorrectly advised him that the state could not prove he intended to kill the victim if he shot him below the waist.  Cooper was eventually convicted and received 360 months, or 30 years, in prison.  The majority ruled that the defendants can claim a constitutional violation but must show that but for the lawyers advice, "there is a a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms, and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer's terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed."  In both of the cases, Justic Antonin Scalia took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench in open court.  Justice Scalia decried the majority's decision and claimed that the court was opening up an entirely new area of litigation that the legislature could solve more efficiently and adequately than the court.  He criticized the court for penalizing everyone by reversing perfectly valid convictions.

The cases are Lafler v. Cooper, 10-209, and Missouri v. Frye, 10-444.

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, March 19, 2012

Supreme Court to Consider Life In Prison for Juveniles

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether a sentence of life in prison for a 14 year old convicted of murder is unconstitutional.  In 2003, when he was just 14 years old, Evan Miller was convicted of arson and murder in Alabama.  On the very same day that Miller was found guilty of murder and arson by a jury, the judge sentenced him to life in prison without any hearing or evidence.  In addition to his age, Miller had a troubled youth which included domestic violencedrug abuse and attempted suicide.  Miller was sentenced to life in prison as an automatic consequence of his conviction for murder and arson.  Miller's case will be heard at the same time as a similar case involving an Arkansas 14 year old defendant sentenced to life in prison who had also been convicted of murdering his 52 year old neighbor.  Both cases will be argued by the same attorney who will argue that sentencing juveniles to life in prison violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.  In the past few years, the Supreme Court has issued rulings that protect juveniles.  They have prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for juveniles and ruled against allowing jail sentences the provide for life without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of crimes less than murder.  Alabama and Arkansas disagree and are supported by 19 other states around the country who argue for the constitutionality of life sentences for juveniles.  They point out that 38 states allow for juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole and 14 states make it mandatory for juveniles convicted of murder.

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, March 18, 2012

FBI Gets Warrant To Force Google To Unlock Phone

On March 9, the FBI served Google with a warrant requiring them to provide the FBI with the information necessary to allow them to unlock a customer's Android phone.  The case involves Dante Dears, a resident of California who was previously convicted of running a massive San Diego prostitution ring.  Dears had been sentenced to 4 years in prison in 2005 for beating a 15 year old homeless girl he had recruited from a homeless shelter in San Diego.  Dears was released from prison in January of 2009 but he violated his parole 3 times and was sent back to prison to serve an additional 1 and a half years.  Dears remains under house arrest, with an electronic monitoring device affixed to his ankle, until January of 2013.  After he was released from prison in May of 2011, a confidential source met with Dears in his home in Chula Vista California and told authorities that he witnessed Dears accept several phone calls in which he discussed the night's prostitution activities, would send numerous text messages with his phone, and shortly after he would send out the messages, someone would come to his home and give him money.  Armed with this information, his parole officer went to his home on January 17 and seized Dears Samsung Exhibit II Android phone and demanded that Dears unlock the phone's home screen or provide the log in information. Dears refused.  On February 14 the FBI lab reported that they were unable to unlock the phone.  On March 9 the FBI went to a judge and had a warrant issued requiring that Google provide Dears account information, social security number, account log in and password, all contact information and emails stored on the phone, all text messages sent and received, the time and duration of all web pages visited, all GPS data stored on the phone, all search terms used and all of his internet browsing history.  The FBI is claiming that Dears refusal to provide this information violates the terms of his release on parole because he specifically gave authorities permission to get this information when he was released on parole from prison.

Google has not yet disclosed how they will response to this subpoena.  A Google spokesperson said that Google does not comment about specific cases but that they will comply with any lawful requests.

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.

Outbreak of Illness at Cook County Jail

Cook County Jail officials have put limits on visits of certain inmates at Cook County Jail because of an outbreak of an "influenza-like illness" at the jail.  As a result, some visitation will not be allowed.  The most affected unit of the jail is Division 1 where inmates are not being allowed to move and are banned from having any visits.  Movement of inmates is also limited in Division 4 and 5.  While visits in Division 4 and 5 are not banned, they may be affected.  Anyone planning on visiting an inmate in Divisions 1, 4 and 5 is being urged to call the Cook County Sheriff at 773-674-7244 to confirm whether the inmate will be made available for a visit.

