Thursday, February 26, 2009

Proposed Legislation to Suspend Your Driver's License for a DUI on a Snowmobile

This Chicago DUI lawyer is letting you know that it's a good thing there's no way you can snowmobile today. Your state legislators are very busy down in Springfield. Right now, they are pushing to change the law so that if you get charged with a DUI while using a snowmobile, your driver's license will be suspended. That's right, your decision to drink and operate a snowmobile, if this bill becomes law, would get your driver's license suspended as if you were driving a car. Do you even need a driver's license to use a snowmobile in Illinois? No. You have to have a parent or guardian with a special safety certificate and be a minimum of ten years old. If you are an adult, then you have to take that special safety certificate course. Again, the scope of making things safer for the general population is getting stretched to the ridiculous. This is no different, in my opinion, than suspending the driver's license of a person under 21 years of age because they got caught buying alcohol or consuming it as I discussed here and you can read more about it here. Does anyone else see the absolute absurdity of it all?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another Top Chicago DUI Officer is Accused of Falsifying DUI Arrest Reports

As I noted on my Chicago DUI website here, just because they make plenty of arrests, and receive lots of awards and accolades, does not mean they are doing things by the book. Chicago Police Officer Joe Parker has several pending DUI cases in Chicago right now that have come under scrutiny by the Cook County State's Attorney. I know Officer Parker was a highly respected police officer and this investigation has come as a surprise to many of the Cook County State's Attorneys. Then again they were also surprised when Chicago Police Officer John Haleas was accused of falsifying Chicago DUI arrests. As an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer, I have had many clients charged with a DUI by so-called highly-respected members of the Chicago Police Department. The more cases I see over the years, the more and more I begin to doubt these police officers. As I often say to my clients who have been arrested and charged with DUI, Chicago Police Officers, and the prosecutors; "there is enough real crime in Chicago, nobody needs to make up cases against innocent people."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Very Expensive (and Rising) Costs of a Chicago DUI Conviction (or for that matter anywhere in Cook County)

The Secretary of State has a nice chart outlining the average costs of a DUI conviction. The total shown is $14,660, and includes only the direct costs associated with a conviction. That figure is very conservative, out of date, and does not include many very expensive and little-known financial consequences of a DUI conviction.

The Secretary of State's estimate does not include the current costs of a BAIID device that is now required in order for a first-time offender to drive while his or her DUI is pending, as I previously discussed here . I anticipate that in the foreseeable and near future, a BAIID device will be a condition for a first time offender to retain his or her driving privileges after receiving court supervision.

Employers may wrongly perceive a DUI conviction as an indicator of a drinking problem, and may very well be unconsciously influenced when putting together their list of who's next for the pink slip.

Most prospective new employers ask about arrests and convictions on their applications forms. Given a lot of people chasing very few jobs right now, anyone truthfully answering those kind of questions has, in my estimation, significantly reduced their chances of moving their job application forward, all other things being equal. Anyone answering untruthfully will almost certainly be found out, thus digging a deeper hole for themselves.

Anyone convicted of a DUI is almost certain to lose their driving privileges. Even if that person keeps their job, they now have the problem of having to take public transportation to and from work (not fun in this winter weather), relying on family and friends, or driving illegally and facing getting caught.

How long can the average Chicago resident afford to go without a paycheck? Why put a decent livelihood at risk? In the current job market, no one can afford to not put on the strongest legal defense. Nobody should be pleading guilty ("taking a plea") because of the apparent low costs of hiring a cheap lawyer who doesn't understand all the ins and outs of the many recent developments in the increasingly complex area of DUI law. Spending a few hundred dollars could end up costing you many tens of thousands of dollars in lost income, damaged employability, and future job prospects. Hiring an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer who concentrates his or her practice in this area will likely save big money, pretty much starting right away.

Under-aged drinking (but not driving) - this is not a DUI, but it could cost you your driver's license.

