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How Weapons Can Lead to an Armed Violence Charge in IllinoisMany criminal charges you can face in Illinois become more serious if you are accused of possessing or using a weapon. Robbery is a Class 2 felony, but armed robbery is a Class X felony. Assault is a Class C misdemeanor, but assault with a deadly weapon can be a Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony, depending on the identity of the victim. Illinois considers the presence of a deadly weapon during a crime to be an aggravating offense because of the potential for death or serious injury. With this in mind, Illinois created a criminal charge called armed violence in 2012.

What Is Armed Violence?

Armed violence is the possession of a deadly weapon or discharge of a firearm while committing a felony that is not predicated on using the weapon. For instance, possessing a gun while being arrested for felony drug possession is armed violence, but attempted murder with a gun is a different offense. There are three categories of weapons under the armed violence law:

  • Category I includes firearms that are small enough to be concealed, semiautomatic weapons, and machine guns.
  • Category II includes all other firearms and sharp weapons meant for cutting or stabbing.
  • Category III includes weapons meant for striking, such as a bludgeon or metal knuckles.

Most armed violence charges are Class X felonies with different prison sentencing requirements. Possession of a Category II weapon has a minimum of 10 years in prison, and possession of a Category I weapon has a minimum of 15 years. Discharge of a Category I or II firearm results in a minimum of 20 years in prison. Harming someone by discharging a Category I or II firearm results in 25 to 40 years in prison.

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Should You Be Flexible with Your Parenting Plan?A parenting plan is a detailed outline that divorced parents use to determine how they will share their responsibility for their children. It can take great effort to create a parenting plan, particularly if the parents disagree on how to divide parenting time and raise the children. Once you have hammered out and approved a parenting agreement, does that mean you should never deviate from it? There are some situations when being flexible is best for your children and beneficial to you and your co-parent. In other situations, it is important to defend the integrity of the plan.

When to Be Flexible

Co-parents sometimes discover that they need to adjust their parenting plan because it is not working the way they intended. You need to request a modification of your parenting plan in court if you want to make a permanent change to the plan. What if you have an unusual situation in which deviating from your parenting plan this one time makes the most sense? This most often occurs with parenting time schedules, such as when:

  • A parent is not available during their normal parenting time
  • A child’s schedule temporarily conflicts with parenting time
  • An emergency occurs and a parent needs someone to look after the children

It is impractical to go to court for every one-time change in your parenting plan. Instead, you and your co-parent should discuss how you can temporarily adjust your parenting plan to fit your unusual circumstance. Your parenting agreement can even state that you will allow changes to the plan for isolated situations as long as both sides agree to it.

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What Happens When an IME Conflicts with Your Doctor’s Report?You may have appointments with multiple doctors after suffering a work-related injury. Your treating physician is your primary doctor who will diagnose your injuries, administer your treatment and monitor your recovery until you have reached maximum medical improvement. If you are filing a workers’ compensation claim, your employer can order you to visit a physician for an independent medical exam (IME). The IME doctor will give the workers’ compensation insurer an opinion on whether the workplace incident caused your injuries, the extent of your injuries, and whether you are capable of returning to work. Sometimes, the IME report will contradict your physician’s report, forcing you to settle the dispute with an arbitrator.

Difference of Opinion

Workers’ compensation attorneys often find the opinions from IMEs to be dubious because the insurance company is paying the physician for the service. An IME doctor is supposed to be independent, but insurance companies will regularly use doctors who have a history of giving opinions that favor the companies in workers’ compensation cases. How can an IME doctor give a credible medical report that contradicts the findings of other physicians? The doctor may:

  • Search your medical history for other potential causes of your current condition
  • Be less thorough in examining your current condition before reaching a conclusion
  • Simply have different opinions about the causes and effects of injuries.

Arguing Your Case

The IME may conclude that your injury was unrelated to your work, that your injury is not as severe as your treating physician claims, or that you are physically able to return to work in a full or limited capacity. Based on these findings, your workers’ compensation insurer may try to deny your claim or stop your disability benefits. When a workers’ compensation arbitrator receives conflicting medical reports, they will use the report that they deem to be more credible. You can help your case by:

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Gathering Evidence for a Dog Attack Injury ClaimThe injuries you can suffer from a dog attack are painful, whether they are from a bite or being knocked down. As uncomfortable as the situation may be, it is sometimes necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner. Illinois’ strict liability law makes the process easier than in some states because you do not need to prove that the owner was negligent. The only situations in which the owner is not liable are if you provoked the dog or if you were trespassing on the property. Gathering evidence is still important in order to prove the severity of your injuries and to connect those injuries to the dog attack. There are several details you must collect in a dog attack lawsuit:

  1. Owner Information: In order to file a dog injury lawsuit, you need to know who owns the dog. If the owner is not present, you can ask nearby property owners if they recognize the dog. Once you have found the owner, you need the contact information for them and their insurance company, if they have one. 
  2. Police Reports: It may be necessary to call 911 after a dog attack if your injuries are severe or you believe that the dog may be a danger to others. If police or animal control are dispatched to the scene, they will create a report on the incident and the action that they took. You can obtain a copy of that report as evidence of the details of the attack.
  3. Witness Accounts: You should talk to anyone who may have seen the dog attack and ask them to provide testimony during your case. A witness could tell what happened during the attack and refute a claim that you provoked the dog.
  4. Physical Evidence: Having the presence of mind to document and save physical evidence of the attack will be useful during a lawsuit. Have someone take pictures of your injuries, including bite marks. Save clothing that was torn during the attack.
  5. Doctor’s Reports: You should seek medical attention after a dog attack to treat your injuries and check for other injuries that you may not have noticed. Your doctor’s report will establish the extent of your injuries and how they are related to the dog attack.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Attorney

You have two years after your dog attack incident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner, but it can be helpful to start the process well before then. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how much compensation you may be able to receive in your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Illinois Expunging Low-Level Marijuana Possession ConvictionsThousands of Illinois residents are already taking advantage of the legalization of recreational marijuana that was enacted at the beginning of the year. Many people had already received a gift before the end of 2019: a pardon of their past marijuana possession conviction. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the pardons of more than 11,000 misdemeanor marijuana offenses, which are now eligible for automatic expungement. This number is only the beginning as Illinois estimates that there are 116,000 records that are eligible for automatic expungement. The stated goal of expungement is to help people whose opportunities have been limited by the stigma of a low-level marijuana conviction on their criminal record.

Expungement vs. Pardon

The terms “pardon” and “expungement” are being used interchangeably when talking about the Illinois marijuana law, but the two actions are different:

  • A pardon is an executive order to forgive someone for a crime.
  • An expungement is removing an arrest or conviction from someone’s criminal record.

Receiving a pardon is one way to become eligible for expungement. Another would be a court order to vacate a conviction. Expungement is a superior outcome as opposed to sealing a criminal record, which is what most criminal convictions in Illinois are limited to. Sealing limits who can see a conviction on a criminal record, while expungement treats the conviction like it never happened.

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