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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ANOTHER BIG MORTGAGE BANK ADMITS WRONGDOING DISTRESSED MORTGAGE HOLDERS TO BENEFIT THIS COULD MEAN YOU!

Citigroup has agreed to pay $7 billion dollars to acquire a settlement offered by the U.S. Attorney General. One of the nation’s biggest mortgage banks, Citigroup, like JP Morgan before them, has agreed to pay this settlement because of selling securities backed by unstable mortgages. The buyers of the securities suffered mammoth financial losses when the value of the securities dropped as the mortgages that backed them failed. Among those losers in Illinois were several of our largest retirement systems.

Illinois is to receive $84 billion, which is divided into $44 million for the pension funds and $40 million for consumers. That $40 million is available for refinancing of mortgages that are past due. Such refinancing should permit many Illinoisans to reduce their home mortgage interest rates. Because so many families had their mortgages foreclosed, the settlement includes money to build rental units in larger cities so displaced families have somewhere to go.

Details of the disbursement of the settlement will be available through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. If you have a Citigroup mortgage, ask them about options available for you through the settlement.

No Citigroup executives have yet been found criminally liable for their roles in the 2008 financial disaster that touched nearly the entire world. Portions of the $7 billion settlement will be tax deductible for Citigroup. After the settlement, stock shares for Citigroup went up 3 percent as investors regained their confidence in the company in light of the certainty of the amount owed through the finalized agreement.

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SHOULD I TAKE THE BREATH TEST AFTER AN ILLINOIS DUI STOP?

I have written two books primarily directed toward answering this question. There is no easy answer. The correct answer for one driver will not be the correct answer for the next driver. There is a multitude of issues that must be considered before making the proper decision in such a matter – and those issues usually only become evident in hindsight.

To begin with I will describe what happens when you are arrested for DIU. To be arrested there must first be a reasonable suspicion that you are violating a law. This suspension is usually speeding, or weaving (either in your lane or out of your lane). You may already have been recorded by a dashboard camera before the stop, so many times, the allegations of reasonable suspicion might be recorded, and not subject only to the testimony or memory of you and the officer.

After turning on his colored lights, the officer will direct you to the side of the road, all the time, he will be making either DVD recordings, or mental notes of your decision where to park your car – drive too far, choose an inappropriate location, or drive erratically and the officer will have more evidence to use against you.

All DIU arrest encounters begin the same way: “May I see your driver’s license and proof of insurance please?” the polite officer will ask.

HAVE YOUR LICENSE AND INSURANCE READY BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE PLACE WHERE YOU WERE DRINKING!!!

If you are scrambling around under the seat, or in the glove box as the officer walks up to you, you may give him the reason to believe that you are reaching for a gun, and he will greet you with one. If you have been drinking, the officer will smell alcohol coming from car, and will nonchalantly ask if you have had anything to drink tonight. You are under no obligation to answer this question, but whether you answer or not, your reply may later be presented to a judge or jury at your trial. If you have been drinking, answer honestly, but don’t tell the officer how much you have had to drink. When he asks, ask him if you are being arrested for DUI. If he says no, and you tell him you had one drink, you may not be arrested. If he says yes, it is not to your advantage to offer any evidence that can be used against you.

He’s going to offer to let you go if you convince him you are not under the influence of alcohol – but wait a minute! It is his job to prove that you ARE guilty if arrested. It’s not your job to prove your innocence. He will tell you that if you don’t cooperate you will but put under arrest, will have to post bail, and you will have your car towed – all of which will cost you from $500 to $1,000 depending on where you are arrested, even if you are later proven not guilty.

OK, here’s the solution to this scenario. If you have never been arrested for DUI before, if you have never had a statutory summary suspension before, if you are certain you have a blood level that is below .08, if you have witnesses who will testify how much you have had to drink, if you have no legal or illegal drugs in your system that could effect your ability to drive, if you know you can pass the field sobriety tests, if your driving has not suggested that you are drunk, and if you have a witness in the car with you who will testify as to what happens at the scene of the traffic stop – cooperate with the officer and demonstrate your innocence.

