Bits N Briefs

So You Want to Sue Someone

Gavel and Books in Courtroom

The Quest to Right a Wrong

Maybe someone ripped you off and you lost money, maybe even your life savings. You feel cheated, violated, hurt, afraid for your future and angry. You want your money back!

Maybe a distracted driver on a cell phone plowed into your car and you were seriously injured. The car can be fixed or replaced, but not so easily your body. You’re in pain, broken, traumatized, fearful and changed. Your life has been turned upside down and you can’t do normal daily activities like dressing, bathing, cleaning, carrying groceries or your child, without pain. Nor can you do the fun activities you used to enjoy doing. You may have lost income, become disabled and suffered. You want your old life back. But if that’s not possible, you want someone to pay for their negligence!

These are some common reasons why people file civil lawsuits. You can’t rewind the clock or undo what’s been done, but you can seek justice. And if you have to file a lawsuit and take someone to court, the justice you seek is usually money.

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When the Courts Were Corrupt

Operation Greylord  

Terrence Hake, a former Cook County State’s Attorney turned F.B.I. agent, tells the true story about his fascinating yet dangerous undercover work, posing as a crooked prosecutor turned crooked defense attorney, bribing crooked court clerks and judges, to fix cases and catch them on tape.  In the pursuit of justice, he is forced to befriend and betray corrupt and powerful people, some of them armed, while wearing a wire and ultimately testifying against them in a new book titled Operation Greylord.

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Defending the Guilty

Criminal Defense Lawyer

Protecting Our Constitutional Rights

“How can you defend someone who you know is guilty?”

That’s a question every criminal defense lawyer has heard.

The best answer is that when we defend the rights of the guilty, we protect the rights of the innocent. That includes our own rights.

Most lawyers will cite our legal system’s “presumption of innocence” meaning that in the eyes of the law, the defendant starts out “innocent” and is not required to prove his innocence. He doesn’t even need to testify at trial. Instead, the government prosecutor is required to prove a defendant “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

While these legal propositions, also called “the burden of proof” may allow some truly guilty defendants go free, even get away with murder, they reduce the chances that an innocent person will be convicted of a crime and sent to jail or prison.

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Getting Legal to Drive After a DUI

The Road to Reinstatement Starts with an RDP

The DUI Laws in Illinois are tough. Over the years, the breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to find someone legally under the influence of alcohol has been reduced from .10 to .08; the availability of the sentence of “court supervision” to avoid a conviction, and loss of one’s driver’s license, has been limited to once in a lifetime; former misdemeanors have been enhanced to felonies and jail sentences have become prison sentences.

But even a DUI conviction, revocation of their driver’s license and loss of driving privileges will not stop some people from continuing to drive. In most cases, people drive not to defy the law, but to get to work or school, get their kids to daycare or after-school activities, take elderly parents to the doctor, buy groceries and support their families.

The harsh consequence of driving after a DUI conviction is usually a mandatory jail sentence or hundreds of hours of community service. Repeat offenders are often charged with felonies and third-time offenders can be charged with a Class 1 felony, punishable by 4 – 15 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000, with no possibility of probation.

My advice to people whose driver’s licenses have been revoked following a conviction for DUI – Don’t Drive until you get Legal to Drive!

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Why Are Creditors Still Calling After Bankruptcy?

Angry Man on Phone

How can you stop abuse by creditors?

When a Debtor files a Bankruptcy Petition, the ultimate goal is to obtain a Court Order called Discharge of Debtor. This may take only a few months under a Chapter 7 “no asset” case or up to five years in a Chapter 13 repayment case.

But except for certain non-dischargeable debts, the Discharge of Debtor “operates as an injunction against the commencement of continuation of . . . an act to collect, recover or offset any such debt as a personal liability of the debtor.”

Unfortunately, some creditors, out of ignorance or spite, ignore the discharge injunction and continue collection activities, including calling, harassing, suing, or attempting to garnish wages or bank accounts of the debtor, or even seize property of the discharged debtor.

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Do I Need A Lawyer for a Speeding Ticket?

Do I Need A Lawyer for a Speeding Ticket?

