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

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.

Illinois Mandates Sexual Abuse Education in Public Schools

Illinois has passed a new law that requires all public schools to teach age-appropriate sexual assault and abuse awareness in their curriculum.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the measure known as Erin’s Law on Thursday, saying “those who are victims, we want to not only protect them but help them become survivors.”

The measure was named after 27-year-old Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused as a child and forced to endure the abuse for seven years before she had the courage to speak out.  Merryn has been pushing for the law for three years, and Thursday’s signing brought an overwhelming sense of relief.

“You do not know how joyous this is for me, how hard I’ve worked for this,” Erin said.

Merryn was the victim of sexual abuse from the ages of 6-8, and again from 11-13.

The governor signed the bill at The Children’s Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County, the same place Erin first spoke up against her abuse.  She hopes the adoption of the bill will help children identify the signs of abuse and speak up sooner.

“This is a place I walked into scared and terrified that I wasn’t going to be believed,” said Erin.  “I never would have imagined 15 years later I would be walking through these doors getting a law passed to give kids a voice in the same place I found my voice.”

Although the bill is the first unfunded mandate in two years, it gives schools the flexibility to decide how they’ll teach the age-appropriate awareness.  Schools can pay to have an outside agency develop a curriculum, or they can teach their staff how it should be implemented.  Merryn says she doesn’t want to negatively impact any school budgets, and she hopes educators train their own staff to talk about sexual assault and abuse.

“Schools don’t just need to hire someone to come in (from) outside the school,” Merryn said. “You’ve got the staff right there that you already pay that are capable of teaching this, with the proper training.”

The law requires abuse education to be taught to children starting in pre-kindergarten.  Merryn said the age-appropriate awareness could be as simple as identifying who to talk to if children have questions or concerns.

Now that Erin’s Law has been passed at the state level, Merryn said she hopes to push for nationwide adoption.

“My innocence was killed, my trust was taken, but I reclaimed my voice and I want every victim of sexual abuse to do the same,” Erin said.

Illinois Attorney Miriam Szatrowski comments

This law, if implemented effectively, will help children understand what sexual abuse is, and where to go for help to make it stop. It may also aid law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these cases by encouraging victims to come forward immediately, when the evidence and memories of the abuse are still fresh, instead of waiting weeks, months, or even years out of fear or shame.

This may also have the effect of preventing wrongful convictions, because any exculpatory evidence is also more likely to be available if allegations are made sooner.

It is important for people to know that if they are accused of any type of sexual abuse, they should talk to a lawyer immediately, and should not make any statements to police or anyone else before they have spoken with a lawyer.

Related source:  ABC, Chicago Tribune

Medical Professionals Must Tread Carefully in the Digital Age

In the ever-expanding digital age, the lines between personal and professional practices continue to be blurred by social media.  Facebook and Twitter have positioned themselves as personal social media sites, while the site LinkedIn stresses a more professional appearance.  Although people go on to social media sites to share their personal opinions and photos, researchers warn that some professionals should think carefully before they post certain things.

A study by a professor at the University of California sought to determine what is and isn’t acceptable in the digital realm.  For his research, Dr. Ryan Greysen presented a group of state medical licensing directors with a variety of social media scenarios, ranging from mostly innocent to completely absurd.

The survey asked the licensing directors which scenarios would prompt board investigation by their state.  Examples of the scenarios presented to directors include a doctor posting drunken photos to a social media account, and a surgeon using foul and demeaning language on his website.

The questionnaire was “based on things medical boards told us they were concerned about,” said Greysen.  “It’s not hard to find images just like the ones we used with just some limited searching.”

The goal of the research was to help establish social media guidelines for medical professionals, but none of the scenarios prompted unanimous review, meaning that was is acceptable in one state may be deemed inappropriate in another.

Survey Findings

Below are the survey findings and the percent of states that would conduct board review. (48 states reported)

  • Citing misleading information about clinical outcomes (81%)
  • Using patient images without consent (79%),
  • Misrepresenting credentials (77%)
  • Inappropriately contacting patients (77%)
  • Depicting alcohol intoxication (73%)
  • Violating patient confidentiality (65%)
  • Using discriminatory speech (60%)
  • Showing alcohol use without intoxication (40%)

As indicted in the findings, there is moderate consensus for certain actions, but none are unanimous.  Not only is it concerning for medical professionals who are wondering if their actions are acceptable, but it also offers warning that certain illegal activates may go unregulated.

“It’s not 100 percent, which gives you some pause,” says Dr. Vineet Arora who works at University of Chicago Medical Center. “What triggers an investigation in those states? If this doesn’t do it, what does?”

