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He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever. - Chinese Proverb
It has been some time since I have posted to my website comments about the law and how it affects the lives of everyday people. I will try to do better in the future.
Consuming alcohol or drugs and driving a motor vehicle is something I advise all drivers not to do. Lives are put at increased risk every time that is done.
Unforutnately we know this is done all too often. Over the years our politicians have enacted laws that history has shown have had all too little impact in stopping drinking and dirving under the influence of an intoxicant. These laws have had dramatic impact on families in my view. By way of example, in the two states I practice in, Illinois and Wisconsin, not only have our politicians made driving under the influence of an intoxicant a criminal offense, they have made it a felony under certain circumstances. These drivers don't just go to jail, they go to prison; we take their driving privileges away; and we fine them exhorbitant amounts and add to that surcharges that double and triple the financial penalties these drivers are required to pay.
My experience is that it is often the families, the wives and children, of these drivers that pay the greatest penalties. Unless a person lives in a large city, public transportation is not readily available. To get to work, to doctors, to treatment, to church, etc. a driver needs to drive. We know that even after these convicted drivers lose their driver's license, they continue to drive for precisely these reasons. No insurance company I am aware of insures unlicensed drivers. The worst drivers now have no insurance that will compensate those injured by these drivers. They often lose their jobs. Frequently they cannot get to treatment. They get caught driving and are sentenced to jail. This all means the potential for no income for the family; no health insurance for the family; no ability to compensate those they harm.
For society we have made, in my opinion, no significant impact on getting drivers who drink and drive to stop drinking and driving. Our costs to put these drivers in jail and prison have risen while the money for treatment for the underlying problems that cause these drivers to get intoxicated is drying up.
I do not have the answer on how to get drivers to stop drinking or taking drugs and driving. Nothing we have done thus far has solved this serious problem, but we have punished these innocent families. Please do not drink alcohol or take drugs and drive.
If you do drink or take drugs and drive and the police stop you, it is important that you know and exercise your rights, not only for your protection but also to protect your family from the effects of this.
First: Be polite and courteous to the police officer. The officer is just doing his/her job. However,
you should not talk to the officer; you should tell the officer you do not want to talk without
your lawyer being present, and you want a lawyer. You are not required to talk to the officer,
or to answer questions.
Second: Field sobriety tests do not have to be performed, particularly if you have medical reasons
not to do so. Not doing these tests can be used against you in the government's prosecution.
If you do the field sobriety tests, and if the officer states you failed the field sobriety tests,
that can be used against you as well.
Third: You must submit to a breath or urine test to determine your blood/alcohol level. Cooperate
in this regard fully. The United States Supreme Court has held that the police must obtain a
search warrant before they can draw your blood for a sample to test your blood/alcohol
level, unless you give consent to the police to draw your blood. My advice is that a driver
should require the police to follow the law and get a search warrant to draw your blood,
and therefore the driver should not consent to have blood drawn.
Fourth: Hire an experienced lawyer familiar with criminal/traffic law. Often the driver has 10 days
or less to take action to protect the driver's rights.
Often Americans believe that if they just explain their circumstances to the officer somehow things will be better. Nothing could be further from the truth. In virtually every case, the driver will make his/her situtation worse - often far worse. Remember the driver is not required to talk to the police. Produce your driver's license, give your name and address, and ask for a lawyer to represent you. When a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, and receiving a traffic ticket is being arrested, it is serious business.
Please do not drink or do drugs and drive a motor vehicle.
I hope this information has been helpful to you.If you are from Wisconsin or Illinois, the two states I practice in, please call our office if you have any questions.If you live in another state and you have questions, I urge you to call an attorney in your local area who is knowledgeable in criminal/traffic law and practices in this area of the law.
Another holiday season is behind us. Many drivers from Thanksgiving through the New Year's Eve holiday received traffic tickets. Most drivers who received traffic tickets will pay the fine posted on the ticket. They do not show up to court to contest the ticket or to explore what, if anything, can be done concerning the ticket. Yet, in our area, a driver's license is critical. A person cannot get around, back and forth to work, school, church or any other activity, without having a valid driver's license. In the two states we practice law in, Illinois and Wisconsin, there are specific traffic regulations, laws, that as drivers we all must obey. If we do not, the police give us tickets and ultimately this will lead to the loss of our driving privileges.