ANSWER: It depends – on a lot of things. What is your age? What is your driving history? Do you have any convictions on your record? Are you currently on Court Supervision or Probation? Was your driver’s license valid or expired or suspended or revoked? Was there an outstanding warrant for your arrest? How fast were you charged with driving? Are you contesting the speed? Was there an accident? Did you have insurance? Were you charged with fleeing and eluding? Did you cooperate with the officer? Did you consent to a search? Was any contraband found in the car? What other charges were filed along with the speeding ticket? Do you have a C.D.L.? Will one more conviction lead to a suspension of your driving privileges? Are you a U.S. citizen? All of these factors can have significant impact on your eligibility for a leniency, the seriousness of the sentence imposed if found guilty, and the ultimate strategy for your defense.

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Life After Bankruptcy

In my 30-plus years of practice, I’ve helped thousands of people through bankruptcy. In most cases, the bankruptcy filers (debtors) have accomplished their goals – stopping collection activities (calls, letters, judgments, garnishments), obtaining forgiveness (discharge) of debts, and protecting their assets (up to applicable exemption limits). Although some debts are not dischargeable (including domestic support obligations, recent tax liabilities, student loans and intoxicated driving liability), there are some tips you can follow after earning a fresh start to rebuild your credit and begin life after bankruptcy.

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5 Things to Consider Before Filing for Bankruptcy

1. How did I get into this mess?

People considering bankruptcy are dealing with an unmanageable amount of debt. Although a bankruptcy may eliminate the debt, it’s important to understand the reason or reasons for the debt to avoid repeating the same problems in the future. Was the debt a result of a job loss, divorce, vehicle repossession, mortgage foreclosure, a failed business, student loans, overuse of credit cards, high-interest loans, gambling or catastrophic medical bills? Had the financial stress boiled over as a result of an eviction, sheriff’s sale, garnishment or seizure of assets? Some of these problems are beyond your control – others may be avoided with better financial management skills. The mandatory credit counseling and personal financial management classes, required of all individuals filing a bankruptcy case, help debtors develop these skills for starting over after bankruptcy.

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What to Look For in a DUI Attorney

If you’ve been charged in Illinois with DUI (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs/Intoxicating Compounds), you are in serious trouble. If convicted, you are facing the loss of your driver’s license or driving privileges, possible incarceration in the county jail or state prison, and substantial fines, court costs and hours of counseling. Even if jail can be avoided, you may not be able to drive your car without having an expensive Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed in your vehicle before you can drive it.

For these reasons, it is imperative that you have a very good attorney on your side to represent you and counsel you in your upcoming court proceedings. Whether you are looking for your attorney to challenge the 6-month or longer statutory summary suspension, negotiate a favorable plea agreement, file motions to quash the arrest or suppress evidence, or contest the charges in a bench or jury trial, there are critical things to look for when you hire a DUI attorney:

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Beware of Errant Golf Shots!

Victims May Not Be Able to Recover if Injured 

Spring weather brings out the golfers and start of the season of Golf Outings.  Taking a good swing, making good contact and sending a straight shot that lands where you wanted the ball to land is a great feeling and great fun.  But, more often for some than others, the ball may hook or slice off to the side, maybe onto another fairway.  If you are really unlucky, the ball might even strike and injure another person.

Golf Digest reports that some 40,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms every year with head injuries caused by errant golf balls and flying club heads.  This can lead to skin lacerations and bruising to cerebral hemorrhage to skull fractures and sometimes death.  The greatest injuries result from blows to the side of the head.

As the one who took the shot, are you legally responsible or liable for the victim’s injuries?  If you’re the victim, can you file a lawsuit and get compensation for your injuries? It depends.

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Why Are Bankruptcy Courts So Crowded?

National numbers down but little change in Chicago

In 2016, there were 294,396 personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S., down from 299,515 in 2015 and 307,783 in 2014.  This includes 40,774 personal bankruptcy filings in Chicago in 2016, slightly down from 43,534 in 2015 and 40,774 in 2014. But the 11,194 cases filed in the first quarter of 2017 are only 93 fewer than in the first quarter of 2016.

Why are there still over 40,000 personal bankruptcy cases filed in the Chicago area each year?

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5 Things to Know Before Filing for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

workers' compensation benefits

Have you considered filing for workers’ compensation benefits?

