WHAT IS AN ALFORD PLEA? WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE?

As a criminal defense attorney I have handled and dealt with a myriad of criminal charges of thousands of criminal cases with clients with varying economic and educational backgrounds. Clients who may face substantially the same charge with the same set of facts may desire to proceed in their respective cases in entirely different fashions due to their tolerance of risk. What is a client to do if he or she insists they are innocent but recognize that if the case were to proceed to trial the State’s evidence would likely lead to a conviction and the uncertainty of a sentencing hearing in front of the judge after they are convicted? One solution to this quandary is the Alford Plea.

Where Does the Term Alford Plea Come From?

The term “Alford Plea” originates from the United States Supreme Court case of North Carolina v. Alford. Henry Alford had been indicted on a charge of First Degree Murder. Henry Alford was faced with the possibility of capital punishment if he were to be convicted at trial. Under Carolina Law at the time, the death sentence was automatic if the defendant pleaded not guilty, and the jury did not instead recommend a life sentence. Had Henry Alford pled guilty to first degree murder he would have faced the possibility to being sentenced to life in prison but would have avoided the death penalty.

Evidence in Henry Alford’s case included witness testimony that he admitted that he had killed the victim. Court testimony showed that Alford had been arguing with the victim at the victim’s house, Alford left the victim’s house and the victim received a fatal gunshot wound when he opened the door responding to a knock.

However, Henry Alford did not want to admit any wrongdoing. Henry Alford ended up pleading guilty pursuant to a plea deal to second degree murder and stated that he was doing so to avoid the death penalty were he to fight the first degree murder charge and lose at trial. Henry Alford’s plea was accepted by the court even though he stated he was only pleading guilty to avoid being sentenced to death. The court subsequently sentenced Henry Alford to thirty years in prison.

Henry Alford later appealed and requested that his plea be overturned and his matter be set for trial. Alford argued in his appeal that he was forced to plea guilty because he was afraid of being sentenced to death. The North Carolina Appellate upheld Alford’s plea, holding that Alford had voluntarily entered into the plea with full knowledge of what that meant. Alfords case then went to the United States Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court Held that for a plea to be accepted, the defendant must have been advised by a competent lawyer who was able to inform the defendant that his best decision in the case would be to enter a guilty plea. Further, the Court ruled that a defendant can enter such a plea when he concludes that his interests require a guilty plea and the record strongly indicates guilt. Essentially, the court held that a plea of guilty is allowable even with a protestation of innocence if there is a showing that the prosecution had a strong case for a conviction and the defendant is entering the plea to avoid a harsher more serious consequence were they to contest the charges.

Therefore, a defendant can plea guilty to a charge and still maintain his innocence under what has since become known as an Alford plea.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

The use of the internet or this form of communication with the firm or individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information provided above is not to be considered legal advice and is intended for educational purposes only.

Miller Law Offices represents clients throughout the entire state of Illinois, including, but not limited to, the cities of Peoria, Pekin, Bartonville, Morton, Washington, Eureka, Pontiac, Cambridge, Dunlap, Bloomington, Macomb, Normal and cases in Peoria County, Henry County, Livingston County, McLean County, Tazewell County, Knox County, McDonough County and Woodford County.

Article Author: C. Matthew Miller

Drug Charges at Summer Camp Music Festival 2016

googleplus-roundthmb-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1Despite all the fun that’s had, Summer Camp Music Festival invariably results in a spike in criminal charges, particularly drug arrests. When this happens, young people—often who are from out of state—can be left wondering about what their legal options are and who they can trust with resolving their charges as swiftly and favorably as possible.

Proven, Well-Versed Defense

At Miller Law Offices, P.C., I have seen the kind of charges the Summer Camp Music Festival produces every year and have numerous times assisted accused clients by securing their release, developing an effective defense their behalf, and ensuring their rights are protected throughout every step of the process.

