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K-9 Units Less Reliable Than Police BelieveMany police departments have trained K-9 units that alert them to the presence of illegal drugs. In Illinois, dogs are trained to conduct sniff searches for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and cannabis and to give the handler a response when there is a hit. Courts have ruled that using a K-9 unit is not an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and can create probable cause to conduct a further search for the illegal substances. However, studies show a significant rate of false alerts by K-9 units, which creates doubt about whether an alert from a dog should be enough evidence to allow a police search.

Problem with K-9 Units

Illinois requires dogs in K-9 units to be retested annually to ensure that they are accurate in detecting illegal substances. However, handlers are part of the cause of false alerts in some cases. Dogs are eager to please their handlers and able to pick up on unintentional body language. When a handler is suspicious of a package or vehicle, the dog may give a positive alert in order to affirm that suspicion. The handler can also train the dog to give false alerts by giving it a treat only when it alerts the handler. Despite this potential bias during drug searches, many police departments have not trained their K-9 units to ignore unintentional cues from their handlers.

Court Rulings

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently trusted the accuracy of K-9 unit searches and considered them unobtrusive in most cases:

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Divorced Astronaut Accused of Identity Theft While in SpaceAn unusual story has emerged about an astronaut who may have committed identity theft against her former wife while on the International Space Station. The former wife filed charges with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that the astronaut inappropriately accessed her bank account. A computer registered to NASA had accessed the account at a time when the astronaut was preparing for a spacewalk on the station. The FTC is investigating the claim, which the astronaut denies. The former spouses divorced last year and had a bitter custody battle over their son.

Identity theft is a real concern for divorcees because they have shared sensitive personal and financial information with a former spouse who may harbor ill-will towards them. However, protecting your identity is not rocket science. There are common-sense steps you can take to prevent identity theft:

  1. Close Your Joint Accounts: Your spouse has equal access to your joint accounts, such as those with banks and credit card companies. You should conduct all of your financial activity through private, individual accounts that your spouse cannot view without your permission or obtaining a court order.
  2. Check Your Credit Report: Getting a current credit report serves multiple purposes. It may remind you about a credit account that you opened individually or share with your spouse. You also get a complete picture of your credit history, which may warn you if you have already been a victim of identity theft.
  3. Change Your Passwords and PINs: Spouses commonly share their passwords to individual accounts because they trust each other. You should update those passwords to something that your spouse would not be able to guess, which means your passwords should not be based on personal information.
  4. Alert Financial Institutions to Your Divorce: Your bank and creditors should know about your impending divorce. Tell them that you do not give your spouse permission to access your individual accounts or to start new accounts or lines of credit in your name.
  5. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts: If you are unable to prevent identity theft, your best course of action is to catch it early on. Look for unexplained activity in your accounts, and try to determine the source. You have time to reverse the damage done and hold your spouse accountable.

Contact a McHenry County Divorce Lawyer

Your identity and financial security should be priorities during your divorce. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can advise you on what action you should take to protect yourself. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Employees in Illinois Cannot Waive Right to Workers’ CompensationIllinois law requires all employers in the state to carry workers’ compensation insurance – even if they have only one employee or part-time employees. The only businesses that can choose to waive the workers’ compensation requirement are those whose only employees are a sole proprietor, business partners or corporate officers. The state can fine an employer and its corporate officers $500 per day if they knowingly fail to have workers’ compensation insurance. Despite the state’s strict requirements, some employers lead their employees to believe that they cannot or should not file a workers’ compensation claim. As a worker, you should watch for tactics that your employer may use to discourage you from exercising your right to benefits after a workplace injury:

  1. Illegal Contracts: An employment contract is not allowed to include a section stating that you agree to not file a workers’ compensation claim in the event of an injury. Mediation with your employer is not a replacement for a workers’ compensation claim. If you notice such a provision in your employment contract, you should contact an attorney to confirm that it is illegal and bring it to the attention of your employer. Even if you have already signed the contract, your employer cannot enforce an agreement to forgo workers’ compensation.
  2. Waivers: Employees cannot waive their right to workers’ compensation, whether it is voluntary or at the employer’s suggestion. Illinois employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in exchange for not filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers. If someone gives you a workers’ compensation waiver form, you should recognize that it is not a legally enforceable document.
  3. Intimidation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who file workers’ compensation claims. Victims of retaliation can file lawsuits against their employers and recover damages. However, some employers use actual or implied threats of retaliation in order to intimidate employees. You should not let a fear of retaliation prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Some employers take advantage of their employees’ lack of knowledge about workers’ compensation laws by using deceptive practices to discourage employees from filing claims. The employers know they cannot enforce a contract that prevents you from filing a claim, but they hope that you will give up without testing whether the contract is legal. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will stand up to employers and insurance companies that are trying to deny your injury benefits. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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Compensation for Third Parties Injured During Police ChasesWhen a police officer pursues a driver who is attempting to flee, they do so knowing that the chase could put other drivers and pedestrians at risk of injury or death. If you are injured during a police chase, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against both parties. The party being chased is clearly liable if they directly caused your injury by colliding with you. They may still be liable if the police vehicle collided with you because they were the proximate cause of the chase. It is more difficult to prove that a police officer is liable for your injury. State law grants tort immunity to police officers for most actions in the line of duty. If you file a personal injury lawsuit against a police department, it will likely ask the court for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit. However, you should contest a summary judgment if the police officer’s actions were reckless.

Police Policy

Police departments have policies about when officers should initiate and terminate a high-speed chase. For instance, the city of Chicago’s policy states that officers need to balance the necessity of catching a fleeing party against the danger it could create for bystanders. Officers must consider factors such as whether:

  • They are in an area with a high volume of vehicles or pedestrians;
  • The chase requires driving at a speed that is unsafe for the area;
  • The weather or road conditions will make the pursuit more dangerous;
  • The suspect has already caused property damage; or
  • The suspect has been identified, allowing the officer to apprehend them later.

Chicago’s policy prohibits officers from chasing a subject who is suspected of a non-hazardous traffic offense. Violating these policies does not make a police department automatically liable for personal injuries, but it is evidence in determining whether the officer was willfully or wantonly reckless.

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Your Rights When Approaching an Illinois DUI CheckpointStates disagree on the legality of DUI checkpoints – spots where police officers stop passing vehicles to see if drivers show signs of being intoxicated. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that checkpoints could be legal but let states decide how to conduct them properly. Twelve states, including neighboring Wisconsin, consider them illegal because they stop drivers without establishing reasonable suspicion of a crime. Illinois is among the states that do allow DUI checkpoints. If you find yourself approaching a checkpoint, you need to understand how they work and your rights.

How DUI Checkpoints Work

Police can create a DUI checkpoint at any time and place but most commonly use them during holiday weekends at locations where DUI arrests are common. They may use media outlets to announce checkpoints in advance in hopes of discouraging drunk driving. Police must follow several rules in order to legally conduct a checkpoint:

  • They cannot select a location that would cause unnecessary traffic jams or create dangerous situations for drivers;
  • They must use signs, lights or signal flares to alert drivers of the upcoming checkpoint;
  • All officers and vehicles must be cleared marked as belonging to law enforcement;
  • They cannot unreasonably detain drivers who show no signs of intoxication or other suspicious activity;
  • They must have reasonable suspicion in order to force a person to step out of the vehicle or to search the vehicle; and
  • They cannot arrest someone without probable cause that a crime has been committed.

Your Rights

You are allowed to turn around to avoid a DUI checkpoint as long as you make a legal turn. If you do go through the checkpoint, you have the same rights as someone whom police have pulled over:

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