November 21, 2014

Illinois Drug-Related DUI Law Must Change

Current Illinois law allows a driver to be charged with DUI based on a trace of illegal drugs in their system. This is true regardless of impairment and even if the drug was used weeks earlier. The Illinois State Bar Association is challenging this unjust law.

Larry Davis, a principal at The Davis Law Group, P.C., helped to write the Illinois State Bar Association's proposal. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin quoted Mr. Davis stating, "It is a bad law. It is putting people who have not really committed anything that would justify that type of treatment--putting them in prison." If the proposal is enacted into law, a driver who has marijuana in his system and is involved in a serious or fatal accident would be charged with a misdemeanor separate from the DUI charge. In order for the charge to be elevated to a felony aggravated DUI charge, prosecutors must prove impairment.

A prime example of the current, unjust law is illustrated by the case of Scott Shirey. Shirey was driving his 10 year old twins to swim practice when a pickup truck ran a red light, crashed into his car, killed one of his sons and severely injured the other. There was no allegation that he was under the influence or impaired in any way. When Shirey's blood results came back, he had trace amounts of marijuana in his system. Shirey claims he had smoked pot a month before, but he faced up to 14 years in prison for an accident in which he was not at fault. In the end, Shirey received probation. His case has sparked controversy and a call for change.

Island Lake fatal crash cited as Illinois no-tolerance DUI pot law is challenged, www.dailyherald.com, November 14, 2014

ISBA pushes for drug-related DUI change, www.chicagolawbulletin.com, November 19, 2014

November 3, 2014

Activists Rally for Increases in TVDL Appointments

Six-month wait times and four to five hour drives have Temporary Visitors Driver's License (TVDL) activists infuriated. With demand for appointments skyrocketing, residents and community groups rallied outside a West Side Driver's License Facility on Friday, October 24, in an attempt to pressure the Illinois Secretary of State to increase the number of appointments.

The Resurrection Project, a community activist group, estimates that approximately 400,000 people are currently trying to make appointments, which the group claims will take about five years to complete.

A spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State stated that increasing TVDL appointment availability in Chicagoland and Northern Illinois is being considered. However, the spokesman pointed to the fact that the program is unfunded, and has manpower and union issues. As of the end of September 2014, more than 64,600 people had received their TVDL.

Frustrated residents say TVDL application process is not fast enough, www.thegatenewspaper.com, October 24, 2014

Immigrant Rights Groups: Demand Oustrips Slots For Driver's Licenses, www.wuis.org, October 27, 2014

September 29, 2014

Actress Amanda Bynes Charged with DUI

The California Highway Patrol arrested actress Amanda Bynes at 4:10 a.m. on Sunday. Bynes, 28, was booked by the LAPD at 7 a.m. and charged with misdemeanor DUI. She was released at 12:44 p.m. Sunday on $15,000 bail.

Bynes allegedly ran a red light and stopped in the middle of an intersection in Sherman Oaks, California. The officer believed she was under the influence and noted that she was unable to complete the field sobriety tests. While at the station, Bynes was given a drug evaluation and reportedly could not complete the hand-eye coordination tests. Toxicology results are expected in 30 to 60 days.

In 2012, Bynes was arrested for DUI but plead guilty to a lesser alcohol-related offense. She did not serve jail time but was given three years probation and was required to attend a three-month alcohol education course. She is currently still on probation for this charge.

Bynes' next court date is October 23.

Amanda Bynes arrested on DUI charge, www.foxnews.com, September 29, 2014

Amanda Bynes Arrested for DUI in Los Angeles, www.nbcchicago.com, September 29, 2014

September 22, 2014

Former Harvey Superintendent Pleads Guilty to Official Misconduct

Former West Harvey-Dixmoor Elementary District 147 Superintendent, Alex Boyd Jr., 67, was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to two counts of official misconduct for stealing $78,000. Boyd was originally charged with 20 felony counts of theft and official misconduct. He was accused of stealing approximately $500,000 by making unauthorized purchases and withdrawals from a school district-funded life insurance policy, receiving unauthorized cash to purchase a tax-exempt annuity, and being paid for vacation and sick days that he did not have. Boyd's defense attorneys contended that his actions were permitted under his contract with the school district. Felony charges were also filed against former board secretary Mable Chapman alleging that she helped Boyd steal from the district. Today, those charges were dropped.

