CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (2016) – I was checking up on the status of former client’s appeal when I stumbled upon a gem I would never, ever have expected but which had been a long time coming.

I defended a gentleman, whose name has been changed, in a felony possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver jury trial at the Cook County Courthouse at 2600 S. California. With little hesitation, the jury found him guilty of the charges and he was sentenced accordingly as class X by background (a 6-30 year range).

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to the jurors as they got their bags and were forced to walk past me to leave, and more than one of them pointed to a glaring hole in the law which convinced them to convict. They said that they didn’t think that my client was the only person in the house who should have been convicted, but that more people in the house should have been convicted. They only convicted my client because he was the only one on trial.

Astounded, I did my motion for new trial and set up an appeal. The State Appellate Defender ran with the record I had so carefully protected in anticipation of an appeal and on a muggy day in the Summer of 2016, I noticed that the appeal had been returned – THE CASE REVERSED FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE. Not even remanded for a new trial, but reversed. Dismissed. Not guilty. The names have been changed for confidentiality’s sake, however this is all public record. I will not add any comments which are not included in the record.

I would be remiss not to toot my own horn a bit. All of the points found by the appellate court are line by line what I argued at trial and in my motion for a new trial. Everything came together just right and I am thankful for the confluence of good circumstances and people.

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Justice ScrabbleTake a look at the appellate case below and at my first macro sense that there might be a modicum of fairness in the system. I’m sure I was quickly beaten back down to size by the day-to-day realities of criminal defense, but this one lifted my spirits a bit. Someone made the right decision. Any lawyer will agree that truth, if it is ever gleaned, comes at a price. In this case, the damage done to the defendant’s family and time spend in prison wrongfully convicted is a steep price to pay, but one which has not left him debilitated.


Names and identifying information of defendant and witnesses have been changed to protect confidentiality.

2015 IL App (1st) 123456-U

JOHN DEFENDANT, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 1-13-123456


August 10, 2015

NOTICE: This order was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23 and may not be cited as precedent by any party except in the limited circumstances allowed under Rule 23(e)(1).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

No. 11 CR 9876

Honorable Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court.
Justices Cunningham and Connors concurred in the judgment.


Held: We reverse defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(A) (West 2010)) where the State failed to present sufficient evidence showing that defendant knowingly possessed the cocaine.

¶ 1 On May 28, 2011, the police executed a search warrant for defendant, John Defendant, at his girlfriend’s house in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago police officers testified that they found 19.1 grams of cocaine, over $1,000 in currency, and a scale in an upstairs bedroom where they found

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defendant sleeping with his girlfriend. The police further testified that they found the cocaine, in plain view, on top of a dresser that had been placed in a closet in the bedroom. The doors to the closet, however, were open. While speaking to one of the police officers during the search, defendant referred to the room he was found sleeping in as his bedroom. Defendant maintains that, at most, he was an overnight guest at the home.

¶ 2 After a trial, a jury found defendant guilty of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. 720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(A) (West 2010). The circuit court sentenced him to eight years’ imprisonment. Before this court, defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew about, or had control over, the cocaine found by the police. We hold that the State failed to present sufficient evidence showing that defendant knowingly possessed the cocaine seized by the police. Therefore, defendant’s conviction must be reversed.

¶ 3 JURISDICTION¶ 4 The circuit court sentenced defendant on July 19, 2013. Defendant timely filed his notice of appeal on that same day. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution and Illinois Supreme Court Rules 603 and 606, governing appeals from a final judgment of conviction in a criminal case entered below. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6; Ill. S. Ct. Rs. 603, 606 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013).

¶ 5 BACKGROUND¶ 6 The State charged defendant by information with one count of possession with intent to deliver in connection with his May 28, 2011, arrest where the police found 19.1 grams of cocaine in a bedroom where he had been sleeping. 720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(A) (West 2010).

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¶ 7 At trial, Chicago police officer Larry Rattler testified he was part of a law enforcement team that executed a search warrant that named defendant as its target. The police executed the warrant a little before 8 a.m. at a single family home located at 6045 S. Warrant Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. The police found defendant asleep, with his girlfriend, in an upstairs bedroom. Besides defendant and his girlfriend, the police found three other people in the house. Officer Rattler searched the room where defendant was found, and testified that the room had a mattress on the floor, clothes were “scattered around a little bit,” there was a television, and pieces of furniture. He proceeded to search the bedroom and found, “on top of a dresser *** in a basket,” one plastic bag containing cocaine. Officer Rattler testified that both the dresser and the basket on top of it were visible in his plain view. He further testified that he was able to see the plastic bag of cocaine immediately upon looking into the basket. The cocaine was broken up into multiple pieces. Officer Rattler also found $1,046 in U.S. currency “on the side of the bed next to the mattress,” and $201 on the nightstand. Rattler testified that, based on his years of experience, that the cocaine found “appeared to be ready to be sold at street level.” Later, on redirect examination, Officer Rattler stressed that the dresser from which he recovered the drugs was not behind any sort of closed door and it was in plain view.

¶ 8 On cross-examination, Officer Rattler testified that defendant was not combative, and he described defendant’s mood as “compliant.” Brenda Homeowner owned the home, and Officer Rattler did not find any mail addressed to defendant or any other documents indicating defendant resided at the home. When asked whether he found any men’s clothing in the bedroom, Officer Rattler could only state that one pair of men’s boots were found. Officer Rattler offered the following description of the bedroom: “it wasn’t a big room, it was a room with open space and a closet, that was it.” He could not recall if the closet in the bedroom was a walk-in closet, but

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noted that it was large enough to fit a dresser. He agreed that the dresser was in the closet and that the suspect cocaine was enclosed in one plastic bag as opposed to individual packages. Officer Rattler testified that the basket, which contained the cocaine, was not within reaching distance of where defendant slept. He did not find any razor blades in the bedroom. Officer Rattler admitted that the bundle of currency totaling $201 found in the bedroom nightstand was contained in a tube labeled ” ‘ Property of B.’ ” Officer Rattler testified that there was another individual in the bedroom, but he did not know if it was her room.

