Blogs | Law Office of Jack L Zaremba


National Defense Bar’s Report Highlights the “Trial Penalty” Problem

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When a criminal defendant is presented with a possible plea bargain, one of the primary incentives to accept the agreement is a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. This means that refusing the agreement requires the defendant to risk a more severe sentence if he or she is found guilty at trial. The difference between the sentence offered in connection with a plea bargain and the sentence imposed after a trial is known as the “trial penalty,” and a prominent group of defense attorneys believes that trial penalties are now so severe that the right to trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been systematically compromised.

Most Cases Never Go to Trial

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) recently conducted a two-year research project on the issue of trial penalties. The group released its findings earlier this month. Their report indicated that the rate of trial in federal cases has been falling for about 50 years and is now at less than 3 percent. Just 30 years ago, about one in five (20 percent) of federal defendants opted for a trial. The trial rate for state cases is around 6 percent.

The report suggests that trials have been displaced by a “system of [guilty] pleas,” which has essentially eliminated jury trials “as the primary protection for individual liberties and the principal mechanism for public participation in the criminal justice system.” As a result, defendants are suffering the consequences.

How a Trial Penalty Works

Consider a hypothetical situation: A man is arrested by police for trying to break into someone’s home. Within a day or two, prosecutors have obtained police reports, witness statements, and other evidence that has been gathered so far. On the third day, the suspect is able to meet with an attorney for an hour or two. A day or so later, the lawyer meets with the prosecutors, and a plea bargain is discussed. If the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass, he or she will receive probation and will not be required to serve jail time. If the defendant pushes for trial, however, the charge will be felony burglary, and the defendant could face up to seven years in prison.

Experts largely agree that a trial penalty is necessary—within reason. If there was no incentive for defendants to plead guilty, every suspect would demand a trial and courts would be flooded with cases. When the penalty is a defendant’s primary considerations when thinking about a plea deal, however—rather than his or her actual guilt or ability to raise reasonable doubts—it becomes a threat to the defendant’s rights, the report claims.

We Can Help

If you have been charged with a crime, an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights, including your right to a fair trial. Contact the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba to schedule a free consultation by calling 815-740-4025 today.

Traveling with Firearms: Rules for Illinois Residents Versus Visitors

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How to legally travel with their firearms, particularly their concealed carry handguns, is a serious concern for thousands of Illinois residents and visitors. Roughly 1.5 million Illinois residents have a Firearm Owners ID (FOID) card, and over 243,000 now hold a Concealed Carry License (CCL). Nationwide, over 16 million concealed carry permits have been issued.

Whether you live in or are a visitor to Illinois, you need to be aware that Illinois still has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the nation. Here are a few tips to help you stay on the right side of the law, whether you live here, are vacationing here, or are just passing through:

1. Transporting Unloaded Firearms in Your Vehicle

Illinois Residents: You must have in your possession a valid Illinois Firearm Owners ID (FOID) card, and firearms should be unloaded and kept in a case.

Visitors: Non-residents who are permitted to possess a firearm in their own state may legally bring their firearms to Illinois (no Illinois FOID card needed), but firearms should be transported as described above.

2. Transporting Loaded “Concealed Carry” Firearms in Your Vehicle or on Your Person

Illinois Residents: You must have in your possession a valid Illinois Concealed Carry License in order to have a loaded handgun concealed about your person or accessible within your vehicle. Be aware that there are many places where concealed carry is prohibited, including government buildings, schools, hospitals, and public transportation.

Visitors: Non-residents with a valid CCL from their home state may transport a loaded concealed handgun in their vehicle, but they may not remove it from the vehicle. Other than that one exception, Illinois does not honor concealed carry permits from other states. Illinois also does not allow any open carry of firearms. Non-residents without a CCL from their home state should follow the rules in #1 above when transporting firearms in or through Illinois.

Additional Note for Both Residents and Visitors: If stopped by the police (e.g., for a traffic violation ) and specifically asked if you are carrying a concealed firearm, you must either verbally disclose that you are carrying a firearm or present your CCL to the officer. At the officer’s request, you must identify the location of the concealed firearm and permit the officer to secure the firearm for the duration of the investigative stop. Any passengers in your vehicle must do the same.

3. Concealed Carry License Validity Outside Your Home State

Illinois Residents: You may carry a concealed handgun in the 26 states that honor the Illinois Concealed Carry License, according to the laws of each of those states.

Visitors: Illinois does not honor concealed carry permits issued by any other states. Illinois will, however, issue non-resident CCLs to residents of the following states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of those four states and plan to spend a substantial amount of time in Illinois, it might be worth the time and expense for you to obtain an Illinois CCL.

Joliet Gun Crimes Defense Attorney Supports the 2nd Amendment

If you have been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, a FOID violation, a CCL violation, or any other gun crime in Illinois, seek the advice of a Will County gun charges defense lawyer who will aggressively defend your Second Amendment rights. Jack Zaremba is a well-established criminal defense attorney with extensive experience defending clients accused of violating weapons and firearms laws. Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 at any time for a free consultation.

Supreme Court Forbids Warrantless Use of Cell Site Location Information

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The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to be “secure” from “unreasonable searches and seizure,” and that this right can only be violated upon a showing of probable cause. While the text of the Fourth Amendment has not changed in almost 230 years, the application of its promises has been the topic of much debate and thousands of criminal cases . Our nation’s highest court recently authored the latest chapter in the story of the Fourth Amendment, ruling that law enforcement officers must get a warrant before obtaining cell site location information (CSLI).

What Is CSLI?

Cell site location information refers to the records created and maintained by cell phone service providers each time a cell phone connects to a cell tower. Your phone, obviously, connects to a tower every time you make a call, send a message, or access the internet using cell service, but such actions represent a very small percentage of CSLI. The cell phone in your pocket is actually connecting to a tower every few seconds, letting the tower know that it is nearby and whether it is ready to receive a call or text.

While these connections do not include private data such as the contents of message, they do include where you are—or more accurately, where your phone is—at any given time. Considering that our phones are never very far from us, tracking the history of a person’s CLSI effectively creates a map of everywhere that person has been.

The Case

The case before the Supreme Court involved a series of armed robberies in the city of Detroit. Law enforcement officials obtained the CLSI of a suspect without a warrant and used more than 13,000 data points to trace the man’s movements over a four-month period. The cell tower records placed the man in the vicinity of several of the robberies, and he was convicted on related charges.

At trial and on appeal, the defense claimed that using CLSI in this way was a violation of the Fourth Amendment and the man’s right to privacy. The prosecution maintained that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in regard to cell records that do not include personal content. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case earlier this year.

The Ruling

In a split ruling, the high court agreed with the defendant and overturned his conviction. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court’s opinion, concluding that CLSI gives the government the ability to track a person’s movements in retrospect. The court held that obtaining CLSI constitutes a search as defined by the Fourth Amendment, and that a warrant supported by probable cause is necessary before such data can be acquired.

Contact Us for Help

If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime based on a questionable search, contact a Will County criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today. We will review your case and help ensure that your rights are fully protected.


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