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murder, criminal charges, Illinois criminal defense attorneyA homecoming celebration turned tragic this past weekend when a car plowed into a crowd of spectators, killing four and injuring dozens. Three adults and a two-year-old child were killed when the vehicle driven by a 25-year-old woman suddenly crashed into a throng of people watching the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade on Saturday in Stillwater. The driver was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and was held over the weekend on four counts of second-degree murder. She is expected to appear in court this week for arraignment.

Murder Charges in Illinois

As the OSU community seeks to heal following the tragedy, the case may serve to highlight some important facets of criminal law here in Illinois. Charges for murder in Illinois can be brought against a defendant in the first or second degree. First degree murder is committed when a person kills another:

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racism,  Illinois criminal defense attorneyIn recent months the nation has grappled with the question of police tactics and the use of force by law enforcement officers. Are police becoming too much like a military force that oppresses as opposed to a community presence that encourages cooperation? Are police tactics too aggressive? Is there sufficient oversight to ensure officers do not use too much force in dealing with a situation? While members of local, state, and the national government debate these questions, individuals who observe police tactics on the news may themselves wonder what to do if they believe they are victims of police brutality.

Police Brutality is a Violation of Your Civil Rights

Laws permit police officers to use a reasonable amount of force to protect themselves or others, apprehend a suspect, or defuse a hostile situation. However, when police officers use force that is not reasonable under the circumstances, a federal civil rights violation may have occurred. For instance, an officer who subdues then punches and kicks an elderly woman because she would not move away from an area fast enough has likely violated that woman’s civil rights.

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decriminalization, Illinois law, Chicago criminal defense attorneyWhile the approved medical use of marijuana has been technically legal in the state of Illinois for almost a year and half, other legislation has made its way through Springfield that would decriminalize low-level possession for all residents. Last week, the Illinois Senate approved a measure that would make possessing small amounts of marijuana punishable as a civil offense, similar to a traffic ticket, rather than a criminal violation.

After getting through the state House last month, the bill was approved in the Senate by a vote of 37-19. It is not, however, ready for Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature yet, as sponsors indicate approval of some final cleanup language is needed first. If ultimately approved, Illinois would become the 18th state to officially decriminalize low-level marijuana possession.

It is important for Illinois residents to realize that there is a difference between decriminalization and legalization. Even if the measure is signed into law, this particular bill will not legalize the possession or recreational use of marijuana in the state. Instead, it would change the prosecution of low-level possession, defined as up to 15 grams which would be about 25-30 cigarette-sized joints, from a misdemeanor criminal offense to a civil offense. Rather than facing the large fines and possible prison time associated with the current possession laws, the proposed bill would require offenders to pay a fine of up to $125 with no court appearance or criminal prosecution.

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plea bargain, guilty plea, Illinois criminal defense attorneyWith high-profile criminal prosecutions regularly capturing national attention and the intense dramatization of courtroom proceedings on television shows and movies, many may be led to believe that every criminal charge will play out in an oak-paneled room, in front of a duly-appointed judge and jury. The reality is, however, that less than ten percent of criminal cases ever reach trial, and in federal cases, only around three percent will ever be tried. Instead, the vast of majority of criminal proceedings are resolved by means of a plea bargain.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain, in effect, is a negotiation between prosecutors and a defendant, which seeks to reach a resolution to the case without requiring a trial. During the process, a defendant generally will agree to plea guilty to the specified charge or a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence and/or cooperation with the prosecution of related cases. The Illinois Supreme Court mandates that any plea bargain must be voluntary on the part of a defendant who clearly understands the charges and associated penalties.

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assault, battery, Illinois Criminal Defense LawyerDespite being among the most common violent crime charges in the country, many individuals would be unable to explain exactly what allegations of assault or battery entail. Adding to the confusion is the fact that many cases may include charges of one, the other, or both, and the terminology used may not exactly have the same meaning in everyday conversation. Charges for assault and battery can be extremely serious, particularly so in cases involving aggravated assault or aggravated battery, and a qualified criminal defense lawyer can help you make sense of the situation.

Assault and battery can each represent separate offenses to a person charged with a violent crime; however, the legal definition of assault relies directly upon the definition of battery. Contrary to the conventional order in which the terms are typically listed, an individual should first have a clear understanding of battery.

Battery and Aggravated Battery

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