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Jail Informants to Face Tougher Vetting in Criminal TrialsIllinois has passed a law that puts greater restrictions on prosecutors using jail informants as witnesses in criminal trials. According to the law:

  • Prosecutors must disclose their intention to use a jail informant at least 30 days before a hearing unless they were unaware of the informant before that deadline; and
  • The court must determine the veracity of the jail informant’s testimony before allowing it to be entered as evidence.

The law previously required vetting of jail informants only in cases involving the death penalty, but Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. Advocates for the law argued that unreliable informant testimony led to wrongful convictions that were overturned decades later. There have been 19 such cases in Illinois during the past three decades, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Problems with Informants

A jail informant, also known as a snitch, is an inmate who allegedly heard the defendant make an incriminating statement and agrees to testify against him or her in court. Criminal defense attorneys will question the reliability of informants because prosecutors often offer incentives to informants in exchange for their testimony, such as:

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Firearms Restraining Order Takes Guns Away from Domestic ThreatsLast month’s deadly shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago shocked many in the community, but there were warning signs of the danger that the shooter posed. His former wife, one of the victims, had received an order of protection against him before divorcing him. Court records show that she told authorities that she feared her husband could threaten her with a gun because he had slept with a gun under his pillow and once pulled the gun on a realtor. Despite that and other reported incidents in which he threatened gun violence, the man had a concealed carry license and had legally purchased four guns in the last five years. Some wonder whether a firearms restraining order could have prevented the eventual shooting.

Protection from Gun Violence

Illinois passed a law earlier this year that created a firearms restraining order. As with an order of protection, a person can petition for a firearms restraining order without the subject having been arrested or charged for a violent offense. If the court grants the order, the subject must:

  • Turn over his or her firearms, Firearm Owner’s Identification Card, and concealed carry license; and
  • Not possess any firearms for the duration of the order, which usually is six months.

A legal firearms owner living with the subject is allowed to keep his or her firearms as long as they are secured so that the subject cannot access them.

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How a Functional Capacity Evaluation Affects Workers' CompensationThere are some workplace injuries from which you may never fully recover. If your injury permanently restricts your ability to perform your job, you may qualify for long-term workers’ compensation benefits, such as Permanent Partial Disability or Permanent Total Disability. You can also receive compensation to pay for vocational training for a new career. Your employer’s insurance company will want proof that you can no longer perform your work duties. Your doctor may recommend a Functional Capacity Evaluation to determine your physical capabilities.

FCE Process

An FCE is a series of tests that attempt to simulate the physical requirements of your job. The exam mainly measures your strength, flexibility, and stamina, though some exams will also test your cognitive abilities. An FCE can take as long as eight hours, depending on the number of tests that must be performed. Common tests include:

  • Pushing and pulling;
  • Lifting;
  • Carrying;
  • Positional tolerance;
  • Range-of-motion testing; and
  • Hand dexterity testing.

The examiner will look at your ability to complete the tests and the amount of pain it causes you. Your doctor will review the FCE results and make a recommendation on whether you are capable of returning to work.

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Manufacturers Have Strict Liability with Product DefectsWhen a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product injures you, you can file a product liability lawsuit to collect personal injury compensation. Most product liability cases in Illinois fall under the theory of strict liability, which means that you do not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent in order to hold it liable. Before you file a product liability lawsuit, you should make sure that your case meets the qualifications under Illinois law.

Product Liability Types

There are three categories of product liability claims, each of which blames the injury on a different defect with the product:

  • A design defect means that the faulty design of a product makes it inherently dangerous to consumers;
  • A manufacturing defect means that the manufacturer did not build the product to design specifications or used faulty materials; and
  • A marketing defect means that the instructions that came with the product did not warn consumers about dangers in using the product that would not be obvious to a normal person.

You will file your lawsuit against the manufacturer in most cases because it is likely responsible for the defect. You can include the business that sold you the product or the product wholesaler if they knew about the defect or somehow caused it.

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Court Deems 22-Year Juvenile Prison Sentence UnconstitutionalIllinois criminal law requires courts to add 15 years to a prison sentence if the defendant had a firearm while committing the offense. However, Illinois amended its law regarding juvenile sentencing in 2016 to allow a court to disregard the mandatory sentencing enhancement if it believes it is not appropriate for a juvenile offender. The law instructs the courts to consider:

  • The juvenile defendant’s maturity and ability to consider risks;
  • Outside influences on the defendant;
  • Neglect or abuse at the defendant’s home;
  • The defendant’s potential for rehabilitation;
  • The circumstances of the offense;
  • The role the defendant played in the offense;
  • Whether the defendant participated in his or her defense; and
  • The defendant’s criminal history.

Illinois prisoners have since appealed their juvenile criminal sentences, citing the new law. Courts have ruled that the law does not apply retroactively to juvenile offenders who were sentenced before the law went into effect. However, courts have granted resentencing for a few of these appeals, saying that the sentence was excessive for a juvenile case.

Recent Case

In People v. Barnes, the defendant appealed a 22-year prison sentence he received for an armed robbery he committed when he was 17. Fifteen of the years were mandatory because he had used an unloaded revolver during the robbery. The defendant argued that the 15-year firearms sentence was unconstitutional for a juvenile because it violates the Illinois Constitution’s proportionate penalties clause. The clause is the state’s equivalent to the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects defendants against cruel and unusual punishment for a crime. An Illinois appellate court agreed that the defendant’s sentence went against society’s “evolving standard of moral decency.” The court noted that the defendant:

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