Archive for October, 2014

CAN I RECORD PHONE CONVERSATIONS?

Many of us will remember the days when we could not record a phone conversation without informing the person being recorded, that we were recording them, and we were required to periodically remind the speaker that the recording continued. Some answering machines were sold with a “record” button that repeated a “beep” every few seconds to act as a reminder that the conversation was being recorded.

The State of Illinois, and many other states had such a law. Illinois had that law until March of 2014 when the Illinois Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. The Court found that where there was no legitimate privacy interest in a spoken word (such as in a phone conversation), that to criminalize recording that speech – was unconstitutional, as was the law criminalizing it. So, yes, according to that Illinois Supreme Court decision, you have the right to record a phone conversation you are having with someone without telling that person, and do so without being in jeopardy of violating Illinois criminal law.

That Illinois Supreme Court decision has decriminalized a party to a phone call, recording that phone conversation in this state – but be careful! There may be other laws that make such a recording dangerous: such as the law in the state where the subject being recorded is speaking. Federal law will still be subject to the “one-party” consent rule, meaning that wiretapping of private conversations is illegal. Secret recordings (where only one party is aware of the recording) may not be criminally illegal, but they might serve as the basis of a civil suit for invasion of privacy.

And in an area similar to this subject, it still remains illegal to videotape someone where they have an expectation of privacy, such as in tanning rooms, motel rooms, changing rooms, or locker rooms.

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VOTE EARLY, NO NEED TO WAIT

In Illinois, we have early voting. You can cast your ballot before election day. Just visit the office of the your County Clerk. In Williamson County the Circuit Clerk office is in the new Administrative Building beside the Courthouse at 407 N. Monroe St, in Marion.

Are you sure you registered to vote after the last time you changed your residence? If you’re not sure, you can check at www.elections.il.gov by clicking “Am I Registered to Vote in Illinois, or calling your local County Clerk (998-2112 in Williamson County).

This year early voting begins on October 20. The Clerk’s office is open weekdays from 8:00 until 4:00 – you can vote anytime between those hours. On Saturday October 18th, Saturday October 25th and Saturday November 1st. In Williamson County you can vote at the Clerk’s office from 8:00 a.m. until noon on those Saturdays. Early voting ends on Saturday November 1 at noon. For other counties, call your clerk to see if voting on Saturday is an option.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can still do so at your County Clerk’s Office October 8 through November 4. You can even register and still vote on election day.

To vote, in Williamson County, just enter the new County Government annex at its south entrance. You will be required to walk through a metal detector (so leave pocket knives, or nail clippers in your car).

Early voters must present something with their signature: such as a driver’s license, state ID, or voter’s registration card.

You will be given the same ballot you would get had you voted in your regular polling place.

Any registered voter who meets the above qualifications may vote early for any reason, or no reason at all.

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ABSENTEE VOTING IN ILLINOIS

So you don’t like waiting in line at a polling place, or you just prefer to keep it your own personal business whether you vote or not – can you vote absentee? YES!

In Illinois, if you are a qualified, registered voter, you can request an absentee ballot beginning 90 days before an election. The next scheduled election is on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the past we were required to swear that we were going to be unavailable on election day before we could get an absentee ballot, but no more. Any reason is fine. The clerk will not even ask you for a reason.

Absentee ballot requests can be processed 90 days before an election, but the actual absentee ballot cannot be mailed to the voter until 40 days before the election, so this year no absentee ballots will be mailed to voters until September 25.

You can either visit your local County Clerk’s Office and request your ballot application, or give the clerk a call and ask that an absentee ballot application be mailed to you, or visit the Clerk’s website (in Williamson County, at WilliamsonCountyIL.gov) and print your own application. Complete the application and return it to your County Clerk.

After the request is processed, the ballot is mailed to the voter’s home. To be counted in the election, the absentee ballot must be accurately completed and post-marked by midnight the day before the election and must be received by the election authority within 14 days after election day to be counted, or if you prefer you can hand deliver your absentee ballot to the County Clerk. For general elections, the election authority is your County Clerk.

If you present the absentee ballot at your polling place on election day, it can be voided so you can vote a normal ballot. You have until 7:00 p.m. to personally hand deliver an absentee ballot to the Office of your County Clerk on election day if you so choose.

You must make a separate application for an absentee ballot for each election you choose to vote absentee – there is no such thing as permanent absentee voting.

Even absentee voting is still a secret endeavor. You are not allowed to give the ballot to someone else to fill out for you. When you vote absentee you will be required to sign an affidavit stating that the information on your request is valid, and that you have done the voting. Voter fraud is a criminal offense.

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Illinois Sign and Drive Law

The media has been impressed with the new Illinois law known as “Sign and Drive.” The law is touted as beneficial because it allows you to just sign your name instead of surrendering your driver’s license after a traffic citation in this state.

Obviously, the vast majority of tickets written by Illinois law enforcement officers are speeding tickets. The average speeding ticket requires you to post cash bond at the time you are ticketed, or to give up your license to the law officer.

Years ago I learned that after the officer takes your license, it is sent to the local municipality, or usually to the local courthouse. The ticket and the license are stapled together, and a file is created to keep the documents accessible. The next time you are stopped for a moving violation, the officer will see those tiny holes in your license and know that you have been ticketed since your license was renewed. At that point, if he hasn’t already, the officer will run a check to see if you have any warrants, and can determine if you have committed traffic violations in the past. Many people believe that those holes in the license have resulted in people who maybe otherwise would not have been ticketed, to be the loser in situations where the officer might use his discretion and let you leave without a ticket.

Few people realize that even if you surrender your license after a traffic violation, you can reacquire the license by visiting the circuit clerk who holds the license, if you post a cash bond.

So back to the original question: just what does this new law mean? If you commit a petty offense while driving (tail light out, speeding just a little) the officer will let you keep your license – which as the statute intends, will let you use it for identification purposes. In the past we had to use a carbon copy of the ticket as an identification, and few of those copies were legible.

If you miss your court date, your license will be suspended. If you go to trial and are found not guilty, if your charges are dismissed, or if you pay your fine timely, you keep your license (and it will have no holes from being stapled).

If you commit a serious traffic offense (DWLS, speeding too far over the limit, DUI, etc) you will still be required to surrender your license to the police officer. This new law only applies to petty offenses, which means those for which you cannot go to jail.

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