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Criminal Defense Law

Top Defenses Against Criminal Charges That You Should Know About

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Whether you have been charged with the possession of a controlled substance or illicit drug, or with trafficking with the intention to sell or distribute drugs illegally, there are a number of legal defenses that can help you reduce the severity of sentencing, particularly if it is a first time offense.

As a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, our firm has seen decades of cases and designed strategic defense plans to serve our clients.  We’ll review some of the key defense strategies used successfully in court.

Denial of Ownership

You’ve probably already heard the saying that possession is 9/10th of the law, and this statement is most true when it comes to a drug or illicit substance charge.  The worst thing you can do after being searched or having your premises searched for drugs is to admit ownership of the drugs, particularly if there is a large amount of drugs found in the discovery.

Penalties for drug possession increased dramatically when quantities are above and beyond what the law determines to be representative of individual use.  The possession of a small amount of marijuana might be construed as individual property for recreation purposes. To be clear, possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, however if you were in possession of a garbage bag full of marijuana, a case will be built for trafficking in distribution of illicit substances.

While it is not recommended to perjure yourself by being dishonest with the authorities, you may simply opt to remain silent when asked about ownership of the drugs, until you have had time to consult with your legal counsel.

Medicinal Use

The prevalence of the use of medicinal marijuana and the legalization of medicinal marijuana in many states has created a plausible defense for the medicinal use.  While a drug card is required to identify a licensed user of medicinal cannabis, many people do not qualify and may have a perfectly reasonable pain symptom, anxiety disorder or other health condition that is being medicated through the use of marijuana.

The existence of a medical condition which has been proven to be assisted by some medical marijuana is a valid defense, and while the possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, the court and jury may look on the situation with empathy given the health condition of the accused. In many cases where an individual has a terminal illness and has been found in the possession of marijuana, sentences have been dramatically reduced by compassionate jurors.

Malicious Intent

Nobody likes to go through life thinking that someone else is out to get them. However in some cases where there is bad blood between former spouses, romantic relationships and partners, or even family members there is the potential for illicit substances to be planted with the purpose of creating an arrest scenario.  A malicious intent can be proven by documentation which can include emails and phone records, or verbalized threats promise and action that will create legal consequences for the defendant.

Laboratory Analysis

There have been examples where a drug arrest has been made and property has been seized which appeared at the time of seizure to be an illicit substance. After investigative examination of the substance, it may be determined that it was not an illicit drug after all.

There have been cases where young adults have attempted to sell something that looks like an illicit drug.  Aspirin tablets have been crushed to look like cocaine, oregano has been used in place of marijuana, and colored paper with no controlled substance has been used to mimic acid and sold by distributors.  As ridiculous as it sounds, drug deals that involve artificial drugs or harmless materials do happen and a laboratory analysis will confirm if the substance is harmless.

In the event that an individual is charged with attempting to sell drugs or traffic drugs, the case may be reduced to to a misdemeanor or mischief charge rather than a drug-related offense.

Entrapment

Imagine a scenario where someone is offering to sell you drugs and you refuse repeatedly. Nonetheless the individual keeps coming back to you, offering to sell you drugs, and continues to harass you and pressure you until you relent to purchase.  At that time you are arrested for purchasing and possession of a controlled substance.

There are laws that govern the behavior of the authorities when investigating drug-related offenses.  The law is clear about what an officer can and cannot do when undercover, and coercing someone to purchase drugs aggressively is defined as entrapment.  The court realizes that the purchase of the illicit substance would not have occurred without undue pressure from the law enforcement officer, and with the right evidence, the argument is an effective one, particularly with a witness.

There are laws that are established to protect your rights, the right to search and seize illicit property, and to charge a defendant with possession of drugs. However knowing your rights is the first step to ensure that you protect your interests in the event of a drug charge.

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What You Can Expect from Your Criminal Defense Attorney

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The experience of being pressed with criminal charges and the legal hassles that come along with it can be difficult to endure. You need someone who can defend you vigorously and protect your legal rights. No one do that better than a skilled criminal defense attorney.

A criminal charge can impact several aspects of your life negatively – your job, your housing application, even your credit card application. It is not worth risking all of this. The decision of choosing just another lawyer to represent you, without giving it much consideration can increase the chances of things going awry. You need to make a smart decision when choosing a suitable criminal defense attorney for your case.

