Cell Phone Driving Laws in Illinois

Cell phone drivingIncreased patrols by Illinois police aimed at ticketing drivers for using their cell phone behind the wheel led Kelly Glish to craft a blog post on the hands-free driving law that went into effect earlier this year. Below, she explains what electronics are included under the law, and the consequences of violating the statute.

The new law in Illinois requiring cell phone use to be hands-free while driving is not just for cell phone use. The current law states, “a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an ‘electronic communication device.’” With amendments that went into effect on January 1, 2014, the hands-free cell phone use law has people asking questions.

What devices may be included under the law?

The law includes, but is not limited to:

  • Wireless telephone
  • Personal digital assistant
  • Portable/mobile computer (while being used for composing, reading, or sending an electronic message)

DOES NOT include:

  • Global positioning system (GPS)
  • Navigation System
  • A device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle 

What are the consequences of a citation?

Those cited for violating the hands-free cell phone use law face the following consequences:

  • First time offenders: fine up to $75
  • Second offense:  fine up to $100
  • Third offense: fine up to $125
  • Fourth or Subsequent offense: fine up to $150

A violation of this law will be considered AGGRAVATED when the driver commits the violation and in doing so is involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, disfigurement, or death to another and the violation was a proximate cause of the injury or death. (Causing great bodily harm under violation of this law is a Class A Misdemeanor; causing death is a Class 4 Felony)

Who can be cited for violating the law?

Anyone operating a motor vehicle on any Illinois roadway may be cited for violating this law EXCEPT:

  • A law enforcement officer (while performing his/her official duties).
  • An operator of an emergency vehicle (while performing his/her official duties).
  • A driver using an electronic communication device for the sole purpose of reporting an emergency situation.
  • A driver using an electronic communication device in hands-free or voice-operated mode, which may include the use of a headset.
  • A driver of a commercial motor vehicle reading a message displayed on a permanently installed communication device designed for a commercial motor vehicle with a screen that does not exceed 10 inches tall by 10 inches wide in size.
  • A driver using an electronic communication device while parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
  • A driver using an electronic communication device when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park.
  • A driver using two-way or citizen band radio service.
  • A driver using two-way mobile radio transmitters or receivers for licensees of the Federal Communications Commission in the amateur radio service.
  • A driver using an electronic communication device by pressing a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication.
  • A driver using an electronic communication device capable of performing multiple functions, other than a hand-held wireless telephone or hand-held personal digital assistant (for example, a fleet management system, a citizen band radio, a music player, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited by the law.

Tips To Avoid A Ticket

1. Pull over on shoulder and park to complete communication on your cell phone.

2. Buy a cell phone suction mount to hold your phone stationary while being used as a GPS.

3. Use Bluetooth or a similar hand-free option to communicate while driving.

4. If stopped in traffic, put car in park or neutral while sending electronic communications.

In the event that you want to challenge a citation, contact an attorney to discuss the details of your case, especially if you feel like you wrongly received the ticket. We’re here to help.

Chicago Bulls’ Brewer Pleads Not Guilty To DUI Charge

Ronnie BrewerChicago Bulls forward Ronnie Brewer pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of driving under the influence in the wake of a February traffic stop in Beverly Hills, California.

Brewer, 29, did not appear in court for the initial hearing. Brewer’s attorney entered the not guilty plea on his behalf.

Authorities allege that Brewer had a blood-alcohol concentration of .15 percent – nearly twice the legal limit – when he was pulled over by Beverly Hills police on February 19. His next hearing is scheduled for July 15.

Brett Appelman comments

Unfortunately DUI charges have become an epidemic with young, rich celebrities. Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber and multiple professional athletes have recently been charged with DUI’s. It would seem that access to money, fast cars and the feeling of being untouchable by the law fuels this epidemic. Once arrested, these celebrities can afford the most expensive lawyers, and many times are let go with little to no punishment.

Just this morning Justin Bieber’s attorney announced that his client will plead guilty to a lesser charge of Reckless Driving and will only have to attend anger management classes. Not alcohol treatment, no probation, not even the usual celebrity “sentence” of having to make a Public Service Announcement about the dangers of DUIs.

