CRIMINAL LAWYER ILLINOIS Sami Azhari, Attorney at Law Fri, 18 Mar 2016 13:43:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What is the Cannabis Law in Illinois? Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:29:53 +0000 Illinois Cannabis Laws

Cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana, is illegal in the state of Illinois. Despite the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (410 ILCS 130/1) becoming effective as of January 2014, recreational use, distribution, and sale of marijuana in any quantity remains a crime in the State of Illinois. Many people downplay the severity of being charged with a marijuana offense, though such a conviction can have a significant impact on your personal and professional life.

The punishments associated with marijuana possession vary depending on the quantity of marijuana involved, the amount of previous convictions the offender has, and where/how it is being sold to others, if the charge is for delivery of marijuana. According to 720 ILCS 550/4, the sentencing guidelines are as follows:

  • Up to 2.5 grams – Class C Misdemeanor -$1,500 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail;
  • 2.5-10 grams – Class B Misdemenor – $1,500 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail;
  • 10-30 grams – Class A Misdemeanor – $2,500 fine and up to 1 year in jail for a first offense. Subsequent offenses are class 4 felonies with fines up to $25,000 and 1 to three years in jail.
  • 30-500 grams – Class 4 felony – $25,000 fine and 1 to 3 years in jail for a first offense. Subsequent offenses are class 3 felonies with fines up to $25,000 and 2 to 5 years in jail.

Some people mistakenly believe that with the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, everyone is allowed to use marijuana recreationally. They may also think that enforcement of marijuana offenses is lessening, but this is not the case. Even if you obtain marijuana from a friend or colleague who is entitled to legally possess it due to a qualifying medical condition, this cannot be shared for recreational use with others. Absent possessing a valid identification card issued by the Department of Public Health, you are not entitled to use marijuana even if it has been issued by the state to another person.

Some offenders may be eligible for court supervision, the successful completion of which will allow dispose of the criminal case. There are many options for first time marijuana offenders especially that may result in no conviction being entered on your criminal record and it is important to understand all of your options before entering a plea agreement or pleading guilty to a crime you may have not committed.

Overview: Expunging Your Criminal Record in Illinois Sat, 27 Feb 2016 15:22:35 +0000 Illinois Expungement Law

Expungement is the process where a criminal court disposition is removed from your public record. According to Illinois law, to expunge means “to physically destroy records or return them . . . and to obliterate the [offender’s name] from any official index or public record, or both.” 20 ILCS 2630/5.2(a)(1)(E). If you have been convicted of certain crimes, you may have a right to expungement. Expunging your criminal record is something any eligible offender should consider due to the significant benefits expungement can have on your life.

Illinois Expungement Laws

The determination of whether you are eligible for expungement depends on 1) the crime you were charged with; 2) the amount of time that has passed since the final disposition on the case; and 3) the offender’s actions between the time of the final disposition and the expungement hearing.

Many misdemeanor crime dispositions can qualify for expungement so long as the disposition of the offense was something other than a conviction. Things that are not considered convictions include charges that:

  1. Were dismissed
  2. Had probation as a final disposition
  3. Had conditional discharge as a final disposition
  4. Had court supervision as the final disposition

A “conviction” occurs only when there is a pleading or finding of guilty after a trial on the merits of the case. You may also file for expungement if you were arrested, but did not have charges brought against you or if you were found not guilty or acquitted after a trial.

You must also ensure that there are no pending criminal matters against the petitioner (the person seeking the expungement) or subsequent offenses since the record they seek to expunge.

After a petition for expungement is filed, both the prosecution and the state police have an opportunity to contest the petition. This may occur if the offender has pending criminal charges or if there is some justifiable reason the state or police believe that the individual’s record should be kept available for public knowledge, such as if the offense is violent in nature.

Reasons for Getting an Expungement


Illinois lawmakers recently passed a law that prevents employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history before they are selected for an interview or hired. Private employers (i.e. non-government) cannot ask potential candidates about their criminal history in the “first step” of the hiring process. When the time comes to talk about criminal history, however, an expunged record will allow you to truthfully answer that you have never been convicted of a crime in Illinois.


Many rental applications ask questions pertaining to criminal history. Many of these are phrased such that they are asking about convictions only; thus, if you have your criminal record expunged, you may state that you have never been convicted of a crime. Being able to answer questions honestly on a housing application, and being able to state you have a clean record may greatly increase the amount of housing options available to you.