This Chicago DUI Lawyer has a message for all of you parents out there regarding anyone under the age of 21 who gets caught drinking, and what will happen to their driver's license; you may be in for a surprise. Currently, the law in Illinois permits the Secretary of State to suspend the driving privileges of anyone under the age of 21 who is charged with under-aged alcohol consumption or purchase. The minimum suspension is 3 months and the suspension can go up to 1 year. Even if there is no car involved! Your Illinois State legislators are currently considering revising the law so that a first offense would not trigger a suspension. I know it is difficult to understand how these laws pass muster when there is no vehicle involved in the under-aged alcohol offense, whether it is consumption or purchase. The State need only show that the suspension is rationally related to upholding the laws prohibiting under-aged alcohol consumption as well as safety on our public highways. This is certainly disconcerting for all those college campuses that are hosting the wine and cheeses with leading professors and other academics.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I have been busy with DUI trials - I'm back with commentary and analysis of Chicago DUI arrests

In addition to managing current court appearances on behalf of clients including an upcoming trial, I am on deadline to submit an article to the Illinois State Bar Association's Traffic Laws and Courts Committee Newsletter. Not to fear, I will be back to talk about the Chicago Alderman's Defense to DUI and how President Obama's concerns, while he was an Illinois State Senator, over pretextual stops for seatbelts have come true soon.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just Because You Aren't Serving Liquor Doesn't Mean You Aren't Responsible for Someone Else's Drunk Driving

The Illinois Appellate Court recently decided that just because a business did not serve alcohol did not mean they could not be held responsible for the actions of a patron who got drunk and drove.

Just over two years ago last January, John D. Homatas went to a gentlemen's club. In Illinois you cannot have total nudity and serve alcohol. Diamonds Gentlemen's Club does not serve liquor. They sell glasses, ice, tonic, soda water,and other mixers. Mr. Homatas brought his own alcohol to the club. Once workers in the club ascertained that he was drunk -- after two hours of drinking he was discovered vomiting in the bathroom -- he was ejected from the club. The valet who had parked his car gave him his keys, his car, and let him drive off of the premises. Unfortunately, a short time later Mr. Homatas had an accident that caused the death of two adults, including his passenger, and a near-term baby (the mother was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time of the fatal crash). Mr. Homatas was charged with DUI, and found guilty at a jury trial. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Mr. Homatas is also a co-defendant in a wrongful death suit, along with Diamonds Gentlemen's Club, filed by an attorney for the deceased. The Appellate Court believed that although Diamonds did not serve alcohol, (1) they provided mixers, cups, and ice; (2) they knew Homatas was drunk when they kicked him out of the club; (3) they gave him back the keys to his car (which had been parked by the club's employees); (4) they placed him behind the wheel of his car, and (5) ordered him to drive off of their property.

It appears the owners plan to continue to fight this case, and it also looks like they think they are right because they apparently still have a BYOB policy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How to Lose Your Get Out of Jail Card-- For Free

David B. Johnson appeared in the Markham court before Judge Donnelly a couple of weeks ago. He was there for driving on a suspended license for the thirteenth time. Yes, you read that right.

In Illinois it is not uncommon to go to jail for driving with a suspended license after the third time. Driving with a suspended license is a jailable offense; it is in the same class of offense as a DUI, carrying a maximum penalty of 364 days in the county jail and/or fines up to $2,500.

The last words Judge Donnelley said to Mr. Johnson were "Do not drive, and I will see you on February 6, 2009 when you'll begin your 10 day jail sentence for driving while your license was suspended".

But alas, Mr. Johnson's pride and joy awaited him just a few steps away. Upon leaving the Courthouse building, he went straight to the parking lot and wiped down his pride and joy, a 1988 purple Cadillac with its placard stating "Pimp Plaza" proudly displayed. He drove off in his car, and a few blocks away from the courthouse was stopped by the Sheriff and charged with driving while his licences was suspended for the, yes, you guessed it, fourteenth time! He was held on bail by Judge Donnelly for $10,000. According to the Cook County Sheriff's website, he is still in custody. So what was Mr. Johnson thinking? Who knows, because he clearly wants to drive. He has a vintage custom 1988 Cadillac. It is the color reserved for royalty, purple. He is going to drive, and I hope he has a good attorney. It is far better for all of us if he can drive legally. He loves his car and clearly takes care of it.

The Takeaway: Your driving privileges can be suspended for a number of reasons you may not be aware of, including failure to complete and file paperwork about auto accidents, failure to pay parking tickets, tolls, child support , not carrying auto insurance, or even too many moving violations (two within 12 months may be enough to trigger a suspension). If your license is suspended, you need an experienced attorney who can advise you of your rights and place you back, legally, in the driver's seat. If you to continue to break the law by driving to and from the Couthouse for appearances related to your earlier charges of driving while your licence is suspended, you run the risk of being arrested and charged with the same offense again - to face increasingly more serious consequences.