Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record: Governor Quinn Expands Qualified Sealable Offenses to Include Orders of Supervision or Convictions Resulting From Municipal Ordinance Violations

This past June, Governor Quinn quietly signed legislation clarifying an ambiguity in the Illinois sealing statute.  20 ILCS 2630/5.2.  The changes made to the statute includes fixing a loophole in Section 5/2(c)(2) which lists the offenses that may qualify for sealing.

Note the following changes: Section 5/2(c)(2)(C) now provides “Arrests or charges not initiated by arrest resulting in orders of supervision, including orders of supervision for municipal ordinance violations, successfully completed by the petitioner, unless excluded ….  Section 5/2(c)(2)(D) now provides “Arrests or charges not initiated by arrest resulting in convictions, including convictions on municipal ordinance violations, unless excluded ….

The new law, Illinois House Bill 5815, will go into effect January 1, 2015.  After that date individuals can start filing petitions to seal their criminal records if he or she has been convicted or issued an order of supervision for violation of a municipal ordinance.

What’s the difference between the old statute and the new statute?  The new statute is designed to eliminate ambiguity to change an unfair system.  Under the old laws, only minor offenses prosecuted by the Office of the State’s Attorney were sealable, but under the new law, minor “ordinance violations” offenses prosecuted by Local Village/City Prosecutor are also sealable.

Here are links including a press release issued by the Oak Brook criminal defense attorneys who recommended the legislation and their discussion of the history of the bill.

If you have questions about expunging or sealing your criminal record, contact Laura Law for a free consultation.  Also check out our previous blog posts discussing the expungement and sealing process in Illinois:

Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record Part 1

Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record Part 2

Expunging and Sealing Your Criminal Record Part 3

Mental Health Crisis in the Cook County Jail and Across the Nation

Of the ten thousand inmates at Cook County Jail, at any given time, at least 3,000 of those individuals suffer from a mental illness.  Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, sat down with WGN news to discuss the ever-pressing issue of mentally ill inmates.  The Sheriff said Cook County Jail is the largest mental health provider in the state, and maybe the nation.

The crisis is coming to a head, and something needs to be done now.

Sheriff Dart, a history major, is responsible for overseeing the mental health care at the Cook County Jail and, as noted by Rick Pearson of WGN’s Sunday Spin, he is the “leader in providing mental health care to Chicagoans.”  Something is wrong with this picture.

Within the last several years, society has increasingly accepted mental illness as a serious, debilitating condition affecting thousands in Cook County, but those suffering from incapacitating mental illness struggle the most with finding medical assistance. Sheriff Dart argued that with the closure of clinics citywide, inmates have nowhere to go.  They can’t make it to the next clinic because of transportation woes, money problems, etc.  As a result, the Cook County Jail has become a leading provider in mental health services because these individuals who, more often than not, are homeless and jobless, commit non-violent petty crimes landing them in jail.

Correctional officers at the jail are given advanced mental health training in order to provide the inmates with the best care possible.  This comes at a cost: it is three times more expensive to take care of the mentally ill in jail.  This problem is not limited to Cook County or Illinois.  Overall, the number of mentally ill inmates has steadily risen since the closing of mental health institutions in the 1970s.

Untreated mental health issues can masquerade as criminal behavior.  We have had clients charged with various misdemeanor and/or drug type offenses whose cases stemmed from deeper untreated mental health diagnosis.  In this economy, for a person with a mental health disease who may have lost their job and insurance, access to their stabilizing medication is often the first thing to go.  This can lead to decompensation or self-medicating with illegal substances, which can lead to being arrested and charged with a crime.  These types of cases an clients are some of the most challenging to handle because the criminal practitioner must become a multifaceted problem solver; including having familiarity and contacts with low cost or free mental health programs, and be open to not only acting as your client’s attorney but basically as a coordinator of services and programs that you may be able to get your client into and increase your chances of convincing a judge to give your client probation or some type of alternative sentence to prison time.

If you or a close friend or family member is suffering from a situation similar to that described above, give us a call at Laura Law.

Cellphone Ticket Crackdown


Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Feelart

Beware motorists!  If anyone thought there was a grace period, or that the legislature and the police were not really serious about the January 2014 cell phone ban, they would be wrong.  Just last Friday morning at 8:00 am, as I was going to court with my partner on a remarkably traffic free Kennedy, we saw a most remarkable sight.  Seven Illinois State Troopers stopped motorists for failing to abide by the hands-free cell phone law, in a time span of 7 minutes.

