A whole New Group of Graduates -Some Words of Advice!

office pic 2office pic 5Lately our law firm has been posting a lot of pictures of our staff and in particular of recent graduates, whether high school, college, graduate school etc. You may wonder why in a criminal defense page I am writing about that but as clich…éd as it may sound these kids are our future and each of the ones I post about I feel I have had some kind of helpful hand in mentoring, teaching, or being a friend in a position to advise about the struggles and angst they feel as they enter college, graduate school or the job market. Having been through all that and somehow come out the other side intact with some well earned scars to the psyche and wrinkles to the face, I think mentoring or advising or giving a kid a chance is one of the greatest things we lawyers can do. Throughout my career I have had great, good and not so good interns and the first two categories are like sponges who  want to learn and do not start at a company thinking they know everything or that they know more than the attorney, partner, Judge etc. Believe me, I have had a few of those. So my message to all you graduates is yes, you can find your passion and I guarantee with the right attitude, it will find you! Don’t be afraid to take risks, aim high, work hard and above all do not compare yourself to others! Also do not forget to have fun along the way! Just because you are now an adult with responsibilities does not mean you should not have fun doing what you do. This morning I was honored to be at a graduation party for my neighbor Ariana Grieco who just got accepted into Northwestern University Graduate Program. When she got accepted I was overjoyed and called her and was surprised to hear how stressed she was at the prospect of not being able to keep up in the program-an idea she had totally put in her own mind that had no basis in reality. I reminded her of her promise she made to me after she had completed all her grad school applications, that she would take some time to have a little fun. I told her what I am telling you now; face the future not with fear but with anticipation and realize that you can do it. Not to go all sixties on you but if you face the future with anticipation and not fear, you are writing the script for yourself! So write the good one, not the negative one. But above all, write something:
make a choice, a decision, take a risk, learn something new. Inaction gets you nowhere but stuck. And have a blast along the way. I know I did.

The Criminal Conviction and Its Collateral Consequences

All too often, when a client walks into my office, he or she is unaware of the collateral consequences that may result from DUI or controlled substance conviction. Most clients are unaware of what a collateral consequence is, let alone the plethora of non-legal repercussions, which almost always attach to criminal convictions.

What is a collateral consequence?

Collateral consequences are the indirect results of a criminal conviction. Direct consequences include the prison sentence, fees and costs. Examples of indirect consequences include ineligibility for federal welfare benefits, an increased risk of deportation, voting restrictions, loss of custodial rights, and difficulty finding employments after conviction.

The Constitution does require a criminal defense attorney to impart the direct consequences of a guilty plea to his client, it does not require criminal defense lawyers to disclose potential collateral consequences. It is important for lawyers and clients alike to understand both the direct and indirect consequences of “pleading guilty.” Below you will find a list of potential collateral consequences for motor vehicle and controlled substances convictions. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and a motor vehicle or controlled substance offense may or may not include any or all of the listed consequences.

Collateral Consequences for Motor Vehicle Offenses

1. Suspension or Revocation of Driver’s License: This consequence may seem like a no-brainer, of course you risk losing your license for driving under the influence! However, remember that this penalty is in addition to any prison time and fees and costs incurred resulting from a criminal conviction.

2. Ineligibility for reduction in automobile insurance rates and premiums.

3. Employment Restrictions: A conviction for a motor vehicle offense renders the offender ineligible to obtain nearly any professional bus driver position.

4. If you are an out of state resident, the Secretary of State is authorized to notify your home state of a driving conviction that occurred in Illinois.

Collateral Consequences for Controlled Substances Convictions

1. Ineligibility for Cash Public Assistance: Individuals who are convicted of a Class X or Class 1 felony are subject to mandatory, automatic, and permanent ineligibility for cash public assistance.