The investigation regarding Boyd's actions started in 2005, when the Chicago Tribune reported school board members spent $100,000 on travel and restaurants. It was later discovered that the district could not account for or misspent $2.2 million dollars in grant money. The state's attorney then seized the district's financial records and searched Boyd's home.

In Boyd's final years as superintendent, he was paid a salary of approximately $250,000. He retired in 2011 and was given a $192,000 a year pension, which is the fifth highest pension for a retiring public school teacher or administrator in Illinois.

Former Harvey schools chief gets probation for misconduct, theft of $78,000, www.chicagotribune.com, September 19, 2014

School board beefed up pension, pay for ex-superintendent now facing criminal charges, www.chicagotribune.com, September 25, 2012

September 15, 2014

Fired Hebron Officer Accused of Selling Drugs on The Job

Authorities announced today that a former McHenry County police officer, Ryszard Kopacz, of Wauconda, faces new felony charges for selling drugs while on duty. Kopacz, 30, was arrested days after beginning his job with the Richmond Police Department. He was charged with official misconduct, burglary, and possession of stolen guns.

When Kopacz was first charged in July, he was accused of going door to door in his police uniform, soliciting prescription drugs from elderly residents. Kopacz was also charged with burglarizing the Hebron Police Department, his previous employer, and possessing two stolen rifles.

As of today, Kopacz can add five additional counts of official misconduct to the list. He is accused of delivering marijuana on four separate occasions, between February and June, to an informant while "acting in his official capacity" as a Hebron police officer. He is also now charged with unlawful acquisition of a controlled substance based on the allegation that he obtained hydrocodone through "misrepresentation, deception or subterfuge."

Kopacz is free on $4,000 bond and will be back in court on October 7.

Fired officer facing additional drug-related charges, www.chicagotribune.com, September 15, 2014

Former Hebron police officer denies new drug charges, www.nwherald.com, September, 15, 2014

August 20, 2014

Cook County State's Attorney: Stricter Gun Laws, Relax Pot Laws

According to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Illinois needs to relax marijuana laws and create tougher gun laws. Before a special legislative panel, Alvarez explained that in order to deter street violence with limited resources, Illinois criminal sentencing policies should target "those illegally carrying firearms who pose the greatest safety threat to our communities, and right now our unlawful use of a weapon penalties do not go far enough."

Alvarez believes that reducing criminal sentences relating to cannabis would free up jail space for gun offenders. It would also save money if those offenders are diverted to alternative sentencing programs. She said that possession of under an ounce of cannabis should be treated as a petty offense rather than a misdemeanor. However, penalties for distribution of 2,500 grams (5.5 lbs) of cannabis should become stricter.

The State's Attorney says that the law should be amended to effectively guarantee prison time for gun offenses involving previously convicted felons and known gang members. Offenders should be required to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence.

Lastly, Alvarez recommended raising the threshold for felony theft from $500 to $1000.

August 11, 2014

New Illinois Law: "Sign and Drive" for Traffic Tickets

A new Illinois law eliminates the requirement that drivers post their license as bail for certain traffic tickets. The "Sign and Drive" law (Senate Bill 2583) permits the driver's signature on the traffic citation to guarantee their appearance in court or payment of required fines.

Under the new law, the Secretary of State may still suspend the driving privileges of those drivers who fail to comply with the citation. Driver's are no longer required to hand over their driver's license, which for many is the only form of identification they carry. The new law, signed by Gov. Quinn on Saturday, is effective immediately.

