Continually Recognized for Our
The Law office of Louis M. Pissios has successfully handled many complex and high-profile cases in Illinois including everything from Driving Under the Influence Cases to Drug Cases to Murder Cases, and everything in between. We are in Lake County, Illinois and handle every case with the diligence necessary to get you the best results possible.
Our attorneys provide unparalleled legal representation to those who are facing serious criminal charges. We have extensive experience in all areas of Criminal Law. Our Firm has a reputation for providing top-notch, high quality representation.
We recognize that every person, and every criminal prosecution, is unique. We tailor our practice to the individual needs of each and every client. Our ethics, skill and knowledge will help you obtain the best possible results.
The lawyer you choose to represent you can affect the results of your case. Our legal defense team includes experienced private investigators, paralegals and translators. . We provide high quality, creative and thorough legal representation to each and every one of our clients. We are only as good as the results we obtain for our clients. Our greatest compliment comes from the fact that many of our former clients and other attorneys refer clients to us for representation.
You should not compromise your choice of an attorney. This may be one of the most important decisions that you ever make.
What can an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer do for me?
The Traffic Stop
State trooper stops Defendant on the highway for crossing the yellow line and following too closely. About 20 or 30 minutes into it, the tickets are written out and the trooper still has Defendant’s DL.
But before giving Defendant the paper work and returning his DL, the trooper asks him to get out his truck. Also, he had called for the drug dog before getting him out of the car.
Trooper tells defendant that he smelled cannabis in the vehicle. He asked defendant to explain why he smelled cannabis. Defendant says that there was probably an odor of cannabis on his clothes. He also admitted that he had a “bowl” in the center console.
Why Did the Stop Take So Long?
Oh yea, defendant was on the terrorist watch list. Cop had to make several calls to the feds and was working on confirming Defendant’s identity. The trooper knew, before he gets him out of the car, that the feds cleared Defendant.
What They Find?
Prior to the dog arriving, the trooper searched the truck and found a smoking device and a tobacco package with raw cannabis inside. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs at the back of the vehicle. The troopers pried open the tailgate and found four duffel bags containing 5,505 grams of marijuana.
Did the Trooper Really Smell Anything?
The trooper who stops defendant testified that he could smell a faint odor of cannabis when he first approached the truck. On the squad video he says, “When I was up there talking to him I thought I could smell an odor of burnt cannabis, not raw cannabis. I’m not certain the way the wind was blowing and stuff. I’m not going to call him out on that, and I am going to question him about it at some point. I am not going to use that as probable cause to search the vehicle. I’m not 100% sure about that.”
A second trooper testified that he only smelled a masking agent. Said it smelled like freshly sprayed deodorant. This trooper also had two separate conversations with Defendant. Each time Defendant denied having cannabis in the truck (this was before the get him out the car and he finally admits to the pipe).
A seizure that is lawful at its inception may become unlawful under the fourth amendment if –
(1) the duration of the stop is unreasonably prolonged, or
(2) the officer’s actions during the stop independently trigger the fourth amendment.
See Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407-08 (2005).
An investigative stop that is lawful at its inception must cease once reasonable suspicion dissipates, unless there is a separate Fourth Amendment justification to prolong the stop. See People v. Baldwin, 388 Ill. App. 3d 1028, 1033 (2009). “Mere hunches and unparticularized suspicions are not enough to justify a broadening of the stop into an investigatory detention.” People v. Ruffin, 315 Ill. App. 3d 744, 748 (2000).
A routine traffic stop may not be used as a subterfuge to obtain other evidence based on an officer’s suspicion.People v. Koutsakis, 272 Ill. App. 3d 159, 164 (1995).
Where a flyer or bulletin has been issued on the basis of articulable facts supporting a reasonable suspicion that the wanted person had committed an offense, reliance on that information justifies a stop to check identification, to pose questions to the person or to detain the person briefly while attempting to obtain further information. See United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 232 (1985); see also People v. Ewing, 377 Ill. App. 3d 585, 593-94 (2007) (Hensley principles apply to communications sent through dispatch). Evidence recovered during the course of a bulletin stop is admissible if the stop is not significantly more intrusive than would have been permitted by the issuing department. Hensley, 469 U.S. at 233.
