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Felony crimes can be committed in an endless number of scenarios. Drug crimes, violent crimes, sexual crimes, and property theft crimes all seem like the typical felony crimes that grace the pages of the newspaper and internet news sites each day. Sometimes, however, reporters catch news stories that involve lesser known crimes that are still felonies under Illinois law. This week two Chicago men face charges after being arrested for several  crimes, including the lesser-known crime of intimidation.

A 73-year-old Catholic priest was allegedly confronted by two men at a South Side Chicago church over the weekend, after he had just finished celebrating Mass. The Chicago Tribune reports that after Mass, the priest noticed two men sitting in the back of the church. At some point, one of the men, 20-year-old Markquis Little demanded money from the priest. His associate, 22-year-old Deandrea Little, then allegedly poked the priest on the forehead and threatened him with physical harm. Mr. Little also allegedly threatened to go to the press with fabricated sexual assault allegations against the priest if he did not give them the money that they asked for.

The priest told the young men that he did not have any money, and they later left after standing around. The priest told officers that this was not his first encounter with the two men. In fact, the two had been demanding money from the priest as far back as four years ago. The priest alleges that over the years he has given over $10,000 to the young men. He also reported that the two men broke windows at the church and damaged his property in the past.

The Facts

www.newsbug.com article reported, at 11:38 a.m. July 15, 2013, according to police reports, ISP (Illinois State Police) narcotics agents were conducting a joint investigation in the western suburbs of Cook County regarding criminal drug activity. Agents received information regarding a suspicious maroon 2005 Toyota Tacoma truck en route to the Chicago area driving along North Avenue, in Stone Park. ISP District Chicago Troopers who were working with the agents observed a traffic violation and initiated a traffic stop on the 3200 block of W. North Avenue, in Stone Park. Upon further investigation, an Elmhurst canine responded with a positive alert where approximately 100 kilos of cocaine were discovered in two rubber tubs located in the truck bed of the vehicle. Police also found approximately $15,000 inside the pick-up truck. The male driver was arrested and relocated to the Northlake Police Department for further investigation, according to a news release

Legal Issues

Heroin is a controlled substance that is commonly known as smack, H, horse, and other names on the street. When injected into the body or smoked in its freebase form, heroin converts to morphine, causing a highly addictive state of euphoria. The “high” is short-lived, however, and a user will often need more heroin in a short period of time. Additionally, users build tolerances quickly, so the amount of the drugs needed to feed an addiction can be substantial.

The Problem in Chicago

The West Side of Chicago has widely been dubbed to be a heroin “hub”—not only in the Midwest, but on an international level. There is what is referred to as an open market for drugs off the green line of the “L” train, where drug transactions are discussed and completed almost openly. Heroin is one of the main substances sold, and many people in the area are addicted to the drug. Furthermore, many people who grew up in the area turn out to be drug dealers. Though they may have other career options, to them, selling drugs is so common and seems like such an easy choice that it is hard to turn down.

In the past few decades, the enforcement and penalties associated with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) have grown significantly more aggressive across the country. In addition, the legal limit as to what constitutes “under the influence” has dropped in Illinois, from a 1.5 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the 1950s to 1.0 in the late 60s, and finally to the present-day limit of 0.08, which was established in 1997. All DUI offenses are serious matters, and have the potential to result in legal and collateral consequences. In some cases, a DUI could even land you in jail or keep you from getting a job. As a result, all DUI cases should be defended by an aggressive and experienced Chicago DUI defense attorney.

Aggravating Circumstances

While all DUIs are serious, sometimes there are additional facts that make a DUI case more serious than it would have been in their absence. Referred to as “aggravating factors” or “aggravating circumstances,” these additional facts have been deemed by the Illinois state legislature to make a particular DUI offense particularly egregious. When they are present in conjunction with a driver driving under the influence of alcohol, they allow the state to bring a more serious case against the offender, potentially resulting in more serious consequences. Among the issues that can allow an aggravated DUI case to be brought include:

DUI charges can lead to injury, death, and vehicular homicide or other serious charges. A Chicago man made headlines this week after a DuPage County judge sentenced him to ten years in prison for a February, 2012, drunk driving accident. 34-year-old Daniel Clark pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI charges for the incident that killed 42-year-old Frank Caruso of Brookfield.

