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Notable New Illinois Criminal Laws Starting in 2020When Illinois passes new state laws, many are scheduled to go into effect at the start of the next calendar year. The legalization of recreational marijuana has rightfully garnered most of the attention among the state’s new laws for 2020. Not only will it make it legal to possess as much as 30 grams of cannabis, but many people have already been able to expunge previous marijuana possession convictions. There are other laws going into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, that relate to traffic violations in the state, as well as a law that helps protect the civil rights of people who have been arrested.

Traffic Laws

Driving offenses are among the most common reasons for interaction between police officers and civilians. Illinois often revises its driving laws to address new threats and discourage dangerous behavior by drivers. There are three such laws that will start in 2020:

  1. Watching Video: Illinois is already combating distracted driving by making it illegal to use handheld electronic devices while driving. An update to the law expands the definition to include using devices to watch or stream video. A distracted driving violation will result in a fine and count towards the three traffic tickets in 12 months that it takes to suspend your driver's license. However, distracted driving becomes a Class A misdemeanor if someone is injured and a Class 4 felony if someone dies.
  2. Fine for Passing a School Bus: It is illegal for vehicles in either direction to overtake and pass a school bus that has stopped for the purpose of picking up or dropping off passengers. Illinois has doubled the fines for these violations. A first offense is a $300 fine. A second or subsequent offense is a $1,000 fine.
  3. Scott’s Law: Scott’s Law is Illinois’ new name for the law requiring drivers to yield to emergency vehicles and use caution when approaching a stopped vehicle. Whereas a violation previously required a minimum $100 fine, the minimum fine is now $250 for a first offense and $750 for a second or subsequent offense. A violation that damages another vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor, and a violation that results in injury or death is a Class 4 felony.

Arrest Records

Illinois law has new protections for people who were arrested on suspicion of a crime but were never charged or convicted. The law states that it is a civil rights violation to use someone’s arrest record, juvenile record or criminal record that has been sealed as a reason to deny them:

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Auto-Brewery Syndrome Can Affect BAC TestAs odd as it may sound, it is possible for someone to ferment alcohol in their gut without having had any alcohol to drink. It is a rare condition known as auto-brewery syndrome or gut fermentation syndrome. People with this syndrome can be falsely suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol because a blood alcohol concentration test will give an inaccurately high reading. If you can prove that you have auto-brewery syndrome, you may be able to get your DUI charges dismissed, but this defense rarely applies.

How It Happens

People develop auto-brewery syndrome because of yeast or bacteria that grow in their gastrointestinal system – the same type of yeast that is used to ferment alcohol. Auto-brewery syndrome is most commonly diagnosed in people who have other conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s disease, and short bowel syndrome. Auto-brewery syndrome can cause the same symptoms as alcohol intoxication, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Belching
  • Disorientation

Unlike with consuming alcohol, a person with auto-brewery syndrome cannot reasonably predict when these symptoms may occur. Physicians may treat the syndrome by prescribing anti-fungal medicines and recommending that the patient goes on a low-carbohydrate diet.

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The Consequences of Reckless Driving in IllinoisPatrons at Woodfield Mall in suburban Chicago were alarmed when an SUV drove through the indoor shopping center, damaging several displays before it came to a stop at a pillar. The vehicle did not hit anyone, though three people were taken to the hospital. As of the last reporting on the story, the driver was in custody at a behavioral health center and would not be charged until he was released. Police said they do not know if it was a planned attack or if the driver has a mental illness, which could determine what the man is charged with. At the very least, the incident seems to qualify as reckless driving.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Illinois’ criminal code defines reckless driving as:

  • Driving with a willful or wanton disregard for people or property; or
  • Intentionally using an incline to become airborne, such as a hill, bridge approach, or railroad crossing.

Traveling over the speed limit by 35 miles per hour or more is also reckless driving. The charge can become aggravated if the driver injures someone during the incident. If the driver was legally intoxicated, then the charge will be driving under the influence instead.

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Illinois Looking to Strengthen Penalties of Move-Over LawIllinois lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would increase the punishment for drivers who violate the “move-over” law, also known as Scott’s Law. The existing law states that drivers must use caution when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Scott’s Law is a traffic violation that requires a fine, though it can also be an aggravating factor for charges such as driving under the influence. The changes to the law would expand the punishments for incidents involving property damage or personal injury.

Scott’s Law

The state created the move-over law to protect emergency responders after several had been injured or killed when motorists struck them by the side of the road. The law was named after Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who died after being hit by an intoxicated driver while responding to a crash. The law states that drivers who are approaching a stationary emergency vehicle must:

  • Proceed with caution;
  • Reduce speed; and
  • Change lanes in order to give the vehicle room, if possible.

The law defines a stationary emergency vehicle as any vehicle that is authorized to be equipped with flashing lights, including the red and blue lights and yellow lights. A conviction is a business offense, punishable by a fine of $100 to $10,000. For incidents involving vehicle damage or personal injury, the offender’s driver’s license can be suspended for 90 to 180 days.

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Illinois ACLU Study Claims Racial Profiling in Traffic StopsBlack and Latino drivers in Illinois are statistically more likely to be pulled over for a traffic stop and subjected to a search, according to a report recently released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The ACLU looked at results from nearly 6.5 million traffic stops from 2015 to 2017. Illinois law enforcement agencies collect the data as required by the Illinois Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study Act, which the state created in 2003 because of concerns about racial profiling. The ACLU said that law enforcement must end its practice of conducting excessive traffic stops and searches in hopes of finding criminal activity.

Statistics

The study cites several pieces of data in claiming that local and state police agencies disproportionately target minority drivers:

  • Police stopped minority drivers at a higher rate than white drivers, and the disparity increased each year from 2015 to 2017;
  • In 2017, minority drivers were 1.5 times more likely to be stopped than white drivers;
  • Black drivers were subjected to consent searches 1.7 times more often than white drivers, and Latino drivers were 1.3 times more likely;
  • Police officers were 1.3 times more likely to find contraband when searching a white driver’s vehicle than when searching the vehicle of a black or Latino driver.

Stops

The ACLU claims that law enforcement agencies have encouraged officers to be aggressive in conducting traffic stops and subsequent searches. The Illinois State Police supposedly instructed troopers to pull drivers over for all traffic violations because it would increase the chance of encountering someone conducting criminal activity. This instruction put into practice means that the troopers may be predisposed to believe that the drivers they pull over are committing other crimes.

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