If young celebrities continue to receive almost no punishment for these DUI cases, they will continue to do the same dangerous activities that got them arrested in the first place. They should not continue to get favorable treatment by the justice system simply because they have money.

Related sources: Sports Illustrated, Reuters

Groups At Odds Over Proposed DUI Bill

Repeat DUIA proposed bill that would allow individuals with four DUI convictions to obtain a driver’s license to help them get to and from work has been met with support and apprehension from legislators and anti-drunk driving groups.

The bill is being championed by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, who said her redemption bill would only give work-driving permits to individuals who have truly turned their life around. She said she was moved when a local man came to her with a plea for help.

“I listened to his story. I went with him to his AA facility, and he proved to me that he turned his life around,” said Nekritz. “How do you look someone in the eye and say ‘no’ to that? How do you say ‘no’ to a man who has changed and is just trying to be a better person? I couldn’t.”

Strict Guidelines

In order to make sure the individual is truly reformed, the bill calls for stringent conditions that must be followed in order to re-apply for a work-driving permit. A person with four DUIs must:

  • Wait five years from the date of the last DUI conviction;
  • Complete rehabilitation successfully;
  • Test sober and drug free for at least three years; and
  • Appeal to the secretary of state for the permit.

Again, the bill would only reinstate partial driving privileges. Drivers would only be allowed to drive between their home and their place of employment, and their vehicle would be outfitted with an ignition interlock device that would prevent the person from driving if alcohol is detected on their breath.

Not All In Favor

Not surprisingly, some government officials and advocacy groups are against the proposal.

“If I was in the legislature, I would vote against it. If I was the governor, I would veto it,” said former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. “My feeling is, if a person has had four DUIs, that’s a real serious problem. After the fourth, and letting that person drive again, it poses a risk for society. Four is a lot of convictions.”

The proposal is also being met with resistance from the anti-drunk driving group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“The current reality is that our highways today are filled with repeat DUI offenders,” said the group’s Illinois executive director. “One DUI is one too many.”

However, the advocacy group Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists is in favor of giving reformed motorists another chance.

“We feel that the goal should be to rehabilitate people,” said Rita Kreslin, the group’s executive director. “If they meet the standards to get this permit, they should be given the chance to prove that they’re going to be driving legally.”

Lt. Donnie Pridemore, who testified in favor of the bill, supported AAIM’s beliefs that as long as the individual follows all the guidelines, they should be able to apply for limited driving rights.

“Some people don’t deserve another chance, but some do,” Pridemore said. “Some people really change, and those are the people who shouldn’t be punished for the rest of their lives.”

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Increased DUI Patrols Begin Today In Illinois

DUI patrolsThe Illinois State Police announced that they will be conducting extra DUI patrols through Memorial Day in hopes of deterring folks from driving drunk.

The added patrols are part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign aimed at reducing the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. The added patrols will start today and run through May 26.

Authorities hope the added presence in the days leading up to Memorial Day will give drivers second thoughts about making risky choices during the long weekend.

“Memorial Day weekend kicks off the busy summer driving season, and we want to ensure that everyone arrives at their destination safe and sound,” said Sheriff Jeff Boyd. “Our officers are prepared to ticket anyone, front or back seat, who is not wearing a seat belt, and who are drinking and driving.”

Two people lost their lives due to alcohol-related car accidents during the holiday weekend in Illinois last year, and more than 600 were injured on Illinois roads. The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to remind citizens that your best defense against a drunk driver is your seat belt, and it can also help keep a little extra cash in your wallet.

Seat Belt Enforcement

Authorities will also be placing an emphasis on seat belt laws for all passengers. Illinois law requires all passengers to use a seat belt while riding in a car, but traffic data from the Illinois Department of Transportation found that back seat passengers were much less likely to buckle up in 2013. According to the data, drivers and front seat passengers fastened their seat belts 93.7 percent of the time last year, while only 77.4 percent of back seat passengers did the same.