Caruso had been involved in an earlier car accident on the evening of February 11, 2012, when Trooper Matthew Woodiel responded to the scene. Trooper Woodiel stopped his vehicle on Interstate 290, and invited Mr. Caruso into the car to talk, due to the cold winter temperatures. As Trooper Woodiel and Mr. Caruso chatted, Mr. Clark slammed into the squad car, killing Mr. Caruso and injuring Trooper Woodiel. Trooper Woodiel’s vehicle had its emergency lights activated when the accident occurred, and Mr. Caruso’s car had been blocking off two lanes of traffic.

Mr. Clark’s blood-alcohol content was determined to be .19 percent at the time of the accident. He had been driving home from a bar located in Itasca at about 70 miles per hour when he crashed into Trooper Woodiel’s car.

If you are stopped by law enforcement while driving and the officers suspect you have been drinking, they may want to perform different kinds of tests to determine whether you are driving under the influence (DUI). In addition to Breathalyzer and blood tests, the results of which must be processed by a forensic lab, officers may perform a set of tests at the site of the traffic stop. These tests are known as Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). In FSTs, the officers will ask you to perform a series of exercises that test your mental and physical capabilities, such as balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions.

There are three standard FSTs approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are as follows:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test—the officer asks you to use your eyes only to follow an object that he moves from left to right. The officer is actually watching your eyes for early “nystagmus,” a jerking of the eye, which is a sign of intoxication.

If arrested for Forgery, you need an Illinois Forgery Attorney to fight for you. While property crimes not involving violence are not often highly publicized, they are taken extremely seriously by Illinois authorities and aggressively prosecuted. As with any other criminal matter, a forgery case has the potential to result in probation, fines, restitution, as well as jail time. In addition, the presence of a forgery issue on your criminal record will be part of the public record, and has the potential to keep you from getting a job or obtaining a state-issued license, along with other potential collateral consequences.  Consequently, it is very important that people who are accused of forgery in Illinois do everything in their power to defend their reputation avoid a conviction appearing on their record. Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney can often mitigate the potential consequences you may face and in some cases may be able to keep you from being accused in the first place.

The Illinois Forgery Statute

Under 720 ILCS 5/17-3, it is illegal to knowingly and with the intent to defraud:

When you fight your Chicago DUI case, you want to do everything that you can to develop your case and strategically defend against the charges. A lot of the work preparing your defense happens long before you set foot in court for your trial date. Here’s what can be done for your Chicago DUI case prior to hearing:

Address your conditions of bond

The court may allow you to stay out of jail as you await your trial date. They may impose conditions on your release. One of the things you can do is review these conditions to see if they work for you. If the court requires you to test for alcohol while you’re on bond, they may adjust the tests to fit your work schedule. You can work with your attorney to make sure that the conditions of bond are workable while you prepare your case. If you need to adjust the conditions of your bond, your attorney can help you approach the court to make the request.

If you are facing criminal charges, you may wonder whether if you should hire an attorney to represent you. While many people may consider hiring an attorney, they may not fully realize that they do not just have the option to have a lawyer, but they have the actual right to have counsel if they so choose in many cases.

The right to counsel stems from several different sources. First, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States sets out that an accused person in a criminal prosecution has the right to have the “Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” While this right originally only applied to federal cases, a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) later applied the right to counsel to all state felony prosecutions, as well. Additionally, people facing misdemeanor charges have a right to counsel when there is a possible sentence of jail time.

The right to counsel is generally triggered when judicial proceedings begin against you, such as an indictment. From then on, you have the right to counsel at every major court proceeding in your case under the Sixth Amendment. Furthermore, prior to receiving any formal charges, you still have the right to counsel if you so choose during police interrogations and communications under the Fifth Amendment. Once you are in custody, law enforcement officers are required to inform you of this right to counsel by reading you your “Miranda rights.” It is always a good idea to ask for an attorney as soon as you can when confronted by police, and be careful not to speak with officers without counsel present.

When you are charged with a crime in Illinois, you have several options. You can plead “guilty” to the offense, which often occurs in exchange for a plea deal arranged between your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor, usually limiting the penalties you face. You can plead “no contest,” or “nolo contendre,” which means you do not admit guilt but also do not dispute the charge. A no contest plea has the same effects as a guilty plea and often also accompanies a plea bargain. In both of the above scenarios, you will have a conviction on your record for the offense.

The third option for all criminal defendants is to plead “not guilty” and dispute the charge. Not guilty pleas will eventually lead to a criminal trial, in which either a judge or jury of your peers will hear evidence and decide on your guilt. Though most criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains, a number of cases do proceed to trial. Therefore, it is important to understand the process of criminal trial in Illinois.

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