The most common offenses at the Summer Camp Music Festival include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570)
  • Sale of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/4)
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (720 ILCS 600)
  • Assault and battery (720 ILCS 5/12-1)
  • Resisting arrest (720 ILCS 5/31-1)
  • Drunk driving/DUI (625 ILCS 5/11-501)

What My Firm Can Do for You

If you or a loved one has been arrested and detained while attending Summer Camp Music Festival, it is critical that they start assessing their legal options immediately. I have helped a number of these clients review the circumstances of their case and, if possible, develop an incisive defense on their behalf. Often times, drug charges suffer from probable cause issues which, if significant enough, can void an entire case against the accused.

Depending on the circumstances of the incident in question (and the type and amount of a controlled substance involved), the severity of your charge may vary. Maximum penalties, however, can be avoided. If you’ve been arrested at Summer Camp Music Festival, Miller Law Offices, P.C. is ready to hear your story and ensure that you receive every consideration you deserve before the law.

Ready to start exploring your options? Call my offices to speak with a trusted Peoria criminal defense attorney today.

Memorial Day 2016 is just days away, which means that Summer Camp Music Festival is about to descend on Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL. The festival, which started in Peoria, has grown in popularity and scope every year since 2000. While our community sees in an influx of traffic and fanfare every year at this time, there’s also an increase in something else: arrests.

Are You Attending Summer Camp 2016?

When you think of summer camp, thoughts of canoeing, lakes, and hikes in the woods might spring to mind. There’s bug juice and summer romances, but here in central Illinois, summer camp also means something else.

Music.

And a whole lot of it. Dozens upon dozens of bands will descend upon Three Sisters Park, just south of Chillicothe on Route 29. The 400-acre park will turn into a minor city with thousands of music fans this May 27-29 for the annual Sumer Camp Music Festival, or as it’s known by its hashtag, #scamp16 or its Twitter handle @summercampfest. Check out this lineup:

  • moe.
  • Mudcrutch (featuring Tom Petty)
  • Umphrey’s McGee
  • The Roots
  • Ani DiFranco

And so many more. There are dozens of acts on several stages. For more information, surf towww.summercampfestival.com

It began in 2000 with a two-day festival. The headliner was the jam band, moe, who had included Peoria as one of only three multiday stops. The band had been here before, drawn good crowds so the idea of having a two-day festival with other eclectic bands wasn’t so farfetched. The entire thing harkened back to the room of the jam band movement which was, of course, the Grateful Dead. Like with the dead, thousands of people did and continue to trek to the park from all over the country to hear dozens of bands on several stages. The festival has grown from two days to four. And often, the number of people rockin’ in the grass exceeds the total population of Chillicothe which has about 6,000.

Put it this way, in its first year, there were about 1,000 people. And most recently, it was estimated that more than 20,000 people attended with several arriving days before the music even started. In 2014, the event was named by Rolling Stone magazine as a must-see and one of the top 40 music festivals in the nation. In short, it’s a rockin’ time and really an event that is not to be missed.

Among the acts who have played there are The Roots (now the Tonight’s Show’s house band), George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Widespread Panic, Zac Brown Band, Blues Traveller, Rusted Root, moe and Tom Petty.

The festival was nearly derailed in 2007 when the park board that oversees Three Sisters Park voted initially to not allow Summer Camp back. It was in response to a massive number of drug arrests in 2006 as well as a petition that was signed by several area doctors calling for the end of camp. (Peoria Journal Star, May 24, 2007).

But in the end, the color green is what matters – and no, we aren’t talking about that green. Area businesses which loved the thousands upon thousands of people who attend the annual event petitioned the city to give campers one more chance. And concert promoters got the message. They donated a portion of the proceeds to the city of Chillicothe. They worked hard to tone down the image that Summer Camp had turned into the Midwest’s largest drug bazaar.

And unfortunately, drugs were a big part of the culture. In 2005 and 2006 more than 30 people were indicted on felony charges that included distribution and simple possession of cocaine, LSD, heroin, psychedelic mushrooms, hash, and others. In 2010, roughly three dozen people were indicted but police officials said that was “normal.” It appeared the mood towards campers and the festival in general had changed as is evident by the comments from Chillicothe’s police chief:

“We had 35 total arrests, which for that amount of people, isn’t unusual,” said Chillicothe Police Chief Steve Maurer. “The more people you have – and there were more people this year than ever before – you are going to have more arrests, and that did happen.” (Peoria Journal Star, June 3, 2010)

And that mood also caused a change in tactics for the police. Agents with the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group, the area’s undercover drug task force, patrol the area. In the early years, agents would talk about how dealers would hawk their wares like popcorn sellers at a ball game.

