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Traffic Stop Case Highlights the Importance of Reasonable Suspicion

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The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. When the Fourth Amendment is referenced in a criminal case, it is often used to challenge the legality of a police search of a person’s property or the seizure of evidence found during such a search.

What you may not realize, however, is that a traffic stop is considered a seizure for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. This means that a police officer can only initiate a traffic stop when there is a justifiable legal reason for doing so. A recent case from McLean County, Illinois shows how important it is for the police to avoid making unreasonable stops.

The Undisputed Facts

In July 2017, a man was driving on Hershey Road in Bloomington as he approached the Empire Street intersection. He was in the leftmost lane, and he stopped at the red light at the intersection. When the light turned green, he turned left onto Empire street, choosing the right lane (of two) as he exited the intersection. The man was immediately stopped by a local police officer for an improper left turn. During the stop, the officer checked the driver’s license and found that it had been revoked. The driver was then cited for driving while his license was revoked.

The Driver’s Claim

The driver challenged the citation on the basis that the officer lacked the justification to initiate the traffic stop. An officer must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that an offense is being or has been committed. The officer admitted in court that he pulled the driver over because he exited the turn in the right line instead of exiting the turn in the nearest lane—which would have been the left lane.

The trial court determined that the law did not require the driver to exit his turn in the left lane. Thus, the officer on the scene had misunderstood the law, meaning that the suspicion was not reasonable for the purposes of conducting the stop. As a result, the trial court suppressed the evidence that led to the driving while license revoked citation.

The state appealed, but the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision. The appellate court referenced an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 2015 that held when a statute or judicial order is written in plain language—such as the one addressing left turns in the Illinois Vehicle Code—an officer who substitutes “his own erroneous interpretation of the statute or decision cannot be considered as acting in an objectively reasonable manner.”

Were You Stopped Without Cause?

If you were stopped by police without reasonable suspicion that you were committing an offense and you received a traffic citation as a result, we can help. Contact an experienced Illinois traffic violations attorney to explore your available options. Call the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

Illinois Laws Help You Get a Second Chance

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When a person is convicted of a crime, the consequences typically go far beyond jail time, probation, and fines. A conviction can and usually will follow a person for the rest of his or her life, making it more difficult for the individual to find a job, secure affordable housing, or qualify for certain educational programs. While this is certainly a problem everywhere, lawmakers in Illinois have taken steps toward giving ex-offenders a second chance by passing new measures designed to make it easier for them to find gainful employment. According to reports from around the state, the measures are starting to work as planned.

Several Important Changes

In recent years, Illinois lawmakers have enacted a few different laws that increase opportunities for ex-offenders. One such law was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner in August 2017 . The measure expanded the list of offenses that are eligible for record sealing and eliminated waiting periods for record-sealing petitions after an acquittal or dropped charges. When a record is sealed, it is no longer visible on most background checks, so expanding and speeding up the record-sealing program has been a welcome change.

A year earlier, Governor Rauner signed a separate measure that addressed occupations requiring a license. Licensed professionals, including barbers, cosmetologists, funeral directors, roofers, and dozens of others can no longer be denied a license simply on the basis of having prior convictions. A license can still be denied if the conviction was “directly related” to the occupation in question, but even then, an offender can offer proof of rehabilitation and be reconsidered for the license.

Jobs Reduce Recidivism

Johnny Taylor is the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resources Management, a group that encourages employers to consider ex-offenders when hiring. Taylor pointed out that the falling rate of unemployment means that there are often not many applicants for a given opening. As a result, “no one will have the luxury of not at least considering [ex-offenders],” he said. He also said that many companies are hiring ex-offenders loudly and proudly while others do so quietly to aid in diversity initiatives.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the idea that worthwhile employment can keep offenders from returning to a destructive lifestyle. “Housing, education, job opportunities are all basic needs,” said Sakira Cook, an attorney with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “If the needs are met, then the likelihood of someone engaging in criminal behavior is reduced.”

We Can Help

If you have been convicted of a crime in the past and are looking to get a clean start, contact an experienced Joliet expungement and record sealing attorney . At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we are fully up to date on all of the applicable laws, and we can help you explore your options for getting the second chance you deserve. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.

Illinois DUI Arrests

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Most people know that it is against the law to drink and drive. Anyone who is caught operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and lose their driving privileges. In most circumstances, DUI laws are straightforward. A person who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over 0.08 percent is considered intoxicated and cannot legally operate a car. However, there are some circumstances where individuals have been charged with a DUI, and they did not even know they were breaking the law! It is critical for every citizen to fully understand both DUI laws and their rights as an Illinois citizen.

You Can Be Charged with a DUI Without Being Over the Legal Limit

If you are like most people, you probably did not realize that there are some circumstances where a driver can have a BAC under the legal limit and still be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or if you are under the age of 21, have your license suspended. Everyone knows that it is illegal to consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Unfortunately, we all know that most young people experiment with alcohol before they are old enough to do so legally. If a person under the age of 21 drinks and drives, the consequences can be severe and life-altering. Illinois law states that an underage person caught driving with any trace of alcohol in their system can be charged with a zero tolerance suspension and have their license suspended up to a year. And in some cases, whether you are under the age of 21 or not, the Prosecutor can still choose to prosecute you for DUI even if you were under the legal limit of a .08

Noticeable Impairment Is Enough to Arrest Suspected Drunk Drivers

Circumstances that can result in a DUI charge even with a blood alcohol content under the legal limit is when a driver is noticeably impaired. For example, say an officer notices a vehicle which is swerving between lanes or otherwise driving erratically. The officer pulls the car over and begins speaking to the driver. The driver is slurring his or her words and has watery, bloodshot eyes. The officer asks the passenger to step outside of the vehicle and notices that the driver cannot even walk straight. In a situation like this, the driver could be charged with a DUI even if his or her BAC is under 0.08 percent. It is in situations like these, where an experienced DUI lawyer can make the difference in a conviction or a not guilty verdict.

Charged with a DUI? Let Us Help.

If you have been accused of drunk driving, seek help from a qualified Will County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. To schedule your free, confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, call (815) 740-4025 today.

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