State Police beefing up enforcement for “Operation Kyle”

Today I have been seeing many comments from people on social media about an increased state police presence on our highways.  There is a reason for it — “Operation Kyle.”

From abc news:

Illinois State Police officials say the department is launching an aggressive Thanksgiving holiday enforcement effort called Operation Kyle in honor of a state trooper who was killed a year ago conducting a traffic stop.

In a news release, the state police will be “aggressively patrolling Illinois roadways” for 24 hours beginning Tuesday – one year after Trooper Kyle Deatherage was killed.

The department also says that between this week and the New Year, troopers will implement periodic saturation patrols focusing on speeding, seatbelts, drunken driving and distracted driving.

“Pothead Princess” Tweets “2 Drunk 2 Care” Before Fatal Crash

A screenshot of Mendoza's twitter page

A screenshot of Mendoza’s twitter page (since deleted).

A Miami woman who allegedly drove the wrong way on a highway while intoxicated, causing the deaths of two people, had sent out a tweet stating that she was “2 drunk 2 care” shortly before the accident.

Kaila Mendoza, age 20, had a twitter account @hiimkaila (since deleted) in which she proclaimed herself the “Pothead Princess.”

From CBS Miami:

Troopers said Ferrante was in the car with her friend, 21-year-old Marisa Catronio along Sawgrass Expressway when they were hit by Mendoza. Catronio, who was sitting in the Camry’s front passenger seat, was killed on impact, according to her father, Gary Catronio…

Kayla Mendoza, 20, was heading east in her Hyundai Sonata in the westbound lanes of the expressway when she collided with the Toyota Camry driven by Ferrante just west of University Drive around 1:45 a.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante suffered from severe head injuries in the accident and was kept on life support while in the hospital, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Thursday morning she was pronounced dead…

Mendoza’s Twitter handle was @highimkaila and in the description, she’s described as the “pothead princess.”

Mendoza had previously tweeted thoughts like, “Can’t deal with people that don’t have their *expletive* together,” and a picture of a hand holding what appears to be a marijuana cigarette.

On November 12, Mendoza tweeted, “2 high 2 care,” and on November 2, “I really am so baked right now.” The tweets were difficult for Marisa’s family to read.

A common-sense editorial about DUIs based on drugs in one’s system

The Pekin Times had a terrific editorial this week about DUIs that are based on drugs in one’s system.  You might recall from previous posts, that in Illinois a person can be charged with DUI if a blood or urine test disclosed any trace amount of narcotics in their system — no matter how long ago they consumed it and regardless of whether the person was under the influence while driving.  (If you don’t recall, here are three great posts:  one about Alia Bernard; one about Richard Strum; and one about a reader of my blog).

Here is an excerpt:

We are in full agreement that drivers with illegal drugs in their body are violating the law. We aren’t in full agreement that those who happen to be involved in an automobile accident while marijuana is lingering in their body but isn’t affecting their reflexes or judgment should be punished as if they were impaired by the drug.

Take two scenarios. Joe is a pot smoker and Bob is an occasional heroin user. Each of them in involved in fatal car accidents several days after last using drugs. Bob is in the clear, because his last dose of heroin is long gone from his body. Joe, however, will likely go to prison.

Marijuana can be detected in the urine for long periods after it is ingested — possibly for months, according to some sources. Nobody believes that somebody who smoked pot days or weeks ago is still under the influence of the drug. So why do we ignore this fact?

The purpose of the DUI laws should be to punish people who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We don’t see any justice in punishing people who aren’t under the influence….

There may be better tests, such as a saliva test that detects recent cannabis use, as opposed to a blood or urine test that picks up cannabis use from weeks ago. That’s something we’d like to see investigated as a possible tool in the future.

Beyond changing the law to require that people be proven to be actually under the influence of a drug before punishing them for that, we think there’s another issue here.

We can’t even guess how many casual marijuana users are in our readership, people who have come to the not-uncommon conclusion that their private marijuana usage is their own business. This law, as unjust as it is, should be a wake-up call to these folks. You never know when you might be involved in a fatal auto accident, perhaps one that is not even your fault, but for which you could be sent to prison if you have smoked marijuana even weeks before. This is something to think about, and to warn teenaged children about.

Read the full editorial at:

Thanks to Springfield attorney Theodore Harvatin for pointing out this piece.

Some thoughts on the Reader’s article about Bobby Cann and Ryne San Hamel

Here is a link to “Death of a Cyclist,” a detailed article by Keith Griffith in the Chicago Reader about the lives of Bobby Cann and Ryne San Hamel.  Cann is the bicyclist who was (allegedly) killed earlier this year in a collision with a vehicle driven by San Hamel.  Hamel has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated DUI.