¶ 9 Chicago police officer Brian Gunnell testified that he was part of the team executing the search warrant. He was the first person in the door and immediately went upstairs where he saw defendant and a female sleeping in the bed of a bedroom. Officer Gunnell described the room in which he found defendant in as “a bedroom with a flat screen style TV, bed, couple of – a nightstand or two. And if you look directly laying in the bed there was like a closet style door, like an accordion style door that was pushed open.” The accordion style door was open and Officer Gunnell was able to see inside of the closet. He observed a large pair of “Timberland style boots” at the foot of the bed. Officer Gunnell testified that defendant was either asleep or acting as if he was asleep when he first entered. When asked if he found anything indicative of narcotics sales, Officer Gunnell testified that he found a digital scale with residue on it behind the television. Officer Gunnell observed Officer Rattler recover a large knotted plastic bag containing crack cocaine. When asked where Officer Rattler found the bundles of currency, Officer Gunnell testified that “[o]ne was on a nightstand and the other one I think was on the floor on the side of the bed.” He later saw defendant wearing the Timberland boots.

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¶ 10 On cross-examination, Officer Gunnell testified that in addition to the bedroom, in which he found defendant, there was another bedroom upstairs and a room used for storage or office space. Officer Gunnell did not find any mail or paperwork displaying defendant’s address.

¶ 11 Cathy Regan, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police and an expert in forensic chemistry, testified that the substance recovered from the bedroom was indeed cocaine. She testified that that the cocaine weighed 19.119 grams.

¶ 12 Sergeant Alonzo Harris of the Chicago police department testified he supervised the team who executed the search warrant. When the residence and its occupants were secure, Sergeant Harris spoke to the occupants and explained to them why they were there, as well as who and what they were looking for. After Sergeant Harris told the occupants that they were looking for defendant, defendant asked to speak with Sergeant Harris. Sergeant Harris agreed and took defendant away from the other occupants and into the kitchen area. Sergeant Harris testified that defendant told him that he “picked the wrong day” and that “upstairs in his room there was about an ounce of weed behind the television.” Sergeant Harris testified that defendant told him that his room was the room where he was found sleeping. At that time, defendant did not know if the other police officers had found any contraband. On cross-examination, Sergeant Harris clarified that defendant called the bedroom ” ‘my bedroom.’ ” Despite defendant’s conversation with Sergeant Harris, no cannabis was found in the residence.

¶ 13 The State successfully introduced into evidence several pictures of the room where the police found defendant sleeping. At the close of the State’s case-in-chief, defendant motioned for a directed verdict, which the circuit court denied.

¶ 14 Brenda Homeowner, the owner of the residence, testified on defendant’s behalf. Homeowner testified that her daughter, Becky, and a friend of hers, Wendy, live in the house with her. She

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described the upstairs of the home as having a bathroom, Becky’s bedroom, a small closet to the left of Belisha’s bedroom, her own bedroom, and a small office. On the day of the search, Becky’s friend, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s daughter, were also staying at the house. Becky and defendant were dating, and Homeowner testified that defendant stayed “[o]vernight maybe once in awhile.” She later estimated that he stayed “[m]aybe once a month.” Defendant did not live at the house, and he did not pay any of the bills related to the house, receive mail at the home, keep any of his property at the home, or have a key to the house. Homeowner thought defendant had an apartment. She agreed that she generally had a good knowledge of what was going on in her house and that she was generally home at night. Homeowner described her daughter Becky’s bedroom, where defendant stayed, as having a door with a lock. Later, on redirect examination, Homeowner testified that Becky “was working at a – she was in between jobs at that time. I believe she was working in the bar, bartender.” Homeowner testified further that Becky would come home with “tips from the bar.”

¶ 15 On cross-examination, when asked whether defendant “might have brought something into that house,” she answered “[i]t’s possible. I don’t know what he did.” She did not inspect his belongings when he entered. She also did not know what he did when he was in the upstairs bedroom. She thought defendant had been dating her daughter about a year and a half. When defendant came over, he always slept in Becky’s bedroom. She testified that neither she nor her daughter sell drugs.

¶ 16 The circuit court denied defendant’s motion for a new trial and for reconsideration of the circuit court’s decision to deny his motion for a directed verdict of not guilty. The circuit court subsequently sentenced defendant to eight years’ imprisonment. Defendant filed a motion

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asking the circuit court to reconsider its sentencing decision, which the circuit court denied. Defendant timely appealed.

¶ 17 ANALYSIS¶ 18 Defendant argues that his conviction should be reversed because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew of, or had control over, the cocaine the police found on the premises. Defendant points out that the State failed to present evidence showing that he was anything more than an occasional visitor to the residence, and that the evidence showed that the money found in the bedroom belonged to Becky. Accordingly, defendant contends that the State failed to put forth sufficient evidence showing his knowledge or control of the cocaine.

¶ 19 In response, the State maintains that it proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant constructively possessed 19.1 grams of cocaine. The State argues that the police recovered, in plain view, cocaine and a substantial amount of money near where defendant slept the night before. The State further points out that defendant referred to the room as his bedroom and that the police found a scale in the room.

¶ 20 The due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that an accused defendant is not convicted of a crime “except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970); People v. Carpenter, 228 Ill. 2d 250, 264 (2008); see alsoPeople v. Ehlert, 211 Ill. 2d 192, 213 (2004) (“Simply stated, the fact that defendant is ‘probably guilty’ does not equate with guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”). Although a defendant’s guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, inferences flowing from the evidence should not be disregarded. People v. Schmalz, 194 Ill. D 75, 81 (2000). In fact, all reasonable inferences from the record must be allowed in the prosecution’s favor. People v. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d 311,

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334 (2010). Therefore, when reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal conviction, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and “determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the crime.” People v. Brown, 2013 IL 114196, ¶ 48.