Prolonging the Stop Means Illegal Traffic Stop
The record establishes that the trooper waited for approximately 23 minutes before dispatch reported back to him the Defendant was not wanted by the feds. Rather than returning his DL and giving him the tickets, at that point, the trooper gets defendant out of the truck. All of this was done 30 minutes into the stop.
The stop lasted an additional 22 minutes after tickets are written. It seems clear that the troopers prolonged the stop in an effort to obtain incriminating information from defendant.
What About Smell of Weed?
While the smell of burnt cannabis may be sufficient in some cases, in this case the arresting officer failed to supply the articulable facts necessary to support a fourth amendment intrusion.
Trooper testified that he thought he smelled burnt cannabis, but he was not sure. His statements on the videotape of the stop were consistent with his vague statements at trial. On the videotape, the trooper told the dispatcher that he thought he smelled an odor of burnt cannabis but was uncertain because of the way the wind was blowing.
The second trooper did not testify that he thought the “masking agent” was a sign of contraband. Second trooper then asks Defendant directly if he has marijuana. Defendant says no. At that point, any reasonable suspicion that may have been generated by first trooper’s uncertain smell dissipated.
These facts support only a hunch or suspicion of illegal activity. They do not give rise to a reasonable and articulable suspicion that defendant was trafficking cannabis. Thus, beyond the delay pursuant to the terrorist watch list issue, the troopers did not have an independent articulable suspicion to prolong the stop. The continued detention of defendant was a violation of his constitutional rights.
It’s not unusual for police officers to be filmed by people with cellphones during a traffic stop nowadays, but police throughout Lake County may be wearing body cameras to monitor interactions as soon as this fall in Round Lake Park, and other departments are not far behind.
From Round Lake Park to Round Lake and Mundelien to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, municipalities and their police departments are moving ahead with body cameras.
“This is definitely the wave of the future and something that’s needed,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said. “Body cameras are a type of evidence and the more evidence we have in any case the better.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner last week signed legislation that lays out the rules for police body cameras in Illinois, making it only the third state in the country to establish such rules, according to an Associated Press analysis. While it does not mandate body cameras, although there was legislation floated that would have done just that, it does specify how they will be worn, when they have to be turned on and how long the recordings must be kept as evidence.
It also established a grant program funded by a $5 addition to traffic tickets to help police departments buy the body cameras.
“They are going to be involved in every case, even misdemeanors,” Nerheim said. “You’re going to see footage on every single case.”
Nerheim said his office is working with the more than 40 police departments in Lake County on uniformity. If each department operated on a different system, that could pose a problem for his office, which would handle the recordings in court.
“It’s important we are part of the process,” he said.
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko said if everything goes as planned his department will be ready to roll out the body cameras by mid September.
“It’s logical we’re doing this,” he said, “We decided this was the way to go.”
The village has purchased 6 4RE in-car systems with panoramic HD cameras and 13 VISTA HD body-worn cameras that have adjustable lenses so officers can adjust them according to their height. The total cost was approximately $57,000, which also includes a server and needed software.
For Patrol Officer Donna O’Brien, the body camera, which uses industrial strength magnets to hold it in place, is a good thing.
“I prefer them,” she said, “It’s good to have one more form of evidence to back up the truth.”
“I also think it’s good tool for training. I can review how I walked up to a vehicle during a traffic stop or person and see how I might of done it differently,” or see something that may have put her in danger, but she didn’t realize it at the time, she said.
“It will keep me on my toes, but I always act professionally,” she said.
Filenko said the response of his officers has not been “why do we need them,” but “when are we getting them.”
“In my opinion this is going to become standard, it may even be mandatory eventually,” he said. He knew two years ago they were going to need new squad car videos and he thought of incorporating the body cameras with that new system.
