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First-Time Distracted Drivers Will Face Stiffer Penalties in Illinois

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Despite nearly a decade of ad campaigns and new laws intended to deter Americans from using handheld electronics while driving, bad habits persist. A recent survey found that half of US drivers still talk on handheld cellphones, 35 percent text message, and 29 percent admit to accessing the internet while driving. Distracted driving rates are even higher among drivers aged 18 to 29.

The definition of distracted driving includes talking on a handheld cellphone, texting, using the internet, or otherwise engaging with a handheld electronic device while driving. These behaviors remain a major concern for highway safety. Driver distraction plays a role in 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 15 percent of all injury crashes in the U.S., according to the latest available figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .

Penalties for Use of an Electronic Communication Device While Driving in Illinois

In an effort to improve highway safety, the Illinois legislature has voted to increase the penalties for distracted driving, as defined in Section 12-610.2 - Electronic Communications Devices (ECD) of the Illinois Vehicle Code. The new law, signed by Governor Rauner in August 2018, will take effect July 1, 2019.

Under the existing Illinois law, which took effect in 2014, first-time offenders got a $75 fine but did not get a moving violation on their driving record. Under the new law, first-time offenders are still fined $75 but it will now be counted as a moving violation on their driving record.

Fines increase by $25 for each subsequent violation to a maximum of $150 per offense. In Illinois, most moving violations remain on your driving record for four to five years from the date of the conviction; this is how the police will know whether a given ECD violation is a first, second, third, or subsequent offense.

Texting and Driving Can Lead to Driver’s License Suspension

A person convicted of three moving violations within one year will have their driver’s license automatically suspended by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. Drivers will receive notification by mail when their license is suspended. This is a good reason to keep the address on your driver’s license up-to-date. If you do not realize your license has been suspended, and you keep driving, you could be charged with driving on a suspended license, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

You should also know that a successfully completed court supervision for a moving violation does not count as a conviction on your driving record. The Secretary of State’s office does, however, maintain records on who has received court supervisions. Illinois allows drivers no more than two court supervision sentences per year for moving violations.

Aggravated Use of an Electronic Communication Device

The penalties remain the same for the offense of aggravated use of an electronic communication device, that is, when a driver is distracted by ECD use and is involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes great bodily harm or death to another person. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor if someone is severely injured or a Class 4 felony if someone dies as a result.

Fight Back with a Will County Texting-and-Driving Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony related to use of an electronic communication device (ECD) while driving, you will want a lawyer at your side when you go to court. An experienced Joliet driver’s license reinstatement lawyer can help you fight a DUI-related suspension and also help you get a suspended license reinstated as quickly as possible. Call the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation to discuss your situation.

When Does a DUI Become Felony in Illinois?

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Most DUI charges in Illinois are only misdemeanor charges. A first-time DUI conviction is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by law with a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Each case is different and depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you charges could be bumped up to felony charges .

Class 4 Felonies

Class 4 DUI felonies include:

• A DUI committed while driving a school bus that had at least one passenger on it who was under the age of 18;

• A DUI committed while driving a vehicle used to transport passengers and at least one passenger was on board;

• A DUI that resulted in great bodily harm;

• A DUI that was committed by someone who did not have a valid driver’s license or vehicle liability insurance;

• A DUI committed in a school zone when the restricted speed limit was in effect and the person was involved in an accident that resulted in bodily harm; and

• A DUI committed by someone whose license was already revoked or suspended for a different DUI, reckless homicide or fleeing the scene of an accident.

Penalties for Class 4 felonies can vary depending on the specific charges, but they can include a possible sentence of one to three years in prison and fines up to $25,000. If you were charged with an aggravated DUI involving an injury, you could be facing up to 12 years in prison.

Class 3 Felonies

Class 3 felonies are a step up from Class 4 felonies and can include:

• A DUI committed after a previous conviction for reckless homicide while driving under the influence; and

• A DUI committed after a previous conviction for aggravated DUI involving a death.

Penalties for a Class 3 felony can result in a prison sentence of two to five years and up to $25,000 in fines.

Class 2 Felonies

Any DUI conviction that is your third or fourth conviction is automatically a Class 2 felony. In addition, Class 2 felonies can include:

• A second or subsequent DUI that was committed while transporting a child under the age of 16;

• A DUI resulting in a death;

• A third DUI

Depending on your actual charges, you could be facing a minimum of three years in prison along with up to $25,000 in fines.

Class 1 Felony

A fifth conviction of a DUI is considered a Class 1 felony and will result in the revocation of your driving privileges for life. It is a non-probationable offense, which means you will go to prison if you are found guilty. You could also be facing up to $25,000 in fines.

Class X Felony

A sixth or subsequent DUI conviction is a Class X felony, which is the most serious classification of felony . A conviction will result in a revocation of your driving privileges for the rest of your life along with a minimum of six years in prison up to a maximum of 30 years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines.

Are You Facing Felony DUI Charges?

If you have been charged with an aggravated DUI, you should immediately contact a skilled Joliet aggravated DUI defense attorney . Contact the Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. to determine your best course of action for your case. Attorney Jack Zaremba is a former Will County prosecutor who has extensive experience with DUI cases. To schedule a free consultation, call the office at 815-740-4025

Common Terms in Criminal Court

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When you are facing criminal charges , there is a lot of uncertainty you will have to deal with. If you are like most people, you probably do not know the intricacies that come with a criminal trial, or how the courts operate. You probably are not familiar with many legal terms that are used both inside and outside of the courtroom when it comes to criminal trials. The following list of terms can help you understand what is going on when you do find yourself in the midst of a criminal proceeding :

Acquittal: This is the outcome that is most favorable with criminal cases - if you are acquitted, you were not found guilty because the evidence against you was not sufficient for a conviction.

Affidavit: This is a written statement, which must be confirmed by oath by the party who is giving the statement. An affidavit must be notarized by an officer of the court to be valid. In criminal cases, an affidavit often contains evidence, such as an alibi.

Appeal: An appeal is a request to have the case re-examined by a higher court to determine whether the outcome of the original case was correct. In criminal cases, an appeal is usually asked for when the defendant believes improper procedure was used or the law was not interpreted correctly.

Bail: Often in the form of money, bail is the release of the person accused of a crime before he or she goes to trial and the promise that they will appear in court when they are required to do so.

Conviction: A conviction means that the defendant was found guilty of the crime typically after a trial on the merits.

Felony: A felony is a crime that carries a sentence of one year in prison or more. These crimes are usually more serious, such as murder, vehicle theft, aggravated assault, and multiple DUI convictions.

Plea Deal: Also called a plea bargain, a plea deal is an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor in which the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a more favorable outcome. This can be lesser charges, a dismissal of charges, or a lesser sentence.

Probation: Often used as an alternative to prison time, probation is the agreement that a person will obey certain rules after they are convicted of a crime in exchange for being able to live in the community.

Warrant: Warrants are written orders that can allow a police officer to arrest a suspect or search an area. Search warrants require probable cause before they can be issued.

Get Help From a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, you may be confused about all of the legal jargon that your lawyer, judge or prosecutor is using. In order for you to best help yourself, you should try to familiarize yourself with the terms that are commonly used in criminal cases. A knowledgeable Will County criminal defense lawyer can help you understand these terms. The Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, P.C. will help you throughout your trial and fight for your freedom, no matter the charge. To schedule a free consultation, call the office at 815-740-4025.

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