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Opioid Addiction and the Nation’s Drug Problem

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Opioid-based medication has been available to the American public since before the Civil War, but recently, these types of drugs have skyrocketed to the forefront of Americans’ attention. Law enforcement and government officials have gone so far as to declare the opioid abuse a national epidemic, and if arrest rates and overdose numbers are any indication, there are no signs that an end to the problem is in sight.

Morphine was originally used to treat soldiers’ battle wounds, and in 1898, heroin became commercially available . "They are effective pain relievers, and that's what they were being used for. There weren't many other options." Says Kimberly Johnson, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. By the 1920s, health care professionals were becoming increasingly concerned about the addictive properties of opioids and started prescribing them less. Heroin was made illegal in the United States in 1924.

A Pill-Popping Culture

In the 1970s, Percocet and Vicodin became available with a prescription. About two decades later, later when a promotional video touting the “miraculous” pain-erasing powers of OxyContin surfaced, prescriptions for these new opioid wonder drug skyrocketed. Doctors like pain-management specialist Dr. Russell Portenoy published studies explaining that opioids had little ability to create addiction. "What I was trying to do was create a narrative so that the primary care audience would ... feel more comfortable about opioids in a way they hadn't before. In essence, this was education to destigmatize, and because the primary goal was to destigmatize, we often left evidence behind," Dr. Portenoy said. "Clearly if I had an inkling of what I know now then, I wouldn't have spoken in the way that I spoke. It was clearly the wrong thing to do."

A Deadly Trend

In 2015, 56,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose . Evidence suggests that individuals who have either become physically addicted to opioid-based medication or have chronic pain will often turn to heroin when prescription painkillers are no longer available Opioid abuse is not limited by race, age, or gender. In fact, the fastest growing demographic for heroin abuse is the wealthy and women—two groups that few would consider to be high risk.

The reality is that many individuals who use heroin are not doing it for the high normally associated with so-called “street drugs.” Instead, they have a chronic pain condition and need more and more of the drug to feel normal. Studies have shown that those who become addicted to prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin.

Treatment Vs. Punishment

In recent years, heroin arrests have surged in Illinois and across the country, but the focus in many jurisdictions appears be changing. More and more communities are recognizing that harsh punishments do little to deter criminal behavior that is driven by addiction. As a result, local and county court systems have come up with alternatives that are intended to address the root of the problem. Diversionary programs and drug courts can help those arrested on non-violent drug charges manage and overcome their addiction while avoiding lengthy prison sentences. The goal is to stop the cycle of addiction and to get people the help they desperately need.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges stemming from an opioid addiction, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer . Attorney Jack L. Zaremba is a former prosecutor who understands the law and is ready to help you protect your future. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

Navigating the Juvenile Court System in Illinois

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The first juvenile court was established in Cook County in 1899. Since then the juvenile justice system has seen a number of changes to better serve minors who are charged with crimes.

What is the Purpose of the Illinois Juvenile Court System?

When the state of Illinois enacted the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, it attempted to set clear goals for the juvenile justice system to meets the needs of minors who are charged with crimes. At its core, the stated purpose of the act is to:

• Secure the care and guidance to serve the safety and moral, emotional, mental and physical welfare of the minor, preferably in his or her own home.
• Serve the best interests of the community.
• Preserve and strengthen the minor’s family ties, whenever possible.
• Remove the minor from the custody of his or her parents when the safety or welfare of the minor, or protection of the community, cannot be adequately safeguarded.

The statute attempts to clearly define the various circumstances that impact juvenile offenders, while attempting to provide advocates on both sides with the guidelines for best serve the interests of the minor.

When Juveniles Offenders are Tried as Adults

One should understand that in Illinois, as in every other state, there are ways in which a minor could be tried as an adult :

• A juvenile court judge may do so using a “judicial waiver.”
• When jurisdiction of a case is shared by both juvenile and criminal courts (concurrent jurisdiction) transfer may occur by means of a “prosecutorial waiver.”
• State statutes exist that exclude certain offenders from juvenile court. Under these circumstances a “statutory waiver” will be used to enact the transfer.

However, new laws enacted in 2016 included provisions to keep juveniles out of the criminal courts. These include:

• Those younger than 16 will begin in juvenile court regardless of the charge.
• Only three charges result in automatic trial as an adult for minors 16 and older: first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm.
• Minors previously convicted as adults are no longer automatically transferred to adult court.

An Experienced Joliet Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Will Protect Your Family

Should your family face with the prospect of navigating the Juvenile Criminal Justice System it is important to have a knowledgeable and experienced Will County juvenile criminal defense lawyer Will County juvenile criminal defense lawyer advocating for your son or daughter. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will work to help minimize the stress of the situation, while presenting a vigorous defense on behalf of your child throughout the proceedings.

Repeat Gun Crime Offenders Face New Sentencing Guidelines in Illinois

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It is no secret that the incidence of weapons violations in Chicago is high. Just last summer, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that more than 5,500 illegal guns were seized from January to September of 2016. The data reveals that law enforcement authorities are seizing more illegal guns in Chicago than anywhere else in the U.S.

Addressing this concern, last month Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law what is touted as new, tougher sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders .

Among those leading the push for stricter sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders were Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Johnson even spoke before the Senate’s Criminal Law Committee to encourage the changes, as Chicago experiences an era of record-setting gun violence and homicides. Both the Mayor and Police Superintendent advocated for the new, stricter sentencing guidelines to help police and prosecutors keep illegal guns and those who use them off the streets of the city. They see the move as one toward holding accountable for their actions those convicted of repeat gun crimes.

Contents of the New Law

Currently, defendants found guilty of repeat gun crimes could face a sentence that is much less punitive. Judges have the flexibility to incarcerate a guilty party from three to 14 years, under current sentencing guidelines. The new law is effective January 2018 and consists of the following guidelines:

• Judges will have the option of handing out sentences of seven to 14 years for those found guilty of a repeat gun offense.
• Any judge who wishes to depart from the new sentencing guidelines and hand down a lesser sentence must explain in writing why they are choosing to do so.

Opponents of the change believe these new sentencing guidelines will result in the incarceration of minorities at a disproportionate rate, without truly addressing the issue of street crime.

Retain the Services of a Respected Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

In the event you are charged with a gun-related offense, whether it is your first offense or fifth, it is important to have an experienced and aggressive Will County weapons defense attorney at your side to ensure you receive fair treatment under the law. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba will work on your behalf to ensure all the facts are presented for a fair and equitable court experience.

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