Traffic & Criminal Law Articles

Traffic and Criminal Law Articles

PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY FROM THEFT

The 1990s spawned new types of crooks who concentrate on stealing your identity. An identity thief obtains some piece of your sensitive information (Social Security number; bank and credit card account numbers; or your name, address and phone number) and uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or theft.

If your identity is stolen, you could spend months or years cleaning up the mess thieves have made of your good name and credit record. Some victims have been refused loans or even been arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

Identity theft is such a serious problem in this country that President George W. Bush signed legislation this year giving consumers new protections against identity theft that includes free credit reports and a national fraud-alert system to minimize damage once a theft has occurred. The measure also requires that receipts omit the last digits of credit cards, and that businesses black out social security numbers and debit card numbers on receipts.

Protect yourself by monitoring the balances of your financial accounts. Look for unexplained charges or withdrawals. Be sure you are receiving your bills and order a credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. (If your personal information has been lost or stolen, check all your reports more frequently for the first year). Place passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date and the last four digits of your social security number or phone number. Be sure to update virus protection software on your computer regularly or thieves could introduce program codes that cause your computer to send out files that are stored.

Don't give out personal information on the phone or over the Internet unless you initiate the contact and be sure who you are dealing with because identity thieves pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers or even someone from the government. When someone asks for your social security number, ask why it is needed and how it will be protected. Because identity theft is such a serious problem, Comptroller Dan Hynes from the State of Illinois will no longer print social security numbers on checks.

PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN IN AUTOMOBILES

The child Passenger Protection Act has been in effect in Illinois since July 1983. Amended on January 1, 2004, the law requires ANYONE who transports children in Illinois in non-commercial vehicles to do so in the following manner:

Children under the age of eight years old must be secured in an appropriate child safety seat including infant seats, convertible seats (rear-facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers) and booster seats that are used with the vehicle lap and shoulder belt system. THE PARENT OR LEGAL GUARDIAN OF A CHILD UNDER EIGHT YEARS OLD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING A CHILD SAFETY SEAT TO ANYONE WHO TRANSPORTS HIS OR HER CHILDREN. The initial violation will result in a $50 fine. Subsequent violations are punishable by $100 fines.

WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT OR YOU CAN BE ARRESTED

The United States Supreme Court clarified the extent of police power in roadside stops. The Supreme Court held that officers can arrest and handcuff people even for minor offenses punishable by a fine. The justices ruled against a driver who was arrested and handcuffed for failing to wear a seat belt.

The justices stated that such arrests do not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable search. In the 5-4 ruling, which could affect anyone who drives a car, the justices said that such an arrest does not violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures. The ruling in this case barred a Texas woman from suing the officer who handcuffed her and took her to jail. A lower court had ruled that Gail Atwater could not sue over her arrest because the officer did not violate her constitutional rights.

Atwater was driving her two children home from soccer practice in 1997 when she was stopped by a police offer who noticed that the three were not wearing seat belts. Texas law allows police to make arrests for routine traffic violations, except for speeding. The officer arrested Atwater, handcuffed her hands behind her back, and took her to the city police station. A friend looked after her children, and her pickup truck was towed away. Atwater's mug shot was taken, and she was released after posting bond. She later pleaded no contest to the seat belt offense and paid the maximum $50 fine. Later Atwater and her husband, Michael Haas, sued the city and the police officer, saying the arrest violated her constitutional rights.

Rejecting her argument Justice David H. Souter wrote for the majority: “The arrest and booking were inconvenient to Atwater, but not so extraordinary as to violate the Fourth Amendment.”

BAD CHECKS CAN BE COSTLY

Any person who writes a check which is dishonored for lack of funds can now be sued in a small claims court or other civil court for the face value of the check, attorneys'; fees and court costs, plus three-times the amount of the check. Treble damages are limited, however, to a maximum of $500. Written demand must be sent via certified mail by the holder of the check to the last known address of the person who wrote the check. There is a thirty-day waiting period following the written demand before suit can be filed.

USE A FAKE ID AND GET YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE SUSPENDED

If your college student uses fake identification to purchase alcoholic beverages, he or she probably doesn't know that his or her driver's license could be suspended for up to four years. Be sure to alert your children to this new Illinois law.

NEW BILL EASES SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY RULES FOR YOUTH

The Illinois House of Representatives has reversed course on a requirement that juveniles convicted of sex crimes register for listing as sex offenders. Originally, a law took effect January 1, 2006, providing that juvenile offenders must spend 10 years on one or both of the state's two sex offender lists - a juvenile registry available only to school and law enforcement officials and-after turning 17-the publicity accessible registry.

This new bill would let a judge determine whether a juvenile sex offender has to register. The judge would be required to hold a hearing to determine whether an offender must register as a sex offender upon reaching age 17. This legislation would not affect juveniles tried as adults, and they would still be forced to register.