2. Employment Restrictions: Individuals who are convicted of controlled substances offenses are ineligible for employment with:
• Illinois State Police
• Park Districts
• Public School Districts
• Recognized non-public schools
• In-state charter school bus service provider
• Nursing homes, as a nursing assistant or aide
• Certain mental health care facilities

3. Ineligibility to serve as a foster or adoptive parent.

4. Ineligibility to receive certain governmental medical assistance

5. Revoked or suspended driver’s license.

6. Forfeiture of property related to the crime.

7. Deny sale or rental of home due to conviction.

Potential collateral consequences can touch on nearly every aspect of a client’s life, from his family, to his home, and his place of employment. When faced with the potential for a criminal conviction, take a moment to ensure all parties are aware of the specific collateral consequences the client might face. Doing so will help the client feel as though the criminal conviction, that may permeate through different aspects of his life, has been thoroughly evaluated and analyzed, both directly and indirectly.

Top Ten Things Not to Do When You Call My Law Office to Sell Me Something!

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As an almost three year old firm whose phone now rings with actual potential clients I was thinking back to the early weeks of going out on my own and lurching for the phone anytime it rang, only to be greeted by a company cold calling to solicit my law firm to sell me “much needed” (fill in the blank-SEO marketing, office equipment, Business class internet, phones, temps, leads, law books, 10,000$ coaching seminars, website development…) You get the picture. At first, despite my secretary’s valiant efforts to screen those calls by yelling out; “don’t pick up-it’s a 1-800 number”, or trying to dive for the extension first, I always picked up and gave the caller a chance. Call me crazy, gullible, shopaholic, lonely, thrilled to get a phone call, polite, or maybe just empathetic-part of me wants to give the seller a shot as long ago I too had a sales job cold calling in New York City and know how terrible constant rejection can be. But after surviving a dizzying array of calls selling ridiculously expensive “indispensable” products that I never knew even existed, I started to feel harassed as if I was the only new business out there. So to save new solo lawyers or entrepreneurs a valuable learning curve and maybe try to have cold calling companies try to grasp why 99% of people hang up…here are my top ten personal pet peeves.

  1. Do not ever and I mean EVER call me with a computer voice asking me to “punch 1” to reach their agent. This should be self-explanatory. You might get punched through the phone line!
  2. Don’t pretend your name is Google if it’s not. Google does not typically call you. This one kills me, I’ve had fights with agents who “explain” that “No, we are not really Google when I ask why they are using the Google name and they babble some nonsense about how they are licensed to sell Google products and are the only people who guarantee to put me on the front page of rankings. After explaining the concept of fraud or bait and switch, I hang up!
  3.  Do not call and tell me that you are not selling anything! This one drives me nuts. I feel compelled to toy with these people because of course they are indeed selling you something-be honest!  See # 4.
  4. Know what it is you are selling and how much it costs. In other words, don’t waste my time. A perfect example is the call I got yesterday from a girl who claimed to have left numerous messages as someone named, let’s say, “Mary”, no company name, no hint of who she was. I then asked her if she was selling something to which she said no. I asked her why she was calling. She wanted to set up a meeting to discuss her product at my office, (that she wasn’t selling!) Now, I launched into full on criminal defense lawyer mode  and asked her why would I set up a meeting to listen about a product that she wasn’t selling from a company that she had not yet told me the name! Finally, after ten minutes (I know, lots of you would say I should have hung up by now, but I had already started writing this article and this girl was proving my point-I couldn’t resist…) she told me she was from Aflac and after much probing told me she was selling supplemental benefit plans for employers to give their employees.  So since I am not a cold hearted employer and I like their commercials I asked her for an overview and cost of benefit plans. Here is where she started stuttering, trying to look up what they sold and the cost. This girl literally had no idea of the cost of anything! It became clear that I had violated her script of calling to get an in person meeting. She had no ability to adapt her script to a customer who may actually want to explore what she sold but had no time for an in person meeting. She lost a potential customer.

