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CRIMINAL DEFENSE AND FAMILY LAW

Study Estimates 13% of Divorces Caused by Student Loans

Student loan debt, now at a record high of $1.5 trillion, has become a marriage killer. According to a June 2018 survey by Student Loan Hero and reported by CNBC, more than a third of borrowers said college loans and other money factors contributed to their divorce, and 13 percent of divorcees blame student loans specifically for ending their relationship. This is not surprising when you consider that the average outstanding student loan balance is $34,144, up 62 percent over the last decade, according to a report by Experian. And the percentage of borrowers who owe $50,000 or more has tripled over...

Illinois Man Shares Experience to Highlight Possibilities of Reform

There can be life after prison, although the road to get there is usually difficult and badly needs reform. Consider the case of an Illinois man, now heading to Stanford University after having served 15 years of a 30-year prison sentence for marijuana trafficking.  Jason Spyres, now 36, was caught with 38 pounds of marijuana in Macon County in 2001.  He was given a Class X felony sentence, fined over $200,000, and told that he was un-rehabilitatable. Class X is considered more serious than a second-degree murder conviction, where the sentence may be probation. Now that he has left prison, Spyres is on...

Divorce "Tax Break" Will Soon Be Eliminated

There is never a good time to get divorced, but if you have high assets, you probably will be best off getting one as fast as possible.  The reason is the new Republican tax law, which will eliminate the tax break for alimony payments that are finalized or modified after Dec. 31, 2018. Agreements signed before the end of the year will still qualify for the annual deduction. This can make a big financial difference for wealthy couples where one spouse earns substantially more per year than the other. The Securities Exchange Commission defines a high-asset or high-net-worth couple as a couple...

Are Traffic Fines a Scheme for Governments to Make Money?

Have you received a traffic ticket recently that you think is unfair?  You are not alone. Fines generated by traffic violations are a major source of revenue for governments, and some of these fines, often in places that are set up as speed traps, may not only be unfair, they may even be depriving people of their civil rights. According to an article in the Washington Post, a recent lawsuit filed by The Institute for Justice against an Atlanta suburb raised the issue of how routine traffic tickets and code violations can be used unfairly to raise government revenue. In this...

Marijuana Laws Continue to Drive Conversation in Illinois

Marijuana laws have become much-debated issues among Illinois lawmakers and candidates for office.  Legislators recently approved a bill that allows medical marijuana to be used in place of prescription painkillers and also eliminates requirements for patients to get fingerprints and criminal background checks. While this would make it easier to possess marijuana legally, Governor Bruce Rauner is against the expansion of medical marijuana, and it is still possible for someone to be arrested for a marijuana crime. If you have been charged with a crime involving marijuana or any other drug in Illinois, your could wind up with a criminal record...

Our Justice System Can't Cope with Mental Illness

The Illinois criminal justice system is not equipped to handle inmates with mental health issues. Despite the fact that people struggling with mental illness need treatment, in our society too many of them wind up in jail, putting a strain on both those that have the mental health problems and those without them. Estimates from 2009 show that about 2 million times each year, people with serious mental illnesses are booked into U.S. jails. The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) estimates that 16 percent of 48,000 individuals in the total DOC population have a mental health disorder. Unfortunately, jail only makes their conditions worse, since...

How Out-Of-State Moves Impact Custody

What do you do about custody and visitation when one divorced parent wants to relocate to another state? If the move involves a large distance, it can create major disruptions in the child’s life and the ability to spend time with the other parent. However, these issues can exist even if the move is within the state of Illinois – if the distances involved are large enough. Any move that disrupts an existing family schedule can lead to conflict and negatively affect the children involved. In January, 2016, as part of the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act,  the law regarding...

Validity of Bloodstain Patterns Called into Question

Judges and juries are often swayed by what they think is the scientific reliability of the so-called "forensic sciences" such as analysis of handwriting, fingerprints, hair, bite marks, and blood spatter patterns. No wonder. It can be very impressive when people who claim to be experts in forensic science fields testify as to their conclusions about evidence that supposedly links an accused suspect to a crime. However, while some evidence (such as from DNA) can be extremely accurate, there are limitations to many areas of forensic science, and tools such as bloodstain patterns can be flawed. In fact, appeals due to...

Genealogy Testing: A New Frontier for Criminal Investigations?

DNA genealogy systems are increasingly being used to link perpetrators with a crime.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operates a central DNA database for the country, and Illinois is considering joining the eleven states that already use the process to help their police departments identify criminals. And it’s not just the perpetrator's DNA that may be linked to a crime – a family member’s DNA may wind up pointing the finger at a criminal as well. Sites commonly used by genealogists, such as GEDmatch.com, can help generate a DNA profile that can lead law enforcement to a related individual. If you have...

Can Legal Medications Result in a DUI?

Driving under the influence of prescription medications can be as deadly for drivers as driving under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. Consequently, even if the doctor prescribed your medication, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs could potentially lead to a DUI. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey, more than 22 percent of drivers tested positive for illegal, over-the-counter or prescription drugs. It can be difficult to assess just how prescription medications affect an individual, since effects of drugs vary widely, depending on the medication, how it was taken and the person taking it.  Some drugs are...

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