Illinois drug arrests – when you are caught but not prosecuted

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It’s not uncommon for me to get a call from someone who was caught by the police with a lot of drugs, but not arrested.  Last month I spoke with someone who got nabbed with over 400 ecstasy pills.  An arrest like that has led to years in jail for some people.  But this guy was not arrested at all.

Instead, the police are making him work as an informant.  Basically he is putting his life on the line to get others busted.  Ideally this would be in exchange for a guarantee that he will never get charged, but that doesn’t happen.  The police have up to three years to charge you for a felony and basically make you their slave during that time.  You could bust 10 people for them, but if you don’t get the 11th then they will screw you over.

Working as an informant is a way better deal than jail, but there needs to be an end game.  If this happens to you, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois for drug cases.  They can usually negotiate a deal that commits you to a certain amount of help and then gets you off the hook, forever.

If you don’t get a written deal, you are foolish and at their mercy.  They need your help.  That help should be laid out clearly so nobody can dispute what you have to do and don’t have to do.


Five Simple Tips for a Successful Divorce

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Perhaps there’s no such thing as a “successful” divorce. But we’d like to think there are ways to make it less financially and emotionally draining.

  1. Hire an attorney, and make sure it’s someone who knows what they’re doing. You will have to pay them, of course, but without an attorney you could lose tens of thousands of dollars that should be yours. An experienced attorney will know how to negotiate a settlement and fight for things like retirement benefits, which can get complicated or even end up overlooked altogether. We’ve seen too many people try to handle their divorce alone and end up with nothing.
  2. Your attorney isn’t your therapist. They’ll listen, but it’s going to cost you. You can save a ton on attorney’s fees by making phone calls and meetings efficient and sticking to the facts of the case. It’s an emotional time – we get that – but save it for a friend or relative.
  3. Be honest with your attorney. If you are upfront about everything, your attorney can develop the best strategy for your case. If you’re dishonest or keep important facts to yourself, you’re working against them. This is going to cost you more in fees and it could cost you your case.
  4. Compromise. Many divorces end with a couple agreeing to specific terms in a marital settlement agreement. If you are not willing to compromise, the process might drag on and on. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But if you’re serious about keeping your costs down and getting the divorce over and done with, compromise can get you there.
  5. Focus on being a good parent. If you want custody, spend your energy improving your case by being an involved and supportive parent rather than trying to win by pointing fingers at your spouse. Even if they cheated and ruined the marriage, they have equal opportunity to get custody. So don’t focus on fault. It’s a waste of time, energy and money.

Questions about your divorce? Don’t hesitate to ask us.


Who is the best criminal defense attorney in Illinois?

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It depends. There are some great criminal defense attorneys in Illinois, and there are some who have a less than stellar reputation. The answer to the question “Who is the best attorney?” is different for everyone. The reason is that each case and client is so different. What’s best for one person might not work at all for another.

Instead, we focus on finding the best attorney for you. We don’t represent the people who call us. We talk to you about what you’re facing and then recommend an Illinois attorney who we think will do a great job for you.

Hiring an attorney is a very personal decision, and we want to understand your situation before making a recommendation. So if you call for our help, you can expect us to ask about some specifics, such as:

–       The charges you’re facing and what’s happened so far. Is your case a misdemeanor or felony? Some attorneys are known for their success in a particular area, such as DUI defense. Have you had a court date or missed a court date?

–       Where you were arrested. Ideally, your attorney will know the local courthouse well. We want you to have the advantage of hiring an attorney who is familiar with the judges and prosecutors.

–       Whether you’ve talked to police. Have you given a statement or signed anything?

–       Your history. Are there any prior convictions that would make your current case more complex?

–       Any special needs you might have. Do you speak a language other than English? Do you live far from where your case will be heard? Do you need an attorney who will come to you?

The point is to understand as much as we can about what you need in order to recommend an attorney who can best match those needs. You can contact us anytime for help in choosing an attorney for your case.


Dog Bite Claims on the Rise

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Dog bite claims are one of the most common types of claims filed against homeowner insurance policies, and the number of claims, as well as the amount paid out to people who are bitten, has been going up. Kids, seniors and mailmen appear to be the most vulnerable, according a recent news article.

The Insurance Information Institute keeps tabs on all these trends and says the average claim last year was $29,396, which is up about 50% from 2004. One reason for the increase in claims is that there simply are more people and more dogs in the world. And the increasing value of these claims could be because parents are more likely to seek out advanced medical care for a child who is bitten, such as going to a plastic surgeon.

