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What Are the Exceptions to Barring Hearsay in Court?When determining a matter as important as whether someone is guilty of a crime, the court needs to have confidence that the evidence is reliable. That is why courts mostly reject the admission of hearsay in a criminal case. Hearsay is testimony in court that is based on a statement from someone who is not appearing in court. Courts often consider hearsay unreliable because the person who is testifying does not have first-hand knowledge of the information and the source of the statement is not available to be cross-examined. Without viewing testimony from the hearsay source, the jury cannot get a sense of whether the source is reliable. However, the Illinois Rules of Evidence have several exceptions that allow for the admission of hearsay evidence. The exceptions fall under two categories:

  1. The Availability of the Declarant Is Immaterial: This means that the hearsay source’s testimony in court is not necessary to establish the information as reliable. For instance, a person is considered unlikely to have lied if they said something that would incriminate themselves or go against their self-interest. The source’s state of mind may also be relevant. A person may speak impulsively when they are excited, which means they may not have had time to consider lying. Finally, hearsay based on a matter of public record is considered reliable because the information can be verified.
  2. The Declarant Is Unavailable: The hearsay source may be unable to testify because they are dead, ill or suffering memory loss. Others may be exempted from having to testify, such as the alleged victim in a child abuse case. Just because a source is unable to testify does not mean that the court has to allow the hearsay as evidence. Statements from a previous trial may be allowed if the defendant had a chance to cross-examine the declarant at that trial. Courts will consider dying declarations, which are statements from someone who is deceased that were made when they knew they were dying. The court may also allow hearsay evidence from an unavailable witness if it believes the defendant committed wronging against the defendant with the intent to prevent testimony.

Contact a Crystal Lake, Illinois, Criminal Defense Attorney

A judge in a criminal case may have the discretion to decide whether testimony is hearsay and, if so, whether that hearsay falls under the exceptions. A McHenry County criminal defense lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will contest unreliable or hearsay evidence presented by the prosecution in your case. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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What Can Skew the Results of Blood and Breath DUI Tests?Though not the only form of evidence in a case of driving under the influence, the results from a chemical sobriety test can strongly support the claim that you were legally intoxicated at the time of your arrest. Unlike observations of your behavior, courts view the blood or breath test results as objective evidence because they measure your blood alcohol concentration and detect illegal substances in your body that may have impaired you. However, testing above the BAC limit does not always mean that you were intoxicated. Your DUI defense attorney will look into possible reasons why the test results may be inaccurate.

Breath Tests

During a traffic stop, a police officer who suspects that you are intoxicated may ask you to provide a breath sample using a portable device, such as a Breathalyzer. Breath tests are quicker and easier than blood tests but are also more prone to error:

  • Residue from substances such a mouthwash and breath fresheners may have trace amounts of alcohol in them that skew the test results.
  • The presence of nearby chemicals such as paint or adhesives can cause false results.
  • The test uses hardware that must be regularly calibrated to ensure accuracy and software that may be vulnerable to glitches.
  • The officer should conduct the breath test multiple to see that the results are consistent.

Blood Test

A police officer is more likely to take a blood sample at the police station or a hospital if you are being treated for injuries. While a blood test is considered the more accurate chemical sobriety test, there is still a possibility of inaccuracies:

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How Weapons Can Lead to an Armed Violence Charge in IllinoisMany criminal charges you can face in Illinois become more serious if you are accused of possessing or using a weapon. Robbery is a Class 2 felony, but armed robbery is a Class X felony. Assault is a Class C misdemeanor, but assault with a deadly weapon can be a Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony, depending on the identity of the victim. Illinois considers the presence of a deadly weapon during a crime to be an aggravating offense because of the potential for death or serious injury. With this in mind, Illinois created a criminal charge called armed violence in 2012.

What Is Armed Violence?

Armed violence is the possession of a deadly weapon or discharge of a firearm while committing a felony that is not predicated on using the weapon. For instance, possessing a gun while being arrested for felony drug possession is armed violence, but attempted murder with a gun is a different offense. There are three categories of weapons under the armed violence law:

  • Category I includes firearms that are small enough to be concealed, semiautomatic weapons, and machine guns.
  • Category II includes all other firearms and sharp weapons meant for cutting or stabbing.
  • Category III includes weapons meant for striking, such as a bludgeon or metal knuckles.

Most armed violence charges are Class X felonies with different prison sentencing requirements. Possession of a Category II weapon has a minimum of 10 years in prison, and possession of a Category I weapon has a minimum of 15 years. Discharge of a Category I or II firearm results in a minimum of 20 years in prison. Harming someone by discharging a Category I or II firearm results in 25 to 40 years in prison.

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Illinois Expunging Low-Level Marijuana Possession ConvictionsThousands of Illinois residents are already taking advantage of the legalization of recreational marijuana that was enacted at the beginning of the year. Many people had already received a gift before the end of 2019: a pardon of their past marijuana possession conviction. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the pardons of more than 11,000 misdemeanor marijuana offenses, which are now eligible for automatic expungement. This number is only the beginning as Illinois estimates that there are 116,000 records that are eligible for automatic expungement. The stated goal of expungement is to help people whose opportunities have been limited by the stigma of a low-level marijuana conviction on their criminal record.

Expungement vs. Pardon

The terms “pardon” and “expungement” are being used interchangeably when talking about the Illinois marijuana law, but the two actions are different:

  • A pardon is an executive order to forgive someone for a crime.
  • An expungement is removing an arrest or conviction from someone’s criminal record.

Receiving a pardon is one way to become eligible for expungement. Another would be a court order to vacate a conviction. Expungement is a superior outcome as opposed to sealing a criminal record, which is what most criminal convictions in Illinois are limited to. Sealing limits who can see a conviction on a criminal record, while expungement treats the conviction like it never happened.

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When Police Pat-Downs Violate Your RightsThe police practice of frisking or pat-downs is controversial because of its invasiveness and connection to racial profiling. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against illegal searches and seizures, which includes searching on a person’s body. In order to frisk a person, the officer must have a warrant to search for a specific item or reasonably believe that the suspect is armed and dangerous. Police have used the “armed and dangerous” exception to perform what they call “protective pat-downs” on people without establishing probable cause that they committed a crime. Evidence found during an unreasonable pat-down can be dismissed from a criminal case.

Police Encounters

There are three types of encounters that a police officer has with a member of the public:

  • They can arrest an individual when there is probable cause that the person is committing a crime.
  • They can briefly investigate a person that they reasonably suspect of committing a crime.
  • They can have a consensual encounter with a member of the public in which the individual voluntarily talks with the officer.

It can be difficult to differentiate between a consensual encounter and an investigatory stop. During a consensual encounter, the member of the public should feel like they can leave the encounter at any time, but the officer is often the one who initiates the encounter and presses the individual to answer questions. 

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