¶ 21 It is not the role of this court to retry a defendant upon appellate review. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d at 334. We must keep in mind that credibility issues, the weighing of the evidence, resolving conflicting or inconsistent evidence, as well as making reasonable inferences from the evidence, are all functions reserved for the trier of fact. Brown, 2013 IL 114196, ¶ 48; People v.Jimerson, 127 Ill. 2d 12, 43 (1989); People v. Frieberg, 147 Ill. 2d 326, 360 (1992). Deference is given to the trier of fact because it saw and heard the witnesses. People v. Wheeler, 226 Ill. 2d 92, 114-15 (2007). Furthermore, circumstantial evidence alone can support a criminal conviction. Brown, 2013 IL 114196, ¶ 49. Although our review is deferential, a trier of fact’s determinations are not conclusive. Id. ¶ 48. Where the evidence is so unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or improbable to justify a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s guilt, a reviewing court will reverse a criminal conviction. Id.

¶ 22 In order to convict defendant of unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, the State must show that the defendant had knowledge of the possession of the unlawful substance and that the substance was in the defendant’s immediate and exclusive control. Frieberg, 147 Ill. 2d at 360. Although control of the premises is not a prerequisite to a conviction, proof of a defendant’s control over premises where illicit substances were found gives rise to an inference of knowledge and possession of the drugs. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d at 335. The element of possession can be either actual or constructive. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d at 335. Actual possession does not require present personal touching of the illegal substance. Id.

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Rather, “[a]ctual possession is the exercise by the defendant of present personal dominion over the illicit material and exists when a person exercises immediate and exclusive dominion or control over the illicit material.” Id. Constructive possession exists where a defendant, despite the absence of actual personal present dominion, had the intent and capability to maintain control and dominion over the substance. Frieberg, 147 Ill. 2d at 361. Exclusive possession, however, does not mean that possession cannot be shared amongst multiple people. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d at 335. Two or more people can be found to have joint possession where they either share exclusive and immediate control or share the intention and power to exercise control.Schmalz, 194 Ill. 2d at 82. The factual questions of knowledge and possession or control are to be determined by the trier of fact. Schmalz, 194 Ill. 2d at 81.

¶ 23 After viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, we hold that the State failed to satisfy its burden of proving defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because it did not prove that defendant knowingly possessed the cocaine and that the cocaine was in his immediate and exclusive control. It is clear that defendant did not actually possess the cocaine at issue, and the State does not argue defendant actually possessed the cocaine. We also cannot, however, say that the State’s evidence shows that defendant had the intent or capability to maintain control over the substance to establish constructive possession. Frieberg, 147 Ill. 2d at 361. The evidence at trial showed that the police went to defense witness Brenda Homeowner’s house to execute a search warrant naming defendant as its target. Upon entering an upstairs bedroom, the police discovered defendant and his girlfriend in bed together. The mattress was on the floor. The police found the cocaine in a basket on top of a dresser that had been placed in a closet. The doors to the closet had been left open. Notably, Officer Rattler testified that the basket containing the cocaine was not within reaching distance of where defendant slept.

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The above evidence does not show that defendant actually or constructively possessed the cocaine found in the bedroom. Rather it shows that defendant was found sleeping on a mattress on the floor while the cocaine was found, outside of his reach, on top of a dresser. The dresser, in turn, was inside of a closet. Accordingly, the State failed to present sufficient evidence showing defendant’s possession of the cocaine at issue in this case.

¶ 24 We are also of the opinion that the State failed to present sufficient evidence showing that defendant controlled the room where he was found, which, if shown, would support an inference of knowledge and possession. Givens, 237 Ill. 2d at 335. It is clear from the evidence that defendant was an overnight guest of Becky, Brenda Homeowner’s daughter. The only evidence the State presented showing that defendant controlled the room where the drugs were found was the evidence that defendant’s boots were found at the foot of the bed and that defendant told Sergeant Harris that marijuana was in the room where the police found him. We do not think, however, that this evidence is sufficient to support a finding that defendant controlled the room where he was found. It is reasonable for defendant, as an overnight guest, to take his boots off before going to sleep. Officer Gunnell testified that he later saw defendant wearing the boots, which shows that the boots were not an extra pair he stored in the room. Defendant’s comments to Sergeant Harris that marijuana was in his room may give rise to an inference that defendant possessed marijuana, but it does not indicate that he possessed the cocaine at issue in this case. Furthermore, it is reasonable for defendant to refer to the room where he slept overnight as his, despite his apparent lack of control over it. Regardless of defendant’s comments to Sergeant Harris, the location of the cocaine, i.e., outside of defendant’s reach, justifies a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s guilt.

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¶ 25 Accordingly, the State failed to show that defendant knowingly possessed the cocaine recovered from the bedroom in this case. The State’s evidence is not sufficient to sustain defendant’s conviction because it justifies a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s guilt. Therefore, we must reverse defendant’s conviction.

¶ 26 CONCLUSION¶ 27 The judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is reversed.

¶ 28 Reversed.

REVERSED,” is one of those words that only seemed to matter during law school exams. This time, however, it mattered more than any other word in the English language. I know it mattered to the defendant.



Jonathan S. Goldman is a felony criminal defense attorney currently working with a medium-sized Chicago firm on their criminal defense team. He has been practicing criminal defense throughout his entire career and devotes his professional career to criminal trial litigaiton. He is a graduate of DePaul Law School (J.D. ’07) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.A. ’03).


