Feds Seeking to Lower Legal Driving Limit to .05

DUIThe National Transportation Safety Board has issued a recommendation that the legal BAC for drivers should be lowered from .08 percent to .05 percent.

Not surprisingly, the move is being met with skepticism across the national, especially in Illinois.

“I believe it works, and it’s been proven for several years now. We should keep that in place,” said Illinois state Representative Mike Smiddy. “Where I live, we don’t have public transportation. So, yeah, it would be a major issue.”

In defending their claim to lower the legal driving limit, the NTSB cited over 100 countries that have adopted the .05 legal limit.  They also said numerous European countries have seen a reduction in traffic fatalities within ten years of lowering the legal limit to .05 percent.

“Our goal is to get to zero deaths because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “Alcohol-impaired deaths are not accidents, they are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will.”

While the NTSB hopes officials at the state level will take the recommendation seriously, the change would have the potential to greatly impact social norms.  Some people may refrain from consuming alcohol while out at dinner or at sporting events, because studies have shown some people can surpass the .05 level after only one drink.

The legal limit isn’t likely to change in the immediate future, but if federal subsidies are tied to lowering the legal limit, (like they were the last time the legal limit was dropped) some state mays decide to acquiesce to the NTSB’s request.

Related source:  NWI.com, Fox News

Scammers Targeting Victims of Oklahoma Tornados

CC image Oklahoma recovers after devastating EF-5 tornado by DVIDSHUB on FlickrWhenever a national tragedy occurs, hundreds of thousands of Americans donate their time and money to make sure their neighbors can get through the darkest of times.  The relief effort in Oklahoma in the wake of the deadly tornados represent the shining light that is the American way of life, but with such support comes the potential for low-lives and petty thieves to try to make a quick buck off the generosity of others.

Similar actions happened just months ago in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.  Many people were anxious to donate to the victims of the tragedy, and they went online to try to find a donation center that was collecting money for the victims of the families.  What some generous folks didn’t know was that scammers had set up fake profiles or PayPal accounts that promised to donate the received funds to a local family, when in fact the scammer intended to hold onto the donations for their own self interests.

These scammers are the lowest of the low.  They represent the Anti-Robin Hood, stealing from the less fortunate to keep for themselves. They are the child molesters of digital crime, feeding off the goodwill of innocent individuals.

Reports out of Oklahoma have found that some individuals have been calling households in Oklahoma, asking them to donate to the relief efforts under the guise that they are acting on behalf of the Salvation Army or the Red Cross.  When a person gives out their information, they are basically depositing money directly into the scammer’s bank account.  The Red Cross and Salvation Army have both issued statements saying they will never call you asking for donations, as they have other fundraising techniques.

In another report, some individuals have said that area hotels and stores have attempted to profit off the displacement of others.  Investigators found that one convenience store was charging $40 for a case of water, while some hotels have jacked up room rates because the victims have nowhere else to stay.  These price increases are in direct violation of what is known as The Emergency Price Stabilization Act, which prohibits price increases of more than 10% on goods and services in the wake of a disaster.

While residents and law enforcement officials have enough to deal with as they sort out this tragedy, we can only hope that these scammers are swiftly brought to justice.  If you want to donate to the relief efforts, visit the official site for either the Salvation Army, or the American Red Cross.

Sean Sullivan comments

Though Illinois has not faced a tragedy so devastating as these tornados in Oklahoma, many homes and business have been damaged recently due to heavy rains and flooding. At times of stress and crisis like these, homeowners and consumers are understandably distraught and do not often make the best choices.  Sadly it occurs all too often with tragedies such as this that disreputable individuals or companies will prey on this distraction and stress and use it to their advantage.

I have seen this phenomenon here in Illinois in my own practice. I have successfully defended Illinois homeowners against “storm-chaser” companies who offer their help to victims of storm damage. Companies such as this often offer their “services” to help negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies and then claim that you are obligated to award them the right to make the necessary repairs to your house. Another common danger with companies such as this is they often take the entire insurance check up front and then never do the work.  At times like these, homeowners should:

  • Be wary of anyone or any company who just approaches you out of the blue offering their services;
  • Always ask for references;
  • Be suspicious of anyone who seems to use bullying or hard sale tactics;
  • Check with your neighbors for referrals to reputable contractors who they were satisfied with;
  • Feel free to check anyone out with the better business bureau;
  • Refer to the Illinois Attorney General’s website under their consumer fraud division for more knowledge of your rights as a consumer under the laws of Illinois.

