5 Ways to Avoid a Traffic Ticket in Illinois

Whether you’re zooming through another toll station or trying to navigate downtown Chicago, driving in Illinois can be a headache.  The last thing you need on your daily commute is to have a police officer pull you over for driving too fast.  Below, we take a look at five ways you can help yourself get out of a pesky traffic ticket.

1. Have a clean car – Your car says a lot about you, but it also makes a first impression on the police officer.  Some bumper stickers like “I Love My Chihuahua” are harmless, but more radical bumper stickers can send the wrong impression.  Voicing your opinion about gun control or who you’re voting for may put you in a tough position if the officer has conflicting views.  Also, keeping a clean car offers a professional appearance and shows the cop that you aren’t trying to hide something in the back seat.

2.  Give ‘em a wave – Let’s say you’re coming down the Kennedy Expressway a little too fast when you notice a cop radaring in the median.  Give the officer a friendly wave as you go by, as it can help you in more than one way.  First, the wave shows that you are acknowledging your speed and you are aware that you need to slow down.  Secondly, the cop may think you are a friend and neglect to pursue.  Even if the officer hesitates for a few seconds, it would give you more time to separate yourself from the pack if you were in a line of cars that were speeding.

3.  Be courteous – You might be fuming mad that you got pulled over, but addressing the officer in an abrasive manner will only make things worse.  While the officer is collecting your information from his squad car, keep your hands on the wheel and face forward.  Now is not the time to reach for the glove box or under your seat.  If it is dark out, feel free to turn on your dome light so that the officer can see you better.  Once the officer arrives at the side of your car, ask if it is alright if you reach into your glove box to retrieve any necessary information.  Being polite can only help your situation.

4.  Choose the right words – There are two things you should never do when trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket.  First, never give the cop attitude, and never admit that you were speeding.  Below are three examples, and we’ll explain why one is better than the others.

“My bad, sir.  I’m running late for my child’s soccer game and was just trying to get there quicker.” – Although you apologized, the officer won’t feel bad about writing you a ticket because you admitted that you were knowingly breaking the law.

“I was not speedingI want to see your radar.” – This is probably the worst route to go.  You basically called the officer a liar and tried to take control of the situation by making demands.  Few people can dig themselves out of this hole.

“I’m sorry officerI did not know I was going that fast.” – This is the best route to go if the officer asks why you were speeding.  You show empathy and respect, and you do not admit to guilt.  Stick to answers like “I see” or “I was not aware”.  By getting through the interaction as non-memorably as possible, you lessen the chance of getting the ticket and raise the likelihood of getting it dropped if you decide to fight it in court.

5.  Hire an attorney – If the first four steps fail, don’t be afraid to hire an experienced legal team to fight your case, especially if you face the loss of your license.  If you were able to get through the interaction as quickly and quietly as possible, you stand a good chance of getting the charges dropped because the officer needs to provide unaided testimony of your individual case.  The less memorable, the less likely they’ll be able to provide the judge with substantial evidence.

Related sources:  Readers Digest, AOL.com

Tipsy Driver Hits Chicago Cop Car

A 47-year old Chicago man literally drove himself into trouble on Saturday when he drunkenly crashed his car into the back of an unmarked police car.

Christopher Slotwinski injured two police officers when he crashed into their squad car at about 8:40 p.m. in the Marquette Park neighborhood.  All three people involved in the incident were taken to the hospital for treatment, but none of the injuries were life threatening.

Slotwinski faces a slew of charges including DUI, reckless driving, driving without insurance, driving with a suspended license and driving too fast for conditions.

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

This gentleman is in a good bit of trouble.

A DUI is a Class A Misdemeanor, which means Slotwinski could potentially spend up to one year in jail.  On top of that, there are certain conditions that can “aggravate” the DUI charge.  This means that these certain conditions can raise the DUI charge up to a felony, where the potential jail sentence can be multiple years in prison.

Driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance are both aggravators that allow for the prosecutor to raise a DUI charge up to a felony.  The Class A Misdemeanor can become a Class 4 Felony, which allows for a three-year sentence in a state prison.  The charge of reckless driving is a separate Class A Misdemeanor, and driving too fast for conditions is a traffic ticket that is only eligible for a fine of up to $1,000.

The prosecutor will normally go after any and all charges in a case like this.  It is not unusual to see eight or nine charges come out of a single traffic stop.  A common bargaining ploy by the prosecutor is to charge a large number of charges in one case, and then offer to drop some of the smaller charges in return for a guilty plea on the larger charges.  Because of the nature of his case, I expect Mr. Slotwinski will jump at the chance to get some of the smaller charges dropped.

Related source:  ABC Chicago

NIU Frat Members Named in Wrongful Death Suit

The family of a Northern Illinois University freshman who died after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is suing the fraternity who hosted the pledge party for wrongful death.

In the lawsuit, the family of David Bogenberger alleges that members of the Pi Kappa Alpha house encouraged their son to drink large amounts of alcohol and failed to provide assistance when Bogenberger became unconscious.

An autopsy revealed that Bogenberger, 19, had a blood alcohol level of .4, nearly five times the legal driving limit for adults.  In the suit, the Bogenberger’s stated that the fraternity did not follow national hazing policies, and their actions caused their son to consume “excessive and dangerous amounts of alcohol”.