Sherriff Boyd noted that of the 46 back seat passengers who lost their lives in 2013, 30 weren’t wearing a seat belt. He said some of those fatalities could have been prevented.

“Seat belts save thousands of lives every year, but far too many motorists still are not buckling up, especially in the back seat,” said Boyd. “Our goal is to save more lives, so the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office will be out enforcing seat belt laws around the clock, looking for those who are not buckled up, in all seating positions. If you are caught not wearing your seat belt, you will be ticketed.”

Brett Appelman comments

It takes two seconds to fasten your seat belt, so there’s really no good excuse not to buckle up. It can save your life. You may think you’re the best driver in the world, but it won’t matter whose fault it was if you don’t survive the accident.

If you don’t want to buckle up for your own safety, do it for the loved ones in your life. You wouldn’t want to cause them pain because you were in too much of a hurry to buckle up or the drive sober.

Make good decisions, especially during the holiday weekend. If something goes wrong, we’re here to help, but we would be more than happy if there were zero DUI arrests in Illinois during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign.

Related source: QC Online

Families Upset Over 10-Year Plea Deal in Cop DUI Death

Cop DUIThe families of two friends who were killed in a car accident by a drunken, off-duty police officer say a potential 10-year sentence by way of a plea agreement is too lenient.

Joaquin Garcia and Fabian Torres lost their lives when last spring when their car collided with a vehicle piloted by officer Terrell Garrett, who was driving the wrong way down Lake Shore Drive. Garrett had been out celebrating his 35th birthday until 4 a.m. before getting behind the wheel. A blood test revealed that Garrett was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.184, more than double the legal limit.

Garcia’s brother said it’s inconceivable that someone whose job it is to serve and protect can make such a poor decision.

“Your brother was killed by a person who was supposed to uphold the law, gets drunk and drives on the opposite side of the highway,” he said. “What is that? Are you kidding me?”

Garrett is expected to be in court Friday to accept a plea deal that would see him spend the next 10 years behind bars if the judge agrees, but the families of the deceased said five years a piece for their loved ones is not enough. Relatives have written dozens of letters to the judge asking him to impose a harsher sentence, and some family members are expected to speak at Friday’s hearing.

Garrett is eligible to be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison under the current sentencing guidelines.

Brett Appelman comments

A 10-year sentence for killing someone during a DUI is actually a fairly strong sentence in Illinois. I have personally seen cases of Reckless Homicide based on a DUI where the defendant did not go to prison at all. But making a plea deal is not an exact science for either side.

When making a plea deal the prosecutors have to weigh the evidence and their chances of winning at trial, versus their chances of losing and having the defendant walk scot-free. Defense attorneys make the same types of calculations; can they win the case at trial, or should they try to make a plea deal that will result in an easier sentence than their client would get if they lost at trial.

When the evidence is very close, when both sides think they can possibly win at trial, the negotiating can get very tough. Neither party will give up much, but both want to make the deal happen. In this case there seems to be overwhelming evidence that the police officer was guilty of the DUI. He likely would have lost at trial. But, the prosecutor had no guarantee of what sentence the defendant would have received after a trial. The defendant was facing a potential 6- to 60-year sentence. A judge could have given this police officer much less time than he is getting through the plea deal. Both sides agreed upon ten years; the defendant did so to prevent a much longer sentence, and the prosecutor did so to guarantee a harsher sentence than the minimum would have allowed.

The victims and their families sometimes get angry at plea deals, but without them the legal system would grind to a standstill. The courts simply do not have the time for every case to go to trial. Plea deals move cases through the system much faster and with less expense than trials do.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

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

Wearing Google Glass While Driving May Soon Be Illegal In Illinois

Google GlassAn Illinois state senator has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for motorists to wear Google Glass while driving.

Senator Ira Silverstein said he proposed the ban because he believes there are already enough gadgets that take drivers’ eyes off the road. Although he didn’t reference any specific studies, there is clear evidence that more drivers are taking their eyes off the road to text their friends and update their Facebook status.

The proposal comes on the heels of recent legislation aimed at making state roads safer. On January 1, Illinois enacted a law that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving unless the driver is using a hands-free device.