Peace of Mind

Having a criminal record can be embarrassing, frustrating, and not truly representative of a person’s character. In addition to the many financial and professional benefits expunging your record may have on your life, the emotional benefits may be significant as well. Illinois law protects individuals that are serious about taking responsibility for their actions or those that simply made a one-time lapse in judgment and ensures that one isolated incident does not need to dictate your entire future.

Understanding the Risks of Retail Theft in Illinois Tue, 23 Feb 2016 22:37:15 +0000 Retail Theft Statute

“It was only a shirt.” “No one was looking.” “I think it’s just a misdemeanor anyway.” If these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, it is important to take a step back and understand the significant disruption a retail theft conviction could have on your life. Theft crimes throughout the country are on the rise and the punishments associated with these crimes should be taken very seriously.

“Retail theft” spans beyond taking an item you did not pay for from a store. Under 720 ILCS 5/16-25, retail theft may also include:

  • Price switching (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(2))
  • Under-ringing (think of a self-scan situation) (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(4))
  • Using or possessing a theft detecting shielding device (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(7))
  • Misappropriating for personal use (usually if you have privileges from working at a store)
  • Representing that you are the owner or stolen property in attempt to get a refund from the store (720 ILCS 5/16-25(a)(6))

If charged with a first shoplifting offense, it will likely be either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 4 felony. The categorization depends on the value of the item or items stolen, whether the individual has previously been convicted of a crime, and if, so, the nature of the prior crime. The severity of the crime, in terms of whether is a misdemeanor (less severe) or a felony (more severe) will also be dictated by the value of the items stolen.

A Class A misdemeanor is the most severe level of misdemeanors, but the least harsh of all possible convictions for shoplifting. A person found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor may:

  • Serve up to one year in jail
  • May be fined up to $2,500
  • May be required to pay restitution (pay for the items stolen, plus possible other associated costs)

In addition to criminal penalties, storeowners may seek other forms of restitution, the court may implement additional fines, or may petition for the offender to pay attorney’s fees and associated court costs. Felony convictions carry more severe punishments; a Class 4 felony will land a convicted individual 1-3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. People charged with a misdemeanor shoplifting offense that shoplift again will face felony charges, which demonstrates the severity of retail theft.

New Illinois law makes speeding 26 mph over the limit a crime Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:17:08 +0000 Speeding 26-34 MPH Over Illinois

Illinois tollway drivers are finding out that state laws on speeding aren’t what they used to be. Drivers used to have to worry about misdemeanor charges only when speeding more than 30 MPH over the limit. But under a new law in 2014, a motorist can get a misdemeanor driving even slower than that.

The most recent change in the law makes speeding just 26 MPH over the limit a crime. Under Section 11-601.5(a) of the Vehicle Code, speeding 26-34 MPH over the posted limit is a Class B misdemeanor offense. The potential penalty for any Class B misdemeanor is 180 days in the county jail and a $1,500 fine.

To make matters worse, the driver is not eligible for supervision. The court is required to impose a permanent conviction, which can in some instances result in a suspended driver’s license.

Speeding 26 MPH over the limit is a ticket for which the motorist will have to hire an attorney. The judge presiding in traffic court is required to advise the accused that he is facing a misdemeanor offense punishable by a jail sentence, and continue the case for legal counsel.

The reason traffic court judges require people to retain counsel is that they want to retain the right to sentence the offender to jail if the circumstances warrant it. The law in the United States is that the accused cannot be sentenced to jail unless he is represented by counsel.

Attorneys representing clients in these cases would agree that traffic court has become very political in recent years. Speeding is now regarded as a very serious offense because the media has reported on leniency by traffic court judges for repeat offenders. An attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced is now a necessity to protect your driving privileges and avoid a criminal record.

New Illinois law bans mugshot web sites while Google removes them from search Wed, 23 Oct 2013 20:24:25 +0000 Google Mugshot Update | Illinois Law Against Mugshot Web Sites

People make mistakes… That’s just life, right?

But things are different in today’s world, because social media like Facebook and Twitter are available to document people’s mistakes forever. In an instant, arrest records are disseminated for all to see in Google.