Chicago Limo Driver Charged With DUI While Driving Teens to Prom

CC image Wikipedia.orgA Chicago limousine driver who was over the legal limit was arrested for DUI earlier this week when he drunkenly shuttled more than 20 area teenagers to their prom.

Richard L. Madison, 54, was charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving after students reported that he was driving erratically while chauffeuring the students to prom.

According to the police report, Madison allegedly backed into a ditch and slammed on the brakes numerous times during the ride.  Kelly Dano, who was aboard the limo, said Madison’s driving put everyone in danger.

“”He hopped over a median and cut off 3 cars and then…he took us to the wrong hotel, he took us to the Hyatt hotel instead of Abbington Place so we had 5 more miles to go,” said Dano.

Some fearful students even called their parents during the ride to inform them of Madison’s behavior.  Students later alerted two off-duty police officers about Madison’s driving once they arrived at Abbington Place.

Madison eventually submitted to a Breathalyzer test.  He blew a 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Madison claimed mechanical issues caused the ride to seem erratic.

“I’m not guilty, but it is what it is,” said Madison. “The bus needs wheel alignment and that’s why it was moving the way it did.”

A spokesperson for the limousine company said a full inspection was ordered, and no mechanical issues were revealed.  The company fired Madison earlier this week.

Brett Appelman comments

A limo, taxi, bus or truck is considered a “Commercial Vehicle” in the state of Illinois. To be licensed to drive a commercial vehicle in Illinois, you must test for and receive a Commercial Driver’s License, commonly referred to as a “CDL”.  The standards of driving while licensed with a CDL are much more stringent than with a regular license.  A DUI will get your CDL revoked, and make it very difficult to ever get it back in the future.

Aside from the licensing issues, this driver is facing an Aggravated DUI charge.  Aggravated means that there were special circumstances that make the charges worse; they carry heavier penalties.  Committing a DUI with children in the vehicle is an automatic aggravator.  If any of the prom-goers were 16 or under, this driver is facing mandatory jail time and community service, on top of the usual DUI penalties, such as fines, and alcohol treatment.

He immediately lost his job, and likely will lose his CDL if he is convicted on the DUI charges.  He needs to find a lawyer that is experienced in DUI defense, and with CDL issues, to try to save his livelihood.

Spousal Support in Illinois

CC image from 401(K) 2013 on FlickrIt is very rare in divorce proceedings that both parties have the capacity for equal finances after the divorce. One party is almost always going to have the ability to earn more money than the other party. The courts address this through a distribution of assets of the marital property or by awarding spousal support. Most people traditionally refer to this as “alimony”. Alimony is the age old traditional term for spousal support that really is not in use anymore. Nowadays, Illinois courts use the term “maintenance”.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance awards can be either temporary or permanent. Temporary awards are ordered by the court to preserve the status quo of the parties’ finances while the divorce is proceeding through the courts. Permanent awards are typically what the parties agree to in the marital settlement agreement at the conclusion of the divorce proceedings, which will govern the future finances of each party once the divorce is final.

Maintenance can be waived, but only upon a showing that the party waiving it is doing so freely and voluntarily. However it is most important to note that once maintenance is waived, it is forever waived. The party that waives it cannot not go back and change their mind and ask the court to award it at a later date.

Maintenance is calculated by looking at several different factors viewed by the court as a whole. No one factor is the sole determining factor that triggers the court to award maintenance. Typically the court considers the earning power of each party, the lifestyle during the marriage, the education level of each party, and if either party forsaken educational opportunities to support the family while the spouse has sought more schooling.

If you are contemplating divorce, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options and how to best protect yourself and your rights going forward.

Illinois Woman Charged With DUI While Celebrating the Reinstatement of her License from Previous DUI Conviction

CC image Wikipedia.org58-year old Erin James had a little too much fun on Friday when she was out celebrating the reinstatement of her driver’s license, which had been revoked because of a previous drunk driving conviction.  James had a few too many alcoholic beverages, and then decided to get behind the wheel and drive home.

Unfortunately for James, she pressed the pedal to the metal during her drive, and authorities stopped her for speeding.  James consented to a breathalyzer where she blew a .155, nearly twice the legal limit in Illinois.  She was ultimately booked on DUI charges.

In addition to the DUI charge, James was cited for failing to equip her vehicle with a breath alcohol Ignition Interlock Device.  James was required by law to install an IID under the conditions of her initial DUI conviction.

