Red Light Ticket Refunds

red light cameraWe all know the dreadful feeling- you’re driving through a yellow light, hoping that it doesn’t turn red and set the red light photo enforced camera off.  With the possibility of a ticket looming over our heads we vigorously check the mail for weeks, and to our dismay we discover the $100 ticket due to the city of Chicago within 14 days.  These impossible-to-avoid cameras seem to be at every intersection.

But ticket-payers rejoice!!  There is some good news for those who have received a red light ticket.  Back in July, the city reached an agreement in a class-action lawsuit to refund those who were charged late fees.  The city was in direct violation of their own law to give out second notices before charging late fees- which were double the price of the original ticket.  If you had a violation between March 23rd, 2010 and May 17, 2015 you may be eligible of a refund up to 50% of what you paid.

The city mailed out notices to those who were possibly affected by this lawsuit with instructions on how to file a claim.  But, you can also click here and go to the City of Chicago’s website and enter your information to see if have an eligible ticket.  You must file a claim by December 11, 2017 so make sure to submit them as soon as possible!!  The city will pay up to $38.5 million in refunds and they will be paid out next August.

And as always, if you have questions regarding this or any other law don’t hesitate to contact us and one of our skilled attorneys will be happy to assist you.

Field Sobriety Tests

By: Guest Author, Kevin Crowley

dui

 

Field Sobriety Tests To Expect When Cops Pull You Over

When a police officer asks you to pull over and step out of your car on suspicion of drunk driving, he will likely ask you to perform field sobriety tests to determine if you are indeed intoxicated. Field sobriety testing, after all, is one of the primary tools that law enforcement uses to decide whether or not to book you for a DUI.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorses and law enforcement readily implements. They are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk-and-turn (WAT) and one-leg stand (OLS).

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

This SFST is regularly featured in movie and TV scenes that show police pulling a car over, taking out a penlight and shining it into the eyes of the driver and asking him or her to follow the light.

The actual test typically uses a small object which the driver has to follow with his or her eyes as the officer moves it from side to side. Cops do it to see how the driver’s eyes jerk when it gazes to the side. The whole exercise revolves around the fact that the eye’s involuntary jerking or nystagmus becomes more exaggerated if the driver is intoxicated by alcohol.

Walk and Turn

This test works under the assumption that people who are not impaired by alcohol can easily complete tasks even when their attention is divided. Drivers are made to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn on one foot, and repeat the previous steps but in the opposite direction.

One-Leg Stand

This test requires a driver to stand on one leg with one foot about six inches off the ground for 30 seconds. The police officer will take hopping, swaying, using arms to balance, or putting the foot down before the 30 seconds are up as indicators that the driver is impaired by alcohol.

Law enforcement also administers field sobriety tests other than the three SFSTs above. Check out the infographic below to see more field sobriety tests.

 

 

Author Bio:
Kevin Crowley is an experienced DUI lawyer at  Lane, Hupp & Crowley PLC, a team of criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona. He enjoys writing about law and helping his clients handle their legal needs.

We Thank All Our Veterans!

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In Honor: American Knight
Written By: Scott Morask

From the distant sands of Normandy

To the jungles of Vietnam

In the snowy snows of Korea

Came the march to Arlington

The crosses glisten bright

Even on the darkest days

The shadows are filled with light

Upon these ones so brave

So for all of you who have gone to war

And stood at the gates of Hell

And have seen destruction spread it’s wings

That words can never tell

But in your eyes I see a tale

Of courage over fear

Even in the darkness of the night

Your light does persevere

After being in the horror

That only war can bring

Your heroics are still resounding

From sea to shining sea.

God Bless

California and Recreational Marijuana

california

Last November, citizens in California voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making the golden state the 5th state to officially legalize the drug.   California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, and many think the legalization of recreational marijuana by California will cause other states to follow suit.  California is the most populous state and could potentially have the largest legal marijuana market ever.  The law will go into effect January 1st, 2018 and cities like LA and San Diego have hopefuls preparing to open up shops, but not without a host of issues that come along with new legislation.

With the largest marijuana market, comes a whole lot of red tape and laws and regulations that need to be followed in order to have a successful operation.  Including the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.  California wants to cover all their bases in regards to regulating the entire process- from seed to plant to shop.  But, they are scrambling to make sure that all the procedures and paperwork are in place before the January 1st deadline.  California plans to streamline the regulations on the medical marijuana and recreational marijuana markets which means both adding onto existing regulations and creating new regulations to govern both markets the same way.  The rules for shop owners are simple enough: you need a license from the state, selling hours apply, proper security measures must be in place, and the shop needs to properly keep their records.  California is currently giving out temporary licenses.  The state wants prospective shop owners to apply for the licenses now in order to make sure that come January 1st, they can start approving them to get the ball rolling and start selling.  But, the proposed regulations haven’t been been approved yet and there’s less than 2 months to go.