But as the police inundated the festival, tactics changed. Dealers decided that less was more and they began to do more of a soft sell. And the police responded. A MEG officer in 2010 told the Journal Star: “We didn’t see it being sold like it was in the past. I think they know that when they come in there, they take a huge chance of getting arrested.”

And police have decided to go after the dealer and not the simple user. The message is clear. “Don’t use it in the open. Be cool. Respect the event and all will be good.” Go against that and it’s possible that people will find themselves looking at serious felonies that could carry massive prison terms.

Among the charges are:

  • Simple possession of controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, psilocybin, methamphetamine and marijuana. Then there’s also the more rare drugs such as ketamine, various types of prescription drugs and other things. Depends upon how much you have, punishments can vary from a few days in the county jail or probation to up to 40 years without the possibility of probation for large amounts of LSD.
  • And as stated above, the police are looking for people who are selling. In Illinois, the sentence is higher for someone who is convicted of a delivery charge or possession with intent to deliver.
  • Other charges that have been levied over the years are aggravated battery for fighting, resisting a peace officer and assault.

But it is not just those who are in the festival that run the risk of being arrested. Merely getting to the Summer Camp event can be a chore. Ever seen those TV specials on small fish that swim together in massive schools and get picked off a few dozen at a time by various predators? That’s a good metaphor for what happens to music lovers. Police and sheriff’s deputies in every jurisdiction along the various routes to get to the park set up patrols and road blocks.

They have pulled people over for a cracked windshield and waited until a drug-sniffing dog was able to get to that area. Dozens of arrests in Woodford County, Peoria County, Marshall County, Putnam County and others are the result of traffic stop that lead to other, potentially more legally harmful things. A few cases have made their way to the appellate court which has thrown out convictions as flat-out violations of basic civil rights. But to the average person, the fear of a conviction can often lead to an ill-advised plea or a rush to judgment when, instead, that person needs someone who knows the game.

I know these things because I have been fighting for the rights of Summer Campers for years. When I was a partner in Miller & Pugh Law Offices, we were among the first to get involved in the Summer Camp cases. We strove to help those who were from out of town and who didn’t know how things were done here. We were among the first to advertise on the Web about what was happening and tried to warn people of what the police were doing and trying to head off potential problems before they arose.

And that’s what we have continued to do here at Miller Law Offices. All the years later, and with hundreds of hours in the courtroom spent fighting these cases. I have been to every county where someone has been arrested. I have handled the big drug cases and the small ones. I know what the prosecutors are looking for and I know how to get the best deal possible for you.

Simply put, there is no attorney in the area who has handled more Peoria County Summer Camp cases than I have. As a former Peoria County Prosecutor, there is no one in the area who understands how the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes these cases better than I do. And there is no one in the area that fights for the rights of Campers more than I do.

Here’s the truth. You want someone who knows how to handle these things quickly and efficiently so you aren’t making several trips from potentially out of state for routine court appearances. You want someone who has a proven track record of looking at the evidence and convincing prosecutors to reduce charges into a more manageable situation.

And you want someone who has beaten the state at their own home and won cases. With many Summer Campers in their young adulthood years, a felony on their record can be devastating. You don’t want that. It can damage a person’s ability to find a good job, to stay in school, to keep a scholarship or even a job. We have been very successful in the past at achieving dismissals of charges and reductions of charges at Miller Law Offices.

Miller Law Offices wants you to enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy the rays, the sun and the music. Jam out to the tunes and get your groove on and be safe. Don’t break any laws. Please, that is the first step. But if you do find yourself in trouble and if you do need legal help, consider us. There’s no one in the area that cares more about Summer Camp than Miller Law Offices and that’s what you want. A skilled attorney who understands you and your situation. We are here for you.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident – It’s Not Worth It!

In our modern world, driving is seemingly a right bestowed upon every adult who has taken a driving test. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, driving is a privilege that can be easily lost due to traffic code violations or even felony convictions.