Silverstein is intent to move forward with his proposal, but the bill still has a few hurdles to climb. For starters, Google Glass is still in its beta stage and won’t be released to the public until later in the year, so there is little evidence that proves the device is a distraction. Also, since the glasses need to be turned on to access its features, it may be difficult for officers to prove that a driver was actively using the device at the time they were stopped.

Google believes the knocks against its product are being overhyped, and they claim that legislators wouldn’t be pushing for the ban if they simply tried the product for themselves.

Miriam Szatrowski comments

In the last few years, there has been a huge push by Illinois lawmakers to try to make roads safer and reduce traffic deaths. This includes the road signs on the highways with notices about construction, accidents, and the number of traffic deaths. It has also involved a number of new laws to combat excessive speeding and distracted driving. Illinois has outlawed texting while driving and the use of handheld cell phones, and this seems to be the next step in this trend.

However, enforcement may prove difficult. Google Glass is made to blend in and look similar to regular eyeglasses, so it will be hard for police to see from a distance whether someone is wearing it or not. In addition, there has been at least one case in California in which a driver’s ticket under a similar law was dismissed because the prosecutor was unable to prove that the device was turned on, and prosecutors here may run into similar problems.

Related source: WGN TV

5 Traffic Tickets that Increase your Insurance Premiums

traffic violationMSN Money recently published an article discussing five types of traffic tickets that can have a huge impact on your auto insurance.

Here are the five tickets and how much each will increase your insurance premiums (roughly):

  1. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – 25% increase
  2. Reckless Driving – 15% – 20% increase
  3. Speeding – 10% increase
  4. Running a Red Light – 10% increase
  5. Driving without a valid License – 10% increase

The percentage increases are all estimates. How much your premiums actually increase is based on a variety of factors surrounding your individual driving record, criminal history, and other factors.

Sean Sullivan Comments

As a criminal traffic law firm, we routinely deal with these types of tickets. The vast majority of tickets we see are driving on a suspended license or DUI tickets. We deal with these types of cases on a daily basis.  However, what people need to keep in mind (and what this article does not tell you) is that not only are these serious hits on your insurance record, but they are not simple traffic tickets. In Illinois these tickets are, in fact, criminal misdemeanors. This means that the maximum penalty for these offenses can be up to a year in jail.

Bottom line, these violations greatly impact your auto insurance, and your criminal history. They should be taken very seriously.

Our firm has experience in handling all these types of cases. If you find yourself charged with one of these cases please give us a call to discuss your options.

Winter Driving Tips To Avoid An Accident

Winter Driving TipsWinter weather is here to stay in Illinois, so it’s important that residents take precautionary measures to ensure they stay safe on the road until the snow thaws. Today, Sean Sullivan shares some tips every driver should follow so he doesn’t have to represent you in a personal injury suit or insurance claim! That said, Sean is more than willing to help you if you end up in a messy situation this winter.

1. Prepare Your Car

To give yourself the best chance to avoid an accident, take time to prepare your car for winter weather by:

  • Swapping out your all season tires for winter tires.
  • Adding a blanket and a sandbag to your trunk. The sandbag will provide your car with extra weight which will help it grip the road, and it can be used to provide traction if you get stuck in the snow or ice.
  • Checking your fluid levels.
  • Packing the car with winter essentials, like jumper cables, an ice scraper and flashlights.

2. Slow Down

It may seem obvious, but excessive speed is the most common cause of traffic accidents during the winter. Just because Illinois raised the speed limit to 70 mph on some rural highways doesn’t mean you need to go that fast.

Remember, the worse the road conditions, the more time you’ll need to bring your car to a halt. Ease into intersections or stop signs. Just because the light is green doesn’t mean you shouldn’t slow down. Maybe the car in front of you can’t get traction and is struggling to get moving, or a driver coming from another direction can’t stop in time and skids into the intersection. Always keep your head on a swivel when you’re driving during the winter season.

If you know a particular section of highway usually has delays, or if there is a sharp turn coming up, ease off the gas. You may be able to go from 65 mph to 30 mph in no time during the summer, but you might not have the same luck with snow on the ground.