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, March 10, 2012

Courtroom Cameras Moving Closer to Chicago

Yesterday, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that the plan to allow cameras in all Illinois courts is continuing to move forward and added another county to the program.  Kankakee County will become the second county in Illinois to allow cameras in courtrooms.  On February 3, 2012, we published an article informing our readers that the courtroom camera program was initiated in northwest Illinois, in the 14th Judicial Circuit.  The Judicial Circuit covering Kankakee County also covers Iroquois County.  This next step will first start in Kankakee and then expand to the courtrooms in Iroquois County if everything progresses well.  The camera program seems to be slowly working its way towards 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.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds Deportation for Filling False Tax Return

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has the authority to label the crime of filing false tax returns, an "aggravated felony," subjecting lawful legal immigrants to automatic deportation.  The case involved Akio and Fukado Kawashima, a Japanese couple who came to the United States in 1984 with a goal of succeeding in business.  They opened up and operated a few popular sushi restaurants in California.  They never became U.S. citizens but were granted lawful permanent residence in the 1980's.  However, in 1991 they filed tax returns in which they underreported their income.  The federal government filed criminal charges against them and they plead guilty and paid $245,000 in penalties and interest.  They paid the entire amount in full and the husband ended up serving 4 months in a federal prison.  Ten years later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to deport them.  In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court sided with Immigration and Naturalization and the Kawashima's have now been deported.  Tax lawyers point out that this ruling sends an ominous warning to legal immigrants.  If they are caught lying on their taxes, not only could they be forced to pay heavy monetary penalties, but they could also be deported.  This would apply to any false statement on a tax return made by a legal immigrant.  Immigration officials point to a 1994 provision created by Congress which defined "aggravated felony" to include "fraud" and "deceit" that cost the victims more than $200,000.  That threshold has since been lowered to $10,000.  It seems that deportation would apply to cases in which criminal charges were filed, not in cases involving only a civil penalty sought by the IRS.

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.

Court of Appeals Approve Search of Cell Phone Without Warrant

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit issued a disturbing ruling on a case which gave the court an opportunity to examine just how far the police can go when it comes to searching electronic devices.  Police officers in Indiana found several cell phones at the scene of a drug bust.  The police searched through each cell phone for its cell phone number.  The police collected the cell phone numbers, subpoenaed the call histories of each cell phone and were able to link the owners of the cell phones to the drug selling operation.  One of the defendants, Adel Flores-Lopez, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling drugs.  On appeal, Flores-Lopez argued that the police had no right to search through the cell phones without a warrant.  The Court of Appeals rejected Flores-Lopez's claims find that the invasion of privacy was so slight that the police's actions did not violate the 4th Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches.  The majority opinion was written by Judge Richard Posner.  In his opinion, Judge Posner compared a cell phone to a diary, and just as police can open the cover of the diary to determine who its owner is, the police can open the phone to determine who the owner is.  The court found that the invasion of privacy, which was limited to just discovering the phone number of the phone, was minimal.  But Judge Posner pretty much limited the extent of the search to only determining the phone number and that the police are forbidden for looking for further information on and in the phone.  However, the question of how far the police can go was not totally answered in this case leaving this issue unresolved.

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, March 2, 2012

Maywood Court Clerk Accused of Gang Affiliation

A Cook County Court clerk working at the Maywood courthouse has been accused of being a member of the Imperial Insane Vice Lords street gang.  The 46 year old man vehemently denies the allegations.  The allegations were revealed in a book that was recently released by the Chicago Crime Commission.  The book names this individual as a leader of this street gang.  After the book was released the president of the West Suburban Chiefs of Police Association wrote a letter to Dorothy Brown, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, warning her that allowing this individual to work in the Maywood Courthouse was a "serious concern" to the law enforcement agencies belonging to his association.  The concern is that the clerks access to sensitive documents containing information on search and arrest warrants, applications for wiretaps, and details about ongoing investigations could potentially be leaked to gangs.  The Chicago Crime Commission included a photograph of the clerk in their book and identified him as a leader of this gang.  The employee denies any affiliation with the gang but does admit that he grew up in a neighborhood in which gang members operated.  He has worked for the clerk's office for 8 years.  The Chicago Crime Commission believes that he has leadership influence in this gang.

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.

Illinois Eavesdropping Law Ruled Unconstitutional

A controversial Illinois law which makes it a Class 4 felony to make an audio recording of police officers without their consent, even when they are performing their official duties, was declared unconstitutional today by Cook County Judge Stanley Sachs.  The judge found it was unconstitutional because it potentially criminalizes "wholly innocent conduct."  The case involved an artist who was arrested for selling his art on the street in the Loop without a permit.  He used a recording device in his pocket to record the police as he was being arrested.  He was subsequently charged with violating the eavesdropping law because he recorded the police without their consent.  If convicted the artist could have been facing 1 to 3 years in prison.

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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