Leaving the scene of an accident is one such offense that can lead to loss of driving privileges and even incarceration in some cases. State law requires a driver who is involved in an accident to stop and give aid when needed as well as to exchange information with the other driver. The law also requires drivers to notify local enforcement about such an accident if there are injuries or damage to a vehicle in excess of $1,500. (See 625 ILCS 4/11-402, -403 and -404).

The Consequences of a Hit & Run

If you collided with a parked car that is unattended (empty) or with another vehicle, you must stay on the scene. Failure to do so could lead to a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine and as much as two years of probation. Additionally, the Secretary of State’s office could opt to suspend driving privilege. From the statute:

(b) Upon conviction of a violation of this Section, the court shall make a finding as to whether the damage to a vehicle is in excess of $1,000, and in such case a statement of this finding shall be reported to the Secretary of State with the report of conviction as required by Section 6-204 of this Code. Upon receipt of such report of conviction and statement of finding that the damage to a vehicle is in excess of $1,000, the Secretary of State shall suspend the driver’s license or any nonresident’s driving privilege.

And given that most damage to car will run more than $1,000, suspension is a very real possibility.

The penalties are even more severe if there is injury or death involved. If you leave the scene, it’s automatically a class 4 felony which carries a maximum penalty of up to three years behind bars. The law also requires a driver involved in such an accident to report the matter to police within 30 minutes. If that isn’t done, then it could be a class 2 felony with a maximum of up to seven years. If a person dies, that could be upped to a class 1 felony which has a 15-year maximum prison term. (see 625 ILCS 5/11-401).

If a person is convicted of this, then the Secretary of State will revoke a person’s driver’s license.

Call (888) 286-1539 For Dedicated Counsel

With the stakes that high, you need an attorney who has handled a large volume of such cases. Here at Miller Law Offices, we bring years of experience on both sides of the aisle. Matt Miller has prosecuted such cases and has defended them as well. He understands how important your driving privileges are to you and will work as hard as he can to make sure you are treated fairly. If you have been given a ticket or are facing criminal charges, stop by our office and let us try to help you.

Understanding Probation

facebook-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1With regards to felony convictions, class 1 and 2 felonies tend to have a maximum of 48 months or four years of probation. Class 3 and 4 felonies have a maximum of up to 30 months or 2 ½ years. Misdemeanors, being a lower classification, carry a lower maximum – up to two years. Probation isn’t an option for the state’s most serious offenses which are class X and murder.

Probation comes in many flavors and types. In essence, though, it’s all the same concept. An officer of the court monitors your actions during the period assigned by the judge. During that time, your behavior is curtailed and in some cases, a person must come into a probation officer’s office for a weekly, monthly or periodic visit. A judge could assign a curfew, drug testing, anger management, or other programs which are aimed at correcting the behavior that got a person in trouble in the first place.

Types of Probation

In general, there are two types of probation – reporting and non-reporting.

The latter has two variations – court supervision and conditional discharge. The main difference is that with court supervision, there is not a conviction if the probation term is completed successfully. Also, the charge is dropped if court supervision is successfully completed, whereas with conditional discharge, a conviction will appear on your record. Obviously, the consequences are huge. Completion of court supervision means that there is no record of a conviction which can help with job searches later in life.

Reporting probation comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s the “regular” probation where a person must check in with their probation officer as required and then complete whatever requirements the judge imposed, based upon the recommendations of the Presentencing Investigation (PSI). Often a person will have to undergo drug testing, anger management, counseling of some kind or other measures that are designed to correct the behavior that got a person into that situation. A probationer often pays for those services through either a monthly fee or by having the agency bill them.

Under the “regular” or “standard” probation, an officer could ask to visit you at your home or require you to show proof of employment. Most conditions of probation are determined at sentencing on a document that you and your attorney should have reviewed; another reason why it’s important to have a seasoned attorney to review such documents as probation terms can last up to four years in some cases.

Jail time – up to 180 days – could also be a condition of probation. And a person usually must get permission from the court to travel out of the area.