The biggest challenge for California’s legal marijuana market may be the stiff competition that comes from the black market dealers.  California already has a well established black market for marijuana.  This means that the legal markets will have tough competition from low level street sellers and those who have already established a customer base.  Opening a shop will cost you; just applying for a license in Illinois is around $60,000.  This most likely means that the people selling on the black market, probably won’t be applying for a license to open a dispensary and will continue to sell the way they are.

It doesn’t help that California plans to implement a tax rate of up to 45% on recreational marijuana.  This will make the legal weed more expensive than the illegal stuff and business would be drawn away from the dispensaries.  According to LA daily news, a bag of marijuana that costs $35 could now cost anywhere from $50-$60 with taxes.  The growers will also be taxed at $44 a pound for what they sell.  The state also has to worry about keeping up with supply and demand.  Marijuana will be a hot commodity once the markets open and this means that the state has to make sure that enough legal marijuana will be available to those who want to purchase it. But, they can’t start selling until the regulations are in place and licenses are issued, which means California won’t make any money until then.  A shortage of legal marijuana, like the one Nevada experienced this summer, could allow the illegal market to flourish once again.

But with the legalization comes other issues like public smoking and keeping people from driving under the influence.  California says that they plan on doing testing to find out the legal limit for marijuana use and driving impairment as well as protocols for testing the blood of drivers that are suspected of driving while high.  Marijuana will be treated in a similar way to alcohol; drivers can still carry marijuana in their car as long as the bag is sealed and the amount is under weight restrictions. Smoking in public will carry a $100 fine and is not allowed within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds or within 250 feet of an entrance (Mercury News).

Even with all the complications the legalization is set to bring up to $50 million in tax revenue for Los Angeles alone and $658 million across the state in the first year.  It’s no wonder that Illinois wants to solve the current debt struggle the same way.   California has long been a pioneer for marijuana reform.  Which, could mean that within the next few years we could see many states follow in the same footsteps and legalize recreational marijuana.  Illinois lawmakers plan on bringing recreational marijuana to a vote in congress in 2018.  Here at Lauralaw, we will stay up to date on any current marijuana law passages so make sure to stay tuned to our blog.

 

Changing the Way We Handle DNA Analysis

dnaDNA has becomes an essential part of many court cases since the introduction of DNA evidence during the 1980’s.  DNA evidence is used to exonerate those wrongfully imprisoned and to convict those who’s DNA was present at a crime scene; it’s considered an extremely reliable source in courtrooms across the country.  The presence, or lack thereof, can determine a person’s fate in the criminal justice system.  And now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) wants to make sure that DNA is being used properly during testing and aims to create a standard for DNA analysis.

In the first study of its kind, the NIST will analyze the same set of complex DNA samples across different labs throughout the United States and will compare the results.  Labs across the country use different types of computerized software programs to examine and analyze DNA in order to get a profile of a suspect.  This profile that is created can then be compared to the DNA of a defendant in a court proceeding and can be used to determine if it the defendant was present during the commission of a crime.  One of the issues here is that different computer programs may present different results when given the same sample to work with.  This raises many red flags and calls for the development of a standard in order to prevent innocent people from going to prison because of lab result differentiations.  Just last year in New York, two different software programs that were analyzing the exact same sample, yielded different results.  If there is no standard for testing DNA, this brings up a major point- those two different results could potentially be life or death for a defendant.

Two controversial methods created by the DNA laboratory in the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner are being questioned here.  The first is “touch DNA” testing.  This is where small trace amounts of DNA are analyzed – so small that the sample may be as little as a trillionth of a gram and is much less than the FBI’s recommended standard for DNA testing.  But, this test doesn’t take into account the fact that trace DNA can be transferred with something as simple as a handshake.  The presence of small amount of DNA being used to determine guilt has a lot of issues. DNA is very sensitive and easily transferable and a much larger amount of DNA would be required in order to complete testing.  One of the NIST’s goals is to determine a standard amount of DNA that can be used for testing.

