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Joliet criminal defense lawyerWhen someone is charged with a crime, a number of things can happen within the criminal justice system. Typically, the defendant is arrested and read his or her rights, which includes the right to an attorney. In Illinois, a person may be eligible for bail depending on the severity of the alleged crime. Certain cases can also result in a trial, with a judge and a jury. You may have heard the phrase “incompetent to stand trial” from watching a movie or crime drama on television. What exactly does it mean to be found “incompetent” and how is this different from an individual being found not guilty by reason of insanity? Can mental illness prevent a defendant from being convicted of a criminal offense in Illinois? 

Mental Illness and Criminal Cases

Research shows that in the United States, approximately one in five adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million people in 2019). This type of illness can vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are a few of the most common mental illnesses that individuals experience. 

In general, a defendant who claims to have a mental illness would undergo psychiatric exams and evaluations by healthcare professionals in order to assess his or her mental health and competency. Simply having a mental illness does not prevent someone from being charged or convicted of a crime. In addition, it is not the same thing as being found not guilty by reason of insanity, which is a plea where the defendant claims that he or she was so mentally incapacitated at the time of the offense that he or she did not intend to commit the crime, and thus is not guilty.

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Joliet personal injury lawyerWinter is upon us, which means frigid air as well as snow, wind, ice, and sleet can be found covering the roads in Illinois. Venturing out can be treacherous, whether walking or driving. After significant snow accumulation, roadways should be plowed in order for drivers to travel safely. In addition, putting salt on icy roads can prevent slipping and sliding. If local streets or highways are not designed or maintained properly, black ice can form, which can cause a car accident. If you or your loved one suffer injuries in a crash that involved black ice, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages depending on the circumstances that led up to the accident. 

What Is Black Ice?  

Black ice, also known as clear ice, is a thin coating or glaze of ice on a hard surface, most often found on roads. Although the ice is not black, it appears transparent, which means the black road or pavement below can often be seen through it. Typically, snowflakes and even ice pellets or slush are visible on sidewalks or streets. However, black ice means that the surrounding areas are practically invisible to drivers or people walking on it. Therefore, pedestrians and motorists alike do not have the traction they normally would on dry surfaces. 

Driving for the Conditions  

There are certain driving behaviors and actions that can contribute to a vehicle collision on black ice. Since drivers may not realize they are traveling on black ice until they start to slide, it is often too late to brake or stop. The loss of traction can occur even when going at slow speeds. But when motorists are going over the posted speed limit, the consequences can be catastrophic. A driver can quickly lose control once the car’s wheels hit the black ice, causing it to swerve into a nearby lane or even oncoming traffic. This can directly lead to side-impact, rear-end, or head-on collisions. A vehicle may even strike a concrete median, building, light pole, or pedestrian, which can result in serious to fatal injuries. 

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Joliet DUI defense attorneyDriving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited in the United States. Research has shown the negative effect that controlled substances have on a motorist’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. In addition, studies prove the correlation between impaired driving and car accidents with serious injuries. In Illinois, the legal limit for intoxication is a .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). There are several factors that can affect the results of DUI testing, so that is why it is crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney who can provide the skilled representation needed when facing these serious charges.

Inaccuracies in Testing

When someone is pulled over for suspicion of DUI, the police typically ask the driver to submit to a series of tests. The standard field sobriety test (SFST) includes three tests performed during a traffic stop in order to determine if a driver is impaired. These tests involve evaluating a driver’s balance and coordination, and they are known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. 

Developed in the 1970s, these tests are scientifically validated and admissible as evidence in court in most states. However, they can be somewhat subjective depending on the officer administering the test. For example, if it is a new officer, he or she may not accurately recognize the signs of impairment or intoxication. In other words, the officer might be quick to declare that a driver is indeed drunk when he or she simply has balance issues due to vertigo or other inner ear issues. Age, injury, or disease could also affect the ability to perform any of these tests successfully.

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Joliet criminal defense attorneyIn order for a person to be convicted of a criminal offense, the prosecution typically must provide evidence that a crime was committed. A search warrant is a legal document that allows police officers to enter certain places to attempt to retrieve evidence. Recent news reports about police searching the wrong home have surfaced, shedding light on the use of search warrants. Specifically, “no-knock” search warrants have faced harsh criticism and scrutiny across the country. Common among drug crimes, weapons violations, and theft, search warrants are relied upon to establish a defendant’s guilt in most cases. However, it may not be as cut-and-dry as you might think. Depending on the circumstance, a criminal defense attorney may be able to contest the admission of evidence seized in the search and prevent it from being used in your case.

Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects U.S. citizens and their property from unreasonable search and seizure. According to its doctrine, warrants must be issued with probable cause based on a sworn affirmation, and they must also describe the exact location to be searched as well as the items to be seized. Illinois law includes provisions to ensure that warrants are issued and executed in compliance with the Fourth Amendment, and if those provisions are not upheld, law enforcement may be violating your rights.

You may be able to contest the admission of evidence obtained with a search warrant based on several factors. For example, a clerical error could be made on the affidavit supporting probable cause, or it may include false information, making any evidence inadmissible. It is also important to note that a police officer may only seize the evidence designated in the warrant.

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Joliet criminal defense attorneyMany people look forward to the winter holidays for various reasons, including gathering with friends and family to exchange gifts and share a meal. However, this holiday season is unlike most others in our lifetime due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on society. In order to slow the spread of the contagious virus, many non-essential businesses have closed or reduced capacity and staff. This has put a significant strain on individuals who are struggling to pay their bills let alone buy Christmas gifts. According to national statistics, more theft crimes occur during the holidays even without a pandemic going on. For instance, larceny during the month of December is 22 percent higher than the average rate for larceny in all other months combined. If you or your loved one is facing charges for any kind of theft crime, it is essential to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help reduce your sentence or have your case dismissed altogether. 

Different Types of Theft Offenses

Illinois takes theft crimes seriously, and therefore, it is important to understand what actions constitute these crimes. Common theft crimes such as robbery and burglary are often intertwined, but they are actually separate offenses under Illinois law. Robbery is defined as taking something from someone by force. However, if an individual feels threatened in any way, the theft charge escalates to robbery. 

Burglary means entering an area in which a person does not have the owner’s permission or authorization. Similar to trespassing, the main difference is the offender’s intent. The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to commit a felony or steal an item. Possible charges can range from a Class 1 to a Class 2 felony. However, if the break-in with intent was at a daycare facility or a church building, it is enhanced to a Class 1 felony with a mandatory four-year prison term that could also go up to 15 years and include a maximum fine of $25,000. 

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