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Chicago Criminal Law Blog

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.

Minor in possession laws in Illinois

We all know you can get in trouble for having an open container of alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol or possessing some controlled substance. However, there are specific laws that govern minors when it comes to alcohol and drugs. They're called minor in possession laws (MIP) and they make it crime just for a minor to have alcohol in their possession, regardless of where they got it or if they were even drinking it.

In order to be convicted of a MIP, they only have to prove:

Debunking popular myths about bank robbery charges -- III

Over the last two weeks, our blog has been discussing how the crime of robbing a bank -- so often overlooked in the popular press and so often glamorized by Hollywood -- is viewed in the eyes of the law. Specifically, we've focused on how it's defined and why it's treated as a strictly federal crime.

We'll conclude this discussion in today's post, examining the severe punishments called for by federal law for those found guilty of bank robbery or, in other words, why these charges cannot afford to be dismissed by anyone.

Debunking popular myths about bank robbery charges -- II

Last week, our blog began discussing bank robbery, a crime that seems to generate little news coverage owing to the frequency with which it is perpetrated, and has long been glamorized in popular films and television shows. We also explored how this reality sometimes causes people to view it as a viable option if they've fallen on hard times, meaning they believe that the risk is worth is worth it, as the stakes are relatively low in the event they are apprehended.

As we'll continue exploring in today's post, this is a huge mistake, as bank robbery is a strictly federal crime, such that the stakes are actually incredibly high.

Debunking popular myths about bank robbery charges

Bank robbery is a crime that you often see covered briefly covered and pay little attention to given that it seems to occur so often, seldom involves physical harm and fits the definition of the so-called "victimless crime."

If you have a hard time believing this, think about the last time you saw a report on the 10 pm news discussing a robbery at a local bank branch. Chances are you good that it didn't receive more than 10-15 seconds of coverage as part of a local "crime roundup" story, and featured nothing more than a brief description of the incident, a grainy surveillance picture and a promise that law enforcement was investigating. Indeed, your thoughts were likely focused more focused on the imminent weather forecast.

ATF remains committed to preventing gun sales in pot-friendly states -- II

In our last post, we provided a bit of a history lesson concerning the landmark Gun Control Act of 1968, which outlaws any "unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance" from purchasing a firearm.

Specifically, we discussed how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the law enforcement agency tasked with carrying out the law, has adopted a particularly draconian stance toward marijuana users, outlawing any sale of guns and ammunition to users of this Schedule I drug owing to the risk of "irrational and unpredictable behavior."

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