Elmhurst Police to conduct Roadside Safety Checks Saturday night

From the Patch:

On Saturday, Aug. 12, a roadside safety checkpoint will take place on a major roadway in Elmhurst, according to the release. The safety checkpoint will begin at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night and continue until 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. During the safety checkpoint, vehicles will be stopped at a predetermined interval and checked for violations.

Beware of anyone who promises to “fix” a case

This summer, I’ve been reading a couple of first hand accounts of the Greylord scandal (one by Assistant State’s Attorney Terrence Hake, the other by retired Judge Brockton Lockwood, both of whom went under undercover to expose court corruption).  So when I saw a story about a family that paid out $13,000 to a supposed fixer who was going to get their son’s two old DUI cases expunged and arrange for a 90 day sentence on his current case, I cringed.

(While I’m linking to books about the Greylord scandal, let me add a third book, by  reporters James Tuohy and Rob Warden.  All three of these books are worth reading, and since they each come at the same story from different angles, they are complementary to one another and can be read in tandem.).

According to the Daily Herald:

An elderly Glendale Heights couple is out $13,000 and their neighbor is behind bars, accused of deceiving them with promises of fixing a court case involving their son.

Joseph LaPuma, 66, of the 1000 block of Michael Court, is charged with theft by deception and is being held in DuPage County jail on $100,000 bail, according to court records.

LaPuma, the ex-husband of a DuPage County deputy clerk, said he could expunge previous DUI convictions of Joseph Ricchetti, 41, of Elmhurst and influence a pending aggravated DUI charge so that Ricchetti would serve 90 days in a rehabilitation facility, a substantially less severe punishment than he was facing…

LaPuma told the Ricchettis he had a connection through his ex-wife, whom he still lived with, to access the court documents…

Dewey Hartman, chief deputy circuit court clerk, said Wednesday neither LaPuma nor his ex-wife were capable of following through with LaPuma’s claims.

“The ex-wife does work for us, but she does not work in the criminal area of our office. She works in the civil division. As to him or her having access to any information that would provide (those services), the answer is no,” Hartman said. “Certainly he would not have had any access to anything. Nor would she. Our systems are very secure with the users and transactions capabilities that the individuals have on various case types. None of those things (promised by LaPuma) would have been possible.”

They had a term for the type of scam that LaPluma tried to pull off back in the Greylord days.  They called it “rainmaking.”  Rainmaking was when someone took money which was supposed to be used to bribe a Judge or a cop to fix a case but in fact the go- between had no intention of passing along the money, instead pocketing it for himself.  The rainmaker usually knew (or hoped) that the hoped for result was likely going to happen anyway, and took advantage of a defendant who was willing to pay for a “guaranteed result.”  If things didn’t work out as expected, the rainmaker could always explain it away, saying something like “the judge felt that there was too much attention being paid to this case” or give some other excuse.

Back before the Greylord scandal, corruption was endemic, particularly in Cook County. People did not have faith in the fairness of our legal system. Thanks to the efforts of people like ASA Hake and Judge Lockwood, the system has been cleaned up.  I began practicing law shortly after the Greylord reforms took place, and I am happy that I have never had to practice in such a system.  Thankfully, the system is such that this “fixer’s claims were bogus and just a scam.  The possibility that their son would get a multi-year prison sentence obviously upset these parents so much that they fell prey to a con artist.  I feel sympathy for their plight, but they were also breaking the law.  The last thing we need is to allow even the appearance of impropriety to cast any shadow over the integrity of our Clerks, Bailiffs, Police, Attorneys or Judges.

If anyone approaches you with such an offer, do not accept it.  Instead, report it!

Man charged with DUI after stopped for driving with tree embedded into hood of car

From the Roselle, Illinois Police Department’s Facebook page:

A few weeks ago, a Roselle police officer saw a car driving southbound on Roselle Road with a 15-foot tree embedded in the front grill of the car. After stopping the driver, he also noticed the airbags had been deployed (apparently from hitting the tree). After an investigation, the Roselle officer arrested the driver for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.

Yet another reason why you should not drink and drive!

DuPage Board Member Grant Eckhoff charged with DUI

From the Daily Herald (reported by Robert Sanchez):

A longtime DuPage County Board member, Grant Eckhoff, is facing a DUI charge after a traffic stop outside his Wheaton home.

Eckhoff, 55, of the 200 block of North Erie Street, was charged with one count of DUI and operating an uninsured motor vehicle, according to a Wheaton Police Department report.

Eckhoff was arrested around 8:30 p.m. March 2 at his home address, according to the report.

