Was Your DUI Stop Legal?

There are a lot of ways for the police to make a mistake that leads to a case being dismissed. One of these potential mistakes involves their decision to make the traffic stop in the first place. If the traffic stop was illegal, then any evidence against you as a result of the stop could be discarded, leaving the prosecutor with very few arguments. You may think that police have the right to stop anyone they want to for any reason or no reason, but this is not the case. In order to pull a person over, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are doing something illegal. We start every DUI case by reviewing the alleged grounds for the stop in order to determine whether we can use an illegal stop as the basis of a legal defense.

Defining Reasonable Suspicion

The reasonable suspicion standard is based in the U.S. constitution. It is a rather low bar. The officer must be able to show that there were objective reasons he suspected that you were breaking the law and that his suspicion was reasonable. This standard is meant to prevent police from profiling drivers or harassing people who do not seem to be doing anything wrong.

Reasonable suspicion cannot be based on an officer’s instinct or feelings. This would be far too easily abused. If that were the case, police officers could stop anyone at any time and claim he or she had a gut feeling that there was criminal activity going on.

The officer does not have to specifically suspect that you are drunk. If you are stopped for a more mundane reason, like having a tail light out, and turn out to be driving intoxicated, the stop is still valid.

Reasonable grounds for a DUI suspicion stop include:

• Swerving - While weaving within your own lane is not grounds for a stop, swerving in and out of your lane is.

• Turn signal - Drunk drivers tend to forget that their turn signal is on and keep going, or use the wrong signal.

• Aggressive driving - Drunk drivers can be very aggressive. Tailgating, recklessly passing another car, or trying to run another driver off the road can create reasonable suspicion that the driver is breaking the law.

• Any traffic infraction - Speeding, missing a light, failing to signal a turn.

If it is determined that you were illegally stopped, then the police would not be able to use any of the evidence they found by unlawfully stopping you.

Call a Will County DUI Lawyer

Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. is skilled at constructing strong DUI defenses. Our experienced Will County DUI attorneys will carefully assess everything that happened the night you were arrested. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.

What Are Aggravating Factors in Sentencing?

In our last blog, we discussed mitigating factors that your lawyer could raise at sentencing to protect you even if you do get convicted. Mitigating factors are circumstances that make the crime less serious and can lead to reduced sentencing. It is also important to know that there are aggravating factors the prosecution might raise. Aggravating factors are circumstances that make the crime more serious, and can lead to harsher sentencing. At a sentencing hearing, guilt has already been established, so the only question remaining is what the appropriate punishment is. Your lawyer should be able to assess which aggravating factors the prosecution might raise and prepare counterarguments.

Aggravating Factors in Illinois Sentencing

As with mitigating factors, there is a list of aggravating factors that the prosecution may use. In Illinois, aggravating factors include:

• Vulnerable victim - If the crime was committed against a vulnerable person, such as someone who is elderly, disabled, a child, or otherwise unable to protect themself, this factor is present.

• Serious harm - Offenses are considered much more serious if the victim suffered serious harm, or if you threatened them with serious harm.

• Pattern of criminal activity - If you already have a long criminal history, a repeat offense can be considered more serious, as it suggests that you are a threat to the public and do not intend to reform.

• Motivated by hate - Hate crimes based on the victim’s religion, race, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability are treated as especially serious. Incarceration becomes much, much more likely when this factor is present.

• Gang activity or crime-for-hire - If your crime was related to your membership or involvement with a gang, or if someone paid you to commit a crime, the court might see the conduct as more serious and you as a greater danger to the community.

• Guns - Using a firearm in the commission of an offense is an aggravating factor.

• Abusing a position of power - If you hold a trusted professional or civic position that you abused to enable your criminal activity, your offense could be treated more harshly. Examples may include being a city council member who embezzled funds, or being a doctor who sexually abused a patient.

The more aggravating factors found, the harsher your sentence could be. Mitigation is particularly important if aggravating factors are likely to be raised.

Call an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal prosecution, the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. can help. Our experienced Will County criminal defense lawyers will fight for your charges to be reduced or dismissed, and if needed, we will keep fighting to minimize any sentencing. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.

How a Lawyer Can Protect You During a Criminal Sentencing

No case is truly hopeless. Even if it seems that a conviction is inevitable, an attorney may be able to take actions that could lead to a dismissal or an acquittal at trial. There are a plethora of legal rules regarding what evidence can and cannot be introduced at trial. The constitution also governs quite a bit of what police officers can and cannot do. This is why every criminal case should be thoroughly assessed by a lawyer. However, even if it does turn out that you are convicted of a crime, or you take a plea bargain, your lawyer’s job is not done. Each criminal offense carries a range of possible penalties, including jail. A good defense attorney can make strong arguments that the lightest possible sentencing is appropriate in your case and in some cases, even avoid a conviction on your record. This could mean the difference between a clean criminal record, probation or years in prison.

What is Mitigation at Sentencing?

Before the judge decides on a sentence, your attorney will have the opportunity to present any mitigating factors that make the crime less serious than the charge may suggest. Mitigation also includes certain factors that may suggest to a court that you do not deserve harsh sentencing. Mitigation factors used in Illinois include:

• Provocation - If your crime involved an assault, your attorney may be able to show that the victim provoked you. This can suggest that your conduct was not that serious, as you were reacting to the victim’s actions.

• Compensation - If you are willing to compensate the victim for whatever harm you caused to them, this shows the judge that you are remorseful and trying to make it right.

• Mental illnesses / Alcohol Drug - If you have a serious mental illness that falls short of an insanity defense but still impacts your ability to control or understand the consequences of your actions, this may influence sentencing. Likewise use of drugs and alcohol and your mitigation of these issues by seeking treatment, can work in your favor

• Unlikely to re-offend - If your general attitude and evidence of your character suggest that you are not likely to commit more crimes, you may be given a less harsh sentence. Similarly, if the circumstances under which you broke the law were odd and not likely to happen again, this can suggest that you do not need a conviction or jail time.

• Likely to comply with probation and the court sentence - If you have generally been cooperative with the criminal justice process, such as by making all required appearances and complying with pretrial services, the court may believe that you would obey the terms of your probation.

These are just a few of the many mitigating factors that can affect sentencing. Good mitigation arguments can be the key to avoiding a conviction or minimizing jail time.

Call a Will County Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. fights hard for every criminal defendant we represent. Our dedicated Joliet criminal defense lawyers will do everything in our power to avoid a conviction or to minimize any sentencing. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.


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