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In an amazing 8 years, Anita Alvarez has single handedly done more to make Chicago unsafe, segregated, and to ensure that the poor suffer disproportionately than most politicians could do in a lifetime.  Her unchecked power grabs and edicts are blindly followed by cronies and hard-working subordinates alike, creating a culture of fear for defendants in Cook County courtrooms – from the guilty to the innocent alike.  Sadly in Alvarez’s narrative, the difference between the two is negligible at most and non-existent in the most freightening circumstances.  In the end, our streets are no safer, our drug addicts are no less likely to overdose or get arrested for small amounts of drugs, and our truly dangerous violent criminals are no more likely to be properly housed or, gasp, treated by mental health professionals, than any random defendant picked out of the list of the thousands upon thousands of defendants subjected to the Cook County system of justice.


Alvarez watching over her precious "War on Drugs".

Alvarez watching over her precious “War on Drugs”.

“Tough on Crime” – I loathe this phrase.  Of course every politician wants to be labeled “tough on crime,” or at least not labeled soft on the issue.  Alvarez creates a systematic toughness on all who are arrested under her watch by ensuring her assistants in the courtrooms doing her bidding every day have no discretion and work in a culture of fear every day.
There was a time when common sense was allowed to come into play in charging and negotiations (which Alvarez doesn’t actually participate in, despite the article’s slightly misleading information). Now her participation consists of “how harshly can we charge every offense without the appellate courts noticing?”

There are excellent assistant states attorneys now who would fit her office far better and leave the lock-em-up first, war on drugs mentality behind.
If nothing else vote against her because you could be the next victim of her administration and have your life turned upside down forever on a trumped up charge because it’s politically beneficial to Anita.
This coming March, it’s time for her to go.  Beginning below are the underpininngs of the reasons and facts presented by journalists and researchers on why her old-school stance on incarceration (which can be changed only by a court order or political pressure, not logic) has no place in 2015 – the biggest complaints coming from low-level drug and cannabis offenders and their attorneys who were told that treatment would overshadow mass incarceration.

Chicago Reader reporter Mick Dumke delves into the reign of Anita Alvarez – CLICK FOR THE STORY

Dumke does a far more detailed and better job explaining why the detractors and critics of Alvarez have legitemate concerns about her office’s brazen indifference to statistical proof of what works in large-county prosecution.  He is absolutely fair in pointing out her strong-suits, but the mantra of her office gets old.  Her supporters are loyal but they still tow the party line.  In reality, you can’t simply treat every case the same and expect your results to differ from every other agency who took the same tact.

As a seasoned criminal defense attorney who started at the tail end of Dick Divine’s tenure as State’s Attorney and has existed almost solely under the reign of Anita Alvarez, I have personally witnessed changes in the system – subtle and overbearing – which have steered us in a direction so far away from a search for truth that claims to a search for justice are almost farcical.  She is essentially a supporter of Nancy Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” but claims the priority of her office is not to lock up low-level cannabis or drug offenders.  Her office policy, however, is backed up only by rhetoric and a few dollars here and there about treatment for drug offenders.

One of the big issues we face as defense attorneys, the ones who actually work with those with drug problems, is that there are never enough spots or beds in drug treatment programs.  I have seen clients wait for periods of time essentially as long as their maximum sentence to get a bed in the Westcare or other drug treatment divisions of the jail.  Those are only the clients who ask for drug treatment too.  The defendants who either refuse to admit they have a drug problem after multiple arrests for small amounts of drugs are not the ones clamoring for a bed in a treatment unit or a spot in the coveted Drug Court – an intensively monitored alternative to traditional prosecution where judges who truly care about the issue of drug addiction try their best with the resources allocated to treat drug addicts or at least supervise and drug test them.  It’s a noble cause but one that is, alas, underfunded.


This is not the time for Cook County residents to roll over and stick to the status quo.  We have had 8 years of Anita Alvarez destroying the morale of the State’s Attorney’s office – forcing talented prosecutors to fear that every decision they make could be their last as an Assistant State’s Attorney, and creating a rubric of acceptable behaviors which force the ASAs and the courts to steer as far away from the truth that the prosecutors are sworn to protect and towards the “convict at all costs with the harshest penalties” mentality that destroys any well-meaning prosecutor or prosecutor with a conscience that gives them pause, if only for a second before they realize that they need their jobs to support themselves and their families, when they are overcharging cases where few would object to reductions in charges or dismissals.  I know plenty of prosecutors who are not only good people with good consciences, but who joined the prosecutor’s office for the specific purpose of doing good and making sure the truly dangerous are jailed and those who can be helped get helped.   After a few years under Alvarez, I question if they really believe what they claim in court.  Some true believers are inevitable, but I can’t imagine forcing intelligent, well-meaning people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of justice to follow a non-sensical, draconian system of rules which have no place in real life is to anyone’s benefit.

I’ve said it before, but anyone who claims that “this is the best system we have” or more ominously, “the best system we could put together” is either so out-of touch with reality or so concerned about avoiding change that they are dangerous to the real goals of our justice system.

Anita Alvarez has never apologized for anything her office has done, and maybe she shouldn’t.  Perhaps she truly believes that what she is doing is making the city better…But the city certainly hasn’t reached any semblance of a reasonable level of safety, even with small decreases in certain crimes.  If she really believes that she is helping, than she is beyond help.  She is wrong in the way she runs her office and has run her course in Cook County.  Politics be damned.  People’s lives are at stake, and Alvarez never offers the right solutions.


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-Attorney Jonathan Goldman is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago and throughout Cook County.  He also focuses on expungement, sealing and helping people clear up their old criminal records.  All posts are the sole opinion of Jonathan Goldman and do not reflect the positions or opinions of the Law Office of Jonathan S. Goldman or affiliates.  For more information, go to


CHICAGO-The Illinois Secretary of State supervisor of suspensions (sorry…long day) will not be accepting written DUI suspension rescission orders unless they have the imprinted clerk’s seal from room #1006 at Daley Center or the clerk’s office of whatever courthouse you may be relegated to.

