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Chicago Criminal Law Blog

Chicago men arrested in federal fentanyl, heroin trafficking probe

Federal officials recently announced charges against more than 50 people this week, with arrests in Chicago, north to Wisconsin and far south to Mexico.

The arrests were part of “Operation Full Circle,” a federal and state investigation into heroin and fentanyl trafficking on Chicago’s West Side.

DOJ increases number of federal prosecutors for violent crimes

Throughout out his term in office, President Trump has repeatedly disparaged Chicago for its “out of control” gun violence. He has threatened to send in federal reinforcements to combat the issue. This week, the administration took action.

The Department of Justice announced that it is creating 311 new Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) positions, focusing on three keys areas: violent crime (190 prosecutors), civil enforcement—predominantly aimed at targeting the opioid epidemic (86 prosecutors) and immigration (35 prosecutors). Of the new violent crime prosecutors, six are designated for Illinois—four for northern Illinois specifically.

Would you plead guilty to a felony you didn’t commit?

Imagine you were wrongly accused of murder. The case seemed to be rigged from the start. The eyewitness description of the assailant was a 5’7” Hispanic man, and you’re a 6’2” black man. You go to trial, assuming the justice system will do its job—but it fails you too. You’re sentenced to 30 years in prison.

You hire a new lawyer to try to appeal the decision—a process which takes over a decade—while you lose the best years of your life behind bars. He gathers new information, finds other key witnesses who were never used in the first trial and even uncovers evidence that a corrupt Chicago police officer framed you.

Supreme Court ruling: police can’t snoop around your home

A police officer drives by your house and spots you in your driveway. You appear to be suspiciously stowing something behind your back seat. Does the officer have the right to take a closer look around?

You may already know that the police can’t search your house without a search warrant. However, the police are allowed to search a car without a warrant—if there is evidence of a crime in plain sight. But what if your vehicle is parked on private property—e.g., in your driveway? Is your driveway protected by the same privacy laws as your home, or does the law enabling an officer to search a suspicious car take precedence?

An unauthorized driver’s right to privacy in a rental car

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an important decision on Fourth Amendment rights for rental car drivers. If a driver who is not listed on a rental contract—but who has permission from the authorized driver to use the car—gets pulled over, are they protected from unreasonable search and seizure?

The case

Understanding the consequences of prescription forgery

Earlier this year, you fell off a ladder at work and seriously injured your back. You went to the doctor, who prescribed you an opiate to help you tolerate the pain. The drug worked well, but now you experience extreme pain anytime you don’t take it. Last weekend, you ran out of stock of the medication, and you weren’t able to get a doctor to re-prescribe it right away.

Fortunately, you still had the old prescription. You scanned it onto your computer, put your Photoshop skills to work, and pretty soon you had a legitimate-looking new prescription. It’s not a big deal, you figure. After all, a doctor prescribed you the medication the first time around—they probably would’ve prescribed it again.

Chicago’s gang database: an unsubstantiated black list?

Last year, Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez—a Chicago father of three—was met with a horrifying surprise. The Chicago police raided his home one evening and arrested him, citing that his name was listed in the city’s gang database.

Their information, however, was incorrect. Catalan-Ramirez was a law-abiding resident. Nonetheless, the police turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and threatened to deport him. He was detained for 10 months before finally being released earlier this year.

How the Supreme Court is enabling excessive police force

The question of what is considered excessive police force has been raised in myriad cases around the country in recent years. What is the legal backing that gets a police officer off the hook for injuring—or even killing—a civilian?

In today’s post, we examine this protection—known as “qualified immunity” — and how a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling has broadened the freedom of law enforcement officials to act within its scope.

What’s the difference between state and federal drug crimes?

There are both state and federal laws surrounding drugs. If you’re charged with a drug-related crime, how do you know whether your case will be tried in state or federal court? What’s the difference between these two systems?

Generally, a drug crime will be prosecuted at the federal level if some aspect of the crime involved a broader jurisdiction than just one state. For instance:

Supreme Court ruling sets limits on deportable crimes

If you're convicted of a crime in the U.S., you'll likely face jail time. However, if you're a non-U.S. citizen convicted of that same crime, you could be sent back to your home country.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a piece of federal legislation which states that immigrants convicted of certain classes of serious crimes can be deported. In a previous post, we discussed deportable offenses for non-citizen residents in the United States--which include serious crimes such as human trafficking, rape and murder. The federal government's stance on these offenses has not changed.

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