Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In Surprise Decision Supreme Court Issues Sentencing Ruling

Last year, in Johnson v. United States, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Armed Career Criminal Act was unconstitutional.  The Armed Career Criminal Act was the federal version of the "three strikes and you're out" state statutes.  The Federal Act added five years to the sentences of career criminals who had been convicted of at least four "violent felonies" or serious drug crimes.  In Johnson the Supreme Court found that the term "violent felonies" and the catch all phrase at the end of the statute was so vague that it was unconstitutional.  But the decision in Johnson did not apply retroactively.  On March 30, 1016, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Welch v. United States. Welch was seeking to apply the holding in Johnson retroactively.  Yesterday, in a 7 to 1 vote, the Supreme Court agreed with Welch and applied last year's ruling in Johnson retroactively thereby opening the door to anybody who had their sentence extended under the Armed Career Criminal Act to seek to have another sentencing hearing which would probably result in their sentence being reduced.  Not only is Welch significant for the legal ruling, but it is significant because of how quickly the Supreme Court released it's opinion.  The opinion was released about 3 weeks after the oral arguments and was released on a Monday.  It is very unusual for the Supreme Court to release an opinion on a Monday.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the only dissent was by Justice Clarence Thomas.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Illinois Supreme Court Rules Police Can Pull Over Car for Avoiding Roadblock

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that police can pull over vehicles just for trying to avoid a police roadblock.  Jacob Timmsen was driving down US Highway 31 when he saw bright orange signs warning him that he was about to enter a police checkpoint.  Timmsen activated his turn signal and made a U-turn at a railroad crossing about 50 feet away from the roadblock.  There was nothing improper about the maneuver.  Timmsen properly used his turn signal and made an otherwise legal and proper driving maneuver.  In spite of the legal driving, a county deputy working the police roadblock checkpoint pulled over Timmsen merely because he suspected that he was trying to avoid the police roadblock.  After he was detained and interrogated by the deputy, it was determined that he was driving on a suspended license and placed under arrest.  After he was arrested the deputy searched his vehicle and found less than a gram of marijuana.  Timmsen was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 90 days in County Jail.  Timmsen appealed his conviction and the Appellate Court ruled in his favor finding that the maneuver made by Timmsen did not provide reasonable articulable suspicion that Timmsen had committed any crime and that exercising one's constitutional rights should not be used as evidence against them in a criminal prosecution.

The State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and the Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Appellate Court and  ruled that the deputy had reasonable suspicion to make the stop and upheld the conviction of Timmsen.  The Court looked at the totality of the circumstances, mainly that the maneuver occurred at 1:15 am on a Saturday morning 50 feet from a checkpoint roadblock indicates more a probability that the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol and attempting to avoid detection by the police.

This was a 5 to 1 decision with only 1 Justice dissenting.

The case is Illinois v. Timmsen and can be found here.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Minnesota 4th Amendment DUI Case

This week the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a Minnesota DUI case that will further help define the parameters of the 4th Amendment.  The case involves a statute in Minnesota which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested by the police.  In 2012 police were called to a boat launch where a car was stuck while trying to to take a boat out of a lake.  They confronted 3 men. all of which smelled of alcohol but all 3 denied being the driver.  One man was in his underwear and was holding the car keys.  The man was arrested and taken to the police station.  He was asked to take a breathalyzer test and refused.  He was charged with refusing to take a breathalyzer test based on a Minnesota statute which makes it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested to take one by a police officer.  12 other states have similar laws.  Illinois is not one of those states.  It's not as if Illinois does not punish drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test.  Illinois imposes an administrative penalty which involves suspension of a driver's license for a refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test.  The Minnesota law does not require a warrant only a lawful arrest with probable cause to believe that the person was driving the vehicle while intoxicated.  

At the very center of the case is the question about how far can the right to search extend when someone is arrested.  In other words, when someone is arrested, does the state's right to search extend to their blood, breath and urine or does this type of search require a higher level of protection?  Was it right to criminalize this defendant's assertion of his 4th Amendment protections when he refused to blow into a machine at the police station?

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 30 and a decision should be released this summer.

The case is Bernard v. Minnesota.  

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys, visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Jury Racial Bias Case

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a case involving racial bias comments made during jury deliberations. This case may end up having huge implications for jury verdicts. Traditionally, courts have refused to look at jury deliberation.  This is known as the "no impeachment" rule.  However, this case may change this rule forever.

In 2007 a man entered the female bathroom at a horse racing track in Colorado and offered two young girls a beer.  The man turned off the lights and tried to fondle them as they tried to leave the bathroom.  The defendant, Miguel Angel Pena Rodriguez, who worked at a nearby barn, was arrested after he was identified by the girls.  During the trial the jury was deadlocked and the judge instructed them to continue deliberating.  The jury returned a guilty verdict to one misdemeanor sexual assault charge and two misdemeanor harassment charges.  Rodriguez was sentenced to two years of probation and has since completed his sentence.  After the trial, two jurors came forward and alleged that a third juror stated during the final round of deliberations that "I think he did it because he's Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want."  The jurors also claimed that the third juror had questioned the credibility of a witness because she was an "illegal."  The question presented in the appeal is whether the 6th Amendment right to a fair trial is violated by this evidence of racial bias.  This case is significant because this could be the first time that the court will examine the jury deliberations.  The court has traditionally been unwilling to intrude on jury deliberations.  If the court agrees with Pena, in states that have the "no impeachment" rule, they would have to create an exception for when there's racial bias in jury deliberations.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenders.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Supreme Court Rules Against Government in 6th Amendment Case

Today, in a 5 to 3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that in order for the government to freeze the assets of a criminal defendant that are needed to pay for legal representation, the government must prove that the money is related to criminal conduct.  The case involved Miami resident Sila Luis.  Luis was charged with Medicare Fraud.  The government froze $40 million of her assets.  Luis appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that the money was not related to the claims of Medicare Fraud and that by freezing her assets, she was unable to pay for the attorney that she wanted to represent her in the case.  The Supreme Court agreed with her and found that by freezing her assets, she was deprived of her 6th Amendment right to hire the lawyer of her choice.