In the past, judges have asked us to write out court orders stating that our client’s Statutory Summary Suspension is rescinded due to, say warnings.  This happens when there is a mitigation agreement or agreement to plead guilty in exchange for a rescission.  The problem is that when those orders are entered, we are given the “stamped” bottom copies to bring to the Secretary of State.  Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all this time, but it came before my time.  I understand the concept in really broad terms, but not in reality.  A signed, stamped court order is a court order is a court order, right?  Right.
wpid-image005.jpgThe supervisor at the SOS called me to say that they only want the WHITE copy of any orders and that they need the crimped, court seal (which, consequently costs $9.00 per document when you need a printout of a certified disposition of a case; So we’re on the hook or do we charge our clients an extra $9.00 at the last minute?).  I get the impression that with agreed rescission orders, they also want the document that the judge is supposed to fill out and have sent to the SOS which is attached to the original Law Enforcement Sworn Report and only is available as part of the court file paperwork for the judge.  For some reason judges at Daley have not been signing these sheets absent a rescission based upon a hearing.  And it’s all been fine.

So the takeaway is that if you can’t get the top copy of a rescission order, take it to room #1006 at the Daley Center or the clerk’s office of your local Cook County courthouse and get it certified the way you get a certified disposition of a case.  The supervisor was adamant they wanted that big, circular, Cook County Clerk of Courts imprint instead of a stamp from a Circuit Judge.  So in case you have any that you are questionable on, I would suggest calling before your clients get arrested for driving while license suspended – although the supervisor tells me they get paperwork in the mail saying their license is valid again on an agreed rescission.  I can neither confirm nor deny this.

wpid-dui1.jpgHope this helps someone…And please, please let me know if you get a better read on this bureaucratic stuff than I have.  I’m going off a few phone calls and an hour of pacing around my office…email me at please!

Until next time something confuses my little lawyer brain,

-Jonathan Goldman

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CHICAGO, IL – Dearest Chicago and Illinois attorneys:  I have decided to do a favor for the traffic and criminal defense community and publish a MOTION TO SUPPRESS AND QUASH for lack of probable cause when an all too common situation occurs…


As we know, police officers need a legal reason to stop a vehicle before they go into their trickery and Constitutional rights violations accompanying a traffic stop.  They can’t just pull over everyone…but they do.

Air freshener pic
So behold, in multiple formats, a motion to suppress with case law and background on why these officers are often wrong when interpreting “obstruction” of a windshield and why the good ole’ air freshener stop shouldn’t hold up.  Enjoy!  I’m putting it in multiple formats so it can be used as you please.

(Editor’s note: New Illinois Supreme Court rulings have allowed for “reasonable mistakes of law” by officers to justify traffic stops.  So the officer doesn’t necessarily have to know the laws they are enforcing.  Regarding this, I think many prosecutors will argue the mistake was objectively reasonable.  Don’t let them get away with this half assed excuse for cops to have another tool to violate your Fourth Amendment rights against improper search and seizure.  Argue the hell out of the fact that the mistake of law was not reasonable but a pretext to stop the car and search.  Seems the Supremes aren’t too hot on the Fourth Amendment these days…-JSG)

Let me know if you get any wins out of this.  I’ve used it with pretty good success.  Most cops have no idea what the law is to the point that they aren’t even acting as a “reasonable officer” would.  Go get ’em!


Motion to Quash-WINDSHIELD OBSTRUCTION as MSWord file




Windshield Motion Page 1

Windshield Obstruction Page 2Windshield Obstruction Page 3Windshield Obstruction page 4
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c2015 Law Office of Jonathan S. Goldman –

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Addresses Unjust Incarceration in Jails


tomdart microphonesA Note on Unjust Incarceration

“Our nation’s jails hold more than 731,000 people on any given day. More than 8,800 are right here in Cook County Jail – the largest single site jail in the United States.

With over five million people, Cook County is the America’s second most populous county. Everything we do – both correctly and incorrectly – serves as an example for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, for far too long we have been demonstrating many of the things that are wrong with the criminal justice system.

For most, jails are out of sight, out of mind – places where dangerous people are locked up and kept away from society. While jails certainly house many horrifically violent offenders who belong behind bars, that is only part of the story. Jails – including Cook County Jail – have increasingly emerged as dumping grounds for the poor, desperate and mentally ill. Crimes such as breaking into an abandoned home to sleep, stealing candy bars to subdue hunger, buying drugs to self-medicate for mental illness – these are acts that reflect the need for help, not incarceration.

There has been recent national momentum to finally address mass (or unjust) incarceration. This is long overdue. Yet we cannot solve the problem before we fully understand the problem. And we cannot understand the problem until we fully comprehend who is in custody and why.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be adding public information here about the cases and faces we see every day in order to bring our broken system into focus. These are people who have a record of cycling through the jail, often on misdemeanor charges that add up to months behind bars and tens of thousands of dollars in bills to taxpayers. Know that for every person featured here, there are scores more just like them hidden behind the high walls of this jail – people that repeatedly slip through our society’s threadbare safety net into prison cells. We house hundreds of people committing such ‘crimes of survival’ every day and we should be thinking about what we can do to help them and break the outrageously expensive cycle instead of perpetuating it: arrest, charge, incarcerate – and repeat.

Imagine what it must be like to be stuck within the revolving door of a criminal justice system that is often broken and unflinching. And consider joining me in my fight for a more thoughtful approach to criminal justice.

With your help and advocacy, we can truly effect change and break the cycle.”

-Sheriff Thomas J. Dart




Charge: Theft of 2 plums and 3 candy bars

Days in Jail: 135

Cost to taxpayers: $19,305

M.H., who is 30-years-old, was most recently brought into the Cook County Jail in July, homeless and pregnant, after being arrested on charges that she allegedly stole two plums and three chocolate bars from a Save-a-Lot.

The police report for that arrest gives M.H.’s motive: “She took the food because she is pregnant, and she was hungry.”

She was on probation at the time for a similar retail theft conviction from April 2014. In that case, she was arrested for attempting to steal $30 worth of cosmetics from CVS. She spent 27 days in jail before being released on probation, costing taxpayers more than $3,500.