5.  Do not oversell or lie. How many times have you received the call from a company telling you that only their product, service, company can save me from financial ruin, put me on the front page of Google, and find me fifty clients a day all for one low price of 29.99 which later turns out to be an introductory offer for a week followed by an ironclad contract that costs an arm and a leg and self-renews without a 30 day cancellation.. Oh and let’s not forget the three free magazines you don’t want that are impossible to cancel!

6. Do not make an end run around my secretary. I am  lucky enough to have had two  wonderful and  very fiscally conservative  secretaries in my two + years of private practice  who literally screened out all sales calls that we did not need. My secretary would say a polite but firm; “No, we are not interested”. Then they would ask her if she was the attorney and she would say; “No, but that this is based on my attorney’s authority.” Invariably, the person would call back numerous times hoping for me to pick up which occasionally I did. Just to give them hell-if you don’t respect my secretary, I don’t want to do business with you!

7. Do not ever call to ask if I am the person in charge of the electric bill! Enough said. Particularly if you are in Park Ridge where the power goes out on a regular basis….

8.  Please learn to take “No” for an answer, particularly if you cold call me at the office.   See # #9.

9. Please take it on faith that I know how my business operates and whether what you sell fits into my needs. Persistence can be a great virtue s your job and yes I have been in your shoes but remember you are interrupting someone in the middle of the day and again if my secretary out front says we are not interested, we usually are not. She actually does give me messages! See # 10.

10. Research the company you are trying to sell to! If I am a brand new solo practitioner in a Criminal Defense Law Firm, chances are really good that I will not be interested in a $20,000 computer network. Chances are also really high that I have obtained my computers/phone system/electric before I made the investment to open for business. Another true story-I had two very nice girls from one of the second tier phone providers walk in two years after I had been in business to sell me on their business phone plan claiming they  could reduce my bill by half and provide me instantly with four new phones exactly the same as my old ones or better. Because it was my 4:00 PM lull, I listened to the pitch. Unfortunately for them, I have become an educated phone consumer and had just read up on this “too good to be true” offer.  Upon further questioning (since they were really nice, I only went into half criminal defense lawyer cross exam mode) it was clear they had no idea how or if an IPad fit into this plan. I am addicted to my IPad and waited while they called their boss. I watched as this sales supervisor herself was put on hold by her own company for over 20 minutes! Being a soft touch, I still let them run a soft credit check to even see if my “acceptance” into the plan with no money down was even possible.   I cleared that hurdle and delved further into the incredible sounding offer of sending me four new upgraded Iphones overnight. Finally, I found out that the replacement phones would be android based, not IPhones and that the customer had to go into the store, fill out a rebate form, transfer their number, and stand on their head to obtain a completely different phone for which I would have to send in rebate forms etc.!!! Still no info on the IPad. The total savings? Fifty Dollars! See # 6 above.

This is just my list and you may laugh at my idiocy or disagree with my top ten. But if this saves any of you budding entrepreneurs or start up law firms out there future pain on the learning curve it’s okay! Feel free to share yours!

Laura chaired the annual Maine township Republican Women’s Fashion Show and luncheon

534eda23224ca.preview-300We at the Law Offices of Laura J Morask promote community involvement in our local area. This past Saturday, April 12, Laura chaired the annual Maine township Republican Women’s Fashion Show and luncheon.

Held at the Chateau Ritz in Niles, this year’s show yielded about 85 attendees. Clothing was provided by Taylor Marie’s, a mobile fashion store. Taylor Marie’s set up a temporary store at the Chateau Ritz and donated 10% of sales to the Maine Township Republican Women’s group to support their efforts within the township.
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It was expected that the fundraiser would meet or exceed last year’s event which yielded about $2,000. Additionally, a 50/50 raffle raised $200 for the Maine Township Food Pantry.

