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New Law Ends Statute of Limitations on Sexual AssaultIllinois has amended its criminal code in order to remove the statute of limitations on prosecutors filing sexual assault charges. The law previously required that prosecutors commence sexual assault charges within 10 years of the alleged offense. Now, the law simply states that sexual assault charges may be commenced at any time. Advocates for the new law argue that sexual assault victims may have personal reasons why they wait years to tell authorities about their assault. Illinois made a similar law change in 2017 for sexual assault cases involving minors. Those accused of committing sexual assault should understand that this new law does not change the prosecution’s burden to prove the crime.

Definition and Defenses

Illinois defines criminal sexual assault as any non-consensual sexual contact or penetration with a victim. If the party does not actively rebuke the sexual contact, they may still be unable to consent if they are incapacitated, inebriated, underage, mentally disabled, or facing the threat of violence. A first-time conviction for sexual assault is a class 1 felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison. Defendants can use several arguments to contest the charge:

  • The sexual assault did not occur or the defendant was not involved;
  • The alleged victim’s testimony is inaccurate or unreliable;
  • The sexual contact was consensual; or
  • The defendant has or had a mental condition that makes them not responsible for their actions.

DNA evidence of sexual intercourse can strengthen the prosecution’s case but may not be the deciding factor. The believability of each side’s story and testimony from witnesses will help a court determine whether it is likely that a sexual assault occurred.

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Required Proof for a Juvenile Drug Possession ConvictionTeenagers sometimes give in to the temptation of experimenting with illegal drugs. While teens may see no harm in trying drugs, being caught in possession of drugs has serious consequences. Your teen may not face the same jail sentence that an adult offender may receive. Courts focus on rehabilitation for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes. However, a drug offense can limit some of the opportunities available to your teen. For instance, a person convicted of drug possession for the first time cannot receive government student aid for one year. Teens may also face discipline at school and difficulty getting into the college of their choice. Your teen may be able to avoid a costly drug conviction if your defense attorney can show that the circumstances did not meet the legal definition of drug possession.

Knowledge

Prosecutors must prove that the person charged with drug possession knew that they were in possession of an illegal drug. Saying that the teen did not know it was an illegal substance may not be a valid defense depending on the circumstances. Teens can be guilty of drug possession if it is reasonable to believe that they knew they were in possession of an illegal drug. Circumstances may include:

  • How the teen came into possession of the substance;
  • Who gave the drugs; or
  • Whether the substance looks like drugs.

A judge will have difficulty believing that a teen did not know that a leafy substance, powder, or pills were drugs. It is a different matter if the drugs were hidden or disguised and the teen honestly did not understand the situation.

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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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What Recreational Marijuana Will Mean for Illinois ResidentsIn a long-expected move, Illinois is on the verge of becoming the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The new law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, shows that Illinois is changing tactics from criminalizing marijuana to creating a regulated industry. As with alcohol and tobacco, the state will control marijuana possession and use, with violations likely resulting in fines. Here are answers to common questions about how Illinois will regulate marijuana possession:

  1. Who Can Possess Marijuana?: Marijuana possession will be limited to adults age 21 and older. Illinois residents will be allowed to possess as much as 30 grams of marijuana in leafy form, five grams of cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC infused in a product. Non-residents will be allowed to possess as much as 15 grams of marijuana.
  2. Where Can You Use Marijuana?: Marijuana use will not be allowed in public places, including most businesses and places of work. Local governments will be able to decide whether they will allow marijuana use inside marijuana dispensaries. Marijuana use will mostly be limited to private residences.
  3. Who Can Grow and Sell Marijuana?: You are not allowed to grow marijuana in your home unless you are a medical marijuana patient. Marijuana sales will be restricted to licensed dispensaries, similar to the medical marijuana dispensaries. This is how the state will try to keep the industry under control and generate revenue.
  4. How Will the Change Affect Those Previously Convicted?: People previously convicted for possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana will be able to petition for a pardon from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. If you are pardoned, the Illinois Attorney General could expunge the conviction from your record. State’s attorneys on the county level will also be allowed to expunge convictions.
  5. What Else Should You Know?: It will still be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. However, Illinois must determine how it will measure whether someone is impaired by marijuana. Unlike blood alcohol, traces of marijuana can remain in your body for weeks after use.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

After the law goes into effect, Illinois residents and law enforcement will need time to understand the limits of Illinois’ recreational marijuana policy. This may result in people being charged when they have not actually violated the law. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can contest an unjust drug charge being brought against you. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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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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