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Hal Garfinkel is retained as the defendant's lawyer in the Chicago high profile murder case of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez. Read more...
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Illinois federal criminal defense lawyerEspecially if you are charged with a federal crime, you might think it will be difficult if not impossible for you to change your defense attorney when the case has already started, but the truth is that it is actually possible to do just that—and it really is not that difficult to do so either. Here is what makes it relatively easy and painless to change your criminal defense lawyer even during a federal case.

Whether a Federal Case or Not, You Can Change Your Defense Attorney

While it is true that federal cases might be prosecuted slightly differently from state cases, including in the prosecution’s methods and arguments against you, there is still the possibility that you can change your defense lawyer during the case. This might be especially beneficial to you because of how serious federal charges can often be. You are permitted to change your lawyer at any time during a case or even during a trial. The only caveat is that doing so must not put the prosecution at a disadvantage by delaying the case, thereby preventing them from getting all their witnesses to testify before the court on time, or otherwise putting the trial schedule too far behind.

This is all especially important with federal cases. Since federal cases tend to be much more serious than state cases, the prosecution tends to have a lot more complexity, details, and even witnesses involved with their arguments and cases. This means that your federal criminal defense attorney needs to be particularly “studied up” for the case, requiring a lot of preparation. If you feel that your lawyer is not adequately prepared, or that they are not handling your case effectively, it may be time to make a change.


Chicago violent crime defense attorneyIf you have been arrested on charges related to a violent crime, including assault, battery, or homicide, you could be facing serious and long-term penalties. But, what if the actions for which you were arrested were taken in self-defense or while protecting a loved one or your home? Could you still be found guilty and sentenced, or might it be possible to use the concept of “justifiable force” as a defense? The answer will depend on the specific circumstances of your situation, but it is important to understand how the law in Illinois deals with justifiable force.

When Is Force Justifiable?

A justifiable force defense is not appropriate in every case or circumstance. In order for this defense to apply, your violent actions must have been intended to defend yourself or someone else from an unlawful act, bodily, harm or death. Justifiable force might also be a viable defense if you were defending your property or that of a family member from an unlawful act, such as a break-in or attack. However, a justifiable force defense will not automatically validate your actions. There are additional details that you need to consider before attempting to use it as a defense.

Limits on Justifiable Force

To the average person, it might seem that acting in self-defense is generally accepted as a defense to many violent crime charges. However, the laws regarding self-defense vary widely. For example, the “justifiable force” doctrine in Illinois is substantially more restrictive compared to the “stand your ground” laws used in many other states. In Illinois, you cannot use a justifiable force defense if you were the original aggressor in the situation in question. The amount of force used must also be found as proportionate to the reasonably perceived threat. For example, if you had the reasonable belief that you were in danger of being killed, and the only possible way to avoid it was the use of deadly force, a justifiable force defense is likely to be appropriate. If, however, the only reasonable danger was to your property, deadly force is not likely to be considered proportionate or justifiable.


Chicago criminal defense lawyerIn recent years, the authority that police officers have over citizens has been heavily debated. Some people believe that law enforcement officers have too much authority and power while others strongly disagree. Regardless of your stance on the issue, knowing your rights during police interactions is essential. Most people have heard a Miranda warning or learned about their constitutional rights, but many do not fully understand how to assert those rights. If you are suspected of a criminal offense, knowing how to invoke your rights is essential.

The History of Miranda Warnings

When a criminal suspect is arrested or before he or she is interrogated, police are required to read the suspect the “Miranda Rights.” These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to consult with an attorney. The rights are largely based on the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution states that individuals may not be forced to be a witness against themselves. Put another way, people have the right to avoid incriminating themselves or implicating themselves in a crime. They also have the right to legal counsel.

The Miranda Rights stem from a case in which 24-year-old criminal defendant Ernesto Miranda was interrogated by police about his alleged involvement in several violent crimes. Lawyers contended that Miranda had not been informed of his right to avoid self-incrimination and speak with a lawyer before the interrogation. Although Miranda had confessed to the crimes during the interrogation, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that his confession was inadmissible in court because he had not been informed of his rights.


Chicago IL criminal defense attorneyIn the United States, the right to own and carry a firearm is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. However, there are certain acts and situations that may cause you to lose your right to own or carry a firearm. In addition, you could face criminal charges if you use a weapon to threaten someone or in the commission of another crime. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you learn what you need to know about guns and weapons charges in the state of Illinois.

Not All Weapons Are Guns

While most weapons charges result from the illegal use or possession of a gun, not all are connected to a firearm. In fact, almost any object can become a weapon, depending on the circumstances. Examples could include everything from knives, swords, and switchblades to stun guns and brass knuckles. Use of these or any other dangerous weapons can lead to a criminal weapons charge under Illinois law.

Unlawful Use or Possession of a Weapon by a Felon

Those who have previously been convicted on felony charges are barred from using or possessing a firearm. This applies even if the felony conviction did not take place in the state of Illinois. If a felony offender ignores this ban, they are at risk of charges for unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon. At minimum, this is a Class 3 felony, which carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison for a first offense. A subsequent offense, or the possession of certain types of weapons, can lead to elevated charges and increased penalties.


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Chicago IL criminal defense attorneyWhen you have been charged with a crime and your case is set for trial, you and your attorney will need to decide if you are going to testify on your own behalf. This decision will need to take into account a variety of ethical and strategic considerations, including the nature and severity of the crimes for which you have been charged. Deciding to testify in a murder trial, for example, is much different from deciding to testify in a trial for theft or burglary. As you and your lawyer approach this decision, it is critical to understand how the choice can affect your case.

Constitutional Rights and Protections for Criminal Defendants

As a criminal defendant, you have the right to due process of law as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You also have the right to face your accusers under the Sixth Amendment. Taken together, these rights have been interpreted in case law as giving you the right to testify in any criminal proceeding against you. Nobody involved in the case can keep you from testifying if you wish to do so, including the judge, the prosecutor, or even your own attorney.

It is also your right not to testify during your criminal trial. This right does not exist in other types of proceedings. For example, you can be required to testify in a civil trial, and failing to comply could lead to sanctions or a finding of contempt. However, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself, which means that you cannot be compelled to testify when you are the defendant in a criminal case.



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