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Traffic Stops and Reasonable Mistakes of Law

Joliet traffic lawyer

Police are tasked with enforcing the law, but this can lead to problems when the police themselves do not understand it. For instance, police are not allowed to initiate a traffic stop for no good reason because a baseless stop violates the driver’s Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. Instead, police must have a reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to stop a car. This leaves open the question of what to do when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a crime because the officer misunderstands the law. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling determined that, in most such situations, a stop conducted as the result of an officer’s misunderstanding of the law is considered acceptable.

Traffic Stop Takes an Unexpected Turn

The case arose from a traffic stop that began as fairly routine. The police officer in question initiated the stop on the basis of the subject vehicle’s broken taillight—a condition that the officer believed was in violation of state law in North Carolina. During the stop, the officer asked for and received permission to search the vehicle. The search yielded a bag of cocaine, and the car’s owner was arrested.

At trial, the owner sought to have the evidence regarding the drugs suppressed, maintaining that the stop was illegal from the beginning. He argued that his car still had one working taillight which complied with the state law’s requirement that all vehicles must be “equipped with a stop lamp.” The trial court disagreed with the defendant’s claims and allowed the evidence. The owner subsequently pleaded guilty to drug charges, pending his appeal of the motion to suppress. Appeals continued until the case landed before the United States Supreme Court.

Reasonable Mistakes of Law

The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided that traffic stops based on reasonable mistakes of law do not violate a driver's Fourth Amendment rights. The idea behind this is that the law expects police to act reasonably, but it does not expect them to be perfect. Prior Supreme Court cases had already allowed police officers to stop people based on reasonable mistakes of fact, for example believing that both of the car's taillights were out. In this case, the Justices merely chose to extend that same leeway to mistakes of law. The Court noted, however, that this does not allow the police to abuse their discretion and that “the limit is that ‘the mistakes must be those of reasonable men.”

Questionable Circumstances?

The legal limits of police authority and drivers’ rights are always changing, so it is important to have an attorney on your side who understands the legal landscape. If you are facing criminal charges that arose from a questionable traffic stop, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

New Law Increases Eligibility for Expungement

Joliet expungement seal lawyer

When you are arrested and charged with a crime, your arrest will remain on your permanent record, even if the charges against you are dismissed. Criminal background checks are often part of the application process when you are looking for a job, a loan, or even admission to certain educational programs. If you have even just one arrest in your history, you may be forced to answer some uncomfortable and often embarrassing questions from hiring managers, lenders, and admissions officers. Depending on how your case played out, however, you may be eligible to have your arrest record expunged . Thanks to a new law in Illinois , more individuals could qualify for expungement going forward helping those who have made mistakes build a better future.

Understanding Expungement

As intimidating as the word “expungement” may sound, its meaning is very positive. Expungement is the complete destruction of all records related to a particular arrest and prosecution. When an arrest record is expunged, it is no longer visible on background checks, and you will no longer be required to disclose you were ever arrested for that charge. It is almost as though the arrest never happened.

Strict Limits for Expungement Eligibility

Eligibility for expungement in Illinois is based on a two-pronged approach. The first element deals with the arrest itself. The law provides that expungement may be available for an arrest that did not result in a guilty verdict or a guilty plea with a penalty other than court supervision. Certain offenses cannot be expunged even if court supervision is imposed, including sexual offenses involving a victim under age 18, driving under the influence, and reckless driving by a driver age 25 or over.

The second element involves whether a particular individual qualifies for expungement. Prior to the new guidelines taking effect on Jan 1, 2017, the law prohibited a person from applying for expungement of an arrest if he or she has ever been convicted of a criminal offense not including the arrest in question. This means that if you were convicted of a shoplifting misdemeanor many years ago, for example, and you wanted to get a more recent arrest expunged from your record, you would not have be eligible to apply under the old law.

New Changes to the Law

Beginning this year, those with prior convictions will be allowed to apply for expungement of an otherwise eligible arrest. The expungement will not remove the conviction from the individual’s record, and the ability to apply does not guarantee that the expungement will be approved. The new law simply makes expungement potentially available to thousands of individuals who have long since paid for their past mistakes. Lawmakers are hopeful that by opening the process to more people, those with prior convictions will be able to move forward more easily and avoid missed opportunities in the future.

We Can Help

If you have recently finished a court supervision program or had charges against you dismissed and would like to learn more about getting the offense expunged from your record, contact an experienced Will County expungement lawyer . Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today. We will help you understand the applicable laws and will work with you in completing the expungement process as quickly as possible.

Legal Marijuana Could Help Fight Heroin Epidemic

Joliet marijuana heroin lawyer

Over the last decade and a half, heroin use has become an issue of critical concern for communities around the country. The problem has become so serious and prevalent that it is being considered a nationwide epidemic. The federal government estimates that, on average, more than 75 people die every day from opioid overdoses—a class of drug that includes heroin as well as legally prescribed painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin.

The nature of heroin addiction makes deterrent and punitive efforts by law enforcement agencies difficult at best. A new study, however, suggests that the battle against heroin and opioid abuse may be shifting in some states—and for a surprising reason. It seems that the incremental legalization of marijuana may be decreasing heroin abuse and overdoses in states where medical marijuana programs have been implemented.

Promising Numbers

According to Yuyan Shi , a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, “Medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers.” Shi compiled data from states which have legalized marijuana for medical use and found those that did saw hospitalizations for opioid use and abuse drop by about 23 percent. Hospitalizations for opioid overdoses dropped by an average of 13 percent. The research also indicated that there was no increase in marijuana-related hospitalizations, as critics of medical cannabis programs had feared might happen.

Possible Links

While Shi’s research did not examine the reasons behind the potential link between medical marijuana and reduced opioid use, there are a number of factors to consider. Perhaps most glaringly, many people who abuse or are addicted to opioids start with legally-available painkillers. Some have prescriptions from their own doctors while others get Oxycontin or Percocet from friends with legal prescriptions. Opioids are dangerously addictive and when a person’s legal supply runs out—or friends are no longer willing to share illegally—many turn to heroin as a desperate substitute.

Legalized medical marijuana provides an alternative at several stages of the use-abuse cycle. First, many patients who are prescribed medical cannabis for painful chronic conditions may never even need the more dangerous opioid painkillers, thus eliminating the possibility of addiction. In addition, those who have been prescribed opioids could transition to medical marijuana—managed by a physician—instead of falling into the trap of heroin use.

Illinois Drug Policies

In the state of Illinois, simple possession of heroin is a felony. The laws are more lenient regarding marijuana, as the state implemented its medical marijuana program in 2014. A measure that was passed last year also eliminated criminal prosecution for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana for those who are not registered with the medical-use program. Possession of marijuana above that amount, however, could still lead to criminal charges and serious penalties.
If you or someone you know is facing charges related to heroin, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney right away. We will assist you in exploring your options under the law and will work you with every step of the way. There may be programs available that could allow you to avoid a conviction while getting the help you need. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

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