Some states have laws that pretty much let owners off the hook the first time a dog bites someone. Not in Illinois. Here, a dog owner can be liable for the first bite or injury (claims and lawsuits aren’t limited to bites – if a dog does anything that causes you injury, the owner can be held liable).

If you or your child is bitten by the dog of a friend or neighbor the medical bills might be overwhelming. In many cases, a dog owner has insurance that covers dog bites and other injuries, so if you can prove fault, the insurance company will be the one paying. Some policies have exceptions and won’t cover certain dangerous breeds. If there is coverage, however, you’ll mostly be dealing with the insurance company rather than your friend or neighbor.

It’s estimated that 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. The number of claims filed is not nearly that high and not every claim or lawsuit is worth tens of thousands of dollars. It depends on the severity of the injury and whether the dog owner is responsible for the injury. The increase in cases in this area of law means that more attorneys are likely to have experience representing dog bite victims, which can be useful because you have to prove liability. Illinois law says that in order to be compensated, you have to prove that you didn’t provoke the dog, that you were acting peacefully when you were attacked and that you were in a place where you had a legal right to be (not trespassing on someone else’s property, for example).


A Great Chicago Trademark Lawyer

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Many people assume that if you are an attorney you can handle anything legal related.  That is true theoretically, but in reality it’s not true as an attorney can’t master multiple areas of law, at least not in comparison to someone whose practice is narrowly focused.

Some lawyers choose to handle all of their legal affairs on their own.  They say that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  Well I was a fool recently as I tried to trademark something on my own and screwed it up.  I even had a checklist of things to do from a local trademark lawyer I know, but I still goofed.

So I’m happy to report that I was able to fix my problem when I got introduced to a trademark attorney in Chicago who also has an office in Evanston.  He explained what I did wrong and got the problem fixed straight away.  I know lots of intellectual property lawyers for issues like this, copyrights and patents, but most of those firms deal with big corporate clients and are expensive.

Now, thanks to my goof, I know and can recommend a very moderately priced lawyer for these issues to anyone that needs help.  So if you have an issue or want some guidance, call us at (312) 346-5320 and we’ll point you in the right direction.


Whistleblower Lawsuits: Only for Fraud against Government

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You only have a true whistleblower lawsuit if the wrongdoing you have uncovered is against the government. If you work for a company who is defrauding customers or another company, it’s a different type of issue. If your employer is discriminating against certain employees, that’s also a different issue. People use the term “whistleblower” to mean anyone who blows the whistle on illegal activity, but technically it only refers to a specific type of case.

Fraud against the government comes in many forms. There are a number of examples from the healthcare industry. One example is when a doctor or hospital lies in order to get reimbursed from federal health programs such as Medicaid. This could be claiming that a doctor did something that was in fact done by a nurse in order to get paid at a higher rate. Or it could be lying that the treatment was necessary in order to get it covered under one of these programs. It could even be as blatant as billing for services or procedures that were never provided in the first place, or billing for more than what was done (called “upcoding”). In these examples, the government is getting cheated. If an employee comes forward, it would accurately be called whistle blowing.

Similar fraud happens in other industries, as well. Any time a contractor is providing a good or service to the government and they inflate prices, charge more for an inferior product, or lie about the standards that the product has met, the government is being defrauded.

In a typical lawsuit, one of the first things that happens is the defendant is served with a copy of the lawsuit. In whistleblower lawsuits, the government gets served first and has a chance to take over the case if they wish. If they choose not to take over the case, you can proceed. You are generally entitled to a portion of the proceeds if you win on behalf of the government. There are state and federal whistleblower laws and both allow compensation for the person who brings the lawsuit on behalf of the government.

If you blow the whistle, you are protected, to an extent, from employer retaliation. If you get fired for blowing the whistle, you can fight to get your job back or get compensated for any loss you suffered.


What is 410 probation?

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It’s something that allows you the rare opportunity to keep a felony off your record. Section 410 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act allows certain individuals to get probation instead of a conviction if charged with possession of small amounts of drugs. Section 410 is only for someone who has not been convicted or placed on probation for drug possession in the past.

Getting caught with small amounts of cocaine, for example, is a felony. First-time offenders can avoid serving time and can keep their records clean if they qualify for – and successfully complete – their 410 probation.

