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.

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