Illinois Teen Pleads Guilty To DUI Street Racing Death

An Antioch township teen faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated driving under the influence in connection with a street race that left a 16-year-old girl dead.

Jeremy Betancourt, 18, pleaded guilty on Thursday to avoid more severe charges. According to court documents, Betancourt faced several felony charges, including reckless homicide and aggravated street racing, but the charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Illegal Street RacingThe incident in question occurred on June 24, 2013 in Gurnee, Illinois. According to the suit, Betancourt and a friend were racing along Route 120 when Betancourt lost control, struck a median and rolled the car. One of Betancourt’s three passengers, Cynthia Perez, was ejected from the vehicle during the accident. Her injuries proved to be fatal, while Betancourt and two passengers survived.

Sentencing to Come

Betancourt will be sentenced on June 30, but the guidelines for his punishment may already be in place. Judge Victoria Rossetti recommended that Betancourt receive periodic imprisonment and probation, citing the case against Betancourt’s street racing accomplice that concluded last year.

Michael Dawson, 20, pleaded guilty to aggravated street racing back in November for his role in the incident. He was sentenced to 18 months of periodic imprisonment and 30 months of probation. However, since Betancourt was directly involved in the death of his friend, it wouldn’t be surprising if he got a longer sentence.

Jed Stone, who represented Betancourt in the case, said the incident was “absolutely tragic,” and that Betancourt has taken steps to get his life back on track.

“He’s on an upward trajectory,” Stone said.

Related source: Daily Herald

Former Illinois Board Member Found Guilty of Animal Abuse

ChihuahuasA former Will County Board member was recently found guilty of animal neglect after it was uncovered she locked two dogs in her trunk so she could go roller skating. 

Kathleen Konicki was sentenced to six months of court supervision and fined $395 after a jury convicted her on the misdemeanor animal abuse charge.

The whole incident first began when a passerby heard barking noises coming from a vehicle parked in a lot near the Will County Forest Preserve. The concerned citizen phoned police, but when the officer arrived, the vehicle in question was gone. A similar report was phoned in the following night, and police quickly arrived on scene. A short while later, Konicki returned to her car and unlocked her trunk, revealing two small Chihuahuas.

“She indicated she did not want to leave [the dogs] at home because she was worried they could be stolen,” the officer detailed in his report. “She said the dogs knew how to push down on the back seat to get out of the trunk if they had to.”

It sounds as if Konicki, who is a self-proclaimed animal rights advocate, simply made a poor judgment call. After all, it seems much more likely that the dogs would run in to an ill fate locked in a dark trunk than in a locked house.

Miriam Szatrowski comments

The laws protecting animals can mostly be found in the Humane Care for Animals Act. This statute lays out the duties of owners of companion animals as well as outlawing cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. Companion animal (pet) owners are required to provide their pets with appropriate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Section 7.1 specifically prohibits confining any animal in a motor vehicle if that confinement places the animal in danger.

In this case, the defendant was found guilty of a misdemeanor. However, Illinois does define certain acts of cruelty, such as more serious abuse charges, animal torture, and some dog fighting offenses, as felonies. Repeated violations of the law can also result in felony charges.

Related source: The Herald-News

Illinois Police To Add Extra DUI Patrols During St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

Illinois DUI Patrols St. Patty's DayThe Illinois State Patrol and local precincts will be adding extra DUI patrols over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend to crack down on drunk drivers.

Sgt. Al Trotsky said the added patrols will help keep dangerous drivers off the road. He cautioned residents to plan ahead to make sure they have a safe ride home this weekend.

“If you plan on drinking alcohol, designate a sober driver before the party begins. Designating a sober driver and not letting friends drive drunk are just two simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for drunk driving,” Trotsky said. “Be responsible or risk being arrested for DUI.”

The extra patrols will begin Friday and last into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when some St. Patty’s Day partiers will make the ill-advised decision to drive home.

Brett Appelman comments

I always encourage people to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but Illinois drivers need to remember to celebrate safely and smartly, and that means no driving drunk. Laws against drunk driving and DUI enforcement measures continue to be increased each and every year. If you plan to attend a St. Patrick’s Day party then by all means designate a safe driver or arrange to take public transportation to your event.

Penalties for drunk driving can be severe, ranging from thousands of dollars in fines to the revocation of your license if convicted. Not all people realize that a revocation of your license is different than a suspension of your license. Revocation means as far as the state of Illinois is concerned, you are not allowed to drive at all ever again unless you are successful in a petition to have your license reinstated.

Tips for Staying Safe

Remember these tips for a happy and healthy holiday weekend:

  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Designate a sober driver.
  • Take a bus or taxi.

In the unfortunate event that you get pulled over for drinking and driving, remember:

  • Always be polite and courteous to the officers.
  • Never argue with the officers; There was almost certainly a valid reason for stopping you.
  • Do not make any statements about how much and what you might have been drinking. Simply ask to speak with a lawyer.
  • And most importantly, never agree to a breathalyzer test unless you know for a fact that you do not have any alcohol in your system. By doing so you are simply providing more evidence that can be used against you at a trial. You most certainly will be arrested for refusing a breathalyzer, but an arrest is not a conviction. And yes, refusing a breathalyzer test can result in a suspension of your license. It is much easier to defend a client on a DUI case when there is no breathalyzer than when there is clear proof the client may be over the legal limit.