Beyond that, there are other programs within the probation arena that cater to different individuals. There’s what’s known in the parlance of legal jargon as 710 or 410 probation, named as such after the section of the criminal code that authorizes them. In a nutshell, this is probation for a first-time drug offender. It’s similar to court supervision, except that it has more conditions. The idea is that if a person completes their term of probation and complies with all the conditions, no conviction is entered. To go from a possible felony on your record to nothing is huge and many people jump at the chance. After a number of years, a person could apply to have the case expunged or removed from their record.

Another probation program for drug offenders is the TASC option. TASC stands for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities but hardly anyone breaks the acronym down. This is reserved for people whose crimes stem from drug or alcoholism. Unlike 410 or 710, you don’t have to be a first-offender and the crime need not be directly drug related. For instance, residential burglary is considered a nonprobationable offense yet a person could qualify for TASC if their addiction is the underlying cause of the crime.

However, violent offenses aren’t eligible for TASC and a person must plead guilty to begin the evaluation process. TASC probation could last for up to five years.

Another specialized probation is IPS or intensive probation. Judges will often call this a person’s last chance before going to prison. A person is deemed eligible for IPS if they have a past record, are willing to comply with the strict conditions and they live within the county. IPS is often paired with normal probation in that the first year of a multi-year term is under the intensive conditions which include home confinement at night, a curfew, drug testing, counseling, and possibly electronic monitoring. A similar program is called Adult ReDeploy which uses many of the same criteria.

Minors or people under 18 can qualify for juvenile probation which is very similar except that the total emphasis is rehabilitation, not punishment. Conditions of probation include good grades at school, listening to parents and completion of various counseling.

As you can see, there are many options for probation within the court system and that’s why you need an attorney who is familiar with the various options. With so much at stake for your future, why take a chance? Give Miller Law Offices a call and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and go over your various options.

In Illinois, when a person is convicted, a judge usually has to assign some type of punishment, either being confinement such as jail or prison or probation, which can come in many forms. Most crimes allow a person to be placed on probation as a form of punishment after a conviction. In fact, for most convictions, the presumption is for probation unless the state can show why such a sentence would “depreciate” or demean the seriousness of the offense.

Police Body Cameras: What You Need to Know

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This summer, the state of Illinois approved a measure that would provide more money for the state’s police agencies to undertake training on how to use body cameras. The law, known as Senate Bill 1304 or the Police and Community Improvement Act, also sets standards on how those cameras should be used, who can obtain the footage, and creates a database of officers who have been in trouble due to misconduct (the bill can be found here).

So what does this mean for you, the average person?

Well, for starters, it means that a $5 fine will be imposed on criminal or traffic offense that result in a conviction. That will not take effect until Jan. 1. So there is a small financial consideration. It also bars the use of chokeholds by police officers unless deadly force is required. There is also a standard for when such force is used. So that’s a plus for the average person in that checks on how police can subdue a person are in now in place. The law creates standards for officers to become more aware and understanding of bias and cultural differences.

The database will be accessible for the public to see who has been fired or disciplined. It also puts into place requirements for how body cameras are used by police. It doesn’t mandate a department use them but if they do, there are regulations such as:

  • The camera must be turned on at least 30 seconds before an encounter with the public.
  • It must on the entire time an officer is conducting an interview or investigation with the public.
  • It must be able to record for at least 10 hours.
  • And the officer must tell the person or people that he is recording the incident.

It also calls for independent reviews of all police-involved deaths, a key point in the wake of officer-involved fatal shootings that led to riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. According to the Associated Press, there is also the creation of a commission that will review training requirements and other issues and report to legislators and the governor by the end of January.

So, we’ll ask the question again: What does this mean for the average person? It means that there are more things out there to possibly assist a defense attorney in handling your case. There are more ways that you, the citizen, can monitor your own police department and there are, in theory, safeguards there to prevent police misconduct.

But there are safeguards for personal privacy. An officer can turn off the camera if they are talking to a confidential source and in general, the recordings are not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act unless they are involved in a so-called “use of force” incident or a fatal shooting.

Recordings aren’t new. Interrogations are often recorded and dashboard cameras in squad cars are fairly common. But the idea of the body camera with all that it can AND can’t show is a relatively new idea. And that’s why you need an attorney who is up on the latest trends and laws. There will be new precedents set regarding the use of these cameras. At times, the cameras will be a boon for the defense while other times, they could hurt a person’s case.