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G I V E B L O O D ! ! !

Think of that feeling you get when you are at a MLB game, or a local high school football game. It is good to be in a crowd with others who share your feelings. After all, like dogs, we are pack animals. Some of us get this feeling in church, family reunions, or simply spending time away from our jobs with the people we work beside all week. Remember the television show, “Cheers?” We all wanted to go where everyone knows our name, and have the crowd shout, “Norm,” or our name as we entered.

I have found such a place, and I am highly motivated to go there regularly. I found it years ago when I was unemployed, living on unemployment compensation, and feeling like I was not a contributing member of society. I found a place where I was always welcome, where I was around people like myself who shared the same values, and a place where I knew I was doing good for society – at a Red Cross blood drive.

It is hard to conceive of a room full of people who sacrifice for one reason; people who get nothing from that sacrifice, and who do it to help someone they will never meet. A room full of strangers who will probably never become acquainted with each other, but they all know that they share an unselfish, virtually anonymous, motivation to do the right thing, at least once.

Give it a try. We all have had inoculations in our lives. The needle stick is a small price to pay for the good you will do for children suffering from leukemia, victims of accidents, and those people enduring life threatening surgeries.

You arrive at the site, read a few pages that tell you about the process. Meet privately with a Red Cross volunteer, your iron level is checked and your blood pressure is measured (once mine was too high, so we waited a few minutes, tried again, and it was fine), they take your temperature, you answer some questions on a laptop computer, you lie down, feel a poke, ten minutes later you get cranberry juice, and crackers, while you small talk with persons who like you, try to hide their nervousness at doing something so unusual.

But it is all worth it for the people who get your blood – and for you! You will go home that day, knowing that for a little while you did something right, not for you but for that unseen stranger who needs you. You will have been given one of life’s few opportunities to participate in good for good’s sake, in the presence of a room full of other people who share your compassion. It is one of those great times in life when you will know and feel that it is better to give than to receive.

You can have your questions about donating blood answered at their website, http://www.redcross.org/blood, or by calling 314-516-2800.

Please try at least once.

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TO BLOW OR NOT TO BLOW ILLINOIS DUI SUSPENSION LAW

I recently represented a client charged with DUI who was found not guilty, but his driver’s license was suspended for three years, and he has no right to a hardship license during those three years. He had only two beers before his arrest, but because the officer had the right to stop him, and because the driver refused the breath test, he will pay the price for years to come. It is a good idea to understand Illinois Statutory Summary Suspension law, in case you ever get stopped for DUI.

The law states that if you have had no DUI nor Statutory Summary Suspension on your record in the last five years, that you are a “first offender” for suspension purposes. As a first offender, if you take the breath test and score .08 or greater, your license will be suspended for six months. If you refuse the test as a first offender, your suspension will be for one year.

The portable breathalyzer that is handed to you by the officer does not count. It is the breathalyzer score on the machine at the police station, or if arrested by the State Police, the breathalyzer in the police car, that can be used to suspend you.

If you have had a DUI, or a Statutory Summary Suspension in the last five years – you are not a first offender, and different rules apply to you. Non-first offenders who fail a breath test, are suspended for a full year. If they refuse the breath test, they are suspended for three years.

First offenders have the right to have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed in their cars. You may have to spend $500, but after the first 30 days of a suspension, you can drive anytime, anywhere with the BAIID, as long as you haven’t been drinking.

If convicted of a DUI, your suspension is overridden by a revocation. When suspended, you get your license back after the period of suspension – when revoked, there is no guarantee you will ever get your license back, and to do so, you have to attend a hearing at the Office of the Secretary of State.

If your score on the breathalyzer is too high, you can expect a more harsh sentence for your DUI, and you will be required to complete more hours of alcohol treatment unless you are found not guilty of the offense.

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ILLINOIS DRIVER FRIENDLY DUI LAW?