Related source: Naperville Sun

Court Rules Teen Can’t Force Parents To Pay For School

Rachel CanningA New Jersey judge denied an 18-year-old’s petition to force her parent’s to pay for her education and housing in a case that has garnered national attention. 

Rachel Canning, 18, tried to sue her parents for living and tuition expenses after she claims the pair kicked her out of the house last year. Her parents told a different tale, saying that their daughter left home because she didn’t want to follow some simple house rules.

During the lawsuit, Canning claimed her parents were physically and verbally abusive before they kicked her out of the house. Canning has since been living with a friend, and she sued her parents for expenses and tuition costs for the private high school she attends, and for tuition expenses for the college she plans to attend this fall.

House Rules

Elizabeth and Sean Canning, the parents at the center of the case, tell a vastly different story. They say Rachel got upset after they laid down some ground rules after she:

  • Got suspended from school
  • Partook in underage drinking
  • Began dating someone they didn’t think was a good influence on her

The judge was inclined to side with the parents after hearing both sides.

“Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?” said Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard. “Since if they institute a rule that Junior doesn’t like, Junior can move out. He can move in with another family, he could sue for child support, attorney’s fees, car, cell phone, and a few hundred grand in college.”

Bogaard recommended that both sides, which haven’t spoken to one another since October, seek counseling before the next scheduled court appearance in April.

Sean Sullivan comments

I’m all for a good lawsuit, but I would have to agree with the majority of public opinion that this lawsuit is frivolous. Essentially what this child is asking for is temporary support to be awarded while the case is pending.

Under Illinois law, a party to a family law case can ask for temporary support in the form of monetary payments as the case is pending. However, this provision in the law was intended to be generally be used by the custodial parent against a non-custodial parent who is failing to pay while a custody battle is being fought. I have never seen it employed by a child against a parent. Overall this case is sad because it is no doubt so contentious, but it will be interesting to watch and see how the rest of the pending issues are decided.

Related source: Today

New Law Would Allow Rehabilitated DUI Offenders To Regain Driving Privileges

Suspended LicenseA new bill proposed by Democratic Representative Elaine Nekritz would allow rehabilitated DUI offenders in Illinois to apply for a restricted driving permit if they meet all the requirements.

Some residents may be resistant to let repeat DUI offenders back on the road, but the proposal outlines numerous guidelines with which applicants must follow in order to be eligible to drive. According to the bill:

  • Applicants must permanently install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, which prohibits the car from starting if alcohol is detected; and
  • Applicants would only be able to drive during certain hours and to certain destinations, like school, work or church.

As it currently stands, Illinois residents who have three DUI convictions on their record can apply for the above restricted driving privileges, but a license is permanently revoked if a driver has four DUI convictions. The new law would extend the above conditions to any driver with four DUI convictions.

Examining The Proposal

There are many drivers in Illinois who have or are at risk of having their license suspended or permanently revoked because of a DUI-related offenses. A DUI suspension is known as a statutory summary suspension (“SSS”). Being non-criminal in nature, an SSS is not dependent upon a conviction.

A DUI-related revocation is the withdrawal of driving privileges for a period of 1, 5 or 10 years following a conviction. At the end of that specified period, the restoration of an offender’s driving privileges are contingent upon a successful hearing before the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois licensing authority.

Current laws state that a driver with four DUIs or more will have his or her driving privileges revoked indefinitely. While these are serious offenses, is it appropriate to punish these individuals for the rest of their lives for these mistakes?

Multiple DUI offenses can be a strong indicator that a person is dealing with an addiction to alcohol. Many of these individuals are in need of substance abuse counseling and rehab. Oftentimes, many individuals are able to get the help they need and turn their lives around, yet they are still unable to get their driving privileges back, which can significantly impact their daily lives.

This proposed bill would allow rehabilitated drivers to apply for a restrictive driving permit. The permit would allow them to drive under limited circumstances and only after their vehicles are equipped with breathalyzer ignition devices. It should also be noted that no application for a restrictive driving permit can be made until five years after the revocation took effect or five years following the applicant’s release from incarceration. Additionally, the petitioner would be required to demonstrate a minimum of three consecutive years of being completely alcohol and drug free immediately prior to the hearing.

These individuals will be required to meet other requirements of the Secretary of State. Moreover, they must show that they have some sort of hardship which could be the need to go to school, get to work to support their family, or attend medical appointments. Finally, the Secretary of State can only issue a restrictive driving permit, not a full license, and the driver would only be allowed to operate the vehicle that is equipped with an interlock device.

I will keep my eyes on this proposal, as I believe it has enough caveats to ensure only rehabilitated offenders will have the chance to pursue limited driving rights.

Related source: Fox Illinois