Illinois' system of how and when they would suspend or revoke your driving privileges differs from that of Wisconsin's. In Illinois, 3 moving violations in a 12-month period of time will result in the loss of your driving privileges.
Wisconsin operates on a point system. Each traffic offense is assigned a certain number of points, and once the driver accumulates 12 points in a year, the driver will lose their driving privileges.
While the explanation we are providing concerning the traffic regulation systems in both Illinois and Wisconsin are over simplified in this article, the point that we wish to get across to all drivers is that your driver's license is important, there are rules and regulations that you must obey, and your failure to obey those rules and regulations will cause you to lose your driving privileges. Once you lose your driving privileges, it may not be so easy to get them back. Once your driving privileges are lost, be assured that your insurance rates will increase also.
Our office recommends that for every traffic ticket you get, you hire an experienced attorney to represent you. That attorney will use their experience to assist you in making each ticket have a lesser impact on your driving privileges than, in all likelihood, you would otherwise have. Oftentimes drivers look at the cost of the ticket and the cost of hiring a lawyer, and the cost of hiring the lawyer is greater than paying the fine, and therefore they just pay the fine, not thinking about the impact it has on their driving privileges or their future insurance rates. We encourage you not to do that. Often it may be easier to save your driving privileges before you lose them than it is to get your driving privileges back once you have lost them.
We would like this month to make a few comments about children in the legal system. It has been our long-held belief that children do not do well in the legal system, no matter what part of the legal system they are required to participate in. Mainly, we see children in the legal system when parents are getting divorced, and the courts are dividing up their time between the parents.
In Wisconsin, the courts are required to appoint a guardian ad litem, an attorney whose job it is to represent the best interests of the child. Increasingly so, Illinois courts, under the new Illinois family law, are also appointing guardian ad litems for the children. I am always saddened when the guardian ad litem turns out to be a lawyer just out of law school who has literally no practical experience regarding children, let alone any professional experience regarding children, and often they do not have children themselves to provide any hands-on experience. There are also times that volunteers come to court and attempt to advise the court. My experience with volunteers such as this has not all been good. More often than not, these volunteers have no education or training in how to help children, particularly in the legal system. They bring their own biases and prejudices to court, many times to the detriment of the child.
Divorce is often an incredibly sad time, difficult time, for a child. Their world is being turned upside down. There may be alcoholism or drug abuse in the home. There may be mental health issues in the home. It is not unusual that mom and dad are fighting, and then the child is put in a legal system that is not only strange to them, it is inhabited by strangers who, from their viewpoint, are not really showing any care for them. The system has far too little money to be able to hire true professionals, such as psychologists, sociologists, and others who can really look into what is going one with each child and develop plans that will best aid the child as the child navigates the legal system.
For several years now, judges have told me that more and more people are not hiring lawyers, let alone experienced lawyers, to get divorced; they are doing it themselves. They are going to pro-se groups, paying a small amount of money, and the adults get divorced. I have observed courts lecture both parents on how they should get along, as if both of them bear some type of equal fault for the problems, the problems that exist between them and the problems that are being caused the children. My experience is nothing could be further from the truth. It is rarely both parents who bear equal responsibility for the problems, within the marriage, or concerning the children. We just do not take the time, or have the professional expertise, to sort through it. Children pay the price.
There are no easy solutions to the problems of children in the legal system. We can accurately predict that the shortage of money in the system will continue, and therefore too little resources will be available to meet the needs of children. We suspect that more and more, parents will get divorced and handle children's needs on a pro-se basis, for a variety of reasons, not always out of lack of care. However, there is no doubt that having an attorney, who has considerable experience in family law and in dealing with child custody and placement matters, represent a parent will be of tremendous benefit not only to the parent, but also the children. They are likely to be aware of resources that the parent may not otherwise be aware of. They will know the law and how that law applies to that parent's particular situation. They will be able to use their experienced skillset in presenting that parent's case to the court to demonstrate to the court why that parent is the better fit for that child, so that child will be able to more likely achieve a more happy and productive life.