“He was, in fact, stopped in his own driveway,” Eckhoff’s attorney, Harry Smith, said. “He had a very calm interaction with the Wheaton Police Department. So there was nothing extraordinary or aggravated about the circumstance.”

Eckhoff declined to comment Wednesday and referred all questions to his attorney. Smith said his client might issue a statement after the case is resolved.

Smith said Eckhoff is planning to plead innocent to the DUI charge. He also said Eckhoff has automotive insurance but didn’t have a valid insurance card with him.

Eckhoff, a Republican, serves as chairman of the county board’s judicial and public safety committee.

I wonder how the experience of being arrested in his own driveway will affect Mr. Eckhoff’s future thoughts about heavy-handed police tactics and DUI enforcement.

My rebuttal to the Tribune’s article about DUI plea deals

There was an article this weekend in the Chicago Tribune, decrying the tendency of some prosecutors (mainly village prosecutors in DuPage County) to agree to rescind the mandatory license suspension that comes with most DUI cases, in return for a plea on the underlying DUI case.

In my opinion, the article was one-sided and made “compromise” sound like a dirty word.

So, why should prosecutors make such deals?

1.  To avoid losing cases.  In a DUI case, the state has the burden of proving that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol beyond a reasonable doubt.  In many cases, the only evidence to support a DUI conviction is the arresting officer’s opinion that the defendant was intoxicated, which, however educated, is still just an opinion.  However, the license suspension will be upheld unless the defendant can show that the officer did not have even a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was under the influence.  That is a significantly lower threshhold than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Many cases fall between the two standards of proof.  The plea for rescission deal can be an incentive to get a defendant to plea without a trial, or other pre-trial motions.

When prosecutors agree to a “rescind suspension for plea” deal, they are taking a risk in giving a defendant his license back.  But they are also getting the certainty that the person will plead guilty, and be required to undergo alcohol treatment.  If that person gets a subsequent DUI, now he will be subject to a heightened penalty.  If they went to trial and lost, none of this would happen.

The defendant is taking a gamble that he or she will never get arrested for DUI again. If the gamble turns out wrong and he or she is arrested again, that prior DUI on his or her record will lead to a significantly harsher sentence on the new case.

2.  To avoid a backlog of cases.  Our courtrooms are backed up, especially in DuPage.  In DuPage, the judge will go through the “trial call” in the morning.  Usually, due to volume, most of the cases are continued until the afternoon, or even the following day or month.  If suddenly another 20% of the summary suspension and DUI hearings went to hearing, the system would break down.

I have seen this happen before.  From time to time, to show how tough they are on DUIs, prosecutors will not agree to any deals.  This means cases that should have been dropped or worked out instead go to trial.  As a result, a courtroom full of defendants, police, witnesses and attorneys will be sitting waiting for all the trials ahead of the them to conclude.  The officers are getting paid overtime while they wait, so this can be a big burden for small municipalities.  And, oftentimes, those witnesses or police officers will have left the building by the time their case is called for trial.

3.  There isn’t much else to bargain with in a DUI case.  Most DUI sentences are set by law; there is mandatory alcohol treatment, fines, victim impact panels and (in some cases) community service and/or jail.  The summary suspension is the biggest bargaining chip that a prosecutor has to induce a defendant to plead guilty.

4.  For fairness.  These laws do not affect everyone equally.  Some people have jobs that require that they drive.  Some people have family members that they have to take care of.  Some people have CDLs and a DUI suspension will mean a one year disqualification of that license.

A plea for rescission deal can allow these people to drive while still requiring them to do alcohol treatment, pay hefty fines, follow the law and/or whatever else is part of the plea deal.

5. Because our state government hasn’t acted.  Our summary suspension law has a provision that says that the driving permit will not be effective until after 30 days of suspension.  The reason for this law, when created, was to get drunks off the road for a period of time before allowing them back with a restricted license.  The rationale for this 30 day “hard time” rule evaporated once Illinois required installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) as part of the permit. With the BAIID, you can’t drive drunk.  So why do we still have a 30 day hard time period?  Simply, put, government inertia.  It had been required under a Federal Highway appropriations bill, but Congress removed this provision once states began requiring BAIIDs. But Illinois has yet to amend their law.

For someone who must drive for work, this 30 day period means that he or she may lose their job and health benefits, and not be able to support their families.  It is reasonable that a prosecutor can see the injustice of this law and see no point in turning a first offender into an unemployed person whose children need goverment aid to get by.

