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Understanding Probable Cause and 4th Amendment Searches

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Television shows and movies may create a false picture of what it is like when someone is served with a search warrant by law enforcement. Many citizens are left with the impression of a polite knock on the door, presentation of the warrant, and then entry by police. While, in reality, that may happen from time to time, the truth is that conducting searches is not always as simple as what is shown on the screen.

What Makes a Search Legal?

The 4th Amendment protects citizens from an illegal search and seizure of property. This requires that, in most cases, law enforcement obtain a search warrant prior to conducting a search. To secure a search warrant, a judge must be convinced there is probable cause for police to enter private property.

Because the 4th Amendment does not define “probable cause,” that burden falls to the courts. One commonly shared explanation of the term is as follows:

• In 1949, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “... probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officer's' knowledge and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.

Perhaps a more basic definition might be that:

• Probable cause results when the level of evidence rises above that of mere suspicion.

Here are few additional examples to help one better understand probable cause. Compared to other legally accepted levels of suspicion or proof, probable cause is greater than “reasonable suspicion,” but it is:

• much less than proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
• much less than “clear and convincing proof.”
• less than a “preponderance of the evidence.”

What Makes a Warrantless Search Legal?

It is true that, at times, police may conduct a search of a vehicle or home without first securing a warrant. There are a few criteria that make that possible, including, but not limited to:

• Illegal items left in plain sight of law enforcement, be they in a vehicle when stopped by police, or in the home when opening the door after officers knock.
Admission of wrongdoing after being observed in an illegal act by police, as well as other pressing circumstances.

Be it guns , drugs or narcotics , or other property seized during a search, it is important to retain an attorney who understands the distinctions of probable cause, and legal searches.

Meet with a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney

If you believe that law enforcement personnel illegally searched your home, vehicle, or person, it is important to speak with a legal professional who understands the nuances of search warrants. Contact an experienced and knowledgeable Will County defense lawyer to discuss your concerns, as well as any charges you may be facing. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will direct a thorough review of the details to build a strong defense on your behalf.

Illinois Bail Reform Enacted

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Earlier this summer, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Bail Reform Act . The new statute, which went into effect immediately after the signing, is said to be an attempt at alleviating overcrowding in county jails, and a form of relief for those unable to afford the bail amount for minor and nonviolent offenses.

Opponents of the old “cash bail” system claim it is unfair, and make the argument that it favors defendants charged with violent crimes who have money over the indigent or destitute who are charged with nonviolent crimes .

What the New Law Changes

Previously, when charged with a crime, a defendant who was ordered held in lieu of bail was held in the county jail until they paid at least 10 percent of the bail amount. Those who could not afford the amount would remain in custody throughout their trial or until the matter was resolved. The Bail Reform Act considers the following :

• Cash bail is no longer required for those charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor crime or low-level felony, such as prostitution, driving under the influence , drug possession or theft .
• Rather than cash bail, a judge can order an alternative, such as electronic home monitoring, curfew, drug counseling, stay away orders, or in-person reporting.
• Defendants in custody can request a bail review hearing and receive credit for time served.
• Rather than focus on a defendant’s ability to pay their bail, the “promise to appear” system places a greater emphasis on whether or not one poses a threat to public safety, or their failure to appear for future court dates.

The legislation was heralded as a major step toward bipartisan cooperation by Illinois lawmakers.

Some Dissatisfaction with the Change

This new law is expected to alleviate some of the overcrowding in jails, but it did not go far enough for some in the law enforcement community. Although he campaigned for an alternative to the cash bail system, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart expressed dismay that the statute did not include provisions that made it more difficult for violent offenders who could afford bail to get released from custody.

Speak with a Will County Defense Lawyer who Understands the Justice System

When you are facing criminal charges or appearing for a bail hearing, or if you need legal advice about a pending case, it is important to retain a qualified and experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney . Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba to obtain the assistance of a lawyer who will conduct a meticulous review of all the facts of your case, and build a strong and reliable defense strategy.

Is Uber Really Preventing Drunk Driving?

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Around the country, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have become immensely popular, especially among younger adults. It is very easy to open a smartphone app, tap a few times, and have a car arrive to pick you up exactly where you are. These services have proven to be extremely convenient, even in cities with reliable mass transportation like Chicago. Unlike the “L,” Uber and Lyft offer door-to-door service, and it is often much quicker and cheaper to call an Uber than it is to find a taxi. But, what about Uber’s claims that the service is reducing drunk driving in the areas it serves? Is there any truth to them?

The real answer is that it is hard to say for sure. While there are indications that drunk driving fatalities have gone down in many cities, there are countless variables to consider, and the arrival of Uber is merely one.

Conflicting Studies

A recent study from the City University of New York found that since Uber began service in New York City in 2011, there has been a drop in alcohol-related accidents of up to 35 percent compared to areas not served by Uber. That is not an insignificant number, especially considering the immense population of the Big Apple. That study’s author acknowledged that the trends point to Uber helping the nation’s drunk driving issues but said that more evidence is needed to prove it.

In a separate study , published last year, researchers examined 100 high-population counties in the U.S. and found no link between the arrival of Uber and the number of traffic deaths. The author of that study surmised that the lack of a link may be due, in part, to the fact that the overall number of Uber users is rather small compared to the total number of drivers in a particular area. Uber might be making a huge difference among those who use it, but the numbers may not be large enough to show up in big-picture research yet.

Personal Responsibility

Despite its immediate availability, using Uber to prevent the risk of a DUI often requires planning ahead. For example, if you and a group of friends decide to go out in downtown Chicago, you should decide how you are getting home before you go. If you are going to be drinking, do not risk having your car nearby. It will only offer a temptation for you to drive home. Too often, the thought of leaving a car overnight in a parking garage or surface lot persuades individuals to get behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink. Instead, use Uber or public transportation as you go out so that your options are safely limited for getting back.

Facing a DUI Charge?

The best way to avoid an arrest on charges of DUI is to not drive while impaired. However, if you are facing such charges, your next step should be to contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney . At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we understand the law, and we will work with you in exploring your available options. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

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