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Cook County Law Blog

Understanding DNA transfer

Understanding DNA transfer

If you have ever watched a true crime special on TV or even just listened to court proceedings, you might get the impression that DNA evidence is the be all end all in proving a defendant’s guilt. DNA—the genetic material contained in each of a person’s cells—can be used to determine certain details in a criminal case, but according to scientific experts, it is far from infallible. There are several things to take into consideration when it comes to the role of DNA in criminal prosecutions.

The Illinois House just passed important sentencing reforms

Since the first passage of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, the question of what is actually effective has been asked time and again. At first, law and order policies seemed to make sense, but as harsh sentencing guidelines have been studied, they have been found to fall behind several other methods of addressing criminal activity, especially when it comes to recidivism. Over the past several years, governments in various states and the federal government have both worked to find a way to make sentencing more fair and effective.

Is fingerprint evidence actually scientific?

If there is one form of evidence that sticks most with people when they are asked to start listing the things that police see as clues in an investigation, it's probably the presence of fingerprints. For younger people, there's a solid chance that the answer could also be DNA, but for anyone who remembers the days before DNA testing, fingerprinting is quick to spring to the front of the mind and the tip of the tongue.

Even as DNA evidence has gained support, and the sophistication of testing methods and processes has grown, fingerprint evidence remains an important part of police investigations in the United States and around the world. Despite this fact, though, the research into fingerprinting has some surprising holes.

The difference between an expungement and a pardon

Convictions can be a very scary and jarring experience, not only for the person convicted but for their loved ones as well. It's hard watching a loved one be convicted and trying to support them through the stress of the litigation process. You may worry that it could permanently hinder or ruin them. However, there are options to lessen or erase the legal effects of a conviction or arrest for your loved one.

Can police conduct a search without a warrant?

Did you know that in most circumstances, you must give consent for a police officer to search your house, car or other property? Unless the police have a search warrant, you have the right to deny consent to a search.

There are, however, instances in which a search warrant and your consent are not needed.

Illinois changes marijuana laws

Illinois became the 21st state to decriminalize small amounts (10 grams or less) of marijuana on July 29 when Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 2228. The new law states that a policeman or other law people statewide will no longer arrest or jail a person with that amount or less. They will issue tickets for a fine between $100 and $200, which will subsequently be expunged after payment of the fine. Nothing goes on your permanent criminal record.

This is of course good news for casual users who need to keep a clean record for work. It's also good news for the Illinois legal system and its overcrowded country and state prisons, removing a variety of minor infractions.

Petitions for Certificate of Innocence: Frequently Asked Questions

It seems that every week we hear news stories about people who are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes and released from prison. The fact that so many innocent people spend years, if not decades, behind bars for crimes they did not commit is a tragedy. Even after a person leave prison, however, they should be able to sue the state for putting them in prison in the first place.

In Illinois, the first step in this process involves filing a Petition for Certificate of Innocence. If a court grants the Petition for Certificate of Innocence, the wrongly convicted person can bring a claim for damages against the state. The information below offers answers to some of the questions people may have about the Petition for Certificate of Innocence.

Drug-induced homicide conviction results in harsher penalties

While many people think of drug charges as being related to possession or dealing, there is much more to the equation than that. In some cases, those who deal drugs can be charged with a more serious crime. In 2003, Illinois adopted a drug-induced homicide law. Last year, 13 people in the state were convicted of this crime.

Why the change in the law?

The law was changed to make dealing drugs a more serious crime and to show those involved with illegal drugs that there were more consequences for their actions. However, the law stayed on the books for some time before prosecutors really started using it. While initially, prosecutors would not agree to file or seek these types of charges, now, the Chicago police department is considering applying the charges to those who traffic the drugs that lead to fatal overdoses.

The Role of Wearable Technology in Criminal Defense

When it comes to criminal defense, technology is changing the game. There have now been cases of technology being used to prove a person's whereabouts, and even what they were doing at the time of the alleged crime.

For example, recently, a woman in another state claimed that she had gone to bed around midnight when an unknown attacker forced his way into the home and raped her. Her story seemed completely plausible until the authorities used her Fitbit to determine that she was not sleeping at the time she said she was, and that the activity on the device showed she was awake, right up until she made the call to police about the alleged rape.

Convicted of a crime? There may be a registry for that

The penalties that accompany a criminal conviction vary widely depending on what the crime underlying the conviction. In addition to time in prison and fines, in some cases people must provide personal information to a registry, such as their name, where they live and their physical description. The failure to comply with the registration requirements could lead to further issues. While readers probably know about the Illinois sex offender registry, there are other convictions that could lead to a similar registration.

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