Friday, June 12, 2015

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Gun Case Further Muddying 2nd Amendment Waters

On Monday the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a San Francisco Second Amendment gun case.  By declining to hear an appeal of this case, the Supreme Court has caused further confusion on what the parameters of the Second Amendment will be.  Further, by refusing to review this case, the Supreme Court has caused a conflict to occur with previous rulings by this Court with prior gun cases.

The case involves a legal challenge to a San Francisco ordinance which required that if a homeowner wanted to own a gun in their home, they either had to carry it on their person, or store it in a lock box or have a trigger lock attached to their gun.  Here is where the conflict with previous cases arises.  In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court struck down a city ordinance which banned all handguns and required trigger locks on any other weapons inside homes in Washington D.C.  In striking down the city ordinance the court declared that American's had the fundamental right to possess guns for self defense.  The court stated that the ordinance was inconsistent with the Second Amendment because it denied citizens the right to own a firearm and the trigger lock denied them the right to access the firearm quickly for self defense.  The San Francisco ordinance was enacted in 2007, a year before the Heller decision.  A federal judge upheld the ordinance by finding that it did not unduly infringe upon right to own a firearm.  The Plaintiffs pointed to the Heller decision and the dissent pointed out that by failing to hear the appeal, the decision would be "in serious tension" with the Heller decision.

The Court offered no explanation for declining to hear the appeal.  The Court's decision to decline to hear the appeal because it seems as if this case is directly on point to Heller.

The case is Espanola Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco (14-704.)

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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Frozen Assets Case

On Monday the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving whether a criminal defendant can use funds frozen by the federal government to pay their attorney fees.  The case involves Sila Luis who was indicted in 2012 for Medicare Fraud.  The Federal government alleged that Luis received over $45 million in Medicare payments by submitted fraudulent bills for treatment not rendered, and paid kickbacks and bribes to get customers.  After the indictment the Federal Government froze Luis's assets.  Luis sued the Federal Government claiming that not all of his assets were acquired illegally and that he needed access to his money to pay his attorneys.  The government claimed that they could put his funds on hold because the money would have to be forfeited if Luis was convicted.  The government is not alleging that the funds are tainted but just that they would have to be paid in fines and court costs in the event of a conviction.  

The main question presented in the case is whether Luis's Sixth Amendment Right to an Attorney outweighs the federal government's interest outweighs the federal government's interest in preserving their right to recover money in the event of a conviction.  

Last year the Supreme Court ruled that a criminal defendant does not have the right to challenge the freezing of his assets.  But in a strong dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the majority was opening the door to the possibility that a prosecutor with bad intentions could initiate a criminal prosecution against an innocent person and then disarm that person by making it impossible for them to hire an attorney by freezing their assets.  It looks like Justice Robert's warnings have come to fruition.

The case is Sila Luis v. United States.  Oral arguments are expected to be heard next term.

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.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Supreme Court To Hear Case Involving Removal of Green Card Holder Involving Conviction for Minor Offense

On January 14, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Mellouli v. Holder.  This case is significant because it will help clarify which criminal convictions could lead to deportation for lawful permanent residents.  The past few years, the federal government has stepped up efforts to deport lawful permanent residents for criminal convictions and this case could help clarify which crimes could lead to deportation from the United States.  The Supreme Court's decision could have serious implications for people who are, or who have, faced criminal prosecution.  So let's look at the facts of the case and the legal issues presented.

FACTS


Moones Mellouli came to the United States in 2004 on a student visa from Tunisia.  He later became a lawful permanent resident.  He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in Kansas for possessing drug paraphernalia.  In particular he possessed a sock which he was using to store drugs that he would eventually use. So the paraphernalia was actually a sock.  The federal government then instituted removal proceedings based on his conviction based on a conviction of a state law related to the violation of a law involving a controlled substance.  The immigration court ordered Mellouli's removal from the United States and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with the immigration court and dismissed Mellouli's appeal.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the Board of Immigration Appeals and Mellouli appealed to the United States Supreme Court.  Mellouli is engaged to a United States Citizen and has since been removed from the United States.  If Mellouli loses, he could possibly never be able to get married to his U.S. Citizen fiance.