“The fact that she was driving a vehicle not equipped with a BAIID shows that she had every intent of drinking and getting behind the wheel,” Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said in statement.

James originally had her license suspended in 2012 after an arrest for drunk driving in North Riverside.  When she was pulled over Friday, she told the officer on the scene she was out celebrating the imminent return of her license.

Odds are James will need to wait a lot longer until her license is reinstated this time around.

Defense Attorney Miriam Szatrowzski comments

Sadly, many people who get DUIs have serious alcohol problems, and the mandatory treatment for the first DUI is not enough to overcome them. Others just don’t make very good decisions.

Either way, since this is her second DUI, she will face more serious penalties, both in the criminal court and with her driver’s license. In the criminal case, she will not be eligible for supervision, so if found guilty she will get a conviction on her record. If this happens, she will probably get probation, but many judges will also give people jail time for second offenses. She is also facing a mandatory minimum of five days in jail or 240 hours of community service because it is a second DUI. She is lucky that she only blew a .155 and not a .16, because blowing twice the limit adds in extra penalties. In this case, it would add a mandatory two days in jail and $1,250 in fines. As for her driver’s license, if she is convicted, her license will be revoked for a minimum of one year, and she will have to get treatment and have a hearing in order to get her driving privileges restored.

Hopefully, she will never do this a third time, or she will be charged with a felony and may end up with a prison sentence.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Man Sentenced in Bizarre Attempt to Kidnap, Extort Illinois Attorney

Mr. Banks reportedly planned to kill the attorney using a cat, a radio and a hot tub. CC image Screen Capture from Youtube video "Cat falls in Hot Tub" by Jeff Martin

In a story that sounds like the plot of a bad cable movie, an Illinois man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for allegedly plotting to kidnap a lawyer and hold him for ransom money.

Brett Nash, 46, received his sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to a charge of solicitation of a crime of violence late last year.

Thankfully the plot didn’t involve any of the attorneys at Appelman and Associates, but the report says Nash targeted a lawyer from Granite City, Illinois.

What puts the story over the top is the amount of information that was gathered about Nash’s kidnapping plan.  Much of the evidence used against Nash was provided by a tape recorder that was planted on a co-worker who Nash enlisted to help carry out his plan.  Some of Nash’s ridiculous plans are detailed below.

  • Nash planned to kidnap the lawyer and force him to write checks for “labor”, which Nash could then collect.
  • If the attorney wouldn’t comply, Nash planned to force the attorney to wear a fake explosive suit and walk into his bank.  The attorney would then need to withdraw all his funds or risk being blown up.  Nash said he got the idea by watching a show on the Discovery Channel.
  • Nash planned to wear makeup or a mask, saying “This is Mission Impossible (expletive)”.
  • Nash eventually planned to kill the lawyer by staging an accident involving a hot-tub, a cat, and a radio.
  • During one of the recordings, Nash told his colleague that he was willing to buy a cat, a litter box, and pet food to further his staged suicide plan.
  • Nash told the would-be accomplice they could avoid leaving behind DNA evidence by using copious amounts of hair gel to keep their hair from shedding.

Nash’s accomplice wanted no part of the operation, and he agreed to wear a recording device for the FBI.

“I’ve been playing with this for a year. Fine tunin’ this (expletive),” Nash said on the recording.

During trial, Nash’s attorney argued that the plot was too outrageous to be real.  Unfortunately for Mr. Nash, the jury didn’t see it that way.

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

Many people think that with a few simple tricks, they can steal a lot of money without being caught.  Shows like CSI and Law & Order depict mastermind criminals who use science and technology to thwart law enforcement, but some people need to be reminded that those are fictional TV shows.

This guy thought that with a few tricks he picked up from Mission Impossible and The Discovery Channel he would be able to pull off a sophisticated kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery, and possibly murder scheme.  Unfortunately for him he was brought down by the simplest and cheapest technology available these days: a recording device.  Most of the techniques depicted on these shows are not as useful in the real world as they appear to be on TV.  Hair gel will not prevent the hair on your arms or eyelashes from falling out at the crime scene, a way in which many criminals have eventually been caught.  Masks are never as effective as they seem to be on TV, and I cannot even speculate on the attempt to commit murder with a cat.

He got caught and he will be doing serious time behind bars.  Hopefully he will spend the next few years in the prison library, not in front of the TV.

Related source:  St. Louis Post-Dispatch