By hiring an experienced attorney to fight for you, you increase the likelihood of getting an acquittal or reducing your penalties to a great extent. Here are the top five ways in which a reputable criminal defense attorney can help you.

1. Negotiate a Deal

One way to avail a reduced sentence is by negotiating a deal or a plea bargain with a prosecutor. Moreover, in certain cases, a deal can also eliminate various charges pressed against you.

It is important to note that prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants who represent themselves. This is where a criminal defense attorney comes into the picture.

Upon carefully studying the intricacies of your case, a criminal defense attorney can advise the best possible way to go in order to get your sentence reduced. They can let you know whether or not pleading guilty would be the right step for your case.

Additionally, they will provide you with an overall perspective of your case and advise you accordingly regarding the steps that need to be taken.

2. Provide You with a Better Understanding of Laws

Criminal cases are very complex as each case is unique. Additionally, the laws and regulations associated with them can also be quite difficult to comprehend. There may be several crucial legal rules and regulations related to your case that might make or break it.

Your defense lawyer will help you understand these laws and their significance. Additionally, he will also frame arguments based on them and represent you positively. This will strengthen your case to a great extent and change the course of the proceedings.

Moreover, there are certain local rules and regulations of the court that vary from state to state. A skilled defense lawyer will point these out to you and handle the case bearing those laws in mind.

3. Help You Understand the Loopholes in Prosecution’s Evidence

As a layman, you may not be able to read between the lines and cover the minute details in your case. Also, capturing loopholes in the prosecution’s evidence can be extremely difficult. This task needs a lot of knowledge and skill and only an experienced criminal lawyer can help you with it.

They can identify the weak points in the prosecution’s evidence, thereby strengthening your case by tracking down the necessary records.

In order to hire a reputed criminal defense lawyer, searching online can prove quite helpful. If you are looking for a lawyer in Chicago, you can search online for criminal defense attorney Chicago. This will provide you with a list of lawyers based in Chicago. You can check their online rating and opt for initial consultation. On the basis of that, you can go ahead and select a suitable lawyer for your case.

4. Prepare a Viable Defense

A skilled attorney will zealously represent you by preparing a viable defense by taking care of the following:

  • Investigating and gathering facts
  • Preparing opening and closing statements
  • Reviewing police reports
  • Researching case precedents and statuses
  • Questioning and cross-examining witnesses and knowing who can stand as a strong witness and get them to support the accused
  • Presenting all possible defenses in the court of law
  • Filing the right and appropriate requests with the court
  • Ensuring that the evidence to be included was obtained lawfully
  • Making sure all the constitutional rights of the accused are protected
  • Familiarizing the accused with local court customs and the entire criminal case procedure
  • Helping the accused deal with negative emotions, which often range from embarrassment to low self-esteem.

5. Act as a Watchdog – Oversee the Conduct of Officials

There have been various instances wherein police reports or testimonies have turned out to be exaggerated or fabricated . You don’t want the same to happen in your case. If there’s anything more difficult than representing your criminal case yourself, it’s dealing with dishonest officials and their improper behavior.

By having a criminal defense lawyer by your side, you will be able to prevent falling into this trap. They will see to it that your constitutional rights are protected. Further, the lawyer can protect you against improper police behavior and assist you in uncovering the truth.

Conclusion

The decision of choosing the wrong criminal defense attorney can cost you greatly. On the other hand, a skilled attorney, who knows the ropes of fighting criminal cases will give his best and try to achieve the most favorable outcome for you. The above mentioned ways make amply clear how they can help you out. Being represented by a lawyer who holds a respectable position in the legal arena will undoubtedly strengthen your case.

Factors to Consider before Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

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If there’s anything more frustrating than facing a criminal charge, it is hiring the wrong criminal defense attorney. Hiring the right lawyer plays a major role in helping you deal with your criminal case. It is, perhaps, one of the most important decisions you will ever make.

You need to be level-headed and make a wise decision when it comes to choosing the right attorney. This can be a challenging task as there are a lot of criminal defense lawyers available. Not hiring an expert may weaken your case.

It’s important to hire someone who holds an authoritative position in the legal arena, can fight for you and protect your reputation and rights.

Here are five essential factors to bear in mind when hiring a criminal defense attorney.

1. Reputation Plays a Crucial Role

Does your criminal defense attorney hold a respectable position in the legal arena?