The Illinois State Police rejects drivers’ claims they are unaware of the law because the Police Department made a consistent effort to apprise motorists of the new law including broadcasting on the Internet and radio.  Lawmakers passed the hands-free cell phone law in an effort to decrease motor vehicle accidents.  In this day and age, cell phones are extremely distracting, even more so because they are connected to our hip twenty-four hours a day.  Using a cell phone while traveling at high speeds on expressways or through neighborhoods where children are playing is extremely dangerous to everyone on the road, from pedestrians to bicyclists and motorists.  We posted about this law a few months ago in an effort to warn people about the impact of this new law.  Check out that post here.

Motorists in Springfield had no grace period.  Since the cellphone ban went into effect on January 1st, Springfield police have written 313 citations to drivers breaking the law.  The Springfield Police Department traffic services supervisor remarked that while other law enforcement agencies gave motorists a grace period, Springfield chose not to.  Here is a link to the law and here is a link to the Springfield article.

What Is Notable About This New Law:

1.  The cost of the ticket (fines up to $150 per offense)

2.  The citation is considered a moving violation

3.  The citation gives police probable cause to search your vehicle, detain you, etc., and whatever else that may lead to another charged offense.

Here at Laura Law we like to keep our readers abreast of new changes to the law and the sometimes devastating consequences for your driving and/or criminal record.  If you recently received one of these tickets it would be unwise not take it seriously.  As a moving violation, if your record has other moving violations within a certain time frame you may unwittingly be facing a suspended license, we can help you decipher this.  Call now for a free consultation to see if we can be of help to your legal needs.

24 Hours and Counting! National Night Out Tomorrow at 6:30!

53752_10203643429779116_1368381005849653567_oJoin Laura tomorrow evening for Maine Township’s National Night out at Dee Park! National Night Out is a community event dedicated to rallying support to fight crime.  This year’s theme is “See Something, Say Something.”  All too often people moan about the horrible news we hear or read but don’t realize that you can help the effort by just being alert in your neighborhood.  If you see gang graffiti for example, Say Something!  We can together keep our neighborhoods safe.  We also encourage you to show your support for National Night Out by turning on your porch lights between 7 and 10 pm.  There will be games, raffles, food, and prizes.  New this year is a dunk tank!  Come help us inaugurate this new feature. We look forward to seeing you there!

2014 Maine Township National Night Out Against Crime

national night outJoin Laura Morask, Maine Township Trustee, for National Night Out Against Crime next Tuesday, August 5th at Dee Park.  The National Night Out promotes “family fun and neighborhood unity” while also educating “residents on crime prevention and safety.  We ask that you turn your front porch light on between 7 and 10 pm on August 5th to show you support for Maine Township’s National Night Out Against Crime.

A Bit of History: The National Night Out Against Crime began in 1984 as “an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.”  Over the past 30 years, National Night Out Against Crime has expanded with 37.8 million people getting involved each year in 16,124 communities.  The event traditionally takes place on the first Tuesday evening in August.  Check out the National Night Out website, Facebook page, and Press Release for this year’s events.

We encourage you to stop by the Maine Township event at Dee Park.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Voting for ABA’s Top 100 Blawgs Now Open!

The American Bar Association has announced it is now accepting nominations for its 8th Annual Blawg 100!  Click here to vote for your favorite Blawg!

These “blawgs” provide the legal community with up to date information on case law, state and federal, stories from the inside, and a plethora of other useful information for the day-to-day practice of law.

Vote for you favorite Blawg by 5 pm on August 8th!  And don’t forget to check out last year’s Top 100 Blawgs!

Red Light Camera Operators Caught Red-Handed?

photo enforced better version-page-001The Chicago Tribune conducted an investigation of over 4 million red-light camera tickets issued since 2007, and found roughly 9000 tickets were issued during red-light camera “spikes.”  These drivers may be eligible for a refund.  After the Tribune published its report, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced “drivers will have 45 days to request a review of their violation by email, phone, or in person.”