There is a pernicious industry on the web that preys upon people who were arrested by posting their mugshots online. The business model relies on shaming these people with their photos and a description of their charges until they pay a fee to have them removed. The fee can be as much as several hundred dollars. is the biggest offender. The site has web traffic in excess of 2 million visitors each month. For comparison, the Chicago Tribune online sees about 3 million.

But now Illinois has outlawed this practice. Under a new law signed by Governor Pat Quinn, internet mugshot sites are prohibited from profiting from mugshots. The new statute says:

It is an unlawful practice for any person engaged in publishing or otherwise disseminating criminal record information through a print or electronic medium to solicit or accept the payment of a fee or other consideration to remove, correct, or modify said criminal record information. See 815 ILCS 505/2QQQ.

Download the new anti-mugshot law.

Violators will be punished according to the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the law.

The law, which was passed on a ‘Yes’ vote from every legislator in Springfield, goes into effect on January 1, 2014. To my knowledge, only Oregon and Texas have similar statutes, while legislation has been introduced in Georgia and Florida.

For many people, though, 2014 is too long to wait for the new law. Job opportunities are lost to Google searches, and plans are put on hold. In cases where the accused is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, the mugshot remains on the web. What is more, where the record of the person’s arrest and charges is expunged or sealed, the mugshot remains.

However, people who had their mugshot posted online may be interested to know that another agent has changed things: Google.

The world’s most popular search engine launched an attack on mugshot sites in the last few weeks. Google uses an algorithm to decide what web pages to display in its search results. To generalize, Google provides search results based on the keywords in a web page.

Mugshot sites were exploiting this by using the very specific, full legal name of the person arrested along with their criminal charges. And so, whenever anyone looked up a person’s name, the mugshot page would rank high in the search results.

No more.

The algorithm change, also called a Google update, has apparently eliminated mugshot sites from the search index.

And this has made defensive. The site has decried the algorithm change as ‘censorship’ that ‘threatens public safety.’

In this case, arrestees are the current huge winners at the expense of the rest of the law-abiding public…

Thanks to Google’s algorithm change, there is now an enormous public safety blind spot that puts every person in the country at potential risk who performs a Google search on someone with a criminal history—that number is in the millions.

…Google has directly and appreciably made the country less safe… trumpets public safety, and belittles the presumption of innocence:

A considerable amount of attention and hand wringing have been devoted to the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in this debate. That is a fundamental principle of our criminal justice system, and rightly so. But the phrase itself has been bandied about so frequently and carelessly that it has become something of a platitude…

And for the wrongly accused, they are just collateral damage:

Yes, some number of truly innocent individuals are going to have their reputation sullied and suffer embarrassment as a result. That is undoubtedly a regrettable consequence. But the alternative is to deny the rest of America the very tangible and important benefits of having easy access to criminal histories.

Illinois is home to at least three local mugshot sites:,, and The photos from each site come from the county sheriff’s web site, and are later uploaded by the mugshot page.

While there is momentum towards banning mugshot sites, one very large obstacle remains, the protection of free speech under the 1st Amendment. According to this article by the New York Times, the press is the most adamant objector to laws curbing the use of public records. And under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), these records are usually public.

This fight isn’t over, and will most likely be settled in the Supreme Court.

Felons not required to disclose criminal convictions on Illinois government job applications Sun, 13 Oct 2013 11:13:06 +0000 Felony Conviction Ban the Box

In an unprecedented move, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has issued an order that allows applicants for state government jobs to apply without having to disclose felony convictions.

Governor Quinn calls it an order to ‘Ban the Box,’ referring to the box job applicants have to check to disclose convictions. The administrative order, issued October 3, 2013, is effective immediately.

“Governor Quinn believes ex-offenders should not face a life sentence of no job prospects and no life opportunities just because they have served time in prison,” said Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the Governor. “In implementing this change, the state will serve as an example for private sector employers.”

The Governor’s order has drawn criticism from politicians on the right. They say it encourages corruption in state government.

Legislators are threatening to override the order by statute, but this may be unlikely given that Governor Quinn is a Democrat, and the Democrats have a super-majority in the General Assembly.

So for the time being, people with felony convictions can apply for state government jobs. Illinois may be the only state with such a policy in the US.

Read the Ban the Box order.