If the answer is in the negative, you need to think twice before hiring that particular lawyer.

Opting for someone just because they charge less or impress you with their advertising campaign would be a ridiculous criterion to make a decision. You can know whether the prospective lawyer is reputable or not only through their track record.

You need to find out if the attorney is respected by the judges, the percent of referrals he receives from his/her clients or other attorneys, and most importantly if he/she is trustworthy.

There are various means to know the reputation of prospective lawyers: referrals, testimonials from prior clients, and most importantly online rating.

Online searching is also a great way to find law firms in your area. If you are living in Chicago then you could simply search online for criminal defense lawyer Chicago. This will provide you with a list of all the prospective law firms. Once you have the list, you can start the hiring process by individually contacting them.

2. Experience In the Criminal Law Field

You cannot opt for someone who lacks the experience or the skill to deal with cases in the field of criminal defense. Only a professional will try and work hard to bring a positive outcome for your case.

Moreover, the prospective defense lawyer needs to have relevant experience in defending the type of crime that you have committed. Depending upon the type of criminal charges that you are facing, you need to choose someone accordingly. For instance, if you are being charged with a federal crime, then you must opt for someone who specializes in the federal law niche.

The following are a few questions you must ask the attorney in order to get a clear picture:

  • How many years of experience does he/she have in dealing with cases similar as yours?
  • How many members does his/her criminal defense team comprise?
  • How many jury trials has he/she engaged in?

3. Transparency Is a Must

One of the most important factors in legal matters is maintaining transparency related to the criminal case.

How would you feel if your lawyer hides information about the payment policies or doesn’t update you on how your case is proceeding?

You need to see to it that your lawyer is being absolutely clear in his communication with you right from the beginning. You will get an idea of this during the initial consultation itself. Right from the outline of how the case will proceed, the time duration,  the number of court appearances you will have to make, to the expense you will have to bear, he needs to estimate all these factors for you beforehand.

This applies to you as well. Bring all paperwork related to your charges and bail amount. You must provide even the minutest details to your lawyer.

4. Understand the Difference and Choose the One Who Meets Your Needs

First and foremost, you will need to determine the kind of lawyer that you need. This depends on the criminal charge levied against you- whether it is made by the state law or federal law.

If you have broken a federal law, you must hire an attorney who is more experienced and who can dedicate more time to your case. The primary reason for this is that federal law is more complex. The Federal law prosecutor (United States Attorney’s office) has more time and resources as compared to the State law prosecutor. It is, therefore, likely that the prosecution will be much stronger in the federal case and hence require that the federal defense attorney be more experienced in handling such cases.

Once you have selected the respective lawyer, he/she can help you out in various ways such as:

  • Negotiating a deal
  • Figuring out a good sentencing program depending on your situation
  • Giving you a proper understanding of the laws and your rights
  • Lessening the severity of the punishment
  • Developing a sound defense strategy

5. What You Must Essentially Take Care Of

Rule of Thumb: If a lawyer guarantees you a result, he/she may be lying and you should not trust him/her.

The outcome of any criminal case depends upon various factors such as:

  • Skill of your attorney
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and the testimony
  • Discretion of the prosecuting defense attorney.
  • Tendency of the judge assigned to your case
  • Willingness of police officers and victims to cooperate in reaching a fair resolution of your case

If a lawyer promises you no jail time or the dismissal of your case without understanding the above points, you need to be cautious in hiring him.

Bottom line: Don’t get lured by false promises. Certain lawyers apply all possible tactics to simply earn money. You need to be smart and know how to read between the lines.

Secondly, if a lawyer claims to know the judge or be friends with the prosecutor, you need to be very careful about hiring him. You cannot be sure of his allegiance and ascertaining his loyalty towards you will be difficult.

Conclusion

Choosing the right criminal defense attorney requires that you bear all the above factors in mind. Only then can you select a lawyer who can be not only your authoritative and knowledgeable voice in the legal field, but also save you from a punishment that you may not deserve. Don’t lose your calm, trust your instincts and make an informed decision. Find someone who knows the ropes of criminal cases and is confident enough to fight for you and protect you.

What to Do If You Get Pulled over for DUI

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It is crucial that you know what your rights are when you’re accused of a crime.

While the best way to prevent getting stuck with a DUI charge in Chicago is to not drive after drinking, there may come a time when you might be pulled over by a police officer over suspicion of drunken driving.

