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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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It is a violation of federal law for a person to possess firearms if he or she “has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently observed, “This country witnesses more than a million acts of domestic violence, and hundreds of deaths from domestic violence, each year.” In a March 26 opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor, she said that any “offensive touching” constituted “domestic violence” for purposes of federal firearms laws.

United States v. Castleman

This particular case began with the 2008 arrest of James Castleman in Tennessee. In the year 2001, Castleman pleaded guilty to causing “bodily injury” to his mother’s child. Seven years later, federal authorities discovered that Castleman had been selling firearms. He was charged, among other things, with illegally possessing firearms following a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

Castleman argued the Tennessee conviction should not count against him because the “bodily injury” did not involve the use of “physical force.” The trial court agreed and dismissed the charges. A divided federal appeals court upheld the trial judge's decision. The majority said the law required evidence of “violent force,” whereas Tennessee’s law might permit a conviction for “a slight, nonserious physical injury with conduct that cannot be described as violent.”

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GPTechnology makes police surveillance much easier and, consequently, personal privacy much more difficult to retain. Courts struggle to define the scope of personal privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Even the United States Supreme Court is divided on the issue, leaving lower federal courts to struggle with the implications of increased police monitoring.

United States v. Jones

In the 2012 case United States v. Jones, the Supreme Court held that police must obtain a warrant when attaching a Global-Positioning-System (GPS) tracking device to a vehicle. Federal and state police agencies commonly use such devices to monitor criminal suspects. All nine justices of the Court agreed this constituted a “search or seizure” requiring a warrant under the Fourth Amendment.

But the justices disagreed on their reasoning. Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the Court's principal opinion, said it was a question of property rights. Since the FBI had to physically attach a GPS device to a suspect's car, that constituted a form of trespass, which under a historical reading of the Fourth Amendment required a warrant. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito wrote separately to emphasize their broader concerns over privacy. Justice Alito's opinion, which was joined by three other justices, said the “trespass” issue was “relatively minor” and the real problem was the government's “use of a GPS for the purpose of long-term tracking.” Such surveillance should require a warrant, Justice Alito said, even if there was no physical trespass like attaching a GPS device.

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Post-holiday season, you’re probably headed back to one or two stores to return items. In the hubbub of shopping and busy crowds, you need to be on high alert for increased shoplifting watches. Make sure you carry your item in within a bag and carry the receipt with you in case anyone asks where you got the item. As soon as you enter the store, ask for assistance with returning items. Going with a friend tends to make the process easier. Unfortunately, sometimes retailers can take things a step too far. Being on high alert for theft means that shoppers need to beware retailer allegations of shoplifting. If you have been accused, know your rights and contact a Chicago criminal defense lawyer. Do not let a story bully you into confessing.

Since stores are watching out for shoplifting behavior, the chances of being accused are greater this time of year than any other. Stores are required to have seen you make an attempt to steal something (probable cause) before accusing you of this, but recently stores have been in the national spotlight for detaining customers after racially profiling them.  Stores cannot keep you in a small space without allowing you to leave that room, but some stores and their employees attempt to use threats or intimidation to get to confess to a crime. In the short term, the best thing you can do is cooperate but you also want to watch out for any efforts that are used to try to force you into confessing.

The store does have the right to call the police if they find that you have stolen property on your person. Following this incident, you need to write down all the details about what happened and to immediately contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney. Take your case seriously, as a shoplifting offense could have an impact on your personal record.

Earlier this month, a man was placed under arrest for Aggravated Driving Under the Influence (DUI) when the vehicle he was driving left the highway, crossing into the center median, and struck a stationary police car. According to a report by The Chicago-Sun Times, the man was driving a pick-up truck on I-55 North at around 9:30 p.m. when the truck left the road and collided with the officer’s squad car.

The officer, as well as a police dog who was also in the car, were both killed in the crash. The driver of the pick-up truck was taken to the hospital and was then arrested once he was released.

Driving Under the Influence in Illinois

Any driver who has a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater is driving in violation of Illinois law (keep in mind that minors and commercial drivers are subject to lower limits).

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In August of 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law that will increase the speed limit to 70 miles per hour for some highways in Illinois.  Illinois is the 35th state to increase their speed limits to 70 mph.  The law allows eight counties to opt-out depending on their local safety concerns.  The eight counties are Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will.

Quinn approved the new law saying that “this limited 5 miles per hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors’ and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding.”  The law also amended the previous definition of “excessive” from 31 mph over the speed limit to 26 mph over.

Quinn took the summer to consider the bill and decided that it was good for commerce and the drivers of Illinois.  Political support is also clear as the law passed 85 to 30 in the House and 41 to 6 in the Senate.  But there are many detractors to the new law including state police, roadway safety organizations, and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

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