The new Save-a-Lot retail theft charge was eventually dropped but a Violation of Probation charge was added. She was released on an I-Bond and was ordered to appear in court two days later for the Violation of Probation. When she did not appear in court, a warrant was issued for her arrest. In August 2014, police were called when M.H. refused to pay a CTA bus fare. A name search revealed the active warrant, and she was booked back into the jail

This fall, while in custody, M.H. delivered her baby girl. Following a brief hospitalization, M.H. was returned to the jail and her newborn was placed in foster care.

On Jan. 7, 2015, M.H. was sentenced to IDOC for the first time for the theft charge in the case of the cosmetics worth $30. She had spent 135 days in jail custody before being sentenced to prison. She was released on parole on Feb. 20. She spent a little more than a month in IDOC.

M.H. was homeless and 6 months pregnant at the time of this July arrest. On November 11th, Veterans Day, she delivered her baby in the Cook County Jail and named her Miracle. Following a brief hospitalization, M.H. was returned to the jail and Miracle was placed in foster care.

In all, M.H. has been booked into the Cook County Jail five times on 14 arrests, nearly all of them for similar crimes of survival. M.H.’s 167 days in Cook County Jail over the last year for retail theft-related charges has cost taxpayers at least $23,000 and that doesn’t include extra medical and court expenses.

Of her 14 arrests, nine resulted in court action/custodial time. Between July 1, 2013 and Aug. 20, 2014, M.H. spent a total of 221 days in Cook County Jail at a housing cost of more than $50,000.


Charge: Theft of 8 packs of Snickers bars and
a pair of scissors

Days in Jail: 114

Cost to taxpayers: $16,302

  • In the past 15 years, W.M., who is 57-years-old, has been arrested 61 times. His history includes:
    • 19 bookings into Cook County Jail
    • 7 admissions to the Illinois Department of Corrections
      • 6 of his IDOC admissions are for Retail Theft.
  • His 19 bookings into CCDOC total 1,117 days spent in jail at a collective housing cost of about $159,731. His cases have been resolved with a variety of outcomes:
    • IDOC – 7
    • Sentence Completed – 4
    • Stricken with Leave to Reinstate – 2
    • Dropped – 2
    • Probation – 3
    • Time Considered Served – 1
    • Drug Treatment – 1
  • W.M.’s most recent arrest occurred on Sept. 29, 2014, for attempting to steal eight packs of Snickers bars and a pair of scissors. He was observed by the CVS Loss Prevention Agent wrapping the packs of candy bars around his legs with shoestrings and covering them with his pant leg. He spent 114 days in CCDOC on this case before being released to Gateway drug treatment.
  • At the time of the September arrest, W.M. was on parole for a retail theft conviction that occurred in June 2012. He will be released from parole on March 2, 2015. IDOC was notified of the violation and did not issue a warrant for him.
  • The large majority of W.M.’s 61 arrests are for attempting to steal various amounts of candy from large chain retailers. According to the arrests reports, W.M. states that he is stealing them because he is Diabetic.
  • His retail theft charges continue to be upgraded to Class 4 Felonies because of his history.


Charge: Retail Theft of meat from Jewel

Days in Jail: 174

Cost to taxpayers: $24,882

  • 34 arrests total – 13 bookings into Cook County Jail – 11 Admissions to the Illinois Department of Corrections over 20 years. His IDOC admissions are for a range of charges: 5 Retail Theft, 3 Theft, 2 Burglary, and 1 Robbery.
  • 45-year-old S.B.’s 13 bookings into CCDOC total 981 days spent in jail at a collective housing cost of about $140,283. These numbers do not include time spent in IDOC and cost to house in IDOC.
  • S.B.’s most recent arrest occurred on August 28, 2014. He attempted to steal several packages of meat from a Jewel-Osco. Bond was set at $55,000. This case was continued 5 times before S.B. was sentenced to 2 years IDOC on February 18, 2014. He had been in jail custody for 174 days when he was sentenced– about half of what he would be required to serve in state prison.
  • Since 2007, all of S.B.’s convictions have been for the same charge – Retail Theft – for attempting to steal the same thing – packaged meat from the grocery store. The total cost of the items he is trying to steal is usually about $100. In one arrest report, S.B. states that he was stealing the meat to bring to a friend’s house to a barbeque.
  • S.B. has Robbery and Burglary convictions from 20+ years ago in his background. These combined with past retail theft convictions serve as a mitigating factors that trigger lengthy prison sentences for these low level crimes

For more examples, see

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THE DEFENDANT’S DILEMMA – Fallacies of Human Behavior and Juries (Part II)

Us and them“Us, and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men…
Up and down.
But in the end it’s only round and round.
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside.”

– Pink Floyd ‘Us and Them’ (Dark Side of the Moon)


In many jury cases, judges and other courtroom staff take great pains to attempt to prevent any prejudice against the defendant from slipping in.  These small measures are often taken in good faith but do little to overcome basic presumptions of jurors sitting in judgment of the accused.  Defendants are often dressed in button-down shirts or suits, seated with their lawyers as if they are part of the courtroom scenery.  But from the moment the jurors “meet” the defendant, they are making constant decisions about his character, propensity for crime and whether he appears similar or different from them and their acquaintances.

Much of jury selection is based upon the admittedly inexact science of figuring out the characteristics of jurors who may be sympathetic or unsympathetic towards the accused.  Defense attorneys want their clients to give the jurors a good first impression and maintain that impression throughout the trial.  Defendants are instructed not to react to anything that happens in the courtroom and to appear respectful and remorseful.  This duality is somewhat difficult to achieve, however.  While jurors are more willing to be lenient and on the side of a Defendant who appears remorseful and freightened, truly innocent defendants may have a hard time accepting that lies are being told about them in open court, under oath, and to the jury who holds the key to their freedom.

“But if the State and police have gone through this much work to get the case put together, it’s pretty likely that they have the right person with the correct charge, right?”

