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Court Rules That Portion of Illinois Stalking Law Infringes on Free SpeechAmericans regularly exercise their right to freedom of speech, which prohibits the federal, state and local governments from creating laws that would hinder free speech or create a chilling effect on free speech due to fear of punishment. However, criminal courts have established exceptions to free speech when the speech constitutes criminal activity. You can be charged for making verbal threats that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their immediate safety. It can be difficult to define the line between free speech and a criminal act, and courts are mindful of laws that may unintentionally punish people for speech that is not criminal. For instance, an Illinois appellate court recently found a section of the state’s criminal code on stalking to be unconstitutional because it was overly broad in its limits on speech.

Recent Case

In People v. Morocho, the defendant was convicted of three counts of aggravated stalking for sending threatening text messages to a woman with whom he had a child. The offense was aggravated stalking because the defendant had allegedly caused a bruise on the woman’s arm from a previous incident. Illinois defines stalking as:

  • Engaging in a course of conduct that the suspect should know would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer other emotional distress
  • Following or surveilling a person on at least two occasions and threatening harm or causing someone to reasonably believe they are threatened

One of the counts that the defendant was convicted for was based on the section of the law that defines stalking as causing someone to “suffer other emotional distress.” On appeal, the defendant argued that this section of the law was overly broad and unconstitutional. The court agreed that the wording of this section could allow people to be prosecuted for lawful speech. It stated that the law separated speech causing emotional distress from speech that causes someone to fear for their safety and that someone could feel distressed from speech that clearly did not fit any definition of stalking. The court reversed the defendant’s conviction on the one count and upheld the other two counts.

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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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Teen Suicide Prompts Illinois to Change Procedure for Juvenile InterrogationsMost teenagers cannot help but feel intimidated when a police officer questions them. They may not understand that being detained and interrogated is different from being arrested and charged with a crime. On the other side of the interrogation, a police officer may not appreciate the trauma that a teenager may experience after being questioned about a serious crime. In 2017, a 16-year-old high school student in Naperville, Illinois, committed suicide after a school resource officer had detained him for questioning at the school over an alleged recording of a sexual encounter. The teen’s parents were not aware of the allegations or the police questioning until after the teen took his own life. In response to this incident, Illinois recently enacted a new law that changes the procedure for police questioning a student on school grounds.

Parental Notification

A law enforcement officer who suspects a student younger than 18 of committing a crime must comply with the following steps if they intend to detain and question them on school grounds:

  • They must notify or attempt to notify the student’s parents or guardian;
  • They must try to allow a parent or guardian to attend the questioning;
  • If a parent or guardian is unavailable, they must allow a mental health professional to attend, such as a school psychologist or social worker; and
  • If reasonable, they must try to include a law enforcement officer who is trained in communicating with youth.

The law states that its rules apply when a student is on school property during regular school hours and when students are present.

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Will a Positive Drug Test Sink Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?A workers’ compensation insurance company will search for reasons that they can deny your claim, including blaming your conduct for your injury. That is why some employers will ask you to submit to a drug test after an injury. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits if their intoxication was the proximate cause of their injury. You can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you failed a drug test, but you will have to prove that your injury was unrelated to the intoxicating substance in your body.

Drug Testing

In September 2011, Illinois changed its burden of proof for intoxication claims in workers’ compensation cases. Previously, employers had to prove that an employee was intoxicated and that the intoxication caused the injury. Now, employees who test positive for drugs bear the burden of proving that they were not intoxicated or that whatever effect the drug had on them did not cause their injury. According to state law, employers can use results from a blood, urine, or breath test as evidence of the presence of:

  • Alcohol;
  • Cannabis;
  • Controlled substances; and
  • Intoxicating compounds.

Intoxicating compounds are otherwise legal substances that can cause intoxicating effects, such as huffing chemicals. The law presumes that you were intoxicated if you refuse a drug test after your injury.

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When Are Schools Liable for Children’s Injuries?Parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be safe, but accidents occur that may result in a child being injured. When the injury requires extensive medical treatment, you should investigate whether you have a strong case for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the school. School districts in Illinois are required to carry insurance in case they are found liable for a student’s injury. In many situations, Illinois law protects school districts against parents filing personal injury lawsuits unless they can prove willful or wanton conduct by the district or its employees.

Plaintiff’s Burden

Illinois’ Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act creates a high burden of proof when plaintiffs file personal injury lawsuits against public entities, such as public school districts. Student injuries are most likely to occur during recess periods, physical education classes and extracurricular athletics. The law states that a school district is not liable for injuries that occur on properties that are meant for recreational activities unless the injury was caused by willful or wanton conduct, which is:

  • Intent to cause harm; or
  • Conscious disregard for safety.

Willful or wanton conduct is a stricter burden of proof than negligence because it requires proving the defendant’s intent. It is unlikely that a school or its employees would intend to injure a student. Showing that the school was ambivalent towards its students’ safety is more likely but still difficult.

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