Illinois Supreme Court rules aggravated unlawful use of a weapon statute violates 2nd Amendment Mon, 16 Sep 2013 18:45:58 +0000 2nd Amendment Concealed Carry Decision - Illinois Supreme Court

In one decision, the Illinois Supreme Court has undone thousands of convictions for carrying a loaded firearm, and opened the door for the release of hundreds of inmates in prison.

The state high court has ruled that the aggravated unlawful use of a weapon statute is unconstitutional.

Individuals who were convicted of this crime may have the right to have their convictions set aside and expunged or sealed. Inmates serving a sentence for this crime may be eligible for immediate release.

The Supreme Court decision was issued on September 12, 2013. The high court decided the appeal of People v. Aguilar, and ruled that the statute that criminalizes the carrying of a loaded firearm is a violation of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

In Aguilar, the defendant was arrested by officers from the Chicago Police Department. They said they saw him drop a gun in an alley. The gun had three live rounds of ammunition. He was convicted of two firearms offenses in court: aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A), and unlawful possession of a firearm, 720 ILCS 5/24-3.1(a)(1). He was 17 years old at the time of his arrest.

The statute for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AGG UUW) says the following:

A person commits the offense of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon when he or she knowingly carries on or about his or her person or in any vehicle or concealed on or about his or her person except when on his or her land or in his or her abode or fixed place of business any pistol, revolver, stun gun or taser or other firearm. See 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1).

And, one of the following factors is present:

The firearm possessed was uncased, loaded and immediately accessible at the time of the offense. See (a)(3)(A).

This is essentially a ban on carrying any ready-to-use firearm. The offense punishable as a Class 4 felony offense (1-3 years incarceration).

The Illinois Supreme Court came into the issue rather late, as a federal court had already ruled the statute was unconstitutional. In Moore v. Madigan, 702 F.3d 933 (7th Cir. 2012), the federal appeals court said the statute violated the Bill of Rights. The federal court said that the statute was “a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside the home” and as such, it violates the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

The Illinois Supreme Court said it agreed with the federal decision, that the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms extends beyond the home. Nonetheless, the high court indicated it would be willing to consider a reasonable regulation:

Of course, in concluding that the second amendment protects the right to possess and use a firearm for self-defense outside the home, we are in no way saying that such a right is unlimited or is not subject to meaningful regulation.

The high court reversed Aguilar’s conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AGG UUW), but did not reverse the conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. The court distinguished the issue as one involving limits to the 2nd Amendment:

[W]e need only express our agreement with the obvious and undeniable conclusion that the possession of handguns by minors is conduct that falls outside the scope of the second amendment’s protection.

As said, any person who was convicted of AGG UUW has been given a second chance. And second chances aren’t given often in criminal courts.

This is a momentous decision in Illinois legal history. Click here to download this important 2nd Amendment decision from the Illinois Supreme Court.

Fatal accident: a review of reckless homicide charges and penalties Tue, 16 Jul 2013 16:09:54 +0000 Reckless Homicide

The courts treat most accidents as a matter of negligence. The person who is responsible for the accident is considered at fault, or liable. Anyone who is injured or killed by the person at fault can recover damages in a civil action for personal injury or wrongful death. Since the person responsible did not intend the outcome, he isn’t charged with a crime.

But in some instances, even though the person responsible for the accident didn’t intend the outcome, he is prosecuted. A person who causes an accident resulting in the death of another can be charged with reckless homicide. This offense is a Class 3 felony, with a sentencing range of 2 to 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Reckless homicide is frequently charged in motor vehicle accidents resulting in a fatality. Nonetheless, the offense is found in the Criminal Code, not in the Vehicle Code.

The statute for reckless homicide is 720 ILCS 5/9-3. The statute says the following:

A person who unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification commits manslaughter if his acts whether lawful or unlawful which cause the death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and he performs them recklessly, except in cases in which the cause of death consists of the driving of a motor vehicle or operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or watercraft, in which case the person commits reckless homicide.

See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(a).

The statute can seem confusing because it applies to manslaughter and reckless homicide. Basically, both offenses are charged when a person is killed because of the reckless conduct of another, and the elements of each offense are the same. However, in cases where the offender killed someone while driving a motor vehicle, then the offense is called reckless homicide as opposed to involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter would be the offense in a situation where the offender accidentally kills someone with a firearm, for example.