Drivers won't need to hand over license as bail for traffic offenses, www.chicagotribune.com, August 10, 2014

July 29, 2014

Highland Park Doctor Accused of Issuing Fake Medical Cannabis Eligibilty Form

A Highland Park doctor faces allegations of issuing a fake medical cannabis eligibility form to a 79-year old patient. According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Dr. Joseph Starkman met with the patient for 35 minutes and promised to mail him a certificate for use at an Illinois licensed cannabis dispensary based on a previous glaucoma diagnosis.

Starkman did not perform an eye exam on the patient according to officials and was allegedly paid $250 by the patient for his services. In reality, physician certificate forms are not available yet and Illinois-license physicians are not legally able to certify patients for the purchase of cannabis. No licenses have been issued for growing or dispensing cannabis in Illinois. Starkman faces a possible license revocation, suspension, fine or probation.

Doctor could lose license over fake cannabis eligibility form, www.chicagotribune.com, July 28, 2014

July 23, 2014

Schemes Target Illegal Immigrants Seeking TVDL Appointments

ABC 7's I-Team investigated the TVDL application process whereby undocumented immigrants can apply for an Illinois driver's license. According to the story, there are reports of "appointments-for-sale" schemes targeting these individuals.

All applicants are required to schedule an appointment with the Secretary of State. Due to extremely high demand, appointments are not readily available. Applicants are frequently unable to get through by phone or online. An official at the Secretary of State's office estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 illegal immigrants are interested in applying for a TVDL. Approximately 90,000 people have either already applied or are scheduled for an appointment. The Secretary of State estimates that it may take three years to work through the pool of applicants.

The Illinois Attorney General's office is reportedly investigation complaints of driving schools charging undocumented immigrants to obtain an appointment. Would-be applicants are allegedly paying hundreds of dollars to individuals promising to obtain appointments on their behalf. The Secretary of State and Attorney General are asking for any information relating to the sale of TVDL appointments.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LICENSE LOGJAM, SCHEMES UNCOVERED BY I-TEAM, www.abc7chicago.com, July 22, 2014

July 15, 2014

Medical Marijuana Rules Considered by Illinois Committee

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) meets today in Chicago to discuss the rules governing the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. The law has been passed, but patients are still unable to legally use the drug.

If JCAR has no objections to the proposed rules, growers, retailers and patients will be able to begin the application process. Patients are expected to be able to apply for a registry identification card beginning in September. Applications for growers are expected to be released around the same time. State officials will then begin the process of granting permits for growers and dispensaries. 60 permits are available for dispensaries, and 21 permits are available for cultivation centers. A nonrefundable application for of $5,000 for dispensaries and $25,000 for cultivation centers will be imposed by the state. If approved, the dispensary registration fee is $30,000, while the growers permit fee is $200,000.

Approved patients are expected to begin using medical marijuana early next year. The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that about 10,000 people will become registered patients. There are still concerns about the impact of the new law on cannabis-related DUI throughout Illinois.

Patients could start using medical marijuana in early 2015, www.politics.suntimes.com, July 13, 2014

June 30, 2014

Chief Keef's DUI Case Continued Around Tour Schedule

A Lake County judge agreed to schedule a court hearing around rapper Chief Keef's tour schedule. Keef, 18, must appear back in court on August 22 for his next hearing. He was previously given permission to travel out of state.

Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, faces DUI charges stemming from a March traffic stop made by Highland Park police. He was initially stopped for an expired registration in the 2600 block of Skokie Valley Road, and subsequently submitted to field sobriety tests. Police allege that Keef showed signed of impairment from drugs and smelled the odor of burnt cannabis in his vehicle. Keef was also charged with driving on a suspended license and without valid insurance.

Since his arrest, he was evicted from the Highland Park home he was renting after the landlord complained to the Lake County Sheriff's Department. He reportedly owed four months of rent.