“It’s still not going to replace the human eye,” he said, but in the worse-case scenario, an officer involved shooting, “the more video the better,” said Filenko, who is in charge of the Major Crime Task Force that is called in to investigate those shootings.
Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette said his mayor and trustees wanted to get ahead of the curve and be pro-active. “I’m proud of the board and the mayor for letting us do that,” he said of their purchase of 15 FirstVu HD cameras from Kansas-based Digital Ally, at a cost of $13,800.
“We feel it’s a good tool for the officers to put together a solid case,” he said, “and of course it would be used in allegations of misconduct. I think they are really good tools.”
Bigger departments have bigger problems with figuring out the financing, but the Waukegan Police Department is “aggressively” researching different models, according to Cmdr. Joe Florip.
“We need to see what will work best (for the 80 patrol officers and 20 patrol cars). We’re excited as an organization to get body cameras. We think it’s best for our community and the police department,” he said.
“It’s priceless when it comes to a citizen complaint. There’s nothing like pulling up a video,” he said, noting that sometimes they can do that now from dash cameras and sometimes residents see their actions in a different light.
The Lake County Chiefs Association, headed by Highland Park Chief Paul Schafer, said they are getting more inquiries from other chiefs about body cameras. There still needs to be a lot of policy work, such as how to handle Freedom of Information requests, obscuring juvenile or witness faces from the video and other issues and having the personnel able to do that.
“There’s a lot of implementation with this new technology that the chiefs are taking a look at,” he said. They plan to have it on their agenda for the September meeting.
Other departments like Round Lake Beach are just starting to look into it, partly because of the funding mechanism included in the bill the governor recently signed. For some departments it would be hard to afford and they want to make sure they get the right equipment.
“We want it done right the first time,” said Police Chief Dave Hare. But he believes they will benefit police and the community.
“Transparency is a good thing for the community and body camera play into that,” he said
Here are the top 13 criminal law cases from the Illinois court system for March 2016. The first 4 are from the Illinois Supreme Court. Number 4 was a victory for the defense at the lower level and the Illinois Supreme Court had something to say about that.
- People v. Burns
The “no-nights visits” rule is affirmed, can’t bring the sniffer dog to your front step for a little sniff action.
- People v. Bradford
Prosecution no longer allowed to overcharge an ordinary retail theft to a burglary.
- People v. Clark
Aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery without a firearm are not lesser-included offenses of aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery with a firearm.
- People v. Timmsen
Apparently, the police can stop you for trying to legally avoid a roadblock.
- People v. Abram
Officers approach defendant who was sitting in his car he then, to say the least, ensues in outright flight.
- People v. Smith
This trial judge was overruled; there is nothing unconstitutional about requesting citizen’s to roll up their sleeves.
- People v. Thompson
Some of the State’s remarks relied on questionable advocacy, but did not rise to the level of clear and obvious error.
- People v. Meuris
In a leaving the scene of an accident prosecution the State must not only prove that Defendant knew he was involved in an accident but also that another person was involved.
- People v. Weinke
Reviewing court says ASA exaggerated the severity of victim’s condition and misled the court as to the source and timing of her information in order to pressure the court into granting a quickie deposition.
- People v. Tayborn
Trial counsel was ineffective for not challenging defendant’s confession given without Miranda warnings.
- People v. Little
Cigarette break is not a sufficient amount of time to remove the taint of the original Miranda violation.
- People v. Gray
These drug officers were themselves charged with distributing narcotics and Defendant was not told about the investigation before he plead guilty to his own drug charges.
- People v. Fulton
In a charge of armed habitual criminal the same conviction can be used as one of the predicate offenses as well the predicate to the UUW Felony conviction that may be being used.
What is a deposition?
In about 30 years of working in the law I have seen many documents used to prepare witnesses for deposition. I decided to write one that would be easily understood by the typical lay witness. This article is not legal advice. It is a compilation of advice given by various attorneys, which I hope you will find useful.
If you use this for a client, it should be provided on the attorney’s letterhead with this cautionary language at the top: Note: This document is privileged and confidential. Do not show it to anyone. Read it several times before giving your deposition.