SIGNIFICANCE

The removal statute, the statute that provides for the removal of legal permanent residents for criminal convictions, is complex.  Mellouli is arguing that the removal statute clearly states that the conviction must be directly tied to a controlled substance.  The Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that he may be removed if the conviction is based on paraphernalia that may be used in connection with a controlled substance.  Mellouli is arguing that the Board of Immigration Appeals decision should be set aside because it is contrary to the plain language of the statute and that the Board of Immigration Appeals has been inconsistent in the past when it comes to applying and interpreting the language of the statute in other cases.  The government is arguing that the Supreme Court should apply the statute broadly while Mellouli is arguing that the court should strictly apply the statute.

CONCLUSION

In the past, the Supreme Court has been unwilling to side with the removal of lawful permanent residents for convictions that involve minor criminal offenses.  If the court finds that the statute is ambiguous, it may refuse to apply it to uphold Mellouli's removal.  The hope is that this decision will help clarify a confusing area of law that makes it difficult for lawyers to provide accurate advice to criminal defendants who are not U.S. citizens and have to consider the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction.

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.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Federal Law Banning Firearm Straw Purchasers Upheld by Supreme Court

A divided Supreme Court upheld a federal law which prohibits people from buying a gun for another person, even though the person they are buying the gun for is legally allowed to own the gun.  In 2009, Bruce James Adamski, Jr. was arrested for a suspected bank robbery in Rocky Mountain Virginia.  Adamski was never charged for the bank robbery but during the course of investigating the robbery, police discovered that a few months earlier, Adamski had purchased a firearm which he had transferred to his uncle who lived in Easton Pennsylvania.  About three days before he purchased the firearm, Adamski's uncle had written him a check and had written "Glock 19 handgun" in the memo section of the check. It turns out that Adamski, a former police officer, had used his police discount to buy the gun for his uncle.  His uncle was legally allowed to own the firearm.  On the form which had to be filled out when the gun was purchased Adamski had failed to disclose that he was not going to be the actual owner of the gun even though he was warned on the form that lying in response that question was against the law and would subject him to criminal prosecution.  Adamski argued that he was not a straw purchaser because his uncle was legally allowed to own the gun.  The trial court rejected Adamski's argument and the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court.  In a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals and upheld Adamski's conviction.  Adamski had argued that the law in question was intended to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people that had no right to own a gun. Since his uncle was legally allowed to own a gun, he did not commit a crime.  The government argued that allowing Adamski to get away with lying would defeat their efforts to try to keep track of guns and prevent them from getting into the hands of people who should not own firearms.

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.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stingray Related Lawsuit Filed Against Chicago Police

Back in February, Freddy Martinez, a 27 year old resident of Chicago who works in the software industry, attended a rally in Chicago and noticed what appeared to him to be newly installed cell phone equipment next to unmarked Chicago Police vehicles.  He immediately suspected that these were the fabled stingray fake cell phone towers which are being used around the country by law enforcement agencies to secretly intercept cell phone calls and text messages.  We have been reporting on the expanding use of these devices nationally.  This is the first time that we are reporting that they may be in use in Chicago.  In March Martinez filed a Freedom of Information request asking the Chicago Police to provide information regarding whether they are using these stingray devices.  He was told that he would be receiving a response within a few days. When he did not receive a response he kept following up without any success. The Chicago Police have not responded to his request.  Last Friday Martinez filed a lawsuit alleging that the Chicago Police have willfully disregarded a Freedom of Information request and that they must comply to his lawful request.  It is customary for the vendor to include language in sales contracts with cities and law enforcement agencies that they are to keep all information about these devices secret.

We will monitor this case to see if these devices are being used in Chicago.  

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.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