The Tribune’s investigation revealed red-light camera spikes at intersections, which typically generated a few tickets per day, were issuing up to 56 tickets.  During the spikes, almost all the tickets were issued to drivers making right turns, when typically only 1/3 of red-light tickets are issued to drivers who fail to come to a complete stop before turning right at a red light.  Traffic experts who reviewed the Tribune’s report opined that the spikes result from either “faulty equipment or human tinkering.”

The Emanuel administration called for daily violations to be posted on the Internet for each of Chicago’s 352 red-light cameras.  In addition, City Hall announced plan to send letters to the 9,000 drivers detailing the review process to determine whether the City should refund the $100 ticket cost.  To determine whether the drivers should be entitled to a refund, still photos taken at the intersections will be reviewed and if the “photos and/or video do not clearly prove the law was broken, drivers will receive a refund.”

red light photo enforce-page-001The Tribune has created a system for drivers to check and see whether they were issued a red light ticket during a spike.  Check it out here.

This past Friday, City Hall’s Inspector General Joseph Ferguson announced the beginning of an investigation into the city’s red-light camera program.  This investigation comes after Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the original red-light camera operator amidst bribery allegations.

If you believe you have been unfairly issued a red-light ticket, either during the spike or at any other time, call the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask to discuss your options including appeal.

Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Law: Understanding the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program

Medical Marijuana Graphic-page-001This past Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approved the proposed rules for Illinois’ new medical marijuana program.  Here are ten facts about the new system:



1.  The law allows for 21 marijuana cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries.  The law does not allow for a cultivation and dispensary     combination structure.

2.  Registration fees are $100 and $50 for eligible patients on Social Security Insurance and Social Security Disability Insurance.

3.  A 15-member Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee including patients, a health care provider, and nurse practitioners with experience working with medical marijuana patients will review each application.

4.  Illinois has the strictest medical marijuana laws among the 23 states with approved medical marijuana programs.

5.  Only patients with a debilitating medical condition are eligible to apply for medical marijuana treatment.  Some of those medical conditions include:

      • Cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s

6.  Patients with a last name beginning with A-L will be able to apply in September and October, and patients with a last name beginning with M-Z will be able to apply in November and December.  It takes roughly 30 days for the Committee to review an application.

7.  Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, but most federal prosecutors have chosen not to target medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, prescribing doctors, or patients.

8.  Medical marijuana won’t be available in Illinois until sometime next year because the cultivators must first obtain the license then begin the growing process.

9.  There are 100,000 to 200,000 patients that will be eligible to participate in program based on documented medical conditions.

10.  Patients are advised to begin having talks with their physicians and caregivers if they intend to apply for participation in the program.

Check out the full text of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and Chicago Tribune and Sun Times articles.  Check back here for updates regarding Illinois’ medical marijuana law and contact the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask with any questions!

The United States Supreme Court Strikes Down Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

A warrantless search?  Of course that should be unconstitutional.  We have been taught since we were children that the police may not search you or your home without a warrant.  The group of us that went to law school, and some who did not, understand there are exceptions to the warrant requirement, but only in exigent circumstances.  But a warrantless cell phone search?  In this day and age, where our whole lives are stored on a tiny device (often multiple devices) we carry with us everywhere?  That seems outlandish.  But the issue only presented itself to the Supreme Court last term in Riley v. California, and the court held the police cannot search your cell phone, after you have been arrested, without first obtaining a warrant.

In reaching that decision, and in response to the Justice Department’s Argument, the Chief Justice noted how modern cell phones “implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.”  It is more likely than not an individual’s entire life is stored on a cell phone including access to sensitive financial and personal information.  When the police searched the pockets of an arrestee or his flip phone circa 2005, it was highly unlikely they would find the individuals’ bank statements for the past five years, but today it is more likely than not the police could access that information if they have immediate unrestricted access to an arrestee’s cell phone.  This raises serious privacy concerns, as firmly noted by the Supreme Court.

The June 2014 ruling requires police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause the arrestee committed a crime and the cell phone has a link to that crime such that a search is justified.  The court found the individual, digital privacy concerns raised by mass use of the “smart phone” outweigh the state’s interest in protecting the public because (1) requiring a warrant to search an arrestee’s cell phone does not threaten the safety of the arresting officer, and (2) possible destruction of evidence on the cell phone is not a compelling reason sufficient enough to justify a warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment.

If you have been charged with a crime or if you have any questions or comments about the new cell phone law promulgated in Riley v. California, contact the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask.