Court is in Session

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to get tough on crime, and so far he is carrying out his promise. Last week, AG Sessions sent out a memo instructing federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” when charging crimes.

Dirksen_Federal_Building  Although LauraLaw focuses on criminal defense at the state level (where the vast majority of crimes are prosecuted), policy changes on the federal level set the stage for changes in individual states.

AG Sessions’s memo states a policy of strict enforcement and points out that serious offenses generally carry mandatory minimum sentences, which should be followed. This is a notable shift from the position of his predecessor under the Obama Administration, Eric Holder, who encouraged leniency in prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug crimes. Under the strict enforcement policy, a federal prosecutor would need to get approval before charging a lesser crime instead of the most serious offense possible.

So, what does this mean for criminal prosecution in Illinois? Well, first we can expect to see a rise in crimes charged, specifically drug crimes, in federal court. Historically, “tough on crime” or “zero tolerance” policies led to a rise in the prison population. Also, these policies tend to trickle down to a state level.

On that note, it will be interesting to see what specific changes this federal trend brings to Cook County. This author’s main concern is that these strict enforcement policies will change the way plea deals are offered or mitigating circumstances are considered. Of course, that is a conversation for another time.

Nevertheless, if you, a friend, or a loved one are under investigation or have been charged with a crime, contact us here at LauraLaw, before court is in session.

Friday Frolic: A Bit of Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Plant Strawberries Straw Berries


For most of us (at least those of us at LauraLaw) jam is just something that British people put on their toast. For plant scientist Douglas Shaw, however, jam and the strawberries that make them is the subject of a lawsuit filed against him by the University of California at Davis. His story has become an interesting example of the lengths that institutions and individuals would go to protect their intellectual property.

Professor Shaw retired from the University of California at Davis before the lawsuit was filed. While working for the school, Shaw and his scientific partner did a lot of research on strawberries and other plants. They retired from UC Davis in 2014 then started a business called California Berry Cultivars. The company develops new varieties of strawberries and works with various growers and nurseries.

The university claims that Professor Shaw and his researchers infringed on a patent held by UC Davis and violated an oath they signed “not to enrich themselves by taking or acquiring plants, seeds and other biological material and continuing their research using descendants of plants they developed at UC Davis. In their own lawsuit, Professor Shaw and his scientific partner allege that UC Davis locked up some of their plants so they couldn’t have access to them; and, that the university wiped out years of strawberry research.

Apparently, the federal judge who is hearing the case has the same thoughts as the rest of of us – It’s really come to this? The judge scolded both parties for the way they have been acting and decided that each side will be responsible for their own costs.

Generally, any research or work created at the university would belong to the institution – not to the scientists. Of course, the scientists are arguing that the intellectual property belongs to them. However, it will be interesting to see what comes out at trial. Maybe Professor Shaw will find his way of this strawberry . . . jam?

All puns aside, Happy Friday from LauraLaw!

“So, how did you get my information?”



Although we focus on criminal and administrative law, we at LauraLaw like to keep up with all types of news that might affect our clients. This week’s news affects everyone who uses the internet . . . so virtually everyone.

Do you ever get phone calls from random third parties, trying to sell something? I do, and I always wonder how these companies get my information, and if it is even legal for them to do so.

Last week, the Illinois state Senate approved the Right to Know Act. This act requires online companies to tell their consumers what kind of data they have gathered and shared with third parties. The Act includes companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Senator Michael Hastings, who sponsored the bill, called it a “step forward for Illinois in terms of data privacy.”

Not only would companies be required to tell their consumers this information, they have to keep an email address or toll-free phone number available for consumers to request it.

Opponents of the bill think that it should be up to the federal government to make this kind of regulation, and say that this law would place a burden on Illinois business. However, about a dozen other states have or are creating similar laws to protect consumers.

This Act seems like a good idea, but how much is it really doing for Illinois consumers? Sure, we get to demand to know what information is being shared with third parties, but it does not actually stop large companies like Google and Amazon from sharing personal information. It will be interesting to see if this is a step toward true consumer data protection or simply a band-aid on an ever-present problem. Check back in with LauraLaw to find out!

Out on Bond

Bond Post Picture


Out on Bond

Over the last few years, bond has become a big topic in Chicago. Here at Laura Law, we have written multiple blog posts about bond, the process, and the changes.

Advocates for bond reform say that the system is broken and can trap people in jail. Others say that having bond for certain crimes allows violent criminals to remain on the streets. This is what State Senator Bill Cunningham is saying in his recently introduced bill.

The new bill would allow a defendant charged with certain gun crimes to be held without bail, if, after a hearing, a judge determines that releasing the defendant would create a “real and present threat” to public safety. If it becomes law, this could apply to gang members charged with possessing a gun, violent felons, and armed habitual criminals (someone with a new gun charge who has at least two prior felony convictions for drug or weapons offense, or violent offenses.

Criminal defense attorneys and other advocates point out those charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Serious and violent crimes are often met with high bail amounts. Also, defendants and prosecutors are able to argue for a higher or lower bond, even though the final decision belongs to the judge. If this bill becomes law, it could be yet another way that bond in stacked in favor of the State.

The bill and its focus on public safety is reasonable, but does it violate defendants’ rights? And will it actually deter people from committing gun crimes? The answer will come soon enough, as the bill passed unanimously in the State Senate and is heading to the House.

Nevertheless, defendants still have certain rights under the law when it comes to bond. If you, a friend, or family member need legal representation, contact us at Laura Law.

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Florida Stalling

Florida weedBad news for any fans of rational thinking and empathy as there seems to be a stall in Florida’s vote  to legalize medical marijuana according to attorney David Olsen. Olsen cites a couple pressing problems right now. One, the United States just elected a President who has espoused “law and order” jargon into many of his speeches and the  appointed attorney general is an anti marijuana conservative who has already talked about how the federal government will likely be cracking down on Marjiuana, even where it’s been deemed legal. The irony is that Sessions et al are typically espousing State’s Rights, just not in this arena. So that’s a problem.  The  other problem Olsen details, is that there are a lot of additional restrictions being added in by anti drug organizations that are complicating the bills and making the debate rage on as time runs out. Here’s Olsen:

“The Miami Herald specifically called out an anti-drug group, Drug Free Florida, for making the bill more restrictive than it needs to be. HB1397 and SB406 contain at least 20 restrictions that were suggested by Drug Free Florida and its lobbying group, Save Our Society From Drugs.  See also this article from the Miami Herald . Some of the anti-drug group’s suggestions  include:

  • Patients would need to have a three-month relationship with their doctors before obtaining a prescription
  • Two physicians would be required for minors to obtain a prescription
  • Patients with chronic pain would likely not be able to get a prescription
  • A ban on edible marijuana
  • A ban on smoking marijuana

First I want to say good for Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald for calling out these absurd restriction suggestions. The worst part about anti drug groups and their condescending authoritarian attitude is that they think their actually helping people. They are not. They are in fact contributing to people’s  suffering no matter how well intentioned they might be. When looking at their additional restrictions, they make little sense considering that what is being proposed is Medical Marijuana! Why are chronic pain patients continually being restricted? That is the category of people needing Medical Marijuana the most. For example, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy find relief from nausea and pain from Medical Marijuana. As do veterans who suffer from PTSD, a category that was just added to Illinois’ Medical Marijuana by a courageous Judge over the arbitrary objections of the Director of Health and Human Services.  Furthermore, to impose an arbitrary 3 month minimum for a doctor-patient relationship interferes needlessly with the requirements already in place necessary to establish a doctor-patient relationship.

It seems clear from voters that Marijuana should at the very least be medically authorized by all States and the Federal government. To say there is no medical benefit by continuing to label it a Schedule 1 drug flies in the face of all the evidence and the will of the voters. It is the author’s sole opinion it should simply at this point be legalized. However, that remains a pipe dream for a long time. The progress made by individual states on election night where multiple new states voted to legalize Marijuana that progress may very well be erased by an anti drug campaign from  the Attorney General and various federal agencies whose regulatory powers and rule making authority is very tough to navigate or overturn. This  particular case in Florida is just an example of how tough it’s going to be to get this done.

Please  stay tuned to this blog for a continuing series on the backlash to chronic pain patients suffererd from continual new restrictions being placed on legitimate pain medication use resulting in pain patients with horrific diseases suddenly being rejected or forced into incredible suffering by virtue of recent CDC advisory guidelines…..


-The views expressed her are Jake Morask’s only and not necessarily Laura Morask’s or the Law Firm

Alderman Want Chicago Police to Consider “Textalyzer”

textingChicago Police may have a new tool in determining accident liability according to the Chicago Tribune, as there is a push by Chicago city Alderman to get police to use a device called a Textalyzer to determine if a person was using their phone during an accident. Alderman Ed Burke and Anthony Beale of the 14th and 9th wards respectively, introduced a resolution Wednesday to the city council hoping to get the police department to appear and discuss the possibility of using the Textalyzer. Here’s a description of the device per the Tribune. “A Textalyzer — a device developed by Israeli company Cellebrite — can access a phone’s operating system to check whether it was being used to text, email or perform other functions. Its name is a play on the Breathalyzer, which can help determine whether a driver is legally drunk. Use of such devices is being considered in Tennessee and New York, where the idea of suspending driver’s licenses for refusing to have a phone scanned has been debated.”

There has been a rise in texting related accidents and deaths the last few years, and the proponents of the textalyzer see it is an epidemic. “Our nation is in the grips of a texting epidemic and drivers text with impunity because they think there is little chance of ever getting caught,” Burke said in a statement. “Such illegal activity not only poses a serious threat to other motorists, but also to the many cyclists who regularly use our network of bike lanes and to pedestrians at crosswalks.” This is an interesting issue and I had never heard of anything like a “textalyzer” before so I thought that sounded fascinating. On the merits of the resolution, it is certainly complex as well. Driving and texting is clearly unsafe and should be illegal but how accurate can these things be in determining the exact nature of an accident-text relationship? Maybe they can pinpoint the exact moment an accident happened and the exact moment the text was sent and i’m not up to speed on the technology. Or they can determine the text logs just proved in general that a person had used texting during the whole of their driving and it doesn’t matter if it’s determined the exact cause of the accident cause they committed a violation anyway.

This also brings up issues of privacy, as people might be understandably shy about the police getting access to there text messages. Sure the police can access peoples data when they’re investigating them if they get a warrant but that is ethically debatable as well. I’m all for keeping people safe but this seems like a bit of an extreme measure and invasive of peoples privacy. I would like to see data or evidence that this measure would actually decrease the amount of driving and texting accidents, rather than just increasing the amount of punishment that’s going to be handed out. I’m also wondering if any accident is subject to the police being able to look through your text messages? Because that doesn’t sound good to me. All in all this is just too much of an invasion of privacy in my opinion, without hard evidence it’s actually going to make people safer.

United Airlines Catches Heat For Dragging Passenger Off plane

IMG_1110In a bizzarre incident occurring on a United flight from O’hare Airport to Louisville, a man was dragged out of the plane against his will after an overbooking situation caused United agents to ask 4 passengers to leave the flight. Per the Tribunes‘ Ally Marotti and Lauren Zumbach and multiple videos circulating Social media chronicling the event, passengers were shocked at the agents treatment of a man who initially refused to get off the plane apparently due to him being a doctor and having patients he needed to see the next day. “In videos of the incident aboard a flight bound for Louisville, Ky., a man screams as security officers pull him from his seat. He then falls silent as they drag him by the hands, with his glasses askew and his shirt pulled up over his abdomen, down the aisle. Several passengers yell at the officers. “Oh my God, look at what you did to him,” one woman yells.’

Here are some more details about the incident from the Tribune, stemming from testimony by passengers Tyler and Audra Bridges.  Bridges  told the Courier-Journal that passengers were then told a computer would select four random passengers. A couple was selected and left, but when the man who was removed was selected, he contested, saying he was a doctor who needed to see patients Monday morning. Bridges posted a video of the incident on Facebook, which has been shared more than 12,000 times and viewed 1 million times.The man was warned that security would be called if he didn’t leave, Bridges said. After security personnel came and spoke with him, he still refused.”

According to witnesses and video evidence the man was bleeding while being dragged out, maybe after knocking his head against the seat. I have watched multiple videos of the event on Social media which you should be able to easily find with a simple google search and can safely say it is a very disturbing incident for which United Airlines has no excuse The image of a limp man being dragged off a flight that he paid for will surely stick in peoples memories when they think of United for hopefully a while. Because after this incident the Airline just looks comically inept and inconsiderate. In the Washington Posts report, Tyler Bridges talked about the details proceeding the incident. Tyler Bridges recalled trouble starting almost as soon as he and his wife boarded. “An airline supervisor walked onto the plane and brusquely announced: ‘We have United employees that need to fly to Louisville tonight. … This flight’s not leaving until four people get off.’ That rubbed some people the wrong way,” Bridges said.’ Clearly from Bridges testimony the issue stems from a problem caused by United themselves and not any of the passengers. 4 people were punished because United Airlines gave precedent to their employees over paying customers.

The worst part is that they pathetically had to use violence to achieve get this done. The United CEO has apologized for the incident and claims that they’re reviewing it in the Tribune’s report.  “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart said in the statement. “We apologize for the overbook situation.” But many like travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt are questioning the policies of United and whether they could’ve been involved in causing this incident. “Everybody has their price. If they had allowed the agent to offer a higher incentive, we may never have heard about this,” said Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group. I think United is going to have to take a look at how it handles involuntarily denied boarding when passengers are already on the plane.”

Hopefully United faces some sort of punishment other than being completely embarrassed over social media.