Judge schedules court hearing around Chief Keef's tour, www.chicagotribune.com, June 27, 2014

Chief Keef's DUI case delayed until August, www.suntimes.com, June 27, 2014

June 16, 2014

New Illinois Law Prohibits Ticket Quotas

On Sunday, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law restricting police departments from imposing ticket quotas on officers in Illinois. The Governor stated that officers should "not be forced to ticket motorists to satisfy a quota system" and explained that the new law will "prevent motorists from facing unnecessary anxiety when they encounter a police vehicle." The new law applies to all ticket types including traffic tickets (i.e. speeding tickets) and parking tickets. The new law even extends to hunting and fishing citations.

Effective immediately, officers in Illinois cannot be required to issue a certain number of citations within a specific timeframe. The new law also prohibits a county or municipality from comparing the number of tickets issued by one officer to another officer for purposes of evaluating job performance. While critics argue that the law restricts departments from holding officers accountable for performance, supporters believe the law allows officers with the freedom to do their job protecting the public.

Gov. Quinn signs bill banning ticket quotas for police, www.suntimes.com, June 15, 2014

June 5, 2014

Former Police Commander Falsified DUI Arrests to Obtain Grants

Former Des Plaines police commander, Timothy Veit, accused of falsely inflating DUI arrests to obtain federal grant money, has plead guilty to a lesser charge. Veit was charged with a felony count of making false statements and faced a maximum 5 year prison sentence. He ultimately plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge involving embezzlement and theft of public money.

Veit was accused of padding DUI arrests by 122 and falsifying BAC results in conjunction with those arrests according to a written plea agreement. The increased number of arrests allowed the Des Plaines police department to receive almost $184,000 in grants from the Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program funded by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to federal authorities, Veit personally received approximately $32,000 in overtime from the grant program. He retired from the department in 2012 after 31 years of service.

As a result of the plea, Veit must repay the overtime to IDOT. In addition, both parties agreed to a six month prison sentence and 200 hours of community service. Sentencing is scheduled for October 2.

Former police commander padded DUI arrests to obtain grants, www.chicagotribune.com, June 4, 2014

May 21, 2014

Support SB1996 Providing Relief from Illinois' Lifetime Revocation Law

I would urge those who are so inclined to contact your state representatives and senators and urge them to support SB1996, allowing a second chance to those burdened with a lifetime revocation of their driver's license in Illinois. While we have assisted the sponsor, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, with the drafting of the bill and certain technical issues, Rep. Nekritz has, through sheer will and determination, created sufficient momentum where the bill for the first time, after prior years attempts, has a chance of passage.

This legislation will only provide an opportunity for those who currently face a lifetime revocation to convince the Secretary of State that they are deserving of another chance. It is NOT a free or automatic pass to return to the road. It still requires a minimum wait time of five years, a period of abstinence/sobriety, an alcohol/drug evaluation and treatment as well as a formal administrative hearing. It DOES NOT provide for full reinstatement, it only provides for hardship relief allowing, for example, a return to gainful employment.

It provides one chance at relief. If you mess up, you ARE done for life. It is consistent with the concept of rehabilitative justice rather than being simply retributive and ignorant of the fact that certain individuals can change and deserve the opportunity to be productive citizens. It gives such individuals who would otherwise be inclined to drive illegally in order to work and support themselves and their families a different option.

We believe it is a well-considered and thought out piece of legislation deserving of passage.

May 16, 2014

Bill Eliminating Lifetime DUI Revocation Passes Out of Committee

On Wednesday, the Illinois House unanimously passed legislation out of committee that would allow those with a lifetime revocation based on DUI to apply for a restricted driving permit (RDP) before the Illinois Secretary of State. Those offenders with four DUI convictions would be eligible five years after losing their license or their release from prison. These repeat offenders would need to demonstrate three years of sobriety, complete treatment programs, and drive with a BAIID device (Breathalyzer) at all times. The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists supports the legislation, believing that legalizing drivers who may otherwise drive illegally and uninsured in order to provide for their families. The RDP would only allow the individual to drive during specific hours and for specific purposes (i.e. work). The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

Plan to ease DUI penalties advances in legislature, www.sj-r.com, May 14, 2014