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Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the Founders’ Faith in Grand Juries

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution…”  Thomas Jefferson The death of Trayvon Martin during an altercation with George Zimmerman prompted calls for a national discussion about race relations that went all the way to […]

Gideon v. Wainwright, 50 Years Later, Did Clarence Gideon Write His Appeal? Part 2

Clarence Earl Gideon had an eighth grade education and a long criminal history. He had been sentenced to prison for the fifth time. Upon his arrival he began to study law for long hours in the prison library. As the story goes, eventually, with a pencil and paper he scratched out an appeal to the […]

Gideon v. Wainwright, 50 Years Later, Did Clarence Gideon Write His Appeal? Part 1

Thanks to television crime dramas and police shows, everyone is familiar with the following: “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” The story of those familiar words started with a Bay Harbor, FL poolroom break-in in 1961. The break-in resulted in the arrest, […]

Affirmative Defenses to Criminal Charges: Self-Defense, Necessity, Entrapment, Insanity & Intoxication

In some criminal cases the defendant admits committing a criminal act. A legal excuse or justification may exist. This is an affirmative defense. For a person to be guilty of a crime, there are two things that must exist. The person must perform an action that is prohibited by law, and do so with an […]

Driving With a Suspended License in Illinois

The State of Illinois can suspend or revoke a person’s driving privileges for 36 reasons. Over 500,000 people in Illinois are unable to legally drive. Driving[1] with a suspended or revoked license (DWLS) in Illinois[2] is a serious matter. It is a criminal offense. Many people assume getting a ticket for driving while suspended is no different than any […]

Plea Bargaining in Criminal Cases

If every criminal case went to trial, the criminal justice system would effectively shut down. The answer developed to address this problem is the plea bargain. A “plea bargain” is an agreement between the prosecutor, the defendant’s attorney and the defendant. In return for the defendant entering a plea of guilty to a criminal charge, […]

Article IV of the US Constitution: Obligations of the States & Federal Government

Articles I, II and III define the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government respectively. The US Constitution’s Article Four defines relationships among the governments regarding the following: recognition of each government’s official acts, how a State treats the citizens of another state, extradition of criminal fugitives, return of slaves, admission of new States, and […]

The United States Felony Process

Americans are being locked up at ever increasing rates. Knowledge of the process leading to this result is important for all citizens. In 2008 the Washington Post reported that more than 1 of every 100 Americans was incarcerated. While there was a slight drop in Americans in jail or prison in 2011, the United States […]

The Role of Law Enforcement in Domestic Battery and Domestic Violence

Some states refer to the crime as Domestic Battery, some as Domestic Violence.  The essence is a personal criminal act by one person upon another with whom there is a family or household relationship. A domestic battery is a battery involving family or household members. Family or household members[1] are related by blood or marriage, former […]

The Purpose of Criminal Punishment

People who break the law are punished. Criminal penalties range from a small fine or community service to the death penalty. Why are criminals punished? To justify imposing punishment on one of its members, a society must have a purpose. Most people accept that there are consequences for criminal conduct. The consequences are generally unpleasant […]