This was a horrible tragedy, but I take issue with Griffith’s claim that we have a broken system when it comes to DUIs in Illinois.

The article states when he was 18 Hamel was arrested for zero tolerance and when he was 19 he was arrested for a DUI.  The “charges were ultimately dismissed, which is the norm in Illinois for DUI defendants who can afford a private attorney.”   A few paragraphs below, the article states that “In Illinois, fewer than a third of DUI arrests ended in conviction in 2011, the most recent year reported. Most cases end up under court supervision, an option unique to Illinois. If an offender successfully completes the court supervision period, the case is dismissed and the charges dropped.”

In other words, when Griffith says the norm is dismissal, he means that the norm is supervision.

So what does this mean? According to the Secretary of State, 29% of DUIs result in convictions and 66% result in supervision (a disposition only available for first time offenders).  Only 5% of cases fit into “other” which I assume means either not guilty, reduced to a lesser charge or some other type of dismissal.

So this means that in Illinois, the prosecution wins 95% of the time in DUI cases!

Now it is true that supervision, upon successful completion, is a dismissal under Illinois law.  However, it is not truly a “dismissal” considering that the typical person sentenced to supervision gets a record, pays thousands of dollars in court fines, monitoring fees, alcohol treatment costs, plus has to do alcohol treatment and often must perform community service.  The Secretary of State’s fact book puts the cost of a DUI at $16,580.  That will put the average DUI offender at or near bankruptcy.  Plus, a DUI supervision cannot be expunged, will affect job opportunities and will remain on a record that police, prosecutors and the Secretary of State can access.

Another claim that the article makes is that “it seems one key to getting off easy is being arrested in the suburbs… In plea deals, village attorneys can reduce charges or overturn license suspensions in exchange for adding hefty fines, [Cathy] Stanley [court watch director for the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists] says. Prosecutors in the state’s attorney’s office, by contrast, ‘work much harder getting convictions.’”

In my opinion, this claim is vastly overrated, particularly in Lake County, where most of the private village prosecutions are handled by just a few attorneys who are under great pressure to aggressively prosecute DUI cases, and deals for fines are rare.  Even when they occur, it is because the underlying case is weak, something the Alliance will never concede.

The article quotes DUI defense attorney Don Ramsell, whose practice is mainly in DuPage County, where these sorts of deals are more prevalent.

The article complains about a “broken system” but doesn’t have any solutions.  According to the Secretary of State 85% of DUIs are committed by first offendersThe number of recidivists are small.  The system is working.

Does the Reader want to change a system that keeps most first offenders from repeating the offense?  Do we really want to send every first offender to jail?  Would that do anything?  Or is this just sensationalist journalism?

Cell Phone Ban about to be imposed at Markham Courthose


This is a picture of the new storage lockers that are being installed outside the Markham courthouse — in the parking lot. These lockers will be available for people entering the courthouse to store their cell phones, tablets, laptops or other electronic devices.  Do they look big enough to contain laptops to you?  Would you like to store your cell phone or ipad outside on a cold snowy day in this?  Would you feel safe?

According to a court employee, these lockers will use fingerprint recognition technology instead of keys for their locks.  Honestly, I didn’t see anything that looked like a fingerprint sensor on any of these, but maybe I don’t know what to look for.  I wonder how that will work on the third consecutive day of below zero temperature.

I was also told that these lockers will cost $3.00 to rent.

They were being installed today.  Once they are ready to go, the cell phone/other electronic device ban will be implemented.  The ban will apply to the general public, but not jurors, judges, attorneys or other specially exempted classes of people.

Expect similar storage lockers at the other suburban courthouses soon.

The Tribune’s screed against texting at a red light

The Chicago Tribune’s John Hilkevitch and Lauren Zumbach have a lengthy screed about texting (or looking at your phone) at a red light.  I suppose our state legislature will soon ride this horse into even larger court fines and penalties.

Here is a sample:

…drivers who look at their phones while stopped in traffic are becoming increasingly familiar in Illinois and across the nation. And, according to transportation experts, police officers and researchers, the distracted driving is snarling traffic and causing many crashes, some of them likely deadly.

Illinois bans using phones in traffic in many cases and will crack down on it even more next year.

“If your foot is on the brake pedal, and you are texting, it is a violation” punishable by a fine ranging from $90 to $500 in Chicago, Chicago police Lt. Steve Sesso said. “I’ve seen people texting and putting their makeup on while stopped. There are all sorts of scenarios that you can find.”

Traffic flow disruption occurs when fewer vehicles make it through intersections during each green light, according to police officers who say they often observe more eyes at intersections pointed down than on the road.

