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What You Should Know About Assault in Illinois

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Under Illinois law, there are several types of assault for which a person may face criminal charges. Assault, in any form, is a serious matter, and such charges may carry severe penalties. If you have been charged with assault, it is important to understand the potential implications.

The Basics of Assault

According to the Illinois Criminal Code , assault is defined as the act of placing someone at risk of bodily harm or creating the fear of such harm. This could include verbally threatening someone, or, perhaps, chasing after someone with your fists. It is crucial to recognize that assault charges are not dependent on whether you made physical contact with or injured another person. If you are found guilty of an assault charge without physical harm to the victim, you could still spend up to a month in jail and face up to $1,500 in fines. Your costs may also include legal fees and lost wages for missed work due to court appearances or time spent in jail. You may also be sentenced to up 120 hours of community service to be completed in accordance with the court’s direction.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravated assault is an assault charge that has been elevated because it involves a scenario in which it was not only more frightening for the victim, but carried the potential to be a more severe situation. You may be charged with aggravated assault if you threatened someone with a deadly weapon, for example, or if you were disguised during the time of the assault—wearing a mask or hood, for example. Even if you only committed non-aggravated assault, but the victim happened to be a state employee—such as a police officer, city bus driver, teacher, or ranger—the charge may be considered aggravated. The same holds true if the victim of the assault was handicapped or elderly and was not able, in that instance, to defend him or herself. Aggravated assault charges start as misdemeanors, with punishments including up to a year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,500, but may be elevated to felonies depending on the circumstances.

Charges of Battery

The offense of battery in Illinois is similar in some ways to assault, and many people confuse the two. Battery is simply the illegal act of causing any bodily harm. If the victim suffered suffered great bodily harm or permanent disability, the offense may be considered aggravated battery. Other aggravating factors may include the use of a weapon or disguise, as well as the age, disability, or occupation of the victim.

Seek Legal Help

If you or someone you know is facing assault charges of any type, it is important to have an attorney on your side who understands the criminal justice system. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba to discuss your case today. Mr. Zaremba is a former prosecutor who is prepared to help ensure your rights are fully protected.

Traffic Stops and Reasonable Mistakes of Law

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Police are tasked with enforcing the law, but this can lead to problems when the police themselves do not understand it. For instance, police are not allowed to initiate a traffic stop for no good reason because a baseless stop violates the driver’s Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Instead, police must have a reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to stop a car. This leaves open the question of what to do when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a crime because the officer misunderstands the law. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling determined that, in most such situations, a stop conducted as the result of an officer’s misunderstanding of the law is considered acceptable.

Traffic Stop Takes an Unexpected Turn

The case arose from a traffic stop that began as fairly routine. The police officer in question initiated the stop on the basis of the subject vehicle’s broken taillight—a condition that the officer believed was in violation of state law in North Carolina. During the stop, the officer asked for and received permission to search the vehicle. The search yielded a bag of cocaine, and the car’s owner was arrested.

At trial, the owner sought to have the evidence regarding the drugs suppressed, maintaining that the stop was illegal from the beginning. He argued that his car still had one working taillight which complied with the state law’s requirement that all vehicles must be “equipped with a stop lamp.” The trial court disagreed with the defendant’s claims and allowed the evidence. The owner subsequently pleaded guilty to drug charges, pending his appeal of the motion to suppress. Appeals continued until the case landed before the United States Supreme Court.

Reasonable Mistakes of Law

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided that traffic stops based on reasonable mistakes of law do not violate a driver's Fourth Amendment rights. The idea behind this is that the law expects police to act reasonably, but it does not expect them to be perfect. Prior Supreme Court cases had already allowed police officers to stop people based on reasonable mistakes of fact, for example believing that both of the car's taillights were out. In this case, the Justices merely chose to extend that same leeway to mistakes of law. The Court noted, however, that this does not allow the police to abuse their discretion and that “the limit is that ‘the mistakes must be those of reasonable men.”

Questionable Circumstances?

The legal limits of police authority and drivers’ rights are always changing, so it is important to have an attorney on your side who understands the legal landscape. If you are facing criminal charges that arose from a questionable traffic stop, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

New Law Increases Eligibility for Expungement

Joliet expungement seal lawyer

When you are arrested and charged with a crime, your arrest will remain on your permanent record, even if the charges against you are dismissed. Criminal background checks are often part of the application process when you are looking for a job, a loan, or even admission to certain educational programs. If you have even just one arrest in your history, you may be forced to answer some uncomfortable and often embarrassing questions from hiring managers, lenders, and admissions officers. Depending on how your case played out, however, you may be eligible to have your arrest record expunged . Thanks to a new law in Illinois , more individuals could qualify for expungement going forward helping those who have made mistakes build a better future.

Understanding Expungement

As intimidating as the word “expungement” may sound, its meaning is very positive. Expungement is the complete destruction of all records related to a particular arrest and prosecution. When an arrest record is expunged, it is no longer visible on background checks, and you will no longer be required to disclose you were ever arrested for that charge. It is almost as though the arrest never happened.

Strict Limits for Expungement Eligibility

Eligibility for expungement in Illinois is based on a two-pronged approach. The first element deals with the arrest itself. The law provides that expungement may be available for an arrest that did not result in a guilty verdict or a guilty plea with a penalty other than court supervision. Certain offenses cannot be expunged even if court supervision is imposed, including sexual offenses involving a victim under age 18, driving under the influence, and reckless driving by a driver age 25 or over.

The second element involves whether a particular individual qualifies for expungement. Prior to the new guidelines taking effect on Jan 1, 2017, the law prohibited a person from applying for expungement of an arrest if he or she has ever been convicted of a criminal offense not including the arrest in question. This means that if you were convicted of a shoplifting misdemeanor many years ago, for example, and you wanted to get a more recent arrest expunged from your record, you would not have be eligible to apply under the old law.

New Changes to the Law

Beginning this year, those with prior convictions will be allowed to apply for expungement of an otherwise eligible arrest. The expungement will not remove the conviction from the individual’s record, and the ability to apply does not guarantee that the expungement will be approved. The new law simply makes expungement potentially available to thousands of individuals who have long since paid for their past mistakes. Lawmakers are hopeful that by opening the process to more people, those with prior convictions will be able to move forward more easily and avoid missed opportunities in the future.

We Can Help

If you have recently finished a court supervision program or had charges against you dismissed and would like to learn more about getting the offense expunged from your record, contact an experienced Will County expungement lawyer . Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today. We will help you understand the applicable laws and will work with you in completing the expungement process as quickly as possible.


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