Picture this – you’re driving home after spending an evening with friends over a few laughs, good food and maybe even a glass of wine. While you’re still on your way, you get stopped by a police officer who asks for your license and registration, which you are required to provide, and begins to inquire about your alcohol consumption.

What would you do in such a scenario?

While you want to be of help, there’s no telling what consequences your words and actions could have over the outcome of your tete-a-tete with the officer. Hence, it is imperative that you act intelligently and tackle the situation cleverly until you get in touch with a criminal defense attorney.

Here’s more on that.

Pull Over Carefully

Bear in mind that as soon as you are asked to pull over from suspicion of DUI, the police officer starts making mental notes about your behavior and actions which will ultimately end up in the police report. The report can have a considerable influence upon the outcome of your hearing as well as the criminal trial.

So when you pull over, do so slowly and carefully and into a safe location to keep your report favorable.

Stay Inside Your Car

It is advised that you do not get out of your car, unless the officer asks you to do so. Police officers have a knack for getting defensive if a person hops out of their car upon being pulled over. And they have a good reason for this.

The officer doesn’t know whether the driver is armed or will suddenly flee the scene after exiting his vehicle. By staying inside your car, you minimize the chances of giving him the wrong impression of your intentions.

Plead to the Fifth

Thanks to the Fifth Amendment, you can exercise your right to remain silent when you get stopped by an officer. It protects you from self-incrimination and gives you the right to refrain from answering any questions posed by him. This means you need not reveal if you’ve even had a drink or not.

If you’re worried that the officer may put words in your mouth, or you may stammer in your nervousness, you can refrain from answering all of the interrogative questions. By not responding to the officer’s questions, you prevent him from testifying in court that you were slurring when he pulled you over.

Your silence cannot be held against you. Don’t lie, as that can be used against you in the court of law.

Say No to the Field Sobriety Test

If the officer orders you to get out of the car and perform field sobriety tests, you have the right to deny performing any of them. Be polite and tell him that you do not wish to take any tests until you speak to your DUI attorney in Chicago. Also, avoid making any sudden movements.

The officer will likely state that only guilty people refuse taking the sobriety test, but simply be unresponsive.

Field sobriety tests entail you performing certain acts that help the police check for balance and coordination in your movements and actions. This test can set you up for trouble. In most states, however, you need not comply with this demand and this refusal cannot be held against you.

Sobriety tests are subjective in nature and are performed to give the police officer more evidence if you’re under the influence. Hence, irrespective of how you fare in these ‘tests,’ they can be skewed and used against you in court. There is no point in incriminating yourself through these tests.

Refuse the Breathalyzer Test

Did you know you can say no to submit to the initial roadside breathalyzer (otherwise known as Preliminary Alcohol Screening tests or PASs) test?

They are infamously unreliable, and there are innumerable ways to manipulate their results. In fact, the results of these tests aren’t even admissible in court in most states.

Like the field sobriety tests, portable breathalyzers are only used to verify probable cause for an impaired driving arrest.

Do Take the Chemical Test

When the officer asks you to take the chemical test, a test which is used to determine your blood alcohol content, do not refuse. In several states, a refusal can result in the suspension of your license for a minimum of 7 months even if you’re not under influence.

You will be required to take the test at a police station, and you can choose between a blood test and a breath test. Most lawyers would advise you to take the breath test because it is more unreliable and hence, its result can be challenged in court.

Document Everything

This is important as the notes about the arrest will make it easier for your attorney to understand and fight the charged levied against you. Make a note of where you were, what you were doing and how much you had to drink before you drove.

Also note down how long after drinking you were arrested, how the officer behaved, what you said to the officer, where you were pulled over, if and when you were read your Miranda rights, when you took the chemical test and how long it had been since your had the drink(s).

Write down everything that you can remember, even if you think it isn’t relevant.

Contact an Attorney

You’re going to need a qualified and an experienced DUI attorney on your side if you want to get a favorable outcome. Make sure you do not compromise on any aspect when hiring a lawyer to fight for you and get yourself only the best one.

Conclusion

Driving under influence is a crime in Chicago, and hence, should be avoided. However, if you are stopped under the suspicion of DUI, it is extremely important that you know what you’re in for, what your rights are and how you can use them to protect your interests. While you cannot have an attorney with you at all times, you can surely deal with such a situation tactfully until you can contact one with the help of the above pointers.