In order to get 410 probation, you will be found guilty. Then, the judge basically puts your case on hold. If you successfully complete the probation, then the case is dismissed. If you fail to comply with the terms of your probation, the probation can be revoked and you can be sentenced to whatever penalty the law allows … It’s as if you’re going back to the day you pled guilty, but without the option of probation. You only are eligible for 410 probation one time.

Many people fail 410 probation because the requirements are strict. You cannot break the law during your probation; you cannot possess a firearm; you must submit to periodic drug testing (and pay for it yourself); and you must complete 30 hours of community service in most cases. The judge has the discretion to include additional requirements, such as paying fines and undergoing treatment.

Employers often ask if you have been convicted of a crime. One of the main benefits to 410 probation is that you can answer “no.”

If you can get through probation, you still have one more step to go through if you want to completely erase it from your record. After five years, you can petition for expungement. If granted, the record of your probation will be completely erased. Most types of probation cannot be expunged; 410 probation is an exception.

Keep in mind that 410 probation is not granted automatically. An experienced defense attorney can let you know if it’s realistic for your case.


If you die without a will in Illinois…

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There is a very specific set of rules that the court will apply in distributing your property and assets. It may or may not be what you wanted. Since you’ll be gone, there’s no way to know exactly what you wanted, which is the main reason to create a valid will during your lifetime.

Here’s what will happen:

–       If you have a spouse and no children, then it’s the simplest situation. All of your property will go to your spouse. Again, this may or may not be what you wanted.

–       If you have a spouse and kids, then your spouse gets half and your kids get half. The kid half gets divided among them equally. If you were predeceased by one of your children (a child passed away while you were still alive), then that child’s share is given to his or her children (your grandchildren), if there are any.

–       If you have no spouse, but you do have kids, your estate will be divided among them equally. Again, if one of them passed away while you were still alive, that share is given to their children (your grandchildren), if any.

–       If you have no spouse and no kids, then the law gives your estate to your parents and siblings. Everyone gets an equal share, although if you have just one living parent, then that parent gets both parental shares (basically a double share). For example, if your parents are still living and you have two siblings, then your estate is divided into fourths.

–       If you have no spouse, children, parents or siblings, the law says that your grandparents get your estate, if they are living. If not, then it goes to their children and grandchildren, which are your aunts, uncles and cousins.

The law basically prioritizes blood relatives and goes down the list (there is no distinction between full-blood and half-blood relatives). If no living relatives can be found anywhere, only then do the county and/or state “take” your property.

The bottom line is that although these laws may match up with your wishes, it’s still better to make a will. It’s more accurate, more efficient and more reliable. Just don’t make one of those internet wills. Everyone’s assets are different and everyone’s family situation is different. Using a one-size-fits-all will is likely cheaper, but it can cause issues for your family after you’re gone.


The Best Thing You Have Going In Your Case Is You

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If you are forced in to a situation where you have to hire an attorney, I can guarantee you two things; no one cares about the end result more than you do and there is no one who will know more about your case than you.  It sounds obvious, but I was reminded lately why this is so important.

We referred out a nice gentleman whose loved one died after an error with a pic line that was installed in her chest at a hospital.  He had been by her side the entire time and knew everything that happened during her care.  In Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits, you gather medical records and send them to an expert to review in order to determine if negligence occurred.  It’s very odd in a way because basically you are relying on the hospital or facility that you will be suing to provide you with the evidence that will make your case.  Clearly they have a motivation to leave out facts that could hurt their case and they often do.

In this case, the malpractice attorney in Chicago that I referred the case to had a renowned specialist review the records and he couldn’t say that negligence occurred.  Usually that means the end of the road for a case, but this client was determined.   He reviewed the report of the expert and the hospital report and noted that they left out many facts.  He put together a report of what was missing along with some proof of it.  This changed the expert’s opinion and led to the law firm filing a lawsuit after they had told the client no.  I have literally never seen this happen before.

The whole story proves the point that no one does know your case or care about it compared to you.  Sometimes medical records don’t tell the whole story and this organized man was able to fill in the gaps.

When people ask me how they can help their case, I tell them that the best thing for a lawyer is having a written summary of what happened.  You don’t include your emotions in that summary (e.g. don’t tell your lawyer how upset you were with how you were treated), but instead focus on facts which usually means that on a certain date this is what happened.  When you do that you can help your lawyer really understand what happened and it shows how much you care about getting the best result possible.  And sometimes it turns a case from a loser in to a winner.