A host of new laws took effect on Jan. 1 that will change the way the Illinois justice system works. From high-profile laws dealing with police body cameras to less newsworthy (but equally important) directives regarding training programs to improve how police interact with individuals with mental illness, these new laws cover a wide range of criminal justice matters. Critics, in fact, say that the General Assembly's work was unfocused, if not scattershot, at a time when real change is necessary.
Minneapolis media reports that a customer in a Target store caused quite a stir when his concealed weapon fell to the floor and discharged. He had been carrying the gun in his waistband when it started to slip. He grabbed for it and it went off. Fortunately, no one was injured. The bullet hit the floor and ricocheted to the ceiling. He picked up the gun and left the store with his companion.
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have survived Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Welcome to the 2015 holiday season and all the rewards and risks that come our way during the last few weeks of the year.
The Chicago Sun-Times ran a story in mid-November about a criminal trespass case. A man had attempted to enter a woman's home through an unlocked first-floor window. The woman confronted him before he actually entered her home, and he fled. Police arrested him shortly thereafter and, after matching the suspect's fingerprints to fingerprints found at the woman's home, charged him with the misdemeanor of attempted criminal trespass.
It is difficult enough to be arrested and charged with a crime, but the stress is even worse if you do not understand what the charges are. There are times when police and attorneys use legal terms that make no sense to someone who has been detained or that sound like the same thing. Is there really a difference, or are authorities just trying to intimidate you?
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program provides an easy framework for discussing different types of crime. The UCR program assigns each type of crime to one of three categories: crimes against property, crimes against the person and crimes against society. For example, arson is a crime against property, while kidnapping is a crime against the person. Drug crimes and weapons violations are counted as crimes against society.
Halloween is on a Saturday this year, and that generally means that both children and adults will be out in force. Trick-or-treating may last longer or start a little later, because it's not a school night. The same may be true for grown-up Halloween celebrations. Pedestrians, regardless of their age, and motorists should take extra care on Saturday.
Imagine you live in Detroit but you have taken a few days off to visit Chicago. One afternoon your house sitter texts you that two Detroit police officers had been looking for you. They had a warrant for your arrest: You are sure this has something to do with a large sum of money that went missing at your company. The house sitter urges you to come home quickly to clear up the misunderstanding.
We have been discussing the Illinois approach to overturning wrongful convictions. It's important to remember that a conviction is only wrongful if the man or woman did not commit the crime. In Illinois, though, being pardoned is not the same thing as establishing actual innocence, and only a finding of actual innocence -- and a certificate of innocence -- will wipe that conviction from the person's criminal record.
We are returning to wrongful convictions and certificates of innocence, picking up where we left off in our Aug. 26 post. It is important to remember that convictions are overturned or set aside for a number of reasons. There may have been procedural errors during the investigation or the trial, for example, that could lead a court of appeals to reverse a guilty verdict. Jury instructions may have been misleading, or evidence may have been improperly obtained.