Texting while stopped can also spark road rage in drivers delayed by the texting motorists and can lead texting motorists to pull jack-rabbit starts and other erratic maneuvers once they snap out of their reverie, according to Fred Mannering, associate director for research at Purdue University’s Center for Road Safety.

ut another way, it takes 4.6 seconds on average to read or send a text while behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So in less time than it takes to type “AYTMTB” (shorthand for “And you’re telling me this because”), any one of thousands of “smart” signals in Chicago and the suburbs that react to vehicle volume can change from red to green.

And a slow reaction by a texting driver to start moving — whether the vehicle is first in line or farther back — can mislead these traffic signals into thinking that vehicles on one street have cleared out and it’s time to switch the signal to allow cross traffic to move, said Mannering, a civil engineering professor who studies driver behavior and the cause and effect of traffic accidents.

“If there is as little as a two-second delay between cars, fewer cars make it through on a shortened green phase,” Mannering said. “The traffic signals become what we call ‘gapped out,’ because the detectors in the pavement think the queue has ended and no more traffic needs to get through on the green movement.”…

Besides promoting traffic congestion, texting while stopped in traffic is illegal in Illinois. Exceptions are if the driver is texting to report an emergency, using a hands-free or voice-activated device, parked on the shoulder, or stopped in traffic with the transmission in park (or neutral, for a manual transmission).

Illinois’ cellphone and texting laws are primary laws, meaning a police officer can pull over the driver without having to see another violation. Seventy-five Illinois municipalities, including Chicago, ban hand-held cellphone use for all drivers.

Effective Jan. 1, the use of hand-held devices while driving will be illegal in Illinois, except in the case of an emergency. Hands-free technology will be allowed.

Little data is available on drivers texting while stopped in traffic. But using cellphones and texting while driving, more generally, cause 1.6 million accidents a year in the United States, according to the National Safety Council.

In Illinois, almost 6,000 crashes have occurred from 2008 to 2012 in which some form of driver distraction involving a cellphone was cited by police, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The toll included 30 fatalities and more than 2,500 injuries, IDOT said.

IDOT officials call those numbers conservative and say the crashes almost certainly include drivers who were texting while stopped in traffic.

Read the whole story at:,0,3433283.story

Judge to consider Constitutional arguments in Highland Park “huffing” case

The judge in the case of Carly Rousso, accused of “huffing” fumes before a fatal accident, is now considering arguments that the DUI statute is unconstitutionally vague.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Lawyers debated the intoxicating effects of various substances this morning during a hearing for Carly Rousso, the Highland Park woman charged with “huffing” a computer cleaning product before the vehicle she was driving struck and killed a 5-year-old girl.

Prosecutor Michael Ori said that he had coffee this morning, but didn’t seek to intoxicate himself. Lake County Circuit Court Judge James Booras noted that he drinks coffee to become more alert.

The discussion followed a motion by defense attorney Douglas Zeit questioning the constitutionality of the aggravated DUI charges against Rousso. The cleaning product police say she inhaled contains difluoroethane, which is not spelled out as an intoxicating substance in the law.

“This statute is implicitly vague,” Zeit said. “No person of ordinary intelligence could understand the catchall phrase used in the statute.”

Ori said it is meant to be interpreted in the context of driving under the influence, and that it would not be possible to list every substance that induces a high.

Judge Booras said that, theoretically, one could be charged for ingesting “thin air.”

“The substance the defendant ingested impaired her,” Ori said. “She intended to impair herself … the defense is trying to gain leverage where there is no leverage to be had.”

“These are profound constitutional issues,” said Booras, who did not rule this morning, asking the defense and prosecution time to file briefs on the issue.


I will update as soon as the judge makes his ruling.


Minnesota Vikings WR Simpson arrested for DUI – while on probation

From the Chicago Tribune:

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested and jailed on a misdemeanor DWI charge Saturday morning.

Simpson was arrested on probable cause after refusing to take a breathalyzer test and booked into Hennepin County Jail at 5:39 a.m.

Simpson is expected to be jailed for the weekend because he is on a 36-hour hold, according to a jail spokesperson. He could be held until noon on Tuesday since it is a weekend. However, a judge may review the case sooner.

The 27-year-old is on probation stemming from a guilty plea on a felony drug charge in April 2012.

Simpson could face league discipline. He served a three-game suspension last season…

Simpson has 33 catches for 491 yards this season. The Vikings beat the Washington Redskins 34-27 on Thursday. Their next game is Nov. 17 at the Seattle Seahawks.

My understanding is that refusal to take a breath test is a criminal offense in Minnesota, so Simpson faces legal troubles even if he beats the DUI charge.  This is important because committing any criminal offense normally constitutes a violation of the terms of  probation.