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Heroin Epidemic Continues to Plague Illinois

Joliet heroin attorneyAccording to the most recent numbers from the federal government, fatal drug overdoses hit an all-time high in 2014, claiming the lives of more than 47,000 Americans. The number is even more staggering when you consider how much time, energy, and money has been spent on awareness campaigns and addiction treatment over the last several decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to release the numbers for 2015, but few are expecting a significant decrease, meaning that tens of thousands more died due to drug overdose last year. As Illinois continues to compile its statistics for 2015, there is growing concern over the resurgence of serious heroin problem, much of it centered around the greater Chicago area.

Provisional Numbers

In 2014, there were approximately 1,700 drug overdose deaths reported in the state of Illinois. Of that number, about 42 percent, or 711, were related to heroin. Reports released earlier this month place the number of heroin-related overdose fatalities in the state at 692, with many investigations still ongoing and causes of death still to be determined. This seems to be in keeping with a terrible nationwide trend which has seen deaths related to heroin use triple in just the last four years. Government officials cite the drug’s increased availability and relative affordability as the primary factors contributing to the marked uptick in its use and abuse.

Localized Concerns

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that nearly half of all deaths involving heroin use in Illinois are occurring in a single county. In 2014, there were 321 heroin-related fatalities in Cook County alone, and thus far, another 283 have already been reported for 2015. The problem extends into the Chicago suburbs as well, with Will County reporting more 56 deaths in 2015, up from 37 in 2014.

There is also a great deal of trepidation over the impact that the ongoing state budget impasse will have in 2016. Many outreach programs and addiction support resources have been forced to reduce services or shut down altogether due to a lack of state funding. This is leading many to believe that the lack of available programs could lead to even larger numbers of fatalities this year.

Heroin-Related Legal Problems?

In addition to the physical dangers that the drug presents, heroin possession is also an extremely serious criminal allegation. A conviction could follow you for the rest of your life and severely limit your future opportunities. If you have been charged any type of heroin-related offense, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney right away. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Judge Rules Chicago Traffic Camera Tickets Violate Due Process

Red Light Traffic TicketsAs more and more communities around the country continue to install cameras at intersections and other areas of traffic concern, a Cook County judge has found major problems with the program in Chicago. The city is now facing the possibility of being forced to refund millions of dollars collected in fines from motorists who were ticketed as a result of being caught on camera.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed almost a year ago by three named plaintiffs, alleging that the city violated its own municipal codes in the process of ticketing and collecting fines related to red-light and speed-cameras. By violating the city code, Judge Kathleen Kennedy ruled, ticketed motorists were denied due process and the proper ability to contest their issued citations.

No Second Notice

When a vehicle is caught breaking the law by a red-light camera or speed camera, the city is supposed to send a Notice of Violation to the registered owner of the vehicle. According to Chicago city code, if the owner fails to respond, a second notice is to be sent to the vehicle owner prior to the determination of liability—which is essentially a default judgment of guilt. The lawsuit against the city, however, indicates that second notices are not being sent to motorists and the liability determinations are being made too quickly. Attorneys for the claimants maintain that the second notice is a necessary step in the process to ensure a suspected violator’s right to contest the citation prior to being found financially liable. The suit further claims that late fees are being applied to fines inappropriately, failing to adhere to the timeframes and grace periods provided in the law.

Rejected Motion to Dismiss

While there has been no final verdict in the lawsuit yet, last week’s ruling was issued by Judge Kennedy in regard to the city’s motion to dismiss the case. She rejected the motion, harshly indicating that she believes that Chicago is consistently violating “fundamental principles of justice, equity, and good conscience” in its handling of camera-related violations. In addition, she declared all such tickets to be void, as the lawsuit continues. Her choice of such strong words has led many to believe that the already-financially struggling city will, most likely, be required to refund the fines and fees paid by thousands of motorists.

If you have received a Notice of Violation related to a speed-camera or red-light camera, you may be unsure of what to do next, especially in light of last week’s ruling. For more information, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we understand the law and we will work hard to protect your rights every step of the way. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Former Prosecutor Disbarred for Innocent Man on Death Row

Former ProsecutorTo many people, and especially those working toward the abolition of the death penalty in the United States, the application of capital punishment in the state of Texas represents a cause for serious concern. While proponents of the death penalty continue to point to the alleged deterrent factor, the danger of condemning the wrong person is one that is certainly very real. This week, a disciplinary committee upheld the disbarment of former prosecutor over actions that led to an innocent man spending more than a decade waiting to die for a crime he did not commit.

The criminal defendant at the center of the case was convicted and sent to death row for the deaths of six people in 1992. His conviction was overturned in 2006, but it took an additional four years to secure his release from prison, when a special prosecutor finally took a closer look at his case, declaring him to be innocent and deserving of freedom.

According to court documents, the prosecutor in the original trial not only withheld evidence that may have exonerated the defendant, but allowed—and even encouraged—witnesses to provide demonstrably false testimony. The prosecutor left his post as a county district attorney in 2000, and the State Bar revoked his law license last summer following an extensive investigation. The Board of Disciplinary Appeals recently upheld the disbarment, effectively ending the former prosecutor’s career.

Wrongful Convictions

In 2011, Illinois became the 15th to completely abolish capital punishment. Eliminating the death penalty, of course, does not end the possibility of wrongfully convicting a defendant. In fact, some would argue that the increased scrutiny inherent to capital cases makes wrongful convictions statistically more likely for less serious crimes.

No matter what the charge may be, there is nothing minor about a false accusation or a wrongful conviction. The penalties for any crime are extremely serious, obviously, but are all the worse if the defendant did not actually commit the offense for which he or she is being punished. That is why it is so important to enlist the assistance of a defense attorney who understands the law and how to protect your rights.

If you have been falsely accused of any type of criminal activity, there is no time to lose. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer right away. Attorney Jack L. Zaremba is a former prosecutor who understands the tactics and techniques that district attorneys and others will use to secure a conviction. He is ready to put that knowledge and skill to work on your behalf. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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