The other method is probabilistic genotyping.  This is when “software calculates the likelihood that a suspect’s genetic material is present in a complicated mixture of several people’s DNA,” (NIST).  The fact that complex mixtures involving multiple samples of DNA are being tested also raises red flags.  The accuracy cannot be guaranteed.  There are too many variables present in order to ensure that the results are fool proof, and in criminal court cases you want the results need to be as accurate as possible.  There also isn’t a uniform standard for how the DNA results are presented once the testing is complete. Which is what caused the two software programs in New York to present different results.

The NIST hopes to create a standard for testing on complex DNA samples and hopes to look at the use of trace DNA.  The testing and results should be completed by next summer.  The labs have stopped using the controversial forms of testing, but many defense attorneys whose clients were convicted off of this testing want the evidence to be revisited.  This could potentially cause a lot more problems going forward.

Here at Lauralaw, we will update you on any news regarding DNA testing and other important law passages.  Feel free to contact us and one of our attorneys will be happy to assist you.

 

Parking Tickets Beware…

By: Timothy Black

 

20171005_163434Not all heroes wear capes.  Some wear a shirt and tie, and an Illinois law license.  Local hero-attorney Todd Kooperman is one of my favorite Chicagoans.  In a mission after my own heart, Mr. Kooperman is taking on the system.  He’s fighting the man.  He’s squaring up against the establishment.  He’s suing the parking ticket industrial complex.  As a frequent (getter and) fighter of parking tickets, I am well aware of the frustration that comes wrapped in a bright orange envelope from the City’s Streets & Sanitation Department.  There is little that is more annoying than leaving your house, approaching your car, and being greeted by the pompous little parking ticket perched on your windshield.  I love to fight parking tickets.  I fight every single parking ticket I get.  Laura thinks (read: knows) it’s a waste of time – and we all know time is money – but, “they aren’t going to get away with this!” I say, as I drive down to 400 W. Superior St. to inevitably lose my dubiously-founded challenge.  Parking tickets – ugh.

But I’m not alone in my disdain for the ol’ parking ticket.  No – this fight has a new standard-bearer.  Todd Kooperman has not only taken up the flag of fighting against parking tickets, he’s started GoFundMe campaign and hired Chicago civil rights attorney Mark Weinberg to challenge the ordinance that gives authority to the City of Chicago to write parking tickets.  Specifically, he is alleging that the vague nature of the ordinance violates your rights because it does not mandate a timetable for advanced notice before handing out parking tickets to vehicles violating a temporary parking ban.  Street cleaning parking tickets are the most common example.  Mr. Kooperman argues that the ordinance should require a set amount of warning before the City can legally start firing up their trusty parking ticket machines.  I agree.

Mr. Kooperman may only be 50% of the way to his GoFundMe goal of $1,500, but he’s 100% of the way into my heart.  Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Kooperman.  Do not rest until you have conquered the parking ticket conglomerate that is the City of Chicago.  God Speed.

Can you be Fired for Using Medical Marijuana?

medical cannabisA recent article published by CBS Chicago involved an Illinois man who was refused employment because he tested positive for marijuana, even though he had a valid medical marijuana license and a prescription from his doctor.  This article highlights an important issue associated with medical marijuana can an employer choose not to hire and/or fire those who test positive for marijuana, even if it’s used medically?

The simple answer to the questions is yes they can… in Illinois. This creates major issues because a person can be legally terminated for doing something that is completely legal and their right to do.  Medical Marijuana has been legal in Illinois since 2014 with the implementation of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.  This makes it legal for citizens with qualifying illnesses to obtain prescriptions and legally smoke the drug.  The reason some employers won’t hire those who test positive is because employers typically follow the federal rules and regulations on the drug.  And at the federal level marijuana is still a schedule I drug, meaning it is considered to have no medical value and is illegal.  Some employers are fearful of the possible risks to their businesses, so they choose not to hire persons who test positive for marijuana.  In Illinois this is perfectly acceptable and is even specified in the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program; employers can have zero-tolerance policies on drugs and are allowed to enforce them regardless if the marijuana is used legally.  This essentially gives a person two choices: their medicine or their job.  People who are given a medical marijuana license are often in extreme pain, and choosing between the two may prove to be difficult, if not impossible.

