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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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Additional Expenses Can Increase Child Support ObligationIllinois’ child support system uses an income shares schedule to calculate the monetary obligation that co-parents share each month. The rows in the table have monetary ranges that represent the total of the parents’ combined monthly incomes, and columns show the number of children that the parents have. To read the table, you would find the row where your combined incomes fit and choose the column based on how many children you have. That monetary total is Illinois’ estimate for how much you together should pay towards supporting your children each month. However, that number may not be the final child support total. The basic total excludes some child expenses because they are not always necessary. A family court may add these expenses to your total when they apply to your case.

Childcare

Childcare can be a necessary expense when your children are too young to be left alone and there is not an adult available to watch over them. For child support, childcare may include:

  • Daycare;
  • Before and after-school programs; and
  • Day camps when children are on break from school.

Including childcare as part of child support does not allow parents to choose an unreasonably expensive service. The court will judge whether the expense is reasonable based on the parents’ incomes. Parents also must have a reason why they cannot watch the children, such as working, looking for a job, or attending an educational or vocational program.

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Farm Owners Have Different Rules for Workers' CompensationAgricultural work has the potential to cause serious or fatal injuries, but workers compensation benefits may not be available in some cases. Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act states that it does not apply to owners of agricultural enterprises unless they have employees who work a combined 400 working days per fiscal quarter. Immediate family members of the owner do not count as employees if they live with the owner. Thus, the owner of a small farm is not required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if he or she employs only a few helpers who do not work the required number of hours. This does not change the inherent dangers that come with agricultural work, including:

  1. Operating Hazardous Equipment: Farmers regularly use sharp tools that can cause serious cuts or lost appendages. They have power tools and heavy machinery that are dangerous if they malfunction or are not used properly. Large vehicles such as tractors are a threat to roll over when being driven or overturn when idle.
  2. Slips and Falls: Farmers may need to climb up ladders when working, which has the potential for fall-related injuries. The working area has many obstacles that can trip a worker and substances that may make the floor slippery. A worker may suffer further injury if he or she falls onto a piece of equipment.
  3. Grain Silos: Suffocation is a serious threat when working in a grain storage bin. Shifts in a pile of grain may cause it to collapse on a worker. Grain can behave like quicksand, making it difficult to escape from. An accumulation of grain dust can cause an explosion if it comes in contact with a heat source.
  4. Contaminants: Farmers may work with chemicals such as pesticides, which can be hazardous to humans. Working with animals may expose a farmer to diseases and infections. Long-term exposure to dust and chemicals in the air may cause chronic respiratory problems.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act’s exception for farm owners may not apply if your duties on a farm include more than agricultural work. Being hired to do construction or equipment maintenance may fall outside the legal definition of agricultural work.

Farm owners can still carry workers’ compensation insurance or farm liability coverage even if they are not required to. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you receive compensation for your farm-related injury. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838. 

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Tort Immunity Makes It Difficult to Collect Injury Compensation from PoliceWhen can a police officer be held liable for causing a traffic accident that results in personal injury to another party? Illinois gives officers tort immunity in situations where they are responding to an emergency. The officer’s driving actions could be negligent, reckless or illegal, but the police department would be protected from civil penalties as long as the officer was in the process of enforcing the law. While it may be necessary to allow officers to respond to emergencies without worrying about civil repercussions, it can deny car crash victims the chance to receive compensation when someone else was at fault for their accident.

Exceptions to Immunity

A court will allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit against a police department if you can prove one of two circumstances:

  • The officer was not engaged in executing the law at the time of the crash; or
  • The officer’s conduct showed a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.

It can be difficult to prove either of these exceptions. Courts tend to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt when they claim that their actions were necessary or part of their job. A recent case shows how much leeway the law gives police officers who are involved in car accidents.

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Contesting Child Abuse Allegations by the DCFSThe Illinois Department of Child and Family Services has the authority to indicate you for child abuse or neglect if its investigation concludes that there is evidence of such mistreatment. Being “indicated” does not by itself mean you are facing criminal charges, but the DCFS can use it to limit your parental role and put you on a state register that may prevent you from having a job that involves working with children. You have the right to appeal the DCFS’s decision in order to expunge their findings from your record.

Expungement Process

You have only 60 days to file an expungement request after the DCFS has indicated you for child abuse or neglect. Once you have filed the request with the DCFS, a neutral administrative law judge must hear your case within 70 days. If you are a child care worker, you will receive an expedited hearing within 35 days. The judge will hear evidence from both sides and file a recommendation on whether to grant your expungement request to the DCFS director within 90 days. If either the judge or the DCFS director denies your expungement request, you can appeal to the circuit court.

Evidence

As with prosecutors in a criminal trial, the DCFS investigators have the burden of proving their suspicions of child abuse or neglect. At the hearing, they must present their findings and show why they reached their conclusion. As part of your expungement request, the DCFS must provide you a copy of the investigation report, which you can examine for:

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