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Chicago Criminal Law Blog

Back the Blue Act reintroduced on Capitol Hill

Last week, our blog discussed how Attorney General Jeff Session's recent order directing all 94 U.S. Attorneys to start charging and pursuing the most "serious" offenses, meaning those carrying "the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences," was already creating considerable controversy.

Interestingly enough, while legal circles across the nation were still trying to process what exactly this would mean going forward, another controversial tough-on-crime measure was introduced -- or reintroduced -- by the federal government.

Did AG Sessions just reignite the war on drugs?

In recognition of the astronomical cost and grave injustice that has resulted from keeping non-violent drug offenders locked in federal prisons for decades owing to draconian sentencing schemes established roughly 30 years ago, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder formally adopted what was known as the "Smart on Crime Initiative" in 2013.

At its core, this initiative called on federal prosecutors to focus on the most serious crimes and reduce the number of individuals charged with non-violent drug offenses that could result in lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

Is it really a federal offense to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft?

We're officially entering graduation season for high schools, colleges and universities throughout the Chicagoland area, across Illinois and around the nation. While this is a time to reflect on the past, contemplate the future and celebrate accomplishments, it's also a time to blow off some steam.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with teens or young adults having some much-needed fun, it's also important for them not to allow this celebrating to cross any legal boundaries. While this naturally covers all potentially criminal actions involving alcohol and drugs, it also extends to many of the so-called pranks that soon-to-be graduates like to pull.

AG Sessions vows DOJ will continue white collar crime crackdown

It's now been over 100 days since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. While there is currently considerable debate in the press as to newly installed administration's accomplishments over this timeframe, there has never been any debate as to some of the strategies and stances it planned to pursue upon taking command of the White House.

A person needn't look further than the Department of Justice, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated from day one of his ascension to the role of the nation's top cop that the agency would be focusing primarily on violent crime and illegal immigration.

Legislation calls for reform of Illinois' civil forfeiture laws

Many people might be unaware that the civil forfeiture laws in Illinois permit any state law enforcement agency to confiscate vehicles, cash, real estate or other personal property that it merely suspects is connected to criminal activity.  

As shocking as the reality that property can be seized absent charges or a conviction may be, consider also that law enforcement can either keep the property, or sell it at auction and keep the proceeds. Furthermore, none of this is subject to any sort of record-keeping requirement.

Understanding the suppression of evidence in criminal trials - II

Last time, our blog began discussing how defendants who believe that the evidence prosecutors are seeking to introduce at their criminal trial was gathered in violation of their constitutional rights can seek to have it suppressed, meaning thrown out, via the exclusionary rule.

We also discussed the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine, an extension of the exclusionary rule, which essentially provides that evidence, confessions or testimony otherwise admissible on its own can still be suppressed if they somehow resulted from or are linked to an underlying constitutional violation.

Understanding the suppression of evidence in criminal trials

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." While this language may seem a bit complex, it essentially means that absent certain circumstances, the government must conduct searches pursuant to lawfully executed warrants.    

What happens, however, when you have reason to believe that the evidence secured by law enforcement officials that prosecutors are now seeking to use at your criminal trial was gathered under an invalid warrant or by a warrantless search unlikely to be deemed reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?

How close is Illinois to legalizing marijuana for recreational use?

When it comes to the always controversial issue of marijuana, Illinois has recently taken some actions that could be described as progressive from decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana to launching a pilot program permitting the sale of medical marijuana to those with one of 40 debilitating diseases.

As marked as this progress has been, two lawmakers have now proposed legislation that, if passed, would take a major leap forward by adding the Land of Lincoln to the list of eight states legalizing the drug for recreational purposes.

Statistics show drop for some federal drug prosecutions: Will it last?

While people might have missed it, the U.S. Sentencing Commission -- the independent federal agency tasked with creating sentencing policies for the federal courts, advising Congress and the executive branch on effective crime policy, and analyzing federal crime and sentencing issues -- released a rather eye-opening report a few weeks back.

Specifically, the USSC report determined that of the over 67,000 people charged with federal offenses in 2016, 19,945 were brought up on charges for some manner of drug offense or, put another way, 845 fewer people than were charged in 2015.

Neighborhood Safety Act, the long-awaited criminal justice reform bill, now in effect

In February 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner signed an executive order forming the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, a statewide taskforce whose express duties included devising workable solutions to help reduce the state's prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

As we previously discussed on our blog, the commission fulfilled its work admirably, providing an initial report with 14 recommendations in December 2015 and a final report with 13 recommendations in January 2017. Fast forward to the present and the governor has now signed a criminal justice reform bill incorporating several of these recommendations, otherwise known as the Neighborhood Safety Act, into law.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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