Published May 31, 2009
Coles County Courthouse -- photo taken 5/31/09 with my cell phone
Visitors must enter the courthouse from its south side. Once inside, visitors must pass through security. The address of the Coles County Courthouse is 651 Jackson Ave., Charleston, IL.
Courtrooms one through four are located on the second floor of the courthouse. Courtroom number five is located on the third floor of the courthouse.
The courthouse is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Court holidays are listed here.
Published May 23, 2009
Today, while crunching some numbers, I found out (approximately) what percentage of my practice is in the areas of criminal defense, DUI defense, and traffic defense. The following percentages are based on revenue, but I think that my time devoted to these areas closely follows the revenue percentages.
DUI Defense: 36%
Criminal Defense: 45%
Traffic Defense: 10%
Accordingly, approximately 91% of my practice is in the areas of criminal defense, DUI defense, and traffic defense.
Since we no longer have a war on drugs, let’s start doing things that help defendants get their lives back together. One small thing we can do in Illinois is shorten the expungement waiting period for people sentenced to first-offender probation.
In Illinois, first-offender probation is a possible sentence in some drug cases. With first-offender probation, the defendant does not receive a conviction. With that stated, absent expungement, a defendant will still have a paper trail even if he is not legally convicted of the crime that he is receiving first-offender probation for. He will still have an arrest record in a state police database and a public court file that anyone can review. Furthermore, in most Illinois counties, some of the person’s case information will be publicly available on the Internet through judici.com or some other website. A felony paper trail (regardless of whether the defendant is legally convicted of the crime), among other things, can make it difficult for a person to get a job. When a person’s first-offender probation is expunged, it disappears from the state police database, the court system, and judici.com. So, expunging first-offender probation is a good thing for a defendant who is trying to get his life back together.
Currently, a person is eligible to expunge his first-offender probation five years after successfully completing first-offender probation. Since first-offender probation lasts two years, this means that it will be seven years after a judge enters the sentencing order before a person can begin the expungement process. Why not reduce this wait period from five years to two years (or even less)? Currently, many misdemeanors are expungeable two years after a person is successfully discharged from supervision. The sooner a person can get the stain of his arrest and sentence removed from the public record, the sooner he can move on with his life.
Case Name: People v. Van Bellehem (.pdf)
Court: Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District
Date Decision Filed: 5/7/09
Before a police officer gives a DUI suspect a breath test at the police station, he must watch the suspect for twenty minutes to make sure that the suspect does not place something in his or her mouth, vomit, belch, etc. This twenty minutes is known as an observation or deprivation period. In Van Bellehem, the defendant testified that she had gum in her mouth during the observation period. There wasn’t any evidence to corroborate this claim and the trial court did not believe the defendant. Despite this, the trial court decided that the breath-test evidence was inadmissible since the police officer neither “asked the defendant if she had anything in her mouth” nor “asked her to open her mouth so that he could look inside.”
The appellate court reversed the trial court, because, according to the appellate court, neither the applicable Illinois regulations nor public policy demand that the police question a DUI suspect in any particular way or look in the suspect’s mouth.
Published May 3, 2009
It won’t be long before President Obama nominates a person to become the newest member of the Supreme Court of the United States. Should he nominate yet another federal judge? Should he look to the ivory towers for talent? How about a trial lawyer — someone who intimately knows that the legal system is about people and their problems?
Norm Pattis would like to see the next justice be a trial lawyer:
A trial lawyer knows about raw human need and the law’s rough edges. It is a trial lawyer’s job to find the intersection of terror, fear and tears with the high doctrine and principle of the law. Not one member of the current court has ever sat with a client and his family during jury deliberations to discuss what will become of a family should the client be sent to prison. Not one of these legal scholars have ever told a person that the law’s reach will not embrace the harm they have endured.
Scott Greenfield, a trench lawyer, also knows that the legal system is ultimately about people:
In the trenches, we experience life, along with the huddled masses who care far less about whether a judge is a constructionist or originalist . . . . We know the consequences of decisions, together with the consequences of delayed decisions. Our view is ground level, and our understanding of how badly the law can hurt comes from holding the hands of the maimed. We know that people lie, cheat and steal, but we know that isn’t limited to the defendants. We have philosophies, but we live realities.
Will President Obama bring diversity of thought and experience to the supreme court by nominating a trial lawyer? I guess we can only hope for change.