In 1991 I wrote my first book meant to help drivers understand DUI law. I stated that the pendulum had started to swing in the direction of driver friendly laws, based on the assumption that the laws had become so strict that they were due to ease to some degree. My conclusion was wrong. Since then, the blood alcohol level at which one is presumed under the influence has been reduced in nearly every state, and new laws with mandatory minimum sentencing rules, make DUI, and driving after DUI, subject to more punishment than ever.

Until recently, I have never seen a law that makes life easier for those subject to DUI arrest or sentencing. At the present time, House Bill 4206, which is meant to restore eligibility to drivers with multiple DUI’s to have their driver’s licenses reinstated, is being considered by the General Assembly. Last year a similar bill was defeated. This one was introduced in January 2014. It is still in committee, and stands a good chance of being submitted to legislators.

I know what you’re thinking – “anyone with repeated DUI’s should be kept off the roadways!” But both Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, support this law. At the present time, if you have four DUI convictions, you will never be able to get a driver’s license in Illinois. Even if the four convictions were thirty years ago, and you have been sober since the last one – no driver’s license ever! The concept of paying your debt to society is meaningless in the realm of repeat DUI offenders, and is similar only to the punishment that sex offenders receive – a scarlet letter that stays with them forever.

The new law would allow repeat offenders to apply for a restricted permit to drive, five years after their release from jail on their last offense, if they have been sober for three years, and have completed the necessary alcohol treatment. Those drivers whose DUIs resulted in a death are not eligible for reinstatement. If a permit is granted, the driver would only be allowed to drive his or her personal vehicle if equipped with a machine that would not let the car start if there is alcohol on the driver’s breath, and the device would have a video camera to confirm that it is the permit holder who blows into it.

At the present time there are about 5,000 people in Illinois who could benefit by this bill. It is a practical recognition that many of these people continue driving illegally for good reasons like: to work to support their families, to buy food, to look for work, or to get medical treatment; and for bad reasons like to buy more alcohol. The bill gives those people who have paid their debt to society, and who can prove to the Secretary of State, that they have conquered their alcohol problem, an incentive to remain sober so they can drive legally.

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Illinois No Fault Divorce

Don’t think in a few words that I can explain to you how to acquire a “no-fault” divorce — but I can convey to you the essence of the concept.

In a traditional divorce there are ten grounds that can be alleged: physical and mental cruelty, adultery, etc. In such a divorce, there must be a bad spouse and a good spouse, or even two bad spouses. In a no-fault divorce, there can be no bad guys, just a failed marriage.

The law requires that in order to allege no-fault as grounds, the couple must have lived separate and apart for a period of two years. Or, if both parties so choose, they can waive that two year period, and instead inform the court that they have lived separate and apart for six months. The actual meaning of living separate and apart is left to the judge to determine.

Case law has provided the following possible elements of living separate and apart. Such an interpretation of the meaning of separate and apart can permit even a couple residing in the same place, to allege living separate and apart. At least one appellate court interpreted separate and apart as meaning that the couple must live separate lives, even if they live under the same roof. The judge can use a combination of some or all of these if he so chooses, the couple: no longer sleeping together, living in separate bedrooms, doing their own laundry, having ceased marital relations, eating meals at different times, taking separate vacations, avoiding conversation or communication, providing no contributions to household expenses, or other indications that the relationship has ceased.

A divorce is something that if done incorrectly, can haunt you for nearly the rest of your life. Especially if there is property to be divided, or if there are children, you will probably never benefit by the advice of a lawyer greater than during a divorce.

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Illinois COMMERCIAL PROPERTY AND SIDEWALK SNOW REMOVAL

If you read my last article, you will remember I made reference to the “Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act.” It is important to understand that the law applies only to residential property. The legal obligations for businesses are very different.

Most businesses are within a city, so make certain you know the local municipal ordinances regarding your obligations as a merchant in your city.