Arora says she believes most mistakes are made by people who are relatively new to social sites and are still learning the appropriateness of social media.  Although there are no defined social guidelines, medical professionals should strongly consider the implications of their actions before posting something for the whole world to see.

Sean Sullivan comments

Medical professionals should heed these warnings very carefully.

Sometimes just the inference of impropriety or unethical behavior can get someone in trouble with the state licensing boards.  The state licensing laws are written very broadly as to what the regulators can penalize professionals for.  Think about what you’re posting so you don’t have to go into a hearing to defend yourself from something you posted online.

Most licensing disciplinary actions are publicized on the Internet, so do some research before delving into the world of social media.  Professionals have to remember that friends and potential patients could be looking for them online.

Related source: NPR.org

Teen Arrested After Posting Threats on Facebook

An Indiana teen was arrested Thursday after police say he posted Facebook messages threatening to go on a rampage.

Eric Rizley, 19, was charged with intimidation after he allegedly posted violent messages on the social media site.

Rizley reportedly posted a statement saying “Watch out portage people might be dying soon,” and “No seriously imma go on a rampage.”

Police were made aware of the threats, and Rizley was brought into custody.

When asked why he posted the messages, Rizley said he had no intention of carrying out the threats and couldn’t explain why he didn’t stop when his mother asked him to.

Social Media is a great medium for expressing ideas these days, but it can also be used to incriminate oneself,” says Illinois lawyer Sean Sullivan. “As a criminal defense attorney, I have seen that the rules of evidence in the court system are shifting to allow social media posts to be admissible. People should be careful of what they put out there.  Do not post something that may incriminate you later.”

Traffic Stop Results in Two Drunken Driving Violations

Brenda G. Loth and Tami R. Lucibello of Naperville were arrested for driving under the influence after police pulled one of the vehicles over and the other driver stopped to wait for her friend.

The women, both 41, were driving back from a downtown bar around 1 a.m. when an officer spotted them committing lane violations and stop sign violations.  The officer pulled one of the vehicles over, which prompted the other woman to pull over to wait for her colleague.

After a short while, another officer appeared on the scene.  Both officers spoke with the women.

Lucibello allegedly told one of the officers that she and Loth had been at a downtown bar with workplace friends several hours earlier.  The women said they left the bar at the same time and began driving home together.

Loth lives in River Woods on Naperville’s southeast side, while Lucibello lives in the Windridge neighborhood on the city’s southwest side.

It was not reported who was pulled over first, but Loth was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, improper lane usage and disobeying a stop sign, while Lucibello was charged with driving under the influence, making an improper turn, and a license plate violation.

The women will also share a court date, as they are both scheduled in court for their arraignments on January 15.

Brett Appelman comments

Both of these women made a number of mistakes that night, aside from the simple fact that they drove while under the influence of alcohol.

When they were pulled over, they both admitted drinking, they both told the police that the other one had also been drinking, and they both committed small traffic violations which led to them being pulled over in the first place.

If you have been drinking and you get pulled over, the main thing to remember is to protect yourself by exercising your rights:

  • Your right to remain silent: do not speak to the police, except to say your name and address. Do not answer any questions about where you were, where you are going, or if you have had anything to drink.
  • Your right against self-incrimination: Do not take any sobriety tests. Do not stand on one leg, or walk a straight line, and certainly do not take the breath test.  You have the right to refuse these tests.

If you keep a calm head, and remember your rights, you can probably save yourself much of the troubles that these women got themselves into.

related source:  CBS Chicago

2 Illinois High Schools Involved in Hazing Scandals

Two Illinois high schools have been at the center of the high school hazing debate, and the schools are taking different paths to settle the issues.

Hazing Scandal #1

At Hoffman Estates High School, fourteen members of the high school basketball team were ordered to forfeit three games after alleged hazing incidents.

Officials said members of the basketball team would single out a player for initiation, then pile on top of that player and poke, grab and touch the individual in areas that sometimes included the buttocks and groin.  All players were fully clothed during the hazing incidents and the touching did not occur underneath a player’s clothes.

The Hoffman Estates police department is working with the school during the ongoing investigation.

The team’s coach is also being investigated, but players told school officials that their coach knew nothing about the initiation ritual.

The school has stated that the team will forfeit their next three games as a result of the “horseplay”, and members of the team will undergo training in hazing awareness.

Hazing Scandal #2

In an unrelated high school, the Department of Children and Family Services is looking into possible criminal violations stemming from hazing incidents dating back to 2008.

The DCFS is investigating one or more school officials at Maine West High School who may have known about the incidents and failed to report the conduct to proper authorities.  The Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act requires knowledge of alleged abuse to be reported, and violations range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony.