3. Prepare Yourself

Your car may be prepped for the winter weather, but you should also make sure you take steps to keep yourself safe this season.

Always dress appropriately for the weather, even if you’re just driving two blocks to the store. If you get in an accident, you’ll probably regret quickly throwing on your moccasins instead of your boots.

Also, keep your emergency information handy. Put your AAA card in your wallet, or write down a list of towing companies or garages in the area in case you need some roadside assistance. It’s also smart to keep a spare cell phone charger in your car. Most people carry their cell phones with them at all times, but it will do you no good in an emergency if it’s out of battery.

Lastly, make sure people know where you’ll be. If you have to travel a long distance, let someone know which direction you’ll be taking. If you don’t show up, they’ll be able to tell authorities where to begin looking. Usually this isn’t a problem on major highways, but if you’re going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, you might end up driving on less-traveled, less-plowed roads. Cell phone reception could be poor in these areas too, so let friends know when they can expect you, and where you’ll be coming from.

All too often I get calls from potential clients that have been involved in car accidents and need help settling a claim. As much as I love to help people resolve their legal issues, I never want anyone to get into an accident. Please remember these tips in the treacherous winter driving season!

New Illinois Driving Laws Go Into Effect January 1

Illinois Driving lawsThere are over 200 new laws in Illinois that will go into effect beginning January 1, 2014. Although the changes affect many different social sectors, we thought it would be a good idea to touch on some of the notable traffic changes that will begin next week. We can help you fight a driving violation, but we’d be happy if our advice kept you from getting a ticket in the first place!

Speed Changes

The first change is likely a welcomed adjustment for many motorists who want to go a little faster on rural interstates. Beginning January 1, speed limits on rural interstates will increase from 65 mph to 70 mph. Some of the more congested highways will remain at 55 mph.

Speeders may also end up facing harsher penalties under the new law. Anyone caught going more than 26 mph over the speed limit will now be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, while anyone going more than 35 mph over the speed limit will be hit with a Class A misdemeanor.

Distracted Driving

Illinois is also cracking down on distracted driving by going after drivers who like to talk on the phone. Drivers will no longer be able to use a handheld phone without the assistance of a hands-free device. Bluetooth headsets and voice commands will be permitted. Law enforcement officials and emergency responders will be exempt from this law.

Using a cell phone while driving can result in a:

  • $75 fine for a first offense
  • $100 fine for a second offense
  • $125 fine for a third offense
  • $150 for a fourth offense.

A driver who causes an accident while using a cell phone will face stricter penalties. Drivers that cause an accident can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in fines of up to $2,500 and a year in prison. Fatal accidents would be upgraded to a Class 4 felony, which means a driver could face fines of up to $25,000 and three years in prison.

The state is sending a clear message to teens by laying down stronger punishments if they cause an accident while using a handheld cell phone. Any person 19 years or under who causes an accident with injuries, even if the injuries aren’t fatal, will face a Class 4 felony charge.

Additionally, a new law has made it so DVD players and other video devices are moved away from the driver. It is now illegal to play a video device if it is visible to the driver while driving.

Disabled Parking

Disabled parking regulations will also get an overhaul next week. The goal of the new regulations is to crack down on those able-bodied motorists who abuse the system.

The new law states that any person who uses a wheelchair or who has a severe disability will be able to apply for a yellow and gray placard that will allow them to park for free at metered parking spaces throughout the state. In order to be eligible, an applicant must submit documentation from their primary care doctor showing that they qualify under the new regulations. Red and blue placards will still allow a person to park in designated handicapped spots, but they will have to pay if it is metered.

State officials believe the more stringent regulations will ensure that those individuals who truly are burdened by the process of paying for parking will still qualify, while those people who abuse the system will be unable to obtain the new placard.

The state has also increased the fines for abusing the disabled parking privileges. Unauthorized use of a disabled parking spot will result in a $600 fine, up from $500, while anyone caught making or using a counterfeit placard will face a $1,000 fine, up from $500.

Related source: ABC 7