Cook Country States Attorney announces bond reform initiative

26th and CalifIn policy shift  news reported by Rummana Hussain of the Chicago Sun Times, States Attorney Kim Fox announced a new program for bail reform on Wednesday. Some non violent inmates have been forced to remain in jail because they haven’t been able to afford the bail bonds that judges have set. Crimes including petty theft, drug stuff, property damage are the main crimes that the offenders have committed. As Hussain explains, “After the Cook County Sheriff’s Office singled out 50 cases of those who were “languishing” in jail for several months because of their inability to post $1,000 or less, the State’s Attorney and Public Defender’s offices came together to identify those inmates who would be better served outside jail, Foxx said.” With the reforms and pushes for I-bonds the inmates can be released without having to spend a prolonged time in jail. Fox explained using an example of a certain inmate on why she believed this to be a sensible decision, “One person was in for retail theft and couldn’t pay the $300 they needed to walk. . . . Another person broke into their friend’s house and stole some shoes,” Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times. “An alternative to jail makes sense.” Another part of the reforms are that drug offenders awaiting trial must seek treatment as requirement for their release. The actual component requirements to meet the criteria have not been finalized. It appears certain that the offense must be non violent, and the accused be indigent and that alcohol/substance abuse evaluations and follow up will be part of the criteria. This initiative is not a change to the bail statute which does already allow those components to be part of the equation; it appears that the  change is that the State’s Attorney will not be requesting cash bail to secure an accused’s appearance if their finalized criteria are met. It is unclear if those with a record of prior offenses, or prior bond forfeiture warrants will be included in this policy.




Sent from my iPadwwwwwawa


Update: Motion passed! Hooray!

White House Cracking Down On Recreational Cannabis?

weed whitehouse

There’s been some disturbing news from the White House recently in the last couple weeks, having to do with how the federal government will dictate its policy against both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.  It seems the Trump administration is shifting towards cracking down on marijuana even in states where it’s legal.  This was one of the worries when Trump nominated Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, a man who is known for his disdain for legalizing marijuana.  Ironically,  Sessions is a big supporter of  “states rights” arguments. But now he seems to be wanting to use the federal government against states that have even legalized marijuana.  The Chicago Tribunes’ Jennifer Kaplan and Polly Mosendz reported  that the cannabis industry is unsurprisingly upset at this seeming shift in policy. “Today’s news coming out of the administration regarding the adult use of cannabis is, of course, disappointing,” Derek Peterson, CEO of marijuana cultivator Terra Tech Corp., said Thursday in a statement. “We have hoped and still hope that the federal government will respect state’s rights in the same manner they have on several other issues.”  Will they eventually be able to reconcile these seemingly contradictory policy stances.

As the Chicago Tribune notes,  public policy is  sided against Trumps’ stance  with respect to this issue and they cite Quinnipiac’s poll that showed 71% of voters think the government shouldn’t enforce laws against marijuana  in states where it is legal and 59% voted that it should just be legal outright. The people want this and the shift may undo the slow and steady progress the country has made in drug policy the last decade or so. If marijuana is this stigmatized than how can any progress be made towards prison reform and helping users instead of punishing them?  Robert Capecci, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project points out this  hypocrisy, “To have Mr. Spicer say in one sentence that they’re a state’s rights’  administration and in the very next sentence say they’re going to crack down … it just defies logic.”

Chicago Public Schools take measures to protect children after White House Immigration Order

Per Juan Perez Jr. of cpsthe Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Public School system  is taking action against the federal governments broadened measures in detaining illegal immigrants. While no ICE agents have yet attempted to detain any students or parents in the school area, many are still  worried after some of the recent news from the White House. Protests last week targeted these policies by Trump’s cabinet and a signifiant amount of Latino students were out of school last Thursday either for fear, anger, or both according to the Tribune.  In response to this, CPS wants to ensure their students that they can feel safe and secure and not targeted. They contacted principals to let them know that any ICE agent wishing to enter a district building had to have a warrant with him and also urged parents to update emergency contact forms in the case of them or their child being detained by agents. The CPS has asserted that they are not there to provide assistance to federal officials in their business, especially since that business would be harmful to their students. The districts message was, “To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law.” In the case of an agent coming to the school the guidelines ask that they be told to wait outside while the administration deals with the Law department.

To some this seems like an extreme measure and maybe not necessary due to the lack of agents showing up at schools yet. However, it’s easy to shrug off these things when you don’t have to go through them, and for the thousands of Latino students and parents in CPS schools the recent news from Washington has been understandably very alarming.  Chicago Public School system’s rationale was to have their schools taking the steps to make sure their kids and parents feel safe.

The opinions of this post are Jake Morask’s and do not reflect the Laura Law Office in its entirety