Julie’s Law

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If you’re known as a lead foot, you better beware and slow down. On July 1, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed Julie’s Law which places pretty heavy penalties on exceptionally speedy drivers. These penalties include license suspension, heavy fines, and potential jail time. Before this law was passed, a speeding driver going up to 40 mph over the legal speed limit could be granted court supervision by a judge repeatedly, with every speeding ticket – but not any longer. Under the new Illinois law, judges are unable to order court supervision for speeders exceeding the limit by more than 25 miles in a residential urban district, or by more than 30 miles in a rural area:
“(q) The provisions of paragraph (c) shall not apply to a defendant charged with violating subsection (b) of Section 11-601 of the Illinois Vehicle Code when the defendant was operating a vehicle, in an urban district, at a speed in excess of 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.” 730 ILCS 5/5-6-1 (a)(1)(q)[ii]

However, this is a notable change because drivers who used to be able to plea to supervision on such a ticket no longer have this option! Additionally, drivers need to realize that even with a regular non-Julie’s law speeder, or any other moving violation, the penalties and consequences to your inability to drive the legal speed limit keep increasing in Illinois. We recommend everyone become more legally savvy and cautious of your driving record by hiring an attorney familiar with traffic law defense to help you with what you may consider a simple traffic matter! In fact, while editing this post, I received a call from a potential client who received a ticket for going 30 mph over the limit and had some prior moving violations. This person seemed shocked that his license may be subject to suspension by the DMV!

For drivers under 21 years of age, two speeding convictions within a 12-month period will cause the Secretary of State to suspend a driver’s license. For drivers older than 21 years of age, 3 speeding convictions within a 12-month period will cause the driver’s license to be suspended.
Drivers over 21 years of age are potentially still eligible for two court supervisions in a 12-month period.

Court supervision is a potential option for speeding drivers only if they plead guilty to speeding and understand and approve of the specifics regarding the speeding ticket while agreeing to all terms and conditions of the court supervision. Then, if the driver keeps a clean driving record during his or her supervision term, the speeding violation will not result in a conviction. But caveat! Be aware, supervision will still remain on your driving record and can still be used to aggravate or enhance a subsequent moving violation.

Julie’s Law came into effect after Julie Gorczynski, a 17-year old high school student, was killed in a car accident by a recklessly speeding driver who was going 76 mph in a 40 mph residential area. The other driver had several court supervisions for speeding before the accident took place.

Senator Sid Mathias, who is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, is happy with the new law that has been put into action stating, “We have to basically educate people to realize that speed kills, and that we need to do something about it. And that if they lose their license in the process of that learning, then so be it.”

The end result? Slow down! You must be aware of any type of plea on your traffic record and be ready to hire yourself a decent lawyer versed in traffic court defense!

New Cell Phone and Texting Law

no texting

On January 1, 2014, a new law went into effect that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones or similar devices to talk and/or text while behind the wheel. So if you decide to fight the odds and drive around with your phone connected to your ear or text while driving, you not only are putting your life and other lives at risk, but should expect to dig into your wallet for some hefty fines.

Violators will be fined $75 for a first offense and as much as $150 for repeat offenses as well as having a moving violation on their driving record. Three moving violations within one year can cause your license to be suspended.

A separate new law increases penalties for distracted drivers found to have caused crashes. Distracted drivers causing injuries, face up to a year in prison, and up to $2,500 in fines. Drivers involved in fatal accidents face fines of up to $25,000 and three years in jail.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill on August 16, 2013 stating, “Too many Illinois families have suffered because of accidents that could have been prevented. Anyone driving a car should be careful, responsive, and alert behind the wheel.” The law went into effect January 1, 2014.

Drivers can still talk on their cell phones while driving but they must do so hands-free which includes utilizing a Bluetooth, headset (see caveat below), earpiece, or speakerphone but the earpiece used must cover only one ear so as not to block your hearing altogether. If you need to use your phone for a phone call or text but can’t do so hands-free, then you are required to pull over safely and park your car before using your phone.

WHAT IS BANNED:

The new law bans drivers from using a mobile phone unless they use hands-free technology to communicate. A driver is allowed by law, however, to press a single button on a phone to begin or end a conversation.
• Drivers 18 years of age or younger are not permitted to use their smart phones while driving – regardless if hands-free or not.
• Drivers over 18 years of age must use a hands-free device while driving. Text messaging is prohibited.
• Handheld electronic devices used for communication are prohibited for all drivers to use.
• Drivers are prohibited from texting, emailing, using the Internet, taking pictures, or using their smartphone for any reason while driving.
• Drivers are not allowed to use their phones in school speed zones, construction zones, or road maintenance areas.
• Cell phones are banned from being used for any reason within 500 feet of an emergency scene while driving. This includes phone calls, taking pictures, texting, etc.

EXCEPTIONS:

The law permits exceptions on the ban during emergencies, or if a driver is parked on the shoulder. A driver will also be allowed to use a hand-held cell phone if the vehicle is in neutral or park, and if the car is stopped because normal traffic is obstructed.

AROUND THE COUNTRY:

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states along with the District of Columbia prohibit using hand-held cell phones while driving. A total of 41 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

For starters, turn off your cell phone. If that’s not possible, there are a number of wireless technology solutions that allow electronic devices to connect remotely. Some newer cars have built-in systems that sync cellphones with car speakers. Owners of older vehicles can buy kits that integrate their phones and stereo systems. A driver also could use a headset, but state law mandates that it cover one ear only-not both.
Remember folks, even apart from safety concerns, legally speaking, this is a moving violation which gives police probable cause to pull you over. So if you have been out on the town for a night of imbibing, and are so addicted to your phone that you decide you have to call someone to share the latest NCAA score directly from the phone, you are not only risking lives but literally thousands of dollars for a good DUI attorney whom you better keep on speed dial for the consequences!

Chamber of Commerce’s Community Star Awards

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Every year the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce recognizes outstanding members of the community with the Community Star Awards. Laura Morask gathered with other Maine Township trustees and Community Star Award winners to honor Dick Barton, one of this year’s honored community members.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/park_ridge_niles/community/chi-ugc-photo-nights-of-community-stars-celebrated-2014-01-26,0,1120342.photo

Vacation Rewind!

We all know those people…the ones who insist on coming to work with the flu, hacking their brains out because god forbid, THEY take a sick day! Or the co-worker who declares that they have 100 vacation days built up because they NEVER take a vacation! Those who act as if taking a break, whether a cup of coffee, a water cooler discussion of the latest Scandal episode, a day home from work because you are sick, or a REAL vacation, is a sign of weak character.
When you run your own practice it becomes even more difficult to take a well needed break because you are responsible for simply EVERYTHING! However, I finally realized after two years out in private practice, that a vacation is not a superfluous luxury but is essential to your well being and that of your practice! And of course staying home when you are sick is mandatory- it not only heals you but saves you from co-workers sticking pins in a voodoo doll of your likeness! And a real vacation will work wonders for your productivity and that of your office.
Your co-workers, staff, and secretary will love you for it when you return less crabby, more calm, and bearing gifts!
Your clients will love you for it, because you will return hopefully with renewed energy and brain cells to tackle even the thorniest legal issues! Those “aha!” moments of a breakthrough in solving whatever thorny issue is driving you nuts happens when you stop your brain’s incessant ruminating. You all know-those sleepless Sunday nights when the thoughts just won’t stop and you finally fall asleep 10 minutes before the alarm goes off! And God knows, for us in Chicago taking a vacation is an absolute necessity! That is, of course assuming Ohare has not shut down from ________ (fill in the blank) thirty inches of snow, freezing sleet, an ice storm, or merely a cow on the runway. (It’s really happened!)
So folks, check out the gorgeous sunset below, book that ticket, grab the bathing suit and the kids ( if you so must) and tell yourself and others if you need to that you are headed off to increase your productivity, work on that upcoming jury, or boost your sales! You won’t be sorry…that is until of course you return to -19 degrees and/or freezing rain/snow/slush etc.
And the memories of that sunset have to keep you warm through the long dark freeze we know as February!

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Top Ten Things to Keep in Mind This New Year.

  1. Don’t drive drunk! I know it seems needless to say, but DUI laws increase in severity every year. Get a designated driver or better yet a limo or a hotel room. Also Chicago provides free train rides on the CTA for New Year’s Eve to encourage celebrants to use public transportation. Your particular suburb may do the same.
  2. We all know celebrating the New Year is the best way to bring it in, but be careful! Don’t accept drinks from strangers in bars ever! Watch your drink and if it is out of your sight for any period, throw it away.  And see #1 above!
  3. Curfew still applies on New Years Eve! In Illinois, a child under the age of 17 violates curfew when he or she lingers or stays in a public place or even a private business during curfew hours. Curfew hours are from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings. Violating curfew is a petty offense carrying hefty fines ranging anywhere from $500 to $750 depending on location and a judge can hold the parent liable and order the parent to perform community service.
  4. Starting January 1st, cigarettes will be considered litter (HB 3243). Throwing them out of your vehicles is now a crime. A first time conviction is a Class B Misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1500. A second conviction is a Class A misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1500. Three or more convictions is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a fine of $25,000 and imprisonment up to three years. It’s time to get an ashtray for your car!
  5. Designated drivers (and everyone else in the car) should remember to ALWAYS wear their seatbelts! Better yet, see #1!
  6. Don’t drive on a suspended or revoked license! (SB 1735) This seems self-explanatory but every year I defend many cases involving people who do exactly this!!!
  7. Don’t forget Julie’s Law! Speeders exceeding the limit by more than 25 mph in a residential area are not eligible for court supervision. 730 ILCS 5/5-6-1.
  8. Starting in 2014, driving and holding a cell phone is against the law (HB 1247). Penalties for distracted drivers who injure others or cause fatal crashes by the use of a cell phone would face a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in fines up to $2,500 and up to a year of jail time. Drivers involved in fatal accidents could be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries fines up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time. Using a hands-free device such as Bluetooth is now necessary if you plan on talking on the phone while driving.
  9. Passing school buses when they’re at a stop is already illegal, but now they have cameras to capture anyone who tries (SB 0923). Along those lines, there are now speed cameras throughout the city in addition to red light cameras and just like red light cameras they are almost impossible to contest!

10. If you drive through a tollway entrance or exit without paying this is an automatic $100.00 fine and if you do it too often, your name will go onto the Illinois Tollway website for all to see (SB 1214).

 

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=85&GA=98&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=2585&GAID=12&LegID=74387&SpecSess=&Session=

As much as I’d love your business this upcoming New Year, please follow these words of advice and stay safe!

Happy-New-Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maine Township Honored with Statewide Recognition

This year Maine Township received multiple awards from the annual conference of Township Officials of Illinois (TOI). The Township was recognized for the services given to improve the lives of residents. The awarded members include our very own Laura Morask! In addition to being a full-time criminal defense lawyer, Laura also works as an elected trustee of Maine Township.

Laura works very hard to improve the lives of the community members, especially our local youth. For many years she has educated youth on the dangers of gangs and gang violence and participates every year in the National Night Out Against Crime. In addition, Laura lead a seminar to educate the community on the dangers of hazing and bullying this past May. The event was covered by Journal & Topics newspapers and was a very successful, educational forum.

For all her hard work towards improving the lives of Maine Township’s youth, Laura was bestowed the Friend of Youth Award from the Association of Illinois Township Committees on Youth (AITCOY). Laura was recognized for her dedication to helping the community’s youth including the development of innovative programs which come at no cost to the community and will continue to do so in the future.