Sadly, human nature shows this presumption to be wrong time and time again.  Contrary to Law and Order and the contrived, innuendo-filled press conferences of police officials and prosecutors, the main charge of the justice system is not necessarily justice – it is efficiency.


Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 2.03: PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE – REASONABLE DOUBT – BURDEN OF PROOF GENERALLY  “The Defendant is presumed to be innocent of the charges against him.  This presumption remains with him throughout every stage of the trial and during your deliberations on the verdict and is not overcome unless from all the evidence in this case you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty.  The State has the burden of provind the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, and this burden remains on the State throughout the case.  The defendant is not required to prove his innocence.”

How can this possibly work?  Can you truly reconcile this unbelievably important right with the fact that the prosecutor is accusing the defendant of heinous acts?  Attorneys are not allowed to even suggest to juries that simply because someone has been charged of a crime and has exercised their right to a jury trial that there is even a minute possibility that it is more likely than not that the accused is guilty.  But for many jurors, this is their first experience with the criminal justice system.  The very first thing that they hear, after they are picked as jurors and seated for the trial, is what a horrible, illegal, disgusting thing the defendant sitting right in front of them has done.  Next they hear the defense attorney’s opening statement, but they have already been primed to follow and understand the prosecution’s case.

Jurors are picked from the community, ostensibly.  The jury pool is often taken from the voter rolls of the county or from those who have registered for a driver’s license.  To some extent, there is a self-selection bias, however courts have somewhat wised-up to the excuses that people use to get out of jury duty.  Sadly, every juror who thinks that he or she can game the system and get kicked off of the jury panel, or that it is below him or her to sit on a jury would have an absolutely different opinion if the roles were reversed.  The public is not conditioned to think, “What if it was my family member who was accused of a crime??  What if it was me??”  We have created a criminal justice system with a very strong “Us-Versus-Them” mentality.  To some jurors, jury duty is a mere inconvenience to their otherwise important life.  Those in the “Us” category have better things to do.  Companies need to be run, emails returned, and the world needs them to keep it from falling off of its axis.  Very few jurors are willing to identify with the “Them” category.  In a juror’s mind, “they” are defendants.  This is not a racial or cultural issue necessarily, but it cuts along racial and class lines.  This mentality may not be intentional, but it is detrimental to defendants who are merely asking other citizens to take a short amount of time out of their lives to uphold the Constitution and give them a fair trial.  How can jurors living in the “Us” mentality not identify with the victims of a crime??  After all, “they” are the ones victimizing “us” with their criminal behavior.  “They” are the defendants in these cases not because of some deeply-rooted societal issues, but because “they” are different from “us.”  This classist mentality creeps into anyone who sits in judgment of others.  Jurors who have experienced problems with police and the criminal justice system are better able to see the problems inherent in the system and in jury cases, but jurors work as groups – and think as groups.


Defense opening arguments are a relatively decent way to endear yourself to jurors, but at best they make suggestions and requests of the jury to see the holes in the case – to look further into the testimony than their prosecutorial counterpart would have them do.  No case is ever as cut-and-dried as it seems when the prosecutor is standing accusing the defendant of doing something which disrupted society, possibly hurt someone, or did something else to offend legal sensibilities.

WHY DON’T JURIES GET TO HEAR ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE DEFENDANT?  IS IT REALLY FOR THE DEFENDANT’S PROTECTION?  Throughout the testimony of prosecution and defense witnesses, the character of the defendant is absolutely a prohibited topic in most criminal trials.  The reason: Courts say they don’t want jurors making decisions based upon emotion, their views of the defendant, or other information which is not admitted formally into evidence.  Ironically, much of trial strategy is not simply focused on the facts of the case, but on how the jury will view the defendant and witnesses.  One interesting example which comes to mind is the littany of rules about the defendant’s choice whether to testify.  Jury instructions are explicitely clear that a defendant has absolutely no duty to prove his innocence or answer for any of his alleged actions as charged by the State.

One of the principles that some courts apply is prohibiting trials from devolving into a personal attack on the defendant instead of an unbiased examination of the testimony.  Problems with testimony and witnesses are so numerous that I can’t even begin to address them now, however court rules and case law generally prohibits prosecutors from referring to prior bad acts of the defendant, personal affiliations, possible gang ties, and other things which may bias the jury against the defendant.  This also, however, prevents the defense from presenting character information about the defendant – except in specific instances which aren’t always clear to those with law degrees.


Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction 2.04:  “The fact that the defendant did not testify must not be considered by you in any way in arriving at your verdict.”

IF A DEFENDANT TESTIFIES…Many things can happen.  First and foremost, the Defendant’s prior criminal background can be brought in to impeach him – or destroy his credibility.  Jurors will hear if he has been convicted of any felonies within 10 years and what those felonies were.  The theory being that someone who has been convicted of a felony is more likely to lie on the stand than one of “us” – the non-felons.  This weighs hugely on a defense counsel’s decision to advise the defendant to testify – a choice which ultimately lies with the defendant.  But few attorneys are going to willingly put their client on the stand only to have whatever he says overshadowed by the fact that he has prior convictions or, even worse, convictions for similar offenses to the one for which he is standing trial.