Here at the Miller Law Offices, we are following the latest trends in criminal law so we can be at the forefront of the defense bar. We want to use the latest technology as well as legal rulings to make sure your rights are protected and that you are given a fair shake at every stage of your case.

If you have been accused of a crime, contact us today to start exploring your defense options.

New DUI Driving Permit Laws

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Illinois lawmakers recently approved a new measure that clamps down on repeat drunk drivers, requiring them to use a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device or BAIID for at least five years if they have been convicted for a second subsequent DUI offense.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August, is known as HB 3533 and takes effect in January. It also puts further restrictions on repeat offenders in that they will not be eligible to reapply for their driver’s license until they have completed a five year period with a restricted driving permit.

Such a permit allows a person to drive their vehicle if they can show there is a hardship imposed by not having their license. A person must show to the state that they have gotten a drug or alcohol screening, are taking steps for treatment and will not threaten the public safety.

Under the new law, any infractions during that five-year period including having their permit cancelled, suspended or revoked, could impede the application process.

The measure amends the state’s Vehicle Code which sets out the state’s driving laws. Here’s a synopsis:

Provides that the Secretary of State shall require the use of ignition interlock devices for a period not less than 5 years on all vehicles owned by a person who has been convicted of a second or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination. Provides that a person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of driving under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, intoxicating compounds, or any combination, or where the use of alcohol or other drugs is recited as an element of an offense, may not make application for a driver’s license until he or she has first been issued a restricted driving permit by the Secretary, and the expiration of a continuous period of not less than 5 years following the issuance of the restricted driving permit without suspension, cancellation, or revocation of the permit, or violation of a regulation requiring use of an ignition interlock device.

BAIID devices came into the equation a few years ago when the state wanted to find a way to make sure that people who had a prior DUI weren’t getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. The device is akin to a breathanalyzer and will not allow the car to start if it detects alcohol. An offender is required to obtain one at his or her expense. Worse, they are pretty obvious and can be embarrassing.

The law also requires a repeat offender to undergo treatment or prove they aren’t at risk for reoffending, a difficult task and one that could be very time consuming.

Five years is also a long time for a BAIID, not just in cost and embarrassment but to have that stress upon a driver, knowing that any screw up could be problematic.

But it’s not all bad news for defendants. Rauner also approved S.B. 627 which removes the 30-day waiting period before a person accused of DUI can obtain a driving permit. The senate bill also eliminates the one year waiting period that used to be in place when a person had their license revoked.

A three-year waiting period for a person whose license was suspended for a second refusal to take a chemical, blood or breath test is also removed by the new measure.

On some level, this is not a step back for public safety as the increased use by the state of the BAIID device means that anyone, in theory, who gets behind the wheel, cannot be using alcohol as even a test of 0.025 will not allow the car to start.

That’s why it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side. The process can be difficult as the average layperson simply doesn’t know the law as well as an attorney who practices in this area. Also, the hearing officer, when it comes time to apply for your permit or even reinstatement, will see that you are serious if you show up with an attorney and not just yourself.

Here at Miller Law Offices, we understand how important driving privileges are to you and will fight as hard as we can to make sure your rights are protected. Feel free to contact us to find out how we can work for you.

Have I been Entrapped by the Police?

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Here at Miller Law Offices, we are concerned about your rights and believe that it’s our job not just to protect you in court but also to educate people about how far the government and police can go. Often times, people believe they have been coerced or entrapped into committing a crime.

Entrapment occurs when a police officer implants or convinces a person, who otherwise had done nothing, to commit a crime. The intent by the officer is to create a case they can prosecute. A 1986 appellate court case discusses this:

“The principal element of the defense of entrapment is the defendant’s lack of disposition to commit the crime.”

So what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that if you were at a place and an officer came up to you and offered a chance to commit a crime, that’s entrapment. Rather, entrapment hinges upon the amount of effort the authorities take to convince you to commit a crime plus your own predisposition to do so.

