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Proposed Bill Would Ban Uploading of Fight Videos

Joliet Attorney Fight VideosAs society becomes increasingly connected, more and more people are trying to find “entertaining” things to post on social media outlets and other websites. Of course, there are photos and videos of cute children, comedic sketches, video blogs, and other, relatively harmless material all over the internet. But some have begun posting videos of violent interactions between teens and young adults, raising concerns that uploading and sharing of such fights encourages and glorifies violent behavior. Now, lawmakers in Illinois have proposed legislation that would make posting such videos illegal in the state.

Seemingly Simply Proposal

The bill was introduced by State Representative Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, after she was disturbed by an online video depicting a brutal fight between two pre-teens. The bystanders’ behavior was particularly concerning to her, as they watched and recorded the fight on their phones rather than helping or preventing the altercation. As proposed, the measure would make uploading fight videos or videos depicting other criminal activity a misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct. The proposal also limits prosecution to videos uploaded “to a social media website or social networking site” in a manner that promotes or condones the activity, and to those who refuse to provide the video to law enforcement when requested.

Potential Concerns

Critics of the well-intentioned bill point out a number of reasons that the proposal could create more problems than it solves. First, the measure lists the types of activities that cannot be recorded and uploaded to include a crime being committed, a battery committed intending to knock a victim out, a gang-related fight, or other display of violence. First, “a crime being committed” is far too vague in many people’s opinion; there are thousands of actions that technically qualify as a crime. Next, other displays of violence can be equally nebulous, as violence is not always illegal, especially when you consider the nature of many youth sports, including football, hockey, and martial arts.

The bill also only addresses social media and social networking sites, presumably to indemnify news organizations and other accepted outlets. Is a personal website or a blog a social networking site? Finally, the concepts of promoting and condoning the activity are particularly troublesome. For example, presuming the law passes as is, and a schoolyard fight video is uploaded to Facebook with the caption “Kids these days…” It is nearly impossible to determine if the post was meant to promote or condone the behavior, or simply as an observation.

Things to Consider

It is hard to imagine that prohibiting the uploading of such videos will help to solve the issues of violence in society. Charging someone else with a crime in addition to the criminal activity taking place in the video does not really address the root of the problem. Civil rights advocates also suggest that making the dissemination of such a video a crime is a clear violation of the First Amendment. There is, however, a long way to go before the proposal can become law and debate over the matter should be very interesting.

If you are facing criminal charges for your role in a fight or violent altercation, regardless of whether video footage of the incident exists, you need the assistance of a Joliet criminal defense attorney. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.

Justice Department Takes Issue With “Profit-Minded” Court Systems

Joliet Court SystemThe statutes that govern the criminal justice and court systems in Illinois are full of references to fines, penalties, and financial sanctions to which an individual may be subject in certain situations. These monetary obligations could be the result of a simple traffic violation, a conviction on DUI charges or other crime, or simply as fees for taking a matter into court. There has been growing concern that lower-income individuals and families experience much greater difficulty in the pursuit of justice than those who can afford such costs. This week, the federal government has officially acknowledged the problem and has issued warnings to local municipalities and courts around the country.

A Growing Problem

The United States Department of Justice—commonly called the Justice Department—has issued a letter to chief judges and legal administrators in all 50 states asking them to be aware of the fines and fees that poor defendants are being required to pay. The letter expresses concern that many courts are using such practices to raise revenue, rather than for their intended purposes of ensuring public safety. Incarcerating individuals for failure to pay is also troubling to federal officials, according to reports, and is often counterproductive. In addition to mountains of debt for those who can least afford it, the letter takes issue with trapping people in “cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.

Uncommon Action

While the letter contains no overt threats and lists no specific consequences, the correspondence itself is rather unusual. The Justice Department last issued such a letter in 2010, when it addressed the courtroom rights of non-English speakers regarding translators. Following that letter, the Justice Department opened formal investigations into the court practices of Colorado and North Carolina. The precedent leads many to believe that the federal government may be inclined to take action if nothing is done to rectify the problem.

Indigent or Willful?

Justice Department officials are not claiming that all fees and financial penalties are problematic. Rather, the concerns are more nuanced than that. Federal officials are asking courts to be aware of the fees and fines being imposed and the reasons behind them. In addition, courts should not rush to incarcerate an individual for nonpayment without first determining if the nonpayment was due to disregard for the order or a true inability to pay. The Justice Department is encouraging local judges to find more reasonable alternatives to incarceration for indigent defendants and to develop bail practices that unfairly impact the poor.

Legal Help for Your Unique Circumstances

If you are facing large fines or have been ordered to pay certain fees related to a criminal proceeding, it is important that you fully understand your rights under the law. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney today for a free, confidential consultation regarding your case. At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we know how complicated the legal system can be, and we are prepared to help you every step of the way. Call 815-740-4025 and put our knowledge and skill on your side.

Legalized Recreational and Medical Marijuana Impacting Mexican Cartels

Joliet Marijuana LawyerAs the legalized selling of medical marijuana in Illinois enters its fifth month, the program, along with many others like it around the country seems to be having an effect that infamous War on Drugs could not produce. According to reports from the United States Border Patrol and other sources, the increase in government-sanctioned marijuana being grown in the U.S. is starting to drive down prices and, in turn, profits of growers and drug cartels in Mexico.

Prices Being Slashed

As far back as late 2014, even before the Illinois pilot program got underway, small-time marijuana growers in Mexico were already discussing the drop in the value of their products. One grower indicated that in 2011 and 2012, a kilogram of marijuana could bring in $60 to $90 at wholesale prices. “But now they’re paying us $30 to $40 a kilo,” he said. “It’s a big difference.” Growers in Mexico—many of whom struggle to maintain a very modest lifestyle, unlike the Hollywood image of a drug trafficker—expressed concern that legalization in the U.S., either for medical and recreational purposes, would ultimately make their production unsustainable.

Border Patrol Seizures

In 2009, the U.S. Border Patrol reported the seizure of almost 4 million pounds of illegal marijuana along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since then, annual seizures have dropped significantly, down to just over 1.5 million pounds in 2015—the lowest number in at least a decade. Other federal agencies have even acknowledged that the direction of marijuana smuggling is showing signs of reversing, with greater amounts of higher-quality American-grown marijuana finding its way into Mexico.

Not All Legal Production

Although the legal use of marijuana is becoming more popular around the country, there is still concern over the continued illicit growth in the United States. California, for example, is that nation’s leading state for the production of sanctioned medical marijuana, but is also responsible for more than 60 percent of all illegal marijuana plants seized in the country. With the development of a robust medical marijuana market comes the probability that illicit production is increasing as well, so as to meet the demand of non-medical users who do not live in a state where recreational use is permitted.

Such is the case for residents of Illinois. Even as the state’s medical marijuana program continues to grow, those who are not registered participants could find themselves in big trouble for the possession or use of the drug. If you are facing charges of marijuana possession or any other related offense, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney. We will review your case, including the details of your arrest and the evidence against, and will work with you to build a responsible, effective defense. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation today at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba.

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