Monday, March 28, 2011

Chicago Criminal lawyer wonders if Illinois can afford 3 years in prison for $500 worth of property damage

This Chicago Criminal Defense lawyer isn’t surprised, but thinks you must tell your friends and family that a relatively small amount of money could land you in prison.

Vega was charged by indictment  with multiple offenses, including criminal damage to government-supported property in excess of $500 in connection with damage that he caused to a Loves Park police vehicle.
 At trial, an officer testified that he learned that the damage was approximately $501.  An estimator for the business that performed repairs to the vehicle testified that the total estimate was $501.93.  The estimator stated that the actual bill in some cases could be more or less than the estimate, but since the vehicle here needed only one part, the bill would be the same as the estimate.  He was not asked whether sales tax was included in the estimate.  The written estimate was entered into evidence.  It shows that $32.85 of the estimate was sales tax on parts and materials.  There was no evidence provided regarding whether the tax was appropriate or whether the amount of the estimate or the tax was actually paid.  The jury found Vega guilty.

In this case, the appellate court decided that Mr. Vega’s counsel was ineffective and remanded for a new trial.  He was originally sentenced to three years in prison.  Anyone else think that the taxpayers got the short end of the deal?

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