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides a system of benefits to employees who suffer injuries resulting from on-the-job accidents. This Act provides limited benefits, regardless of fault, but is an exclusive remedy for a covered employee – meaning they can’t directly sue their employer for negligence. If you have been injured at work, there are at least 5 things to consider before filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits:

1. Are you an employee?

Only employees are entitled to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The benefits include payment of reasonable and necessary medical bills (for injury-related medical treatment), temporary disability payments while you are off of work (with a doctor’s authorization), compensation for temporary or permanent disability, or death benefits for surviving family members. In some cases, an employee can seek compensation for the wage difference between their old and new job, or vocational rehabilitation – job training or education if the employee can no longer do their old job. Contract workers, real estate brokers, and commission sales persons are not covered under the Act.

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Volunteer Lawyers for Refugees

lawyers for refugees

Trump’s Executive Order Spurs Legal Response

Since the early 1900’s, U.S. Presidents have issued over 13,000 Executive Orders (EO). These are legally binding orders used to direct action by federal agencies under the President’s control. EO’s are more expedient than waiting for laws to be passed by Congress. But like other laws, they must comply with the U.S. Constitution and Amendments to be enforceable.

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” On its face, this sounds desirable for everyone’s safety. However, the directive of the EO was to suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days, bar Syrian refugees indefinitely, and restrict immigration from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. Despite the EO’s title, none of the listed countries were responsible for the attacks on 9/11 or any terror attacks on U.S. soil since then.

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Face to Face with DUI Defense

Swerving on the Highway to Hell

First, the Highway:

Just a short trip for a pack of cigarettes or maybe a taco. Not too far, not gone for long. Wheels barely crossing over the center line after a wide left turn. Sitting still after the light turns green, head resting on the wheel. Hitting a bump too hard, car pulling right, warped wheel rolling flat. Might be best to pull off the road awhile and nap.

These are some of the scenarios leading to DUI charges against my clients: weaving and crossing over the double yellow line, stopped in the middle of the intersection, driving on a flat tire, sleeping on the side of the road.

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Remembering America Under Attack

Today, we remember, reflect upon, and honor those whose lives were lost in the surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 75 years ago on December 7, 1941.  Shortly before 8:00 a.m. on a quiet Sunday morning, 353 Imperial Japanese fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and the USS Arizona, damaged some 20 ships, destroyed 188 U.S. aircraft, and killed 2,403 Americans, wounding 1,178 more.

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Find a Lawyer Who’s Better than Breakfast

A lot of the lawyers that John Grisham writes about he describes as “ham and eggers.” These are generally the small firm and solo lawyers, advertising for clients and serving the legal needs of ordinary people.  They don’t get the biggest cases or earn the biggest payday. They rarely make headlines and are not likely to change the world.  But even ordinary people with ordinary legal problems need not settle for the ordinary when trying to find a lawyer.

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Don’t Let a Scammer Ruin Your Celebration of the Cubs

Perhaps today or tomorrow, the Chicago Cubs will clinch the Central Division championship and begin preparing for another playoff run.  Considering that the Cubs have not appeared in a World Series since 1945 and not won a World Series championship since 1908, playoff tickets will be scarce and prices will soar.

Unless you’re a season ticket holder or have friends in high places, you’ll pay a lot to witness history in person.  Unfortunately, we at Martucci Law will be scrambling for tickets like everyone else.  A check with an authorized ticket broker advertises playoff tickets ranging from $250 to $750 and projects World Series tickets at $3,000 and up. The scammers will also be out to sucker the unwary.

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Enjoy the Show this 4th of July!

Let the Pros Handle the Fireworks.

Fireworks are still NOT legal in Illinois.  Most people lining up at the fireworks stores across the state line know that they can legally buy firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles in Indiana.  That doesn’t make them legal when they bring them back to Illinois.  The Pyrotechnic Use Act makes the possession, sale, or use of consumer fireworks a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500 plus court costs. Best to leave the explosive entertainment to the professionals, who are trained, licensed, and carry one million-dollar minimum insurance policies.

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Celebrate Safely

Drink Responsibly and Stay Out of Trouble 

June is the month for graduation parties, outdoor barbecues, music festivals, warm weather and the start of Summer fun!  Many of these events include alcoholic beverages.  While drinking alcohol is legal, common, and socially acceptable, drinking to the point of impairment may not be.

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Share the Road and Save a Biker

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Nearly 5000 people die each year in motorcycle crashes and over 90,000 are injured. The Insurance Information Institute reports that the chance of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 26 times higher for a motorcycle rider than the occupant of a car.  With 8.5 million motorcycles on the road, automobile drivers need to pay more attention to the bikers around them. The NHTSA urges all motorists to “share the road” with motorcycles and be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe.

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