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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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How to Share Your Children’s Halloween with Your Co-ParentHalloween is a fun celebration for those who are young or young-at-heart. If you are a parent, the main enjoyment you get from the holiday is probably seeing your kids in costume, participating in the Halloween traditions that you remember from your childhood. That is why holidays such as Halloween can be difficult for divorced parents – there are a finite number of years before your kids feel they are too old to have their parents tag along for trick-or-treating. Rather than one of you missing out on this family experience, you should discuss how you can share the holiday with your co-parent.

Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-treating is the main event, as well as an activity that needs parental supervision with younger children. There are several ways you can share this activity with your co-parent, including:

  • Both of you accompanying your children
  • Alternating which of you is with the children each year
  • Splitting the time between you

Before you decide to take your children trick-or-treating together, you should consider whether you will be able to get along with each other and whether your children will understand that doing this activity together does not mean you are getting back together. If you are splitting the time, you have the option of each taking your children trick-or-treating in your own neighborhoods. However, transporting your children between neighborhoods may make the holiday more hectic than enjoyable. You also must consider whether they would be happier trick-or-treating with their friends in the neighborhood that they are most familiar with.

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What Are the Most Common Workplace Safety Violations for Public Employees?Many employees of the state of Illinois and its municipalities put themselves in hazardous situations in order to perform a public service. Some employees, such as firefighters, may have to literally put their lives in danger in order to protect civilians. Others, such as employees with public works departments, use potentially dangerous equipment and materials.

Public employees are entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim when they are injured on the job. Some workplace injuries are unavoidable, but others occur due to safety violations. The Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for inspecting the workplaces of the state’s public employees and enforcing safety standards. The Illinois OSHA recently released lists of the top five safety violations in the fiscal year 2019 for Illinois fire departments, public works departments, and water and sewer departments. The different departments shared several common violations:

  1. Hazard Communications: This was the top violation for public works and water and sewer departments, as well as the third violation for fire departments. Public workplaces are required to label their hazardous materials, maintain a database of the materials, and train their employees about the hazards.
  2. Protective Equipment: Respiratory protection was the top violation for fire departments, while personal protective equipment was the fifth violation for water and sewer departments. Firefighters need respirators to prevent them from breathing in harmful substances that fires can create. Water and sewer workers may need protective covering and respirators when they are working in unsanitary environments.
  3. Safe Walking Surfaces: This was the fourth violation for public works departments and the fifth violation for fire departments. The departments are supposed to clear walking surfaces of slip, trip and fall hazards, such as wet spots, sharp objects, and loose boards.
  4. Emergency Preparedness: Medical services and first aid was the second violation for water and sewer departments. Departments must have someone who is trained to administer first aid and adequate supplies, in the event that there is not an infirmary nearby. Emergency action plans were the fifth violation for public works departments. Employees must be trained in how to respond to an emergency, such as a fire.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

You do not need to prove that a safety violation caused your injury in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will help you prove a connection between your injury and your work. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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Why Is It Difficult to Resist Distracted Driving?Distracted driving is a hazard that does not seem to be going away, as people continue to be attached to their digital devices at all times. Diverting your attention from the road can cause an accident that results in injuries to yourself or someone else. According to one traffic accident study, nine people die and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in incidents involving distracted driving. As easy as it is to say that you should ignore everything other than your driving, drivers have a difficult time putting that into practice. Why do people allow themselves to be distracted while driving when they know it is dangerous? There are several possible explanations:

  1. The Fallacy of Multitasking: People have become used to constantly checking their phones while performing other tasks, such as working or watching television. You may think of this as multitasking because you are doing two activities at once. However, dividing your attention makes you less effective at both tasks. Looking away from your work for a few seconds to check a text message may do no harm because you are able to stop your work and start again. Looking away for a few seconds while you are driving is dangerous because your driving conditions could change at any moment.
  2. Nagging Alerts: You cannot help becoming momentarily distracted when you hear an alert for an incoming message or call. Answering that message or call will further distract you and increase the risk that you may be involved in an accident. Despite the danger, drivers are often overcome with an urge to know who is trying to contact them. You may be expecting an important call or to hear back from someone you have messaged. You may be worried that the call is about an emergency or an opportunity that will disappear if you do not respond immediately. If you think the message is that important, you should safely pull over in order to check it.
  3. False Safety of Hands-Free Devices: Laws against distracted driving exempt hands-free technology that allows you to answer calls and messages through voice commands or dashboard controls. However, drivers can become cognitively distracted without diverting their eyes or hands from their driving. When you are focusing on a conversation, you are not mentally ready to react to unexpected circumstances that may arise while driving. You are less able to foresee a potential hazard and slower to respond.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving can establish negligence in a personal injury case. Another driver may have caused the accident because they were distracted, but you could also share liability for the accident if you were distracted. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how distracted driving may affect the outcome of your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Unreasonable Seizure Can Dismiss Criminal EvidenceHow long are police allowed to wait before requesting a warrant to search a computer they have seized as criminal evidence? An Illinois court determined that eight months is too long in a recent criminal case and suppressed the evidence found on the computer. In People v. McGregory, the state accused the defendant of manufacturing fraudulent credit cards to commit identity theft, based on evidence from equipment seized during an unrelated warrant search of his home. To understand the facts of this case, it may help to start with an explanation of rules regarding searches and seizures.

Lawful Searches

The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment states that citizens shall not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. This means police must obtain a warrant to conduct a search of someone that they have probable cause to believe has committed a crime. A warrant authorizes police to search at a specified location and seize specified items that are related to the suspected crime. However, the police may be allowed to seize unspecified items during a lawful search if:

  • They are in plain view.
  • There is probable cause to believe that the items were used in committing a crime.

In People v. McGregory, the police officer had a warrant to search for drugs and weapons but saw equipment that is used to make fake credit cards and cards that had names of people other than the defendant.

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