6.  Yes, to raise money.  Yes, the Tribune article emphasizes that local prosecutors will often require a larger than usual fine in return for a plea for rescission deal.  Well, it should not be surprising to anyone that municipalities see DUIs as a money-making opportunity.  With each DUI, they charge a large impoundment fee, receive court fines, and become eligible for federal funding (See here and here).  Instead of a reinstatement fee that goes to the Secretary of State, or BAIID fees that go to private companies, these towns would like to see the money flow towards them.  I don’t see what is wrong with that.  Would the Tribune prefer that everyone pay higher taxes instead?

Ex-Bears QB Bob Avellini charged with aggravated DUI for sixth arrest

avelliniAccording to the Chicago Tribune, former Chicago Bears quarterback Bob Avellini has been arrested again for DUI.  According to the story, this is his sixth DUI arrest; however he has only been found guilty twice, so this would still count as his third DUI.  Moreover, the arrest came only a week after he had been convicted and placed on probation for a 2012 DUI, and his license was revoked.  (A DUI can be charged as aggravated if the person has two or more prior DUIs, or did not have a valid license, amongst other reasons).  If convicted on this new arrest, Avellini would face a sentence of anywhere from probation to seven years in prison.  Also, he could be re-sentenced to jail on the 2012 case, for violating his probation by committing a new offense.

From the Tribune:

A DuPage County grand jury indicted former Bears quarterback Bob Avellini on felony drunken driving charges this week after his sixth DUI-related arrest since 2002.

Avellini, who played for the Bears from 1975 to 1984, was stopped by Roselle police Sept. 15 while driving near his northwest suburban home. According to court records, Avellini “had (a) very strong odor of alcohol, glassy bloodshot eyes, lethargic motion, (and) slurred speech” upon being pulled over.

The police report also described him as confused and swaying during the 12:45 a.m. traffic stop. He also acknowledged that he had been drinking, court records state.

Avellini, 60, refused to submit to a breath test, so his blood was drawn at Central DuPage Hospital. Records show his blood alcohol content was 0.181 — more than twice the legal limit — four hours after being pulled over.

Prosecutors later charged Avellini with felony drunken driving because he has two prior DUI convictions and was driving on a suspended license. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

A DuPage County grand jury affirmed the charge this week, indicting Avellini on five counts of aggravated driving under the influence. He is expected back in court later this month.

Reached at his Roselle home Friday, Avellini declined to comment.

Avellini’s latest arrest came nine days after a DuPage  County judge convicted him of a misdemeanor drunken driving charge stemming from a 2012 arrest. He was sentenced to serve two years of probation, perform 300 hours of public service and undergo an evaluation for counseling services. He was instructed not to drive until the court allows it, records show.

Avellini also has a DUI conviction on his record from 2002, according to the Illinois secretary of state’s office. He has beaten DUI charges three times in the past decade, DuPage County court records show.

DuPage Prosecutors have new plan to get your blood sample

According to a story today, DuPage County will have phlebotomists on hand to draw blood of those suspected of DUI.

The story states that the phlebotomists are for those cases where a person refuses a breath test and demands a blood test.  I have a hard time believing this, since this rarely ever happens.

in my experience, which is vast, blood tests occur in DUI s because (1) the motorist was injured and was taken to a hospital, not a police station, (2) the officer suspects drug use, which can’t be detected by a breath test, or (3) it is a “no-refusal” in which the motorist refused a breath test, and the police seek to obtain a blood sample without consent. In situation (1), the motorist is already at a hospital, where a blood sample can be easily obtained, so there is no need to hire phlebotomists for that scenario.

I suspect that the only reason to maintain phlebotomists on-call for blood draws is for reason (3) the “no-refusal” situation.  I have discussed no-refusals here and here, including the following:

Illinois courts have stated that while defendants do not have a right to refuse a test, the police cannot use excessive force to draw blood from the individual.  People v. Jones, 214 Ill.2d 187 and People v. Farris, 2012 IL App (3d) 100199.

Police and prosecutors seek to justify these blood draws under the grounds that blood alcohol evidence is the strongest evidence of intoxication, and that because alcohol eliminates from the blood rapidly, it must be drawn soon after the arrest.

…the United States Supreme Court announced that it would be hearing a case from Missouri where a police officer took a recalcitrant motorist to a hospital and had his blood drawn.  The Missouri courts suppressed the blood test, because it was taken without a warrant or a showing of “exigent circumstances.”

If the Supreme Court overturns the Missouri decision, then police will be authorized to drag anyone they suspect of driving while intoxicated to a facility where their blood can be drawn.  This strikes me as a very serious infringement on our liberty.

It seems to me that DuPage is getting ready in advance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Missouri case, expecting that the Court will allow warrantless, involuntary forced blood draws in DUI cases.

What do you think?