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Program Offers Alternative for Veterans in Criminal CasesPast and present members of the U.S. military who are facing criminal charges can utilize an Illinois judicial program that may help them avoid serious criminal punishment. A Veterans and Servicemembers Court may allow a defendant to go through a rehabilitation program instead of the possible jail time that comes with a conviction. At the end of the program, the defendant is eligible to have the charges removed from his or her record. 

Reasons for the Program

Illinois lawmakers passed the Veterans and Servicemembers Court Treatment Act as a way to show compassion to people who are struggling with the effects of their military service. Military members are recognized to be at increased risk of:

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Previous Convictions Can Show Propensity in Sex Assault ChargesIllinois courts do not allow prosecutors to present a defendant’s prior convictions as evidence of his or her propensity to commit the same crime. Juries are instructed to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence based on the evidence related to the current charge. Showing someone's propensity to commit a crime is the prosecution's way of trying to convince a jury to convict a defendant because he or she is a bad person. However, Illinois law makes an exception for sex offenses. Prosecutors can use a defendant’s prior sexual assault conviction as evidence in an ongoing sexual assault case.

Recent Decision

An Illinois appellate court recently denied a defendant’s contention that prosecutors should not have been allowed to use his prior rape conviction as evidence in his sexual assault case. In 2012, the defendant was charged with and eventually convicted on three counts of criminal sexual assault for allegedly entering the home of a 21-year-old woman and forcibly having sex with her. The defendant had previously been convicted for the home invasion and gang rape of a 62-year-old woman in 1982, for which he served 25 years in prison. During the 2012 case, the trial court allowed the prosecution to submit the 1982 conviction as evidence of the defendant’s propensity to commit sexual assault. The court dismissed the defendant’s claim that the evidence would prejudice a jury. The defendant then requested a bench trial, and the court found him guilty, sentencing him to life in prison. In the appeal, a majority of the appellate judges upheld the lower court’s decision.

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Conor's Law Prioritizes Safety of Underage DrinkersBeing arrested is a frightening experience for a young person, whether a juvenile or young adult. They may feel intimidated by the process and fear that they have ruined their lives. If the young person is under the influence of an intoxicating substance, he or she may make a drastic decision. Such was the unfortunate case for an Illinois college student in 2015, whose actions after his driving under the influence of alcohol arrest led to him committing suicide. Illinois recently created Conor’s Law, which requires police officers to take additional steps to ensure the safety of an underage arrestee who may be intoxicated.

What Went Wrong

Conor Vesper was a student at Blackburn College when he was pulled over and arrested on suspicion of DUI. He was released on bond in the early morning hours but reportedly had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.124. After walking back to his apartment, he borrowed his roommate’s car in order to drive to his family’s home. Likely still impaired, his driving behavior once again drew the attention of a police officer. This time, he did not stop and led police on a chase. Once at home, he was able to procure a gun and shot himself.

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Legal Defenses Against Assault and Battery ChargesA conviction on assault or battery charges can cause serious consequences for an offender in Illinois. Simple assault or battery is a misdemeanor, but some aggravated offenses lead to felony charges. According to Illinois law, battery occurs when an offender causes unwanted physical contact with a victim, while assault occurs when the victim believes that the offender is threatening physical harm. Either charge can become aggravated if:

  • A weapon is used;
  • The offender is concealing his or her identity;
  • The victim is a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, senior citizen or person with a disability; or
  • In instances of battery, the victim is injured.

If you have been charged, it is the prosecution's responsibility to prove that you intentionally or knowingly committed the offense. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, there are several arguments you can use to bolster your defense against assault or battery charges.

Self-Defense

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Illinois trying to change civil asset forfeiture lawWhen someone is charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, the law in some cases allows police to use civil asset forfeiture to seize property they believe was part of the crime. Civil rights advocacy groups malign this process because they say police departments:

  • Have low standards for proving that the property forfeiture is justified; and
  • Have incentive to use forfeiture because they can generate revenue from the assets they keep.

Many states have changed their civil asset forfeiture laws in recent years. Now, Illinois legislators have proposed a bill that would create stricter requirements for the process and greater oversight of seized assets.

Current Law

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