No time is a good time to be accused of committing a crime. But with the recent rash of robberies in Chicago's finest shopping areas, now may be the worst time. The criminal activity on the Magnificent Mile and elsewhere has frequently been carried out by a coordinated effort that has been dubbed "flash mobs" by many. While flash mobs were previously thought of as light-hearted gatherings for entertainment purposes, today in Chicago the term evokes images of fear and violence.
With the crime taking place in high-end areas, and garnering a catchy name, it's also getting a lot of attention. Prosecutors and judges are paying close attention to these cases. It was against this backdrop that I was recently contacted by the family of a seventeen year old, who got a very high bond of $150,000 as a first offender. Likely the more stringent treatment of this teen was related to this recently-charged-up criminal environment.
This is not to say that we should excuse anyone who commits a robbery on someone else. The crime of robbery involves taking something by force or fear from another. This is a serious crime, and someone who is guilty of it should serve time. But for someone who has been accused of this crime, he or she is likely to be used as an example to deter others.
Certainly now, more than ever, it is important to have as much going for you as possible to beat a criminal charge. Different people charged with similar crimes can get very different results. It's kind of like how John Edwards cheated on his wife while she had cancer and he's the worst human ever, but Newt Gingrich did the same thing and is an allegedly viable candidate for President. Similar screwups, different results. While no one thing can guarantee a certain outcome, there are some steps you can take to help your chances.
First, have a good lawyer in your corner. While many lawyers may be good at what they do, you'll want to have a lawyer that is good at what you need. Your lawyer can protect you best if he or she handles criminal defense work every day, and knows the prosecutors and judges in the court where your case will be heard. This kind of experience, along with a successful track record in previous similar cases, can be a helpful measure of an attorney who has the right tools to fight for you.
Second, watch what impression you are making on the judge and prosecutor. It's better to stay under the radar and not get noticed. Your case will get attention in a way that could hurt you if you have a long criminal record. Also, if you show up to court with flashy clothes or a disrespectful attitude you could hurt yourself.
And committing a crime that's in vogue such as the so-called "flash mob" crimes on the Magnificent Mile, is likely to make the papers and attract a media following. This could have a negative effect on how you and your case are treated. If the flash mob robberies were happening in some other, higher-crime areas of Chicago, of course, there wouldn't be such an issue.
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