Reckless homicide can be charged alone, or in combination with other offenses. For example, the prosecutor can charge the defendant with reckless homicide and also aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(F)). The sentencing for aggravated DUI involving a fatality is 3 to 14 years in the penitentiary, with probation possible only in exceptional circumstances.

There are certain circumstances in which reckless homicide is enhanced with a more serious penalty.

Wherever the defendant committed reckless homicide on a public thoroughfare where children were going to and from school with a school crossing guard present, the offense is enhanced to a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range of 3 to 14 years in prison. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-2). Note that the statute does not require the person killed to be either a child or a school crossing guard. It can be anyone. It is the location of the offense causes the enhancement.

The penalties for this offense on a public thoroughfare with school children and a crossing guard are doubled where the defendant kills two or more persons. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-3). In this case, defendant would be sentenced to 6-28 years incarceration.

If the offense of reckless homicide occurs in a work zone (defined in 625 ILCS 5/11-605.1) or the defendant failed or refused to comply with a lawful traffic control order from a police officer or traffic control aide, then the offense is also a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range 3-14 years imprisonment. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-7).

Again, the penalties are doubled for this offense where it occurs in a work zone or after failing or refusing to obey a traffic control order and two or more people are killed: 6-28 years in the Department of Corrections. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-8).

Where the defendant uses a motor vehicle on an incline in a roadway such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, and causes the vehicle to become airborne, the penalty is a Class 2 felony where two or more persons are killed. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-9). But unlike the previous examples, this is treated by the statute as an ordinary Class 2 felony. The standard penalties are 3 to 7 years imprisonment.

The legislature also enhanced the penalty for reckless homicide based on the status of the victim. In cases in which the victim is a peace officer killed in the performance of his or her duties, the penalty is a Class 2 felony (3-7). See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-10).

And similarly, if the victim of the offense is a family or household member of the accused, then the penalty is a Class 2 felony with a possible 3-14 years in the Department of Corrections. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(f). A family or household member is generally a person who is related to the accused through a dating relationship, past or present, or familial relationship such as a marriage, or someone who shared a residence. It is specifically defined by section 725 ILCS 5/112A-3.

If the prosecutor charges the defendant with reckless homicide for a death that occurs in a school zone as defined by 625 ILCS 5/11-605, or a work zone as defined by 625 ILCS 5/11-605.1, the State may be entitled to an evidentiary presumption. Under these circumstances, if children are present in the school zone or workers are present in the construction zone, and the defendant was speeding 20 MPH over the posted limit, or driving under the influence, then the court can infer that he was reckless. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-11).

If the defendant committed reckless homicide and also commits a Scott’s Law violation (eg, failure to change lanes or slow down for an emergency vehicle under 625 ILCS 5/11-907(c)), then the offense is also a Class 2 felony with a special penalty of 3 to 14 years imprisonment. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-12). And, consistent with the rest of the statute, if the defendant kills two or more persons, then the penalties are doubled to 6-28 years incarceration. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-13). The trier of fact may presume that the defendant was reckless if he committed a Scott’s law violation. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(e-14).

All said, the court is permitted to give the accused probation. There is no mandatory prison term for reckless homicide.

A summary of the law and penalties for involuntary manslaughter Tue, 09 Jul 2013 19:02:16 +0000 Illinois Involuntary Manslaughter Law

Illinois courts apply the term involuntary manslaughter to any accidental death that results from the reckless acts of another. Recklessness is the key component of involuntary manslaughter. If the acts causing the death were negligent, then the loss of life would be actionable in a civil courtroom, through a wrongful death lawsuit.

The statute penalizing involuntary manslaughter is found in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/9-3. The statute says that the offense is a Class 3 felony. Generally, a Class 3 felony is punishable by a term of 2 to 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Nonetheless, probation is available.

The statute provides the following:

A person who unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification commits involuntary manslaughter if his acts whether lawful or unlawful which cause the death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual. See 720 ILCS 5/9-3(a).

As said above, the sentencing for this offense is 2 to 5 years in the penitentiary. However, there are special circumstances in which the penalties increase. Namely, the identity of the victim and his or her relationship to the offender will make a difference.