PREPARING FOR YOUR DEPOSITION
Your deposition is extremely important and will affect your case in many ways. You must understand everything in this preparation document before being deposed. A deposition is a device commonly used in the “discovery” phase of a lawsuit, before trial. All parties in a lawsuit, through their attorneys, have a period of time after a suit is filed in which to discover facts about a case in order to prepare for trial. Depositions and interrogatories (questions to be answered in writing under oath) are two of the most commonly used.
In a deposition, the witness (you in this case) is called the deponent and is sworn to tell the truth (by the court reporter, who is neutral) before any questions are asked. Attorneys will attend for both sides and the attorney for the opposing party will ask you questions, while the court reporter takes everything down to provide everybody with a copy. Portions of the transcript will probably be used in the trial.
The opposing attorney also wants to get your testimony committed to writing. Warning: everything you say will be used against you, and it is the opposing attorney’s purpose to get you to say something that will hurt your case. Your deposition is not for your benefit; it is for the benefit of the other side. You must resist the urge to tell your story or vindicate yourself or justify your actions. You must answer the questions as briefly as possible and never volunteer information. You will have your chance at trial, when your attorney is asking the questions. So listen carefully to each question, think before answering, and answer concisely-with a “yes” or “no” if possible.
Depositions are not the trial, even though they may be used at trial. Depositions are informal proceedings, usually taken in an attorney’s office, and the judge is not present. They usually last two to six hours sometimes less. The scope of questions is unlimited, and attorneys have the right to ask broad questions on topics that may seem irrelevant. Many topics are covered in depositions that will never be admissible at trial. You must answer all questions unless your attorney instructs you not to answer (another reason for listening to the complete question and taking time before answering).
The opposing attorney may act like Mr. Nice Guy, and you should be polite, but always remember: his duty is to try to help his client by weakening your case. Do not trust him and always remain mentally sharp. Some opposing attorneys will be short and snappy with you, and at times may seem hard-lined and relentless in questioning you. Despite the tactics by opposing counsel, you must remember that he/she is not your friend. Your only friend in the deposition is your attorney.
Your attorney will not ask you any questions. He is there to protect you from improper questioning. Remember: this is not the place to tell your story, but only to give facts as you know them. If your attorney begins to speak, you must stop talking. If the attorneys enter into discussions, you are not to say a word, but listen carefully to what is being said. If your attorney makes an objection, remain silent until he/she tells you to answer. If your attorney instructs you not to answer, do not answer no matter how angry the other attorney becomes or how harmless the question may seem to you.
Getting Ready for Your Deposition
First read this document several times and make sure you understand all of it. If not, ask your attorney or his staff about anything you do not understand. Then review any interrogatories you have answered, because the other attorney will probably use them at your deposition. Read the pleadings and motions that have been filed and go over them with your attorney if you have questions about them.
The other side has the right to ask you to bring documents to your deposition. If you have not been asked to bring anything, do not bring anything. If you have been asked to do so, do your best to gather the documents requested, even if it means getting them from a lockbox or storeroom. Review all documents with your attorney before your deposition. If you have not been asked to bring any documents, but you have documents you think you should bring, discuss it with your attorney.
Important: Letters between you and your attorney and his/her staff, and any documents prepared in connection with the lawsuit are privileged and confidential and never should be produced. These documents may be privileged under the attorney-client privilege or under the work-product privilege. If you produce even one of them, you may forfeit the privilege for all of them. If any documents requested by the other side are privileged and confidential, let your attorney know immediately.
Your attorney or his staff will meet with you before your deposition to prepare you further. Do not hide anything from your attorney. You must be totally truthful with your attorney (and that includes his/her staff) and you will not be fully protected if there are things the other side may know that your attorney doesn’t know. Be candid in all respects and rest assured that everything you say to your attorney or his staff is privileged and confidential. Think of any bad things the other side could possibly know and be sure to let your attorney know about them.