California High Court Upholds Red Light Camera Tickets

A long running legal fight in California has ended and red light camera tickets are legal in California.  The case involved a woman who drove her BMW through a red light in a suburb of  Los Angeles.  A red light camera snapped a picture of her vehicle and she received a red light ticket in the mail.  She fought the ticket by going all the way to court and lost.  She was fined $436. California has the highest fines for red light tickets.  Most states have fines of $100, but California's fines are substantially higher.  26 states do not have red light cameras and some legal challenges are pending.  We recently reported that the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case challenging the constitutionality of red light camera tickets. The California case was closely watched because of the significance of policy decisions in California.  Opponents of red light camera tickets suffered a significant let down because the court struck down all the arguments raised by the driver.  Her first argument was that the officer had no personal knowledge of how the automated data was collected or whether the camera was working properly at the time of the alleged offense.  The Court dismissed that argument by finding that the evidence offered, a picture of the red light and the car going through the intersection was substantive evidence not demonstrative evidence which would require testimony of someone having the direct knowledge that the driver claimed the officer did not have.  The driver argued that the evidence constituted hearsay but the court dismissed that argument by holding that what the camera is recording is something that a machine does and is not making a statement.  The Court struck down the driver's argument based on the technician who prepared the photo did not show up at trial and that she was not given the right to confront her accuser.  The final argument centered around the vendor, the company operating the red light camera for the city.  Redflex Technology Systems has been in the news lately, and not for good reasons. Redflex operated cameras in Chicago until recently when it was discovered that employees had been involved in bribery schemes.  An executive or Redflex has recently been indicted in Federal Court and Chicago has stopped doing business with Redflex.  All of these issues were raised by the driver in this case and the California court dismissed those arguments as well holding that linking these issues with the case would be pure conjecture.

We will wait to see if the Illinois Supreme Court rules differently.

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.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Florida Case Shines Unprecedented Spotlight on "Stingray" Surveillance Technology

In an interesting case out of Florida, the public is getting detailed information about the secretive stingray fake cell phone tower which is being used by law enforcement officials to track particular cell phones.  Up until now, we have had general information about how these devices work.  However, a transcript released in a Florida case has provided us with the most detailed description of how this device works. On September 13, 2008, a Tallahassee woman was raped, and her purse, which contained her Verizon cell phone, was stolen.  Detectives contacted Verizon and obtained real time ping information from Verizon.  That information gave the police general information about where that phone was located but the police needed detailed location information. The thinking was that if they found the phone, they would find the rapist.  The police obtained the unique IMSI identifier of the victim's phone and started cruising the streets of the general area in which Verizon's real time ping data suggested the phone was located.  The stingray device scans all the cell phones in an area and tries to identify a particular phone through the phone's unique IMSI number. Once it identifies the phone it forces that particular phone to transmit data at full strength to the stingray tower, which is a fake cell phone tower, greatly depleting the battery of the phone.  This allows them to pinpoint the exact location of the cell phone.  Just like a cell phone registers with a carrier's cell phone tower, the stingray device forces the phone to register with the stingray tower.  This allows the police to pinpoint the exact location of the cell phone.  The stingray device was able to determine that the cell phone was located in a particular apartment building but could not tell the police the exact apartment in the building.  Officers then went door to door with a hand held stingray device and stood outside each door holding the device.  The officers located the phone inside apartment number 251, knocked on the door, and when the door was opened stuck a foot in the door and entered the apartment.  The police conducted a "protective sweep" of the apartment and forced everyone to wait until the police were able to obtain a search warrant allowing them to search the apartment.  The search resulted in the recovery of the purse and cell phone leading the police to make an arrest.  The defendant challenged the police action based on a lack of probable cause. The trial court denied the motion ruling that an "exigent circumstances" exception to the probable cause requirement of the 4th Amendment applied to the case because of the risk of the destruction of evidence. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court and overturned the denial of the motion and ordered a new trial. 

The testimony regarding the use of the stingray device was testimony given at the trial. This is the first time this level of detail about stingray has ever been made public.  The officer providing the testimony also stated that he had used this device "200 or more times" and that the device had been "100% percent" accurate. After this news became public, the vice president of the Florida ACLU sent a Freedom of Information request to the local police requesting all the documentation regarding the use of the stingray device.  After communicating with the police officer who had custody of this information that he would be allowing the ACLU vice president access to the documents, the door was suddenly shut closed.  The ACLU was informed that the officer had been deputized by the United States Marshall's Office and since he was now a federal law enforcement officer a state Freedom of Information request did not apply to him.  The ACLU then filed a an emergency motion asking a Florida court to order the release of the requested information. It now turns out that apparently the requested information has been moved hundreds of miles away further thwarting the ACLU's effort to obtain the requested documents.  There is clearly a frantic effort by state and federal officials to do everything they can to keep this information secret.  It will be interesting to see if the courts step in and stop the government from taking deliberate acts to thwart the public's right to know to what extent the government will go to track us.

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.

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