Peter Coladarci, the family’s attorney, argued that the nationally recognized fraternity did not adequately ensure that their chapters knew about the dangers of overconsumption.

“The national organization has a responsibility to provide meaningful training, supervision and oversight to its local chapters, so that fraternity members understand that alcohol-related hazing is … potentially deadly,” said Coladarci.

Underage consumption is common on college campuses, but fatalities are not.  One study suggests that roughly 12 underage students die each year due overconsumption.

All 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were named in the lawsuit.  Each individual faces criminal charges, while five leaders have been charged with felony hazing.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

Regrettably, hazing incidents seem to be ever increasing in the news these days.

Whether it is extreme binge drinking at a college fraternity party, or physical assaults among high-school athletic teams, young people are being hurt. Illinois in particular has seen several incidents at the high school level in the last year or so.

The best way to protect these young people and end hazing is to stand up to these bullies and draw attention to the problem. Filing lawsuits will help bring attention to these incidents and put these bullies on notice that these particularly callous or negligent acts will not be tolerated anymore.

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Police Lying under Oath Not Uncommon

The difference between truth and reality sometimes offers a harsh look behind the veil of public perception.  This is seen in all aspects of life, from wanting to believe Lance Armstrong never took performance enhancing drugs to believing your child when they say they didn’t take the last cookie.

Public perception plays a critical role in how much we believe a person when they say something is or isn’t true.  We’d like to think everyone is power is always telling the truth, but that is not always the case.

People lie for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they lie for no reason at all.  One of the biggest problems in society is when a lie is protected or “corroborated” by a group of individuals who have a vested interest in the particular matter at hand.  Whether it’s a financial or moral obligation, groups of individuals sometimes perpetuate lies for the greater good of their cause.  As we’ve seen in recent years, police officers are one of the groups that sometimes use their position to pass false statements to get a result they want.

Peter Keane, former San Francisco Police commissioner, said lying in the courtroom is becoming commonplace among police officers.

“Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law,” said Keane.  “Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

Why they lie

Police officers lie for a variety of reasons, but the main reason may be because they know they can get away with it.  According to Keane, law enforcement officials “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.”

Keane also said a majority of the alleged criminals are on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, meaning that they are oftentimes poor and uneducated.

“Police know that no one cares about these people,” said Mr. Keane.

While those two reasons may be true, a more disturbing trend may be emerging.  Police departments across the nation receive financial compensation based on the number of arrests they report each year.  With federal grants at stake, some officers may be willing to bend or break rules in order to boost their bottom line.  There have been a handful of cases involving planted drugs or lying police offers, most notably in Texas and California, which have been linked to a desire to increase federal funding.

Adil Polanco, a New York City police officer, told ABC news in 2010 that law enforcement officials do not have the public’s best interests at heart.

“Our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them,” said Polanco.  “At the end of the night you have to come back with something.  You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”

New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly refuted Polanco’s remarks, saying such arrest quotas are illegal under state law, but it calls into question which person had more to gain from their statement, Polanco or Kelly?  While it’s entirely possible Polanco had a grudge against the police department, would we really expect Kelly to do anything but deny Polanco’s statement?

While you can take a lot of things away from the story, consider that it’s entirely possible that an arresting officer may tell a slightly different tale than the one that led to your arrest.  In cases like this, it is always important to have a smart legal team that understands the best way to get you out of a situation.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

As a defense attorney, I have seen officers be untruthful on the stand firsthand.  Unfortunately, most people who have little experience with the criminal justice system believe that an officer will always tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

As a community, defense attorneys have been trying to get the truth out on this matter for years, but no one really believes it when it comes from a lawyer. Sadly, people believe that defense lawyers will say anything to get their client off. Well, police officers will often say anything to get someone convicted. Maybe people will start paying attention to this problem now that it is garnering support from the non-legal community.

Related source:  New York Times

9-Year-Old Arrested for Role in Robbery

A 9-year-old was among a group of three boys arrested after they allegedly brandished a paintball gun and robbed two 12-year-old boys in a McDonald’s on the Chicago Skyway.

Two more suspects remain at large, but the police believe it is only a matter of time before they are caught.

According to the police report, the group of five entered McDonald’s around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.  Four of the boys went into the restaurant’s bathroom and confronted a 12-year old boy.

Police said Lamar C. Lewis, 17, pulled out what they believe was a paintball gun and threatened the 12-year-old.  Lewis and the other boys began beating the 12-year-old and eventually threw him to the ground.  Once on the ground, the group went through the boy’s pockets and took his cell phone, iPod and money.

The group then exited the bathroom, but before leaving the restaurant they attacked another 12-year-old boy.  In this attack, which included the 9-year-old, the group stole the victim’s cell phone.

The second attack was witnessed by a male and female patron, and the man followed the group until police arrived.  He was able to lead police to three of the attackers, but two of them escaped.

Lewis was charged as an adult with felony aggravated robbery and was ordered to be held on $25,000 bail.  A 16-year-old who participated in the attack was charged as a juvenile.  He faces charges of aggravated robbery.

The 9-year-old boy was charged in Juvenile Court on Tuesday.  Details of his specific charges were not made public.

The weapon used during the bathroom attack has not yet been recovered.  Police believe Lewis may have given it to one of the suspects who fled.