There is a special provision of the statute that increases the penalties where the victim is a peace officer killed in the performance of his or her duties. If the victim is a peace officer then the offense is punished as a Class 2 felony. The usual sentencing range for this offense is 3 to 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Additionally, where the victim is a family or household member, the penalties are increased. If the deceased meets the definition of a family or household member is defined in 725 ILCS 5/112A-3, then the penalty is a special Class 2 felony. Under these circumstances, the potential sentence is 3 to 14 years in the penitentiary.

A family or household member is defined by statute, but the general understanding is it is someone who is related to the offender through a romantic relationship (past or present) or a familial relationship. But it can also include someone related to the offender in the fact that they shared a residence.

While it is true that probation is available to the defendant, unfortunately it may be unlikely. In all cases in which there is a loss of life, judges are very reluctant to give the offender probation.

There are defenses to involuntary manslaughter which the defendant can assert. For example, a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter if and only if his acts are committed without lawful justification. If someone acts in self-defense resulting in the loss of life of another, he may have a defense.

Likewise, defending another person or one’s residence can also constitute a defense.

Criminal conviction can result in deportation, even for permanent residents Mon, 01 Jul 2013 19:45:33 +0000 Deportation for Illinois Conviction

The impact of the criminal conviction can be long-lasting and devastating. A conviction is usually a permanent record that will never go away. Although Illinois courts have a procedure for expungement and sealing, most felony convictions do not qualify, and very few misdemeanor convictions are eligible.

Unfortunately, the fact that a conviction comes from decades ago is not grounds for relief.

But for someone who was not born in the United States, a criminal conviction has additional consequences.

A person who is not a United States citizen can be deported because of a criminal conviction. This includes lawful permanent residents. They, too, can be deported for a conviction. Permanent residents are immigrants who have been given permission by the United States to live and work in this country for an indefinite time.

Generally speaking, an immigrant must become a permanent resident before he or she may become a citizen.

If an immigrant is subject to deportation proceedings, his length of residency in America and close relatives who are United States citizens may prevent his deportation. But this is not a certainty. And even if he is not deported, that person will be burdened by years of immigration court litigation causing anxiety and stress.

The Immigration and Nationality Act says that there are three categories of crimes that can place an immigrant at risk of deportation, or prevent that person from ever becoming a lawful permanent resident.

First, the most serious category is aggravated felonies. Aggravated felonies are specifically defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act at 8 USC 1101(a)(43). Although the act calls them felonies, some misdemeanors will qualify as aggravated felonies for purposes of deportation. For example, theft and crimes of violence may qualify. Also, if the offender was sentenced to one year of imprisonment, that crime may also qualify, even if it was a misdemeanor.

Second, an immigrant can be deported for a crime of moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude is one that involves dishonesty, deception, or some other base or vile act. A crime of moral turpitude can be a misdemeanor or a felony.

The following offenses can constitute crimes of moral turpitude resulting in deportation:

  • Intentional theft
  • Intentional infliction of harm
  • Malice
  • Lewdness

Finally, the third category of crimes that can result in deportation or prevent permanent residency include violations of controlled substances laws, domestic battery, violations of an order of protection, and firearms offenses.

When an immigrant is deported he or she is barred from returning to the United States, and if he or she returns, it is a criminal offense to be present inside United States.

For immigrants who are presently lawful permanent residents, they will have to disclose their criminal history when applying for citizenship. All persons who want to become citizens (or lawful permanent residents, for that matter) must show good character. An offense such as misdemeanor driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501) will detract from that.

The fact that Illinois courts have a special disposition called supervision is irrelevant to federal immigration authorities. Supervision is available, basically, for first misdemeanor offenses. See 730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.1. It is not a sentence, but rather a continuance under the supervision of the judge. If the defendant does not violate the law, then the charge is dismissed.

But supervision is regarded as a conviction for immigration purposes.

The United States Supreme Court has directed all criminal law attorneys to advise their clients that if they are not citizens, they could be denied citizenship, excluded from the United States, or deported upon their plea of guilty to a crime. This is the requirement of the Padilla v. Kentucky case.

Illinois judges are also required to give defendants these advisals on accepting a plea of guilty. If the defendant is not so advised, he may be entitled to take back his guilty plea.

The consequences of a conviction on immigration, arguably, exceed the penalty of imprisonment. Because a jail or prison term has an end, and then life ostensibly resumes itself. But defendants who are not citizens, even permanent residents, should beware of convictions because deportation is forever.