However, if you are a person who predisposed to commit a crime, such as a known drug dealer and an officer tried to buy drugs from you, that is another story.

In determining predisposition to commit a crime in drug cases, courts look at the following: 1) the defendant’s initial reluctance or willingness to commit the crime; (2) the defendant’s familiarity with drugs; (3) the defendant’s willingness to accommodate the needs of drug users; (4) the defendant’s willingness to profit from the offense; (5) the defendant’s current or prior drug use; (6) the defendant’s participation in cutting or testing the drugs; and (7) the defendant’s ready access to a supply of drugs. S.H.A. 720 ILCS 5/7-12.

To raise such an affirmative defense (where the burden of proving the matter is you, not the state), you need to, in essence, admit you did wrong but argue that it was the cops’ fault.

And there’s an appellate court case on point for this. From the 1996 case where the appellate court threw out a drug conviction, the panel found that an Illinois man who initially resisted an informant’s attempts to buy drugs was entrapped. In that case, the man was approached several times before he agreed to buy drugs for the informant and an undercover officer.

The appellate court held in that case that the man was entrapped because he wasn’t predisposed to commit a crime and also wasn’t merely afforded an opportunity. The state urged him to buy the drugs. The officers repeatedly called or sent text messages to him.

And that, the appellate court found was entrapment. But drugs aren’t the only venue where an entrapment is an issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 in the landmark case, Jacobson v. United States, that police or other law enforcement can’t lead a person down a path they wouldn’t have taken. The case was notable in that it was one that didn’t involve drugs but rather child pornography. The defendant, a Nebraska man, was arrested in 1987 after obtaining the illicit images from a mail order catalog. The entire thing was a ruse. He was targeted by authorities who spent two years or so trying to entice him into buying the material.

He was convicted and then appealed. Initially, he won at the appellate court level but a rehearing reinstated the conviction. The High Court picked the case for hearing and by a 5-4 vote, overturned Jacobson’s conviction. Justice Bryon white wrote for the majority and concluded;

“When the Government’s quest for convictions leads to the apprehension of an otherwise law-abiding citizen who, if left to his own devices, likely would have never run afoul of the law, the courts should intervene.”

The Court hasn’t taken up the issue since and as such, Jacobson remains poignant today. One of its legacies is the need by prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that a person had a predisposition to commit a crime, something that wasn’t the case in Jacobson.

Here at Miller Law Offices, we pay attention to court cases such as these to make your rights are protected. We hold the police to the highest standards to make sure they don’t cross the line or violate accepted practices.

If you have a problem or believe you were coerced by the police, give us a call. We’ll be glad to talk over your situation with you.

New Limits Placed on K-9 Searches by U.S. Supreme Court

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Last April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 vote that police could not prolong a traffic stop in order for a drug-sniffing dog to arrive. The case, Rodriguez v. the United States, 13-9972, arose out of a traffic stop in Nebraska where the driver, Dennys Rodriguez, was pulled over and given a written warning for an offense. Seems normal so far, but the Supreme Court justices had issue with the fact that the officer detained Rodriguez for several minutes after he refused to allow a drug dog to walk around his car and until another officer could arrive. Once that other police officer arrived, the dog came out and drugs were found. Rodriguez was later indicted on federal drug counts.

And in a twist that reverses a similar 2005 case of Illinois, the justices held that “absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.”Back in 2005, the Court held that such searches didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches (See Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. (2005). Then in a 6-2 vote (William Rehnquist abstained), The case was initially upheld in the Illinois Appellate Court but then the state’s Supreme Court reversed, setting the stage for the 2005 showdown in the nation’s highest court. There, the justices held it wasn’t unreasonable to have a drug sniffing dog walk around the car and thus, no Constitutional rights were violated. The issue in that case was privacy. Drugs were, by definition, illegal so a person could expect no amount of privacy and thus protection.

So what changed? In both cases, the driver was issued either a warning or a citation.

In the Rodriguez case, it seems the justices focused on the time having a drug dog walk around a car, not the fact that a person got a ticket as what made the search illegal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote for the majority:

“An officer, in other words, may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop . . . but he may not do so in such a way that prolongs the stop, absent the reasonable suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an individual,” she wrote.

