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New law, Illinois Law, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyIllinois lawmakers have been busy this legislation session, with the passage of many bills affecting the state’s criminal statutes. Almost a half dozen of these bills now await the governor’s signature, which will make them official laws. Several of those bills specifically address drug and drunk driving offenses.

Marijuana Charges

House Bill 218 amends the Illinois Cannabis Control Act, essentially making the possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana a petty offense, similar to a speeding ticket. The fine for possession can be up to $125 and expungment of the offense off a person’s record after six months. The Illinois Department of Corrections estimates that this new law will save the state approximately $30 million. The new law also establishes a threshold level for anyone who is arrested driving under the influence of marijuana.

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Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, supplying to a minor, alcohol legislation,Underage drinking has always - and may always be - a problem. Some parents advocate for “controlled environment” drinking, where they may allow their minor children and friends to drink alcohol so long as the parents are home and no one drives. While there are arguments to be made that this policy may decrease alcohol abuse later in life, Illinois has made it clear that these practices are against the law. A new law that went into effect January 1, 2015 will punish parents for providing alcohol to minors on their property, even on their boats, trailers, or other personal property. This law seeks to curb the epidemic of drinking and driving offenses on our roads and limit the amount of juvenile offenders susceptible to criminal involvement.

Supplying to a Minor in Illinois

The first wave of this parent-minor oriented legislation came back in 2013 when Illinois first specified that it is a crime to provide alcohol to minors at the parents’ home. This includes mere knowledge that minors are drinking in their household, whether they supplied it to the minors or not. According to the law, a violation of this sort may result in a Class A misdemeanor, the highest and most severe classification of misdemeanors.

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sign and drive lawAccording to a recent press release from the Governor’s office, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn enacted new legislation to end the practice of requiring Illinois drivers from having to post their driver’s licenses as security for certain traffic offenses under the Illinois Vehicle Code. Formerly, Illinois drivers given a citation for certain offenses had to relinquish their driver’s licenses to police until their fine was paid or until they attended a required court appearance.  When the new legislation, called the “Sign and Drive” law, becomes effective, motorists will only need to give their signatures as a promise that they will comply with terms of the citation and will pay their fines or appear in traffic court as required.

Drivers Can Now Keep Their Licenses

These charged drivers will be permitted to hold onto their driver’s licenses and use them for identification as needed. As before, drivers who do not comply with the terms of citations may still have their licenses suspended. Illinois’s “Sign and Drive” law was first proposed by State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin), and State Representative John D’Amico (D-Chicago).

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On Monday, August 12, 2013, the Obama administration revealed its plan to eliminate long-term mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses.  With U.S. federal prisons nearly 40% above capacity, with almost half of the inmates serving time for drug-related offenses, the goal is to reduce the length of a non-violent offender’s sentence, while simultaneously reducing the prison population and saving billions of dollars for the U.S.

Rather than following the current mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is recommending sending people convicted of low-level offenses to drug treatment programs and community service programs.  The intent is changing from convicting and incarcerating to getting help and treatment for the significant number of inmates suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Other efforts are also being made to take into consideration early release for those inmates convicted of non-violent crimes who are elderly or suffer from serious medical conditions and have already served a significant portion of their sentence.

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Cars in TrafficOn January 8th, Illinois joined New Mexico and Washington as a state which allows illegal immigrants to receive valid driver’s licenses.  The bill originally failed in 2007 by two votes, but passed the house last year 65-46.  The hope is that by making licenses available to everyone on the road will make the roads safer for all by avoiding traffic violations.

The supporters of this bill used statistics to prove the necessity of this new law.  There are an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants who are old enough to drive yet cannot receive licenses to operate vehicles.  The Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights has said that these illegal drivers cause around $64 million in damages per year, a cost that is carried by people who pay for insurance.

Past requirements for licensing were a valid social security number or other documentation proving a right to be in the country.  Now, this new bill will allow illegal immigrants who have lived in Illinois for a year and can show a lease agreement, utility bills or other documents showing the residency requirement and a $30 application fee to receive a driver’s license.  The license is temporary and needs to be renewed every three years but cannot be used to board airplanes, buy guns, or vote in general elections.

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According to a recent WGEM.com article, a new law has taken effect in the state of Illinois as of January 1, 2013, which will provide severe penalties for parents who allow their underage children to consume alcohol at their homes or other properties under their control. This new law makes it a criminal offense for parents to allow minors, or anyone under the age of twenty-one, to drink at any property they own, including their homes, cabins, boats, lakes, or campgrounds. Supporters of the law say that it will put added pressure on parents to ensure that their children and their friends are not using their property for the purposes of consuming alcohol. For those parents who have knowingly allowed their underage children and their friends to use their property for the purposes of alcohol consumption under their supervision in the past, the new law may be a deterrent to permitting such activities in the future.

Any parent who is found guilty of allowing a minor to consume alcohol on his or her property will be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor under Illinois law, which carries a minimum $500 fine. Furthermore, if the incident results in great bodily harm or death to any person, then the offense becomes a Class 4 felony under Illinois law, which is punishable by jail time.

In some cases, it may be difficult to prove whether an adult knew that underage drinking was occurring on his or her property. A lack of knowledge, then, might serve as a potential defense in charges brought under this new law.

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

If one Chicago alderman has his way, a person who feeds the pigeons could possibly face up to six months in jail as punishment for the ‘crime’. Ald. James Cappelman has introduced an ordinance that would significantly increase the penalties for feeding pigeons – making it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Currently, it is against city code violations to feed the birds and is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

According to CBS Chicago, the alderman has told his colleagues that he is “tired of encountering a scene from a Hitchcock movie every time he walks to the Wilson station on the CTA Red Line”, where hundreds of the birds sit and wait to be fed. Studies show that pigeons can harbor over 40 types of parasites and host internally 60 types of infectious diseases that can be spread by the dried bird droppings.

This past spring, Cappelman was assaulted by a woman when he attempted to sweep away breadcrumbs that the woman had just spread out for the birds. The alderman’s argument is that not only do the breadcrumbs attract all the hundreds of pigeons, causing serious problems, but the food also attracts rats to the area. He instructs his staff to clean up the area on a daily basis.

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According to a breaking Chicago Tribune article, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a further appeal to the constitutionality of the controversial Illinois anti-eavesdropping law that bans people from recording police officers. In doing so, the Court left an appellate court ruling in place that found the law to violate free-speech rights when used against people who record police officers. After that June court ruling, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction that effectively prevents prosecution of anyone under the current law. The American Civil Liberties Union, who filed the initial lawsuit against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, has now requested that the federal judge make the temporary injunction permanent, which would effectively stop all enforcement of the law on a statewide basis.

The Illinois law in question has been a source of controversy since its inception. It is one of the most severe eavesdropping laws in the nation; under the current law, anyone who makes an audio recording of any law enforcement officer, even while on duty, could be convicted of a felony, punishable by as much as 15 years in prison. Two Illinois counties later declared the law unconstitutional, a Cook County jury acquitted a woman charged under the law in 2011, and the McLean County state’s attorney dropped charges against a man, citing flaws in the law. Efforts to amend the law so far, however, have stalled in committee as law enforcement groups continue to lobby in favor of the current law.

Conversations that take place between law enforcement officials and persons accused of committing crimes often produce essential pieces of evidence used in the prosecution of crimes. Therefore, the ability of a defendant or another person to record interactions with law enforcement can be crucial, especially when accounts differ as to what occurred.

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