This case is important because it deals with the issue of Civil Forfeiture in criminal prosecutions. The government has been using this process increasingly to freeze assets of criminal defendants.  It has almost become routine in high profile criminal prosecutions for the government to make it impossible for defendants to be able to hire the attorney of their choice.  This all happens before trial while the defendant is presumed to be innocent.  Critics call this unfair and that the government is making it difficult for people to hire the attorney of their choice and making it easier for prosecutors to win their cases.  While the government will still be able to try to freeze assets, this decision means that the process will no longer be "automatic" and will require that the government work harder to justify the freezing of certain assets.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Supreme Court Grants Hope for Juvenile Mandatory Life Prisoners

Today, the United States Supreme Court granted prisoners throughout the country the right to challenge their mandatory life sentences in court.  In 2005 the Supreme Court barred the imposition of the death penalty for juveniles convicted of murder.  In 2010 it barred the imposition of life sentences for non-homicides and in 2012 the Supreme Court barred the imposition of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, even for murder cases.  However, the 2012 decision was not retroactive so it did not do anything for prisoners who had been sentenced to life in prison for crimes that they had committed prior to 2012.  Today, the Supreme Court gave hope to those prisoners to at least have an opportunity to seek a review of their mandatory life sentences.  Today's case involved 69 year old Henry Montgomery who had been convicted of murdering a deputy sheriff in 1963 when he was 17 years old.  Montgomery had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery must have an opportunity to go back to court and challenge his mandatory life sentence.  According to the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, he stated "that prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside of prison walls must be restored."  While the state still has the right to argue that the prisoner deserved this fate, at least the prisoners have some hope of someday getting out of jail.  As you can tell from the progression of the Supreme Court's decisions on juvenile cases, today's decision seems to be a logical progression of where the Supreme Court has been going with juvenile cases.  Since 2012 the Supreme Court has left the decision of what to do about prisoners sentenced to life in prison to state legislatures.  Today's decision takes that away from the states and allows prisoners to have their day in court.

For more information about the Chicago criminal defense attorneys at Legal Defenders, P.C., visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com or call us anytime at 1-800-228-7295. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

On Warnings: Winning a Petition to Rescind Statutory Summary Suspension

John D. Ioakimdis, Esq. 
Winning  a  Petition  to  Rescind  Statutory  Summary  Suspension  hearing pursuant  625  ILCS  5/11-501.1  means  the  world to  our clients. A win prevents our  client's privileges  from  being suspended so they can  drive while they are fighting their DUI and thereafter; whether the  DUI is  for  alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.

My client was involved in a car accident when he side-swiped a limousine. When the police officer arrived at the scene of the accident, he apparently smelled the odor of burnt cannabis on my client and arrested him for DUI. However, there was no evidence that my client was under the influence of alcohol or any drug while he was driving. The police officer, although, did recover a  pipe from my client and cannabis from his car.

Under 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1, the given officer is required to warn the motorist that his/her license will be suspended if he/she does not take the requested chemical tests. The police officer is required to sign and read to the motorist a document called a "Warning to Motorist" which warns  the motorist of the suspension. In our case, the  police officer did not warn our client that his license would be suspended for one year nor was he given a copy of the "Warning to Motorist."

At the hearing to Petition to Rescind a Statutory Summary Suspension, the State's attorney admitted into evidence the police reports and the "Warning to Motorist." Being careful not to jeopardize my client's DUI case by having him testify at the Petition to Rescind a Statutory Summary Suspension, I limited my questioning specifically on whether the police officer read the "Warning" to my client. My client did a great job testifying as our preparation went a long way during the  State's cross-examination.  The State's attorney tried to make it look that my client didn't remember whether he was read the "Warning." I objected to that line of questioning and was largely successful. At closing argument, I emphasized that the Court had no reason to doubt my client testimony, and further, if the State's attorney was unable to produce the officer to testify, the Court should place no weight on the State's "paper" evidence.  The Court agreed, and we won.

To note, on January 1, 2006,  625 ILCS 5/11-501.1 was amended to provide: "A person requested to submit to a test shall also acknowledge, in writing, receipt of the warning required under this Section. If the person refuses to acknowledge receipt of the warning, the law enforcement officer shall make a written notation on the warning that the person refused to sign the warning. A person's refusal to sign the warning shall not be evidence that the person was not read the warning."  

Under the amended version of 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1, the motorist has the option to acknowledge in writing  that the "Warning" was given to him/her.  In the case discussed here, 625 ILCS 5/11-501.1 applied before its amendment.  Thus, the issue as to whether my client acknowledged the warning was not at issue. However, if the motorist refuses to acknowledge that he/she was warned, then the motorists will have grounds to win the Petition to Rescind Statutory Summary Suspension on the basis of Warnings if he/she can prove that the "Warning" were not given.

A win, of course, depends on the facts and a good understanding as to how the law will likely be applied to a particular case by the Court.  For more information, please contact John Ioakimids at 312-593-1765, or Legal Defenders, P.C. at 800-228-7295, or visit us at www.legaldefenderspc.com.