The investigation comes on the heels of a variety of incidents involving hazing on the boys soccer and baseball teams.

A parent of a freshman on the 2008 baseball team informed the school principal that members of the team had tore off her son’s pants and underwear on numerous occasions, sometimes exposing his genitals.

School officials investigated the complaint and four students were disciplined, but top district officials were not informed.  An internal investigation is being conducted to determine if the school acted appropriately.

The DCFS decided to get involved after the more recent hazing incident surrounding the boys soccer team.  Details about the latest incident have not been released, but six players were charged with misdemeanors after allegedly hazing three players.

Hazing and bullying is a growing epidemic in our schools,” says Illinois attorney Sean Sullivan. “What troubles me most about these two stories is that the Department of Children and Family Services is concerned enough to seek further investigation in one case, but not in the other.  It seems like a slippery slope to define one as ‘horseplay’ and the other as bordering on a sex crime. Both of these cases involve bullying of student athletes, and both deal with hazing related to school activities.  In my opinion both should warrant further investigation, not just one.”

Related source:  Chicago Tribune

Naperville Babysitter Pleads Not Guilty in Televised Arraignment

When Naperville babysitter Elzbieta Plackowska pled not guilty to the murder of two young children, she did so in front of cameras, which were allowed in a DuPage County courtroom for the first time in the county’s history.

The arraignment, which lasted less than five minutes, was the first televised criminal proceeding of a Chicago metro area court case.

“Everything went smoothly,” DuPage County Chief Judge John Elsner said after the hearing.

Plackowska did not speak during the arriagnment, and Assistant Public Defender Michael Mara entered the plea on her behalf.

Plackowska faces 10 counts of murder after she allegedly fatally stabbed her 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old girl whom she was babysitting on October 30.

Cameras were allowed in court as part of a new Illinois Supreme Court policy that seeks to make court proceedings more widely accessible.  One television camera and one still camera were allowed to document the arraignment by Judge Robert Kleeman, who presided over the hearing.  Judge Kleeman rejected two additional media requests for a greater camera presence.

DuPage County is the 23rd Illinois county to allow camera documentation in court, but it became the first county in the Chicago metro area to allow such media coverage.

Plackowska and State’s Attorney Robert Berlin did not object to the camera presence, and Berlin said they didn’t affect the proceeding.

“The arraignment was like any other arraignment we do in this building,” Berlin said.  “Honestly, I didn’t even notice the cameras.”

Although Illinois is trying to make it easier for the public to have access to court proceedings, Berlin said people need to be aware that what happens in a courtroom is serious business, not entertainment.

The integration of cameras into the courtroom has been successful in other Illinois counties, and their presence in DuPage County could open the door for expanded media coverage in more Chicago-area court cases, said Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Tybor.

“DuPage is a stepping stone to Chicago,” Tybor said.

Illinois Attorney Brett Appelman Comments

In America we value our court system as one of best and fairest in the world.  Part of that commitment to fairness is that our courts are open; everything is done in public, and anyone who wants to can go to the courthouse and see all of the proceedings for themselves.

As an expansion of that desire for openness, many courts have begun to allow cameras and reporters inside the courtroom.  Chicago and the Chicago area have never before allowed cameras into the courtroom to tape the proceedings, but today’s recording is a big step in expanding that openness to television audiences.  Even if you can’t make it to the court, you will still be able to view exactly what goes on in the courtroom through your television.”

Kane County to Crack Down on Drunk Driving during Thanksgiving Holiday

Police in Kane County used a DUI crackdown to prevent drunk driving around Halloween last month, and they will use similar enforcement the night before Thanksgiving.

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said four arrests were made during last month’s patrol, and the “no-refusal” system will be in place on the eve of Thanksgiving.

The no-refusal periods are unique, as they allow authorities to have much quicker deliberations with judges and prosecutors.  Judges are on call and ready to draft search warrants for suspected drunk drivers who refuse to comply with breath tests.  Motorists normally face the loss of their license if they fail to comply with a breath test, but the quick draft of a warrant can order the suspect to take the test.

Last month, police did not have to serve warrants for any of the arrested individuals.  Three people complied willing, while the fourth complied only after being told the officer would get a warrant.

All four drivers were over the legal limit at the time of arrest, and one suspect blew a .290, nearly four times the legal limit of 0.8 in Illinois.

The night before Thanksgiving is popular night for alcohol consumption as family and friends arrive in town for holiday festivities.  McMahon said authorities would conduct another no-refusal program on November 21.

“Our goal is zero DUI arrests. That means people are being responsible. But we are pleased that we were able to get BAC samples from everyone charged, and we are pleased that four intoxicated drivers were removed from the roadways,” McMahon said.