Drug sniffing dogs are not inherent to traffic stops, which largely are done in the name of safety. The decision sends the case back to the lower courts to find out if there was reasonable suspicion to merit the search and which would justify the prolonged seizure that accompanied it.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas and others argued the decision is wrong, saying it depends upon how fast an officer can move through a stop and at what point in the process a ticket is issued.

Here in central Illinois, this is a good decision for residents especially those who attend the Summer Camp music festival which often yields many traffic stops and searches. It’s another plate back into the armor of those who are looking to protect the rights of people. Here at the Miller Law Offices, we keep up on the latest in major decisions that could affect you and your loved one. And that provides you with the best possible legal strategy.

Juvenile Court

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Illinois was the pioneer in the juvenile court process as the nation’s first court for children was established in 1899 in Cook County. Then, as now, the idea behind the separation was that children aren’t yet of full maturity, either legally or developmentally. As such, lawmakers then thought they should not be treated the same as adults.

The fundamental difference between the two systems is the end product. Adult courts are designed to punish people from wrongdoings as well as to provide avenues for rehabilitation. In the juvenile system, the main emphasis is on rehabilitation. To that end, the proceedings are closed to the public, the records are sealed and every effort is made to keep a child out of prison and placed in a program that will maximize his or her chances to better themselves.

Within Peoria County, there are two main courtrooms that involved juvenile proceedings. One deals with criminal matters and the other with abuse and neglect cases. In both matters, the proceedings are closed to the public and the records of proceedings are under seal to protect the minors.

In an abuse or neglect matter, the case is often referred to the court by a mandated reporter. This can be a healthcare worker, a teacher, a police officer or a social worker. They are required by law to report instances where they think a child is being harmed or neglected. The state’s Department of Child and Family Services then gets involved and could take immediate custody of a child. The state’s attorney’s office then could get involved and if they feel the matte rises to a certain level, the office could file a petition with the court for a shelter care hearing. That’s where the state would ask a judge to remove the child or children on a temporary or even permanent basis.

Every party has an attorney, even the child who has what is called a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). The GAL ‘s job is to look out for the best interests of the child. They are the legal advocate for the child. Such hearings can be stressful and nerve-wracking. It’s important to have an attorney who understands the law and who can maintain your rights. We are willing to work with you to do what it takes to get your child back in your care and if not immediately possible, we’ll protect your rights to insure you can at least visit with your children.

The other matter is juvenile delinquency court. This is very similar to adult criminal court except there is no right to a jury trial, things tend to move quicker and the convictions (called adjudications) are sealed.

In most cases, probation is the preferred route though children over the age of 13 could be sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice. However, any sentence is deemed completed when the minor child reaches his or her 21st birthday. Probation could last longer if there are violations but for the most part, children tend to be finished with the system then.

There are some cases due to the nature of the crime and a child’s age that could be transferred from the juvenile court division to the adult court division. Those tend to be more serious crimes like shootings, murder, armed robbery or sexual assaults. The state must be able to show, in most cases, that the public is better served and their need to be protected outweighs the child’s inherent right to rehabilitation.

That’s a broad overview of the juvenile court system and by no means, comprehensive. If you are involved in the system, don’t panic. Call our office. We will discuss your case and try to find a solution that will be the least stressful to your family as possible.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

The use of the internet or this form of communication with the firm or individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information provided above is not to be considered legal advice and is intended for educational purposes only.

Miller Law Offices represents clients throughout the entire state of Illinois, including, but not limited to, the cities of Peoria, Pekin, Bartonville, Morton, Washington, Eureka, Pontiac, Cambridge, Dunlap, Bloomington, Macomb, Normal and cases in Peoria County, Henry County, Livingston County, McLean County, Tazewell County, Knox County, McDonough County and Woodford County.

Article Author: C. Matthew Miller

C. Matthew Miller is the sole practitioner at Miller Law Offices, P.C. He has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and the American Society of Legal Advocates as a Top 40 Criminal Defense lawyer Under 40 in the State of Illinois. Mr. Miller concentrates his practice in Criminal Law, DUI, Criminal Record Expungements, Divorce and Child Custody.