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Police Must Prove Probable Cause Before Obtaining WarrantIn order to conduct a search of a person or premises, police officers must obtain and present a valid warrant. A judge will issue a warrant based on the information presented in an affidavit from a police officer. The affidavit must show that there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity has taken place and that a search will turn up evidence of the crime. Even if a judge approves a warrant and police conduct a search, you can challenge that the warrant did not establish probable cause, which would allow you to suppress evidence from the search.

Establishing Probable Cause

A police affidavit must describe in detail what they are searching for and why they believe that a crime has been committed. For instance, a police officer can request a warrant to conduct a blood test based on evidence that they reasonably believe a driver is under the influence of alcohol. When requesting to search a private residence, the affidavit must show probable cause by:

  • Presenting objective evidence of criminal activity at the residence and involving the accused parties; and
  • Establishing the credibility of the source of that information.

A police officer who claims to have witnessed the alleged criminal activity is generally considered a reliable source, based on their experience in such cases. Other sources are less reliable, particularly when they are police informants who may be providing information in exchange for leniency on their own criminal charges.

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Reasons to Appeal a Guilty VerdictA guilty verdict in a courtroom is not always the end of your criminal case. In Illinois, you have 30 days after your verdict to file a notice to appeal the ruling to a higher court. The appellate court can either affirm the ruling of the lower court or reverse part or all of the ruling, which could mean that the charges are dismissed or the lower court must retry the case under new instructions. Not every guilty verdict is worth appealing if there is practically no chance that it will be successful. However, there are some cases where it is in your best interest to appeal.

Disagreeing with the Verdict

When appealing a verdict, you must state which parts of the lower court’s rulings you dispute and the legal reason why you dispute it. Many criminal appeals argue that the appellate court should overturn the guilty verdict for reasons such as:

  • The verdict going against the evidence in the case;
  • The judge giving the jury incorrect instructions;
  • The court allowing the prosecution to use inadmissible evidence;
  • The court misinterpreting or misapplying the law; or
  • Any other factor that made the trial unfair to the defendant.

In cases with multiple charges, you can choose whether to dispute the verdict on individual charges. Most appellate court judges do not overturn a lower court ruling unless there was a clear mistake during the trial that affected the outcome of the case. Even if they disagree with the verdict, they will defer to the judgment of the lower court unless that judgment was unreasonable and against the manifest weight of the evidence. If they do overturn the ruling, they may send the case back to the lower court for a new trial.

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Illinois Bill Would Reduce Felony Convictions for Retail TheftDo you know that Illinois has one of the strictest retail theft laws in the U.S.? Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony convictions for stealing items valued at $300 or more. Many other states require the value to be more than $1,000 before a retail theft conviction becomes a felony. Members of the Illinois House of Representatives are trying to change the law to raise the minimum value for a felony theft charge and reduce the number of offenders who end up in prison.

New Law

The proposed bill would make three changes to Illinois’ criminal code regarding theft:

  • Theft of property valued at less than $2,000 would be a Class A misdemeanor;
  • Theft of property valued at $2,000 or more would be a Class 4 felony; and
  • A second theft conviction of less than $2,000 would be a felony only if the first conviction was a felony.

Predictably, business owners have publicly opposed any raise to the minimum value required for a felony retail theft conviction. Illinois lawmakers have admitted that they may need to reduce the $2,000 threshold in order to pass the bill. However, raising the minimum to even $1,000 would be an improvement for the state.

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Contesting Child Abuse Allegations by the DCFSThe Illinois Department of Child and Family Services has the authority to indicate you for child abuse or neglect if its investigation concludes that there is evidence of such mistreatment. Being “indicated” does not by itself mean you are facing criminal charges, but the DCFS can use it to limit your parental role and put you on a state register that may prevent you from having a job that involves working with children. You have the right to appeal the DCFS’s decision in order to expunge their findings from your record.

Expungement Process

You have only 60 days to file an expungement request after the DCFS has indicated you for child abuse or neglect. Once you have filed the request with the DCFS, a neutral administrative law judge must hear your case within 70 days. If you are a child care worker, you will receive an expedited hearing within 35 days. The judge will hear evidence from both sides and file a recommendation on whether to grant your expungement request to the DCFS director within 90 days. If either the judge or the DCFS director denies your expungement request, you can appeal to the circuit court.

Evidence

As with prosecutors in a criminal trial, the DCFS investigators have the burden of proving their suspicions of child abuse or neglect. At the hearing, they must present their findings and show why they reached their conclusion. As part of your expungement request, the DCFS must provide you a copy of the investigation report, which you can examine for:

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Police Blocked from Forcing Defendant to Give Phone PasscodeAn Illinois appellate court recently upheld a lower court ruling that police could not compel a defendant to surrender his passcode in order to access his cellphone. The court determined that forcing the defendant to give up his secured digital information would violate the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects people from self-incrimination. The ruling is the latest development in an ongoing debate about whether the contents of a digital device should be treated as simply data or akin to personal testimony in a criminal case.

Fifth Amendment

In People v. Spicer, the defendant is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and possessing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. During a traffic stop, police allegedly found a pill bottle containing cocaine inside the defendant’s car. A court approved a warrant to search the defendant’s cellphone for supporting evidence, but police could not open the phone because of the passcode. Police sought to compel the defendant to provide the passcode. The court denied the request because it would force the defendant to incriminate himself if there is damaging evidence in the phone’s contents. According to a common interpretation of the Fifth Amendment:

  • The amendment applies when the information is testimonial, incriminating, and compelled; and
  • Providing information such as a passcode is testimonial because it requires the defendant to use the contents of his or her mind.

Some legal scholars claim that the Fifth Amendment should naturally protect information on cellular devices because it is an extension of the user’s mind.

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Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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