The Deposition Itself
Dress neatly. The best outfit is comfortable business attire, with nothing flashy, nothing offbeat, nothing dirty, nothing sloppy. Remember, the other attorneys are evaluating you as a witness. If you will be making a good impression on the jury at trial, your testimony is more valuable.
Produce requested documents and answer truthfully. Your duty is to answer each question as truthfully as you can, but also with as short an answer as possible. Before answering any question, remember to look straight at the attorney asking the question, listen carefully, pause at least two or three seconds to think, and then give your short, concise answer politely and calmly. For most questions, a “yes sir” or “no sir” or “I don’t know” is sufficient. If you say more than three sentences, you have probably said too much. Remember to do this with each question, so that every answer is formal and controlled and you are controlling the tempo of your deposition.
Always be polite. Your conduct and demeanor may be more important than the answers you give. Try to make a good impression. Relax and remain calm, trying not to show nervousness. (You will be nervous, but try not to show it.) Always respond courteously. Always refer to the attorneys as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Speak up positively with assurance.
You may consult with your attorney. If you have questions or concerns about your potential answer, you may ask the opposing attorney, “May I consult with my attorney?” You may then either talk privately at the table or go outside to discuss it with your attorney. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney questions if you feel it important, but keep these consultations to an absolute minimum. Your attorney cannot tell you how to answer but can help clarify the question. Never answer a question with a question or rhetoric.
Your testimony must be truthful. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but only in response to questions, and with short answers. If you do not tell the truth, you could be subject to criminal prosecution for perjury. If you are caught not telling the truth, it will hurt your credibility and therefore, your case. You must answer every question truthfully.
Answer only from your personal knowledge. Never volunteer an opinion unless specifically asked to do so. Never guess or speculate. Guessing or speculating is not truthful. Do not do it. Don’t let the opposing attorney fool you into making statements outside of your personal knowledge or about something you do not remember.
Testify in your own words. Don’t let opposing counsel put words in your mouth. Stay with your version of the facts as you know them. One tactic some attorneys use is to say “Well, is it fair to say that . . . ?” If he/she uses this tactic and attempts to summarize parts of your testimony, listen carefully and do not agree unless it is exactly true in all respects; if not, state that you do not agree with his/her summary.
Do not be intimidated. The opposing attorney may make an insinuation or express an opinion that you are not telling the truth. This is an old trick and you should not fall for it. He/she may say something like, “Do you mean to tell me that you’re willing to sit here under oath and swear to that?” Remain calm, look him/her in the eyes, and say, “I have just testified to that fact under oath.” The opposing attorney may speak with a raised voice and seem hateful, but your attorney will not let you be badgered or let things get out of hand.
Be careful of questions dependent on your memory. If you are asked about something that happened long ago and you do not remember the date or time, just say so, and do not guess. Nobody expects you to remember every fact of your life. If pressed for dates, you can say, “To the best of my knowledge, it was around that time.” If you don’t remember, say so. Often, the truthful answer to a question begins with “To the best of my knowledge at this time.”
If you don’t know, say so. Again, do not speculate and do not guess. If you do not know the answer to a question, just say, “I do not know.” Do not assume anything. Another old trick is for the opposing attorney to pull out a piece of paper and read it to himself, then ask you if you remember writing a letter to [name] that said [facts]. Don’t be fooled into admitting something of which you are not sure. Don’t say, “I guess so” when the truthful answer is “I do not remember writing such a letter.”
Don’t give long, rambling answers. The opposing attorney will always gain an advantage if you talk too much. Never ask to explain your answer before giving it. And don’t explain your proper “yes sir” or “no sir” answer, either. You must not volunteer information that is unsolicited ever. An example: You are asked to “State the highest degree of education you have earned.” Many witnesses respond: “Well I graduated high school and then went to college for two years.” This is volunteering information. The correct answer is “a high school diploma.” You will only hurt your case and help the other side’s case if you volunteer information, no matter how harmless it may seem.
Don’t give an opinion unless asked. Just answer with facts and never give your opinion or belief unless asked for it. Again, this is volunteering information and can only hurt your case.