BUT JURIES WANT TO KNOW THE DEFENDANT’S STORY!  This often plays itself out in police stations and squad cars when someone is first arrested.  Regardless of their guilt or level of culpability, it is natural behavior to want to explain your side of the story.  We want to set the record straight.  The fact that the police tell defendants that “Anything they say can and will be used against them in court” is often taken for granted and greatly misunderstood.  For arrestees, it is easy to believe that you can talk your way out of trouble.  Unfortunately, every word you utter is going to be scrutinized up until the moment when the jury renders a verdict, and every time a defendant talks, a new can of worms is opened up.  Yes, juries are not allowed to use the defendant’s silence or choice not to testify (formerly known as his “failure to tesify” until the courts wised up, at least in Illinois) against him.  How is this possible??  There is no good balance.  Even when a defendant does take the stand and is believable in his testimony, the prosecution will attack that defendant with all of the visciousness that the might of the State allows.  A defendant telling the “whole truth” may sound like he is equivocating or forgetting important details when matched against a seasoned trial attorney.  Defendants, like all witnesses, are subject to the same psychological issues – fading memory over time, the power of suggestion by attorneys and the pressure of testifying.  Attorneys must constantly decide if the potential benefits outweigh the costs.  Most of the time, putting a defendant on the stand is far riskier than allowing the jury to guess why he isn’t testifying.  And often, nobody wins and the truth never wins out…

Like it or not, the criminal justice system in the United States is broken.  It is not the best one out there, and it is far from the best one we can come up with.  Entrenched ideology about how justice should be disseminated is slow to change.  Some of the most serious changes come only with generational change and replacement of the old guard with fresh minds willing to take action to fight the system instead of just surviving it.


United State’s Constitution: Amendment VI – “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State [ ] and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

 All views are that of Jonathan S. Goldman and do not represent those of the Law Office of Jonathan S. Goldman, its affiliates or partners.  Jonathan Goldman is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago and works with those convicted of crimes in the past to clear their criminal records through expungement, sealing and executive clemency.  See for more information.

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Des Plaines Police commander gets six months for falsifying DUI stats


So, one-third of the entire Des Plaines police force are cheating liars who defrauded the taxpayers.  And they get to keep their jobs because there would be too many to replace.  Wow.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A former Des Plaines police commander who padded DUI arrest records so the department could get federal grant money was sentenced today to six months in prison.

Timothy Veit, 57, apologized in Chicago’s Dirksen U.S. Courthouse for his role in defrauding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Illinois Department of Transportation out of nearly $133,000 in public safety grant funding…

In addition to the six-month prison term, Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan sentenced Veit to 200 hours of community service. His plea agreement with prosecutors also requires him to repay IDOT about $34,500 in restitution…

Veit, a Mount Prospect resident, was ordered to report to prison by Dec. 16.

He was initially charged…

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Preckwinkle does about-face, parking to remain free at Cook County Courthouses


Four years ago, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced a plan to turn the free parking at the various Cook County Courthouses into pay lots.

In the years since, construction has been done at the various suburban courthouse parking lots, to restrict ingress and egress and to install the beginnings of either actual or automated cashier stands at the entrances.  According to the Daily Herald, the cost of all this construction was $1.9 million.

As someone who usually drives in and out of these courthouses anywhere from 5 to 15 times a week, I was not happy about the prospect of paying around $3,000 a year to continue my law practice.  When I expressed these concerns, I was told that President Preckwinkle’s attitude was that I should just pass the cost along to my clients.

Well, that was not a good solution, because many people who come to…

View original post 296 more words


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Imagine you have been fortunate enough to be picked to sit on an armed robbery jury. And yes, I did say fortunate. The civic duties we all gripe and complain about when it’s our turn are the very ones that we count on to save our butts when the system turns against us…So you have been picked, fortunately, for an armed robbery jury.
As you settle into the jury box, the prosecutor comes out with a thundering indictment of the meek-looking boy sitting next to his lawyer at the defense table. The boy – the defendant – can’t possibly be any older than 18 if he grew a full beard, and gives off the impression that he is the smallest thing in the courtroom, and possibly the least important.

It’s difficult to imagine that THIS KID is the reason why everyone showed up in this grandiose courtroom and that, at the end of a few days of lawyers and witnesses, his life could be changed forever.


“On October 1, 2013,” the prosecutor begins,”this defendant for no reason whatsoever decided that he would take the lives and safety of the victims into his own hands.  He decided that he would approach them in a car, pull out a Glock 9mm handgun, order them to the ground and demand their money or their lives!”

His eloquent soliliquy sounds like it was written after hundreds of restless nights pouring over the evidence against the defendant, writing and re-writing and re-writing until things sounded just right.  In reality, the prosecutor was lucky if he received the file before the day of the trial, and even luckier if he had time to work on his opening statement while managing his numerous other court responsibilities.  The passion in his voice is feigned, but to you, the juror who has only seen these things on Law and Order and sensationalized televised trials, there is no way he could have this much belief in the facts of the case if they weren’t absolutely true.

And you want to believe him!  You must believe him!  You want to believe this man wearing a sharply-tailored suit with an American flag pin perfectly positioned on his jacket.  Because he is the voice of good; he is the force which fights against the elements of society who make you lock your doors at night.  He, like you, only wants to live in a simpler time; a time when locking your door was un-neighborly.  When you knew everyone you saw on the street.  He is there for you!

We all want to believe him.  He looks in your eyes and tells you that you are going to hear the story of an eyewitness – A WITNESS TO THIS HEINOUS CRIME! – explaining how bone-chillingly terrifying the situation was.  How he thought that he would never see his family again if he didn’t give up his sneakers to the thug, sitting meekly at the other table next to his lawyer who has papers scattered about all over the table.  The witness you are going to hear has absolutely no reason to lie!  Why would he?  Why would he make up a story about being robbed of not only his shoes but his dignity by the very person who sits accused in front of you?!  People don’t lie about those things, right?  RIGHT?



But let’s be real.  For the two or three articles you see in the newspaper about police officers acting improperly by taking kickbacks or making questionable decisions about their tactics, when was the last time you heard of a police officer going to jail for lying in court?  Think back?  Remember a specific story where a police officer lied under oath, in front of their maker, the judge, the clerk and society itself and was stripped of their badge.  If you can think of a story, try to find it on the Internet and see if it really happened the way you think it did.





Call a damn cab, stay overnight, just don’t become a statistic!


The holidays and New Year’s Eve boast some of the highest fatality rates for drunken driving – and it’s not always the drunks who get killed…THE TRUTH CAN BE A BITCH!

“We want to see you next year…and not as a DUI client or fatality!”

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