Those who’ve tried to take this to court have failed in every attempt except one. The original attempt came from Brandon Coats who was terminated from his job at DISH Network after testing positive for marijuana.  Coats was quadriplegic and used marijuana to stop his seizures.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Colorado where it was decided that the termination was legal.  The courts have continually ruled this same way and stated that employers have the option to choose with medical marijuana patients.  That is until this past July, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court sided with a woman fired in 2014 after testing positive for marijuana while having a medical cannabis license.  According to Chief Justice Ralph Gants it’s a ‘“reasonable accommodation’ to make exceptions to a company’s drug policy if an employee is using something a doctor has medically approved for treatment.”  This is the first time that a court has said that companies do not have the right to discriminate against someone for using medical marijuana.  This essentially compares marijuana to the likes of other prescription medications that companies cannot discriminate against an employee for using.  This is a landmark case and could potentially impact the way many other cases across the country are handled.

Unlike Illinois, a few other states where medical marijuana is legal actually do have laws in place that prohibit an employer from discriminating against a person because they use medical marijuana.  Out of the 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana, only a handful have these protections put in place.  But this is the exception and not the usual.  Illinois does not currently have any plans to change the laws.

Until federal and State laws catch up to one another and get on the same page issues like marijuana will continue to be complicated.   We will stay up to date on any new marijuana legislation news so stay tuned to our blog.

E-Mail Service – What’s Next, Flying Cars?

By: Timothy Black

FaxsimileGather ’round, children; I’d like to tell you about a little thing called the fax machine.  You see, back when I was a kid, we didn’t have your fancy Gmails and Outlooks – nope – if you wanted to send a letter to someone immediately, you had to find a fax machine.  There was no such thing as e-mail service.  Fax was a lot like a scanner, but instead of sending the file to my computer, it sent the file to somebody else’s fax machine, and that fax machine printed it out.  In fact, we still have a fax machine at LauraLaw, so if you want to see one in action, come on by.  But I must warn you, if you’re expecting to see us serve a document via fax, you’ve come to wrong place.  You see, starting July 1 of this year, the Illinois Supreme Court amended their rules of service so that service via e-mail is preferred and service via fax is disallowed.

Email_bdtbtIllinois Supreme Court Rule 11 was amended on June 22 and took affect on July 1.  The amendment requires e-mail service of documents where possible.  If for some reason it’s not possible to complete e-mail service – if the person receiving service doesn’t have an e-mail address, if some other rule requires service by other means, or if e-mail servers are down – the rule allows service by only 4 alternative means.  Those alternative methods of service are (1) Personal service, where the documents are hand-delivered to the recipient; (2) Delivery to Attorney’s Office or Self-Represented Party’s Residence; (3) United States Mail; or, (4) Third-Party Commercial Carrier, such as FedEx or UPS.  Removed from the list of acceptable alternative methods of service was “Facsimile Transmission,” or fax.

computer-2105121_960_720Illinois Courts are moving into the digital age at the speed of dial-up internet, and this is one step closer to their goal of a paperless court system.  In the vain of electronic filing, e-mail service will help bring the Courts current with the technology that is available, which will (in theory) help the Courts move more swiftly and more efficiently.

We here are LauraLaw are certainly ready for e-mail service.  Laura‘s got her laura@lauralaw.org inbox humming, and my tim@lauralaw.org inbox is always ready for the next e-mail.  So if you have a legal issue that needs our experience and dedication, give us a call, shoot us an e-mail, or send us a fax and we’ll do our best to help you work toward the resolution that’s best for you.  Until then, if you want to see a real live fax machine, Maddy will be happy to show you how ours works.

Is Marijuana the Answer to Illinois’ Debt Crisis?

With Illinois currently facing a budget crisis in the amount of $12.8 billion dollars, two lawmakers from Chicago think that marijuana could be the answer to the problem.  Senator Heather Steans and Representative Kelly Cassidy have proposed dual bills in the Senate and the House that lay the groundwork for the legalization of marijuana in Illinois and suggest that the revenue be used to dig away at the deficit.

mjMarijuana has been a long discussed and hot topic in the news recently; the road to recreational legalization is a long and winding one with many hoops to jump through and ladders to climb.  Here at Lauralaw we’ve followed the topic of marijuana for many years, from the recent decriminalization to a possible crackdown at the federal level and everything in between.  Now, with the proposal of these two bills, Illinois is trying to follow in the footsteps of Nevada and Washington and attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.  This past June legislators in Illinois proposed two bills that would legalize marijuana.  The bills piggyback off of a March bill proposed by Cassidy that creates a foundation for the legalization.  The original bill proposed in March suggests that there be a $50 per ounce tax on the drug at the wholesale level and that any purchase would be subject to the current Illinois tax rate.  The March bill also puts rules in place regarding the amount of marijuana a person can possess and grow at home.  Along with this, comes regulations for packaging the drug and the distribution by dispensaries.  Although the bill proposed in June may differ from the March bill, the lawmakers want their bill to have a similar structure so to appeal to the majority of those voting for it.