The next principle that applies is the same as for residential property. If you disturb the natural accumulation of snow, and doing so creates a more dangerous situation than if you had not disturbed the snow (the natural accumulation rule), the business owner can be found liable for injuries from slipping on the ice. This is usually the situation where snow is piled on a parking lot, melts during the day, and then creates slippery ice the next morning. So should you just leave the snow where it is? NO!!!

An Illinois court explained the rule clearly when it said that the operator of a business has a duty to provide a safe means of entering and leaving the property. The court went on to say that business owners are not excused from the obligation to keep their property safe by the “natural accumulation” rule that protects residential property owners from liability.

If you own a business, you are inviting customers to your property. You have a legal obligation to keep those invitees safe from dangers inside and outside your structure. The same principle applies to wet slippery floors, falling ice cycles, icy steps or parking lots, and snow covered walks.

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SHOULD I REMOVE SNOW FROM MY SIDEWALK – Or HOW LAW CAN SOMETIMES PROVIDE EXCUSES TO DO THE WRONG THING.

We’ve probably all heard that if you shovel your sidewalk after a snow, that you can be found liable if someone slips, so it is better to just leave the snow and ice as it is.

Let’s deal with residential property in this article, as opposed to commercial property. Believe it or not, there is a 1986 law called, “The Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act.” The law states that it should be public policy that any property owners or residents removing snow or ice from sidewalks abutting their residences should not be found liable for damages because of that removal. This law covers you, your landlord, your roommate, and the kid you hire to shovel the snow.

There a few minor exceptions to this rule. If you commit “misconduct” due to “acts or omissions” and that misconduct was “willful or wanton” you can be found liable if someone falls on the sidewalk. And pay particular attention to the word “sidewalk” in the name of the act. At least one court has interpreted the act not applicable to driveways – but it does apply to your porch. In other words, you do not have the protection of the snow removal act in your driveway, but you are protected on your sidewalks and porch.

If someone is injured on your property, they will probably try to collect from your homeowner’s insurance company, whether you shoveled the snow or not. Just be sure you don’t make things worse by shoveling. If you leave piles of snow above the sidewalk, that snow will melt during the day, and water will collect on the sidewalk. In the morning there will be ice – ice that is there only because of your shoveling. So think of the consequences of clearing sidewalks. Be sure melting snow leaves no ice where a person can slip.

And if you live in town, check with the city hall to see if your community has a snow removal ordinance. Ask for a copy of it, or have someone explain to you.

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CELL PHONE MUMBERS ARE NOT BEING RELEASED TO TELEMARKETERS

There is an email being circulated that has reached viral status, claiming that soon a cell phone, phone book will be printed, and that phone book will make everyone’s cellphone numbers available to telemarketers. The concern is that telemarketers will call cell phones and either we will answer and be charged for the phone time by our cellular provider, or the telemarketer will leave a message on our phones and when we retrieve the message we’ll be charged.

It is illegal for telemarketers to use auto-dialers to call wireless phone numbers. An auto-dialer lets the telemarketer spend time only talking on the phone, while a computer program makes the calls, and puts the caller on hold until the salesman is ready to talk. Very few, if any, aggressive telemarketers can do their jobs without auto-dialers.

Although I cannot confirm its legitimacy, there is a website that offers to give you the name of the owner of a cell phone number if you connect to the site, and pay a 99 cent fee. The website is “Intelius” – but please remember that I do not know if it works. I entered my cell phone number, and it correctly identified Southern Illinois as the origin of my number, and required me to pay to get the name of the person with the listing. Telemarketers probably won’t be interested in paying a dollar to get cell phone numbers.

The viral email referred to, states that in order to avoid having your cell phone number available to telemarketers, you have only a few days to register your cell phone with the Federal Do Not Call List. That warning is false. You can register anytime you wish by logging on to www.donotcall.gov, or calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register.

And one other website that I can recommend is www.snopes.com. Anytime you receive an email that you are not sure about, and would like to find out whether it is legitimate, log onto Snopes and you should get a clear, reliable, unbiased analysis of the accuracy of the email. I offer thanks to Snopes for making much of the information in this article available.

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