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Cook County Law Blog

What to do if you are facing criminal charges

Being accused of a crime in Chicago is a serious thing. Whether you are facing charges of drug possession with intent to sell or felonious assault, the steps you take immediately afterward can impact your fate. Because the criminal justice system can be intimidating and challenging for alleged offenders to navigate through, it is important for you to learn your options to avoid complications, delays and mistakes with your case. 

Here is a brief overview of what you can do to improve your outcome when you have criminal charges pending against you. 

What could be considered prosecutorial misconduct?

Sometimes, people convicted of crimes win new trials. Often, this is due to prosecutorial misconduct. After all, prosecutors must follow a code of ethics, and when they resort to shady tactics, they undermine defendants’ rights to receive a fair trial.

Here is a look at some examples of what may constitute prosecutorial misconduct.

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.

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