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Illinois Bill Would Reduce Felony Convictions for Retail TheftDo you know that Illinois has one of the strictest retail theft laws in the U.S.? Illinois is one of only six states that allows felony convictions for stealing items valued at $300 or more. Many other states require the value to be more than $1,000 before a retail theft conviction becomes a felony. Members of the Illinois House of Representatives are trying to change the law to raise the minimum value for a felony theft charge and reduce the number of offenders who end up in prison.

New Law

The proposed bill would make three changes to Illinois’ criminal code regarding theft:

  • Theft of property valued at less than $2,000 would be a Class A misdemeanor;
  • Theft of property valued at $2,000 or more would be a Class 4 felony; and
  • A second theft conviction of less than $2,000 would be a felony only if the first conviction was a felony.

Predictably, business owners have publicly opposed any raise to the minimum value required for a felony retail theft conviction. Illinois lawmakers have admitted that they may need to reduce the $2,000 threshold in order to pass the bill. However, raising the minimum to even $1,000 would be an improvement for the state.

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Car Seat Safety Protects Children During AccidentsIllinois is enacting a child car seat law at the beginning of 2019 that will require children younger than 2 to be placed in rear-facing car seats. A front-end collision is dangerous to infants facing forwards because the forward momentum during a sudden stop can hurt their necks and heads. A rear-facing car seat absorbs the impact of a front-end collision and better secures a child’s head and neck. There are several other ways to protect your children in case of a vehicle accident, some of which are Illinois law requirements:

  1. Consider Child’s Size: Although the law creates an age cutoff, you should not assume that your child is ready for a front-facing car seat when he or she turns 2. Safety researchers recommend that children continue riding in rear-facing car seats until they weigh more than 40 pounds or are more than 40 inches tall.
  2. Dress in Thinner Layers: You should firmly strap your child into the car seat, but bulky clothing items can compress during a crash, causing the restraints to be looser. It is advised that you dress your child in a thinner layer of clothing and place a coat or blanket on top of the seat.
  3. Car Seats Required Until 8: Illinois law states that any child younger than 8 must be secured in a child safety seat, such as a front-facing car seat or a booster seat. For children in booster seats, the lap belt should go across the child’s thighs, and the shoulder belt should go across his or her chest and shoulder. Your child should not use a booster seat if there is not a shoulder belt.
  4. Keep Children in Back: Researchers recommend that children sit in the back seat of a car until they are 12. The front row of seats is a layer of protection for them in case of a front-end collision. The force of the airbag being deployed can also be dangerous for your children.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Attorney

You may receive a fine if you fail to secure your child in a car seat as mandated by Illinois law. However, violating a car seat law does not affect your ability to receive personal injury compensation if someone else was at fault for the vehicle accident that injured your child. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you file a lawsuit to collect damages for your child’s injury. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Jail Informants to Face Tougher Vetting in Criminal TrialsIllinois has passed a law that puts greater restrictions on prosecutors using jail informants as witnesses in criminal trials. According to the law:

  • Prosecutors must disclose their intention to use a jail informant at least 30 days before a hearing unless they were unaware of the informant before that deadline; and
  • The court must determine the veracity of the jail informant’s testimony before allowing it to be entered as evidence.

The law previously required vetting of jail informants only in cases involving the death penalty, but Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. Advocates for the law argued that unreliable informant testimony led to wrongful convictions that were overturned decades later. There have been 19 such cases in Illinois during the past three decades, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Problems with Informants

A jail informant, also known as a snitch, is an inmate who allegedly heard the defendant make an incriminating statement and agrees to testify against him or her in court. Criminal defense attorneys will question the reliability of informants because prosecutors often offer incentives to informants in exchange for their testimony, such as:

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Pets Are More Than Property in Illinois DivorceMarried couples think of pets as being more like family members than property. For a couple without children, a dog or cat could fill the role of a child in a family. However, Illinois divorce law once considered pets to be marital properties more on the level of inanimate objects. A new law enacted at the beginning of 2018 changed that assumption so that pets are treated more like children. Illinois courts now recognize pet custody agreements and consider the well-being of the pet when determining which party will keep it.

Classifying Pets

The law still defines pets as assets but says that a divorce court can award sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a pet from a marriage. To determine whether the law applies to your pet, you must answer two questions:

  • Is your pet a marital or non-marital property?; and
  • Is your pet a companion animal or service animal?

When you first got the pet can determine whether it is a marital property. A pet may be a non-marital property if one of you owned the pet before the marriage. If you got the pet during your marriage, then it is most likely a marital property. A service animal, such as a seeing-eye dog, will stay with the spouse that it is meant to assist. The law does not define a companion animal, but it is assumed in this case to be any pet that is not a service animal.

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Illinois Inconsistently Applies Juvenile Detention PolicyIllinois has amended its juvenile crime laws in recent years to try to reduce the lasting damage that the justice system can cause. It is more difficult for the state to try a juvenile as an adult and easier for juvenile offenders to seal or clear their records. However, the use of detention centers is still negatively affecting some juveniles. Even police detention after an arrest can psychologically damage a child. Juvenile advocates are challenging the detention system, saying that detention centers do not meet the goal of rehabilitating the children.

Statistics Suggest Harm

Studies of people who served time in a juvenile detention facility as children show that the use of detention facilities often correlates with:

  • Lower high school graduation rates;
  • Lower rates of employment and income potential;
  • Higher occurrences of mental illness; and
  • Greater likelihood of becoming a repeat offender.

Other studies have concluded that areas that more often offer alternatives to juvenile detention have lower rates of juvenile crime.

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