Finish your answers. If you do have a long answer, and the other attorney interrupts you when giving your answer, you should politely insist on finishing your entire answer. Just state that you were not through with your answer and insist on being allowed to finish it.
Use care with documents. If you are asked about a certain document, you should ask to see the document before answering. But never refer to a document to refresh your memory without first discussing it with your attorney. In some states, if a deponent is asked a question and stops to look at a document to refresh his/her memory, the document must be disclosed even if it is a privileged document.
Always keep your guard up. Everyone is nervous about giving a deposition. It is only natural. Sometimes a deponent will begin to relax as the deposition progresses and they may even actually begin to enjoy being the center of attention. Avoid this feeling. It is dangerous and leads to your forgetting the rules outlined in this article. Remain alert, be on guard, sit up straight, and remember to:
a. Look and listen
b. Pause and think
c. Answer briefly
Remain polite and courteous, keep your guard up, and don’t let the opposing attorney talk you into hurting your case. Never let yourself be provoked into anger, arguing, or being upset.
Nothing is “off the record.” The court reporter is taking down every word. An attorney may ask you for an answer “off the record,” but do not fall for it. The only thing off the record will be discussions among attorneys when the reporter has been instructed to stop recording.
After Your Deposition
Provide information if agreed. During the deposition, you and your attorney may agree to produce something to the other side. Locate it immediately after the deposition and deliver it to your attorney as soon as possible.
Correct errors in the transcript. You will have a limited time to make any corrections after the court reporter has typed the transcript. Read it carefully and make all corrections. If you don’t do so within the time period, which may be as few as 20 days, you will not be able to correct it later and you will be stuck with it at trial. Follow your attorney’s advice regarding making the corrections.
Answers may need to be supplemented. In some states you are required to supplement any answers you gave at a deposition. If you are asked a question in a deposition, and your answer later changes, you must let your attorney know. For example, you may be asked for names of witnesses, and after your deposition you learn of another witness. You must give that new information to your attorney immediately.
Review your deposition before trial. Make sure you re-read your deposition testimony before you get to trial. Most cases settle and never reach trial, but not all cases settle. If you are going to trial, it is critical that you know everything you have said under oath, whether in a deposition or interrogatories.
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This is what the Illinois court system was up to in February of 2016. Here are the 9 best and worst cases. The last one is the one the prosecution doesn’t want you to know about.
- People v. Boston
Sloppy grand jury work by State’s Attorney does not prejudice defendant. Go to case.
- People v. Ligon
Many objects can qualify as dangerous weapons for purposes of aggravated vehicular hijacking, but not as to armed violence. In other other words, list of bludgeons is greater for AVH and smaller for armed violence. Go to case.
- People v. Zayed
Smell of cannabis does not give this officer a free pass to search this passenger because the officer crossed the line by whipping out the defendant’s penis and essentially conducting an unreasonable strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Jarvis
The visual examination of defendant’s buttocks might have exposed defendant’s anus. Nonetheless, any search for the “person” authorizes a strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Little
This DWLR conviction stands because the police officer didn’t need proof of every element of the crime he was investigating. The stop with limited information was good. Go to case.
- People v. Buschauer
The trial court’s finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence in that a reasonable person in would have felt free to leave at any point during the interrogation. Trial court just can’t ignore the factors that weigh against coercion. Go to case.
- People v. Harrison
This force blood draw was not suppressed because it was done before the McNeely decision and binding precedent was in place. Good faith exception applies. Go to case.
- People v. Moore
Lost photo arrays were not done in bad faith, so no due process violation occurred. The proper remedy for this discovery violation was to grant Civil Jury Instruction 5.01. Go to case.
- People v. Nibbe
Second degree murder conviction is vacated outright because a blow with a bare hand is not ordinarily contemplated to cause death. Go to case.
- People v. Pmulamasaka
This rape is overturned, in large part, because the State committed and the trial judge allowed gross prosecutorial misconduct. Among the list of error committed by the prosecution two stand out. He repeatedly argued the victim was mentally handicapped when there was no such evidence, and he sat in the witness box during closing argument. Go to case.