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Senate Passes Bill to Prohibit Suing Inmates for Incarceration Costs

Joliet Marijuana LawyerAs it currently stands, more than 40 states are authorized to charge prison inmates for the costs related to their incarceration. In Illinois, the process generally involves a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s office on behalf of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) against a current or former prisoner who inherited or otherwise collected a sum of money during his or her incarceration. Last week, however, Illinois lawmakers took a major step toward eliminating the practice, as a bill that would prohibit such lawsuits passed the Senate by a 32-19 vote. Supporters of the legislation say that suing inmates to recover incarceration expenses can severely curtail their attempts to get back on their feet and avoid returning to criminal activity.

Exposure Leads to Action

In late November of last year, the Chicago Tribune published the story of a man who had been convicted on drug charges and was serving a 15-month prison sentence. During his incarceration, the man collected more than $30,000 in a settlement related to the wrongful death of his mother—money that he planned to use to build a new life on the outside. Before he could be released, though, the IDOC successfully sued the man for almost $20,000 to cover the costs of his imprisonment. When he was finally paroled, he left prison with virtually nothing, lived in a homeless shelter for a time, then with a family member, and, eventually, he died penniless.

The story struck a chord with two Illinois legislators, in particular. State Senator Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Representative Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, say that the report prompted them to draft legislation that would eliminate such lawsuits in the state. Biss and Cassidy believe that the practice is inconsistent with the corrections system’s goals of rehabilitating criminal offenders. “Your hope is they will wind up on their feet,” Sen. Biss said. “Taking what, in many cases, is limited resources is counterproductive.

Time to Act

The state of Illinois has been permitted to sue inmates for incarceration costs since 1982, though such lawsuits were rare until recent years. According to reports, the IDOC only pursued two cases each in 2012 and 2013, but the number jumped to 11 such suits in 2015. Since 2010, Illinois has recovered over half a million dollars, but the bulk of the amount came from only two prisoners.

Like Sen. Biss, Rep. Cassidy—who will serve as the bill’s chief sponsor as it is now under consideration in the state House—expressed her disapproval of the current system. “We pay for prison every day,” she said. “That’s the function of government. Fundamentally, this is just wrong.” She added that the public, in general, agrees that it is time for change, saying, “People mostly were mortified we were doing this.”

Prison-Related Concerns

Regardless of the bill’s future, the most effective way to avoid being sued for the cost of imprisonment is to stay out of jail. Sometimes, however, that may not be as easy as it sounds. If you are facing criminal charges, you need the assistance of an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba understands the system and will work hard to protect your rights and your future. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.

Illinois Makes Driving Relief Available Sooner for First-Time DUI Offenders

Joliet Illinois Baid DUIThere is a good possibility that you know at least one person who has been negative affected by the consequences of driving under the influence, or DUI. Of course, those who suffer only the criminal and administrative penalties are the lucky ones, as DUI contributes to thousands of accidents, injuries, and deaths each year around Illinois and throughout the country. Illinois lawmakers, though, have recognized the importance of allowing first-time offenders to learn from their mistakes rather than focusing on harsh punishments. With this in mind, recent changes to Illinois law provide that first-time DUI offenders may be eligible for certain driving relief programs sooner than ever before.

Statutory Summary Suspensions

The administrative penalties associated with DUI are handled by the Office of the Secretary of State, and directly impact a suspected offender’s driving privileges. If you are pulled over and asked by law enforcement to submit to chemical testing for blood-alcohol content (BAC), refusal or failure of such a test will result in the suspension of your driving privileges. For a first offense, failing a BAC test will result in a six-month suspension, while refusing the test results in a one-year suspension. Second or subsequent failures or refusals result in significantly longer suspensions. These penalties apply regardless of whether you are actually convicted of DUI or not, and a conviction will, as you might expect, impose additional consequences.

No More 30-Day Wait

Prior to the change in the law, the first 30 days of a statutory summary suspension were considered “hard time,” meaning that there were no programs available that would allow you the ability to drive legally under any circumstances. Beginning in 2016, however, the 30-day hard time provision has been eliminated for first-time offenders. Now, if your driving privileges have been suspended, you can apply for a program immediately that could allow you to get back on the road with certain restrictions.

MDDP and BAIID

The ability to apply is not the same as automatic qualification, but most first-time offenders are approved for participation in the driving relief program. If approved, you will be issued a Monitoring Device Driving Permit (MDDP), allowing you to drive vehicles that have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed. A BAIID requires the driver to provide a breath sample at startup and periodically throughout the drive to ensure that he or she is not driving under the influence. You are responsible for having a BAIID installed on your vehicle and unapproved operation of any other vehicle will result in increased penalties and possible disqualification from the relief program.

Reliable DUI-Related Legal Advice

If you have been charged with DUI and are currently facing a statutory summary suspension of your driving privileges, it is important to speak with an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer right away. Our knowledgeable team will help you understand your options for driving relief and will remain at your side throughout every step of the process. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free initial consultation today.

Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Burglary Conviction in Shoplifting Case

Illinois Supreme Court Theft CaseThe Illinois Criminal Code contains provisions to address all manner of illegal activity. In many cases, there may be more than one statute that could apply to a particular situation. While some make sense and are often used in tandem, such as a reckless driving charge in connection with charges of DUI, others seem to be more of a stretch. One such example can be found in a case recently heard by the Illinois Supreme Court regarding burglary charges being brought against a defendant who stole from a Walmart during normal business hours.

Retail Theft or Burglary

Under Illinois law, there are separate statutes that deal with shoplifting, or other retail theft, and burglary. A person commits retail theft by stealing, altering prices, or otherwise failing to pay the proper price for merchandise in a retail setting. Retail theft charges range from a Class A misdemeanor up to a Class 3 felony, depending on the value and nature of the merchandise.
Burglary, by contrast, refers to a person entering or remaining without authority on the property of another with the intent to commit a theft or felony. The most basic burglary charge is a Class 2 felony.

People v. Bradford

The case before the Supreme Court involved a defendant who had been convicted at trial of burglary by remaining, for staying on the premises of a Walmart during business hours with the intent to steal merchandise. While evidence regarding the value of the merchandise was not presented, both sides agreed that the value did not exceed $300. Thus, a retail theft charge instead of burglary would have been a Class A misdemeanor under the circumstances.

The defense claimed that the defendant never accessed any off-limits areas of the store, never attempted to conceal his presence in the store, and was never asked to leave. While the defendant admitted to stealing the merchandise, the defense maintained that burglary statute was not meant to encompass retail theft or shoplifting.

Felony Conviction Reversed

Upon consideration of the evidence, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the defendant’s claims. The Court pointed out that the law pertaining to retail theft was enacted by the Illinois lawmakers 14 years after the statute addressing burglary. “It strains logic to presume that the legislature intended most incidents of retail theft to be prosecuted as burglaries,” the Court observed. The Supreme Court concluded that, if the defendant had exceeded his physical authority to be on the premises, burglary charges might be appropriate, but, in this case, he did not, so his felony conviction for burglary was reversed.

Facing Criminal Charges?

If you have been accused of shoplifting or burglary, it is important to work an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba fully understands the law and will help you explore your options in building a responsible defense. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation today and get the assistance you need from a lawyer you can trust.

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