Currently in Illinois, marijuana is decriminalized and legal for medicinal purposes, with a few dispensaries located around the Chicagoland area.  The legalization of medicinal marijuana was started in 2015 with the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (click here to view that blog post).  The decriminalization happened soon after, making it a $100-$200 ticket to carry anything less than 10 grams.  Now, following along with the natural progression of things, Illinois lawmakers are keeping up with the times and want it completely legalized.  There are currently 8 states that allow for the recreational use of marijuana, with Nevada being the most recent state to adopt these laws.  But, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and if lawmakers at this level so choose they can enforce these laws. 

There are still many challenges that these two lawmakers face to get the bills to pass and it may be tougher than most people think.  Many polls show that a majority of people are in favor of legalization of marijuana.  The hard part is getting those in the legislator to vote this way.  Governor Rauner recently blocked bills using his veto power that were designed to expand the use of medical marijuana.  Legalizing marijuana in Illinois may prove a challenge if the right structures aren’t laid in place by the bills.  But, the two lawmakers from Chicago are holding hearings and listening to other senators from states where marijuana legalization has passed and hope that the bills will pass in Illinois as well.  Considering the huge debt that Illinois currently faces, this may be the only hope.

The bill goes for vote in January once the legislature is back in session.  We’ll keep you posted on anymore marijuana updates and other current law passages as well.

Trial Preparation – Every Last Detail

By: Timothy Black

The best trial lawyers excel in trial preparation – every last detail.  We work very hard to ensure that we know every single fact of the case – every date, every person, and every place – so we can represent our clients in the best way possible.  We coordinate our witness list, who sits at counsel’s table, and where Laura’s lucky turtle is placed.  As trial lawyers, and especially as jury trial lawyers, it is extremely important that we control the way the jury hears our client’s story and the way the jury processes our client’s defense.  A vital part of that, and a part that deserves as much attention as our understanding of the facts of the case, is the outfit our client wears to court.  As one Ohio woman learned, the defendant’s appearance can often times be the one factor that sways a jury from NOT GUILTY to GUILTY, or the other way around.

30B4657600000578-3422981-image-a-59_1454091712047Early in 2016, an Ohio model named Tara Lambert was tried for allegedly hiring the services of a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy posing as a hit man.  She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 7 years in the penitentiary.  The conviction was overturned by the appellate court in June of this year, and she will be retried; this time with the assistance of new counsel.  As that new counsel (and Ms. Lambert) begin trial preparation – every last detail will be evaluated.  Most notably, as reported by Inside Edition, will be the defendant’s outfits at trial.  For her first trial, Ms. Lambert’s courtroom attire was often the star of the show, and in the defense’s opinion, often eclipsed the evidence and the arguments in its importance.  Whether it was her designer suits, oversized diamond, or stiletto heels, Ms. Lambert came to court every day dressed for the camera.  But that backfired.  As Ms. Lambert put it, the jurors “were worried about my wardrobe rather than what was really going on.”  As her new attorney says, “Juries pick up on things and when you are in a court of law you are not at a discotheque.”  He went on to say that “sometimes people focus on the wrong details and when they are confronted with those details day after day after day, sometimes what matters gets lost.”  His sentiments prove the importance of trial preparation – every last detail.

While it may seem absurd that a juror would place so much weight on something as trivial as the defendant’s outfit, we see things like this all the time.  Jurors (and Judges, for that matter) are paying attention to everything, which is why we place such an emphasis on trial preparation – every last detail.  You don’t always know what will turn a juror off.  Sometimes it’s the defendant’s media persona, sometimes it’s the defendant’s clothes, and sometimes it’s the defendant’s defense.  The unpredictability is what prompts us to pay such close attention to trial preparation – every last detail.  When it comes to your courtroom fashion, use your common sense.  Don’t show up to your drug case with a graphic tee about marijuana, don’t show up to your preliminary hearing looking like you’re coming from the gym, and don’t show up to trial in stilettos and a designer suit.  Come dressed modestly, but respectfully.  Don’t give dirty looks to the opposing party or the hostile witness, don’t stare down jurors or get angry under your breath, and don’t give the jury any reason to dislike you.  Leave the rest of the trial preparation – every last detail – to us.