Chicago Winter Auto Accidents

car-crashIt’s quite obvious that driving on snow and ice covered roadways creates driving hazards that require operators of motor vehicles to adjust their driving standards to the weather conditions by slowing down, allowing more room between your car and others and exercising extreme caution when slowing down or executing turns.

But, did you know that many Chicago area personal injury lawsuits result from drivers who fail to properly clear excess snow and ice from the tops and sides of their vehicles? Failing to properly remove all snow and ice can create hazardous conditions for you and drivers behind you, which can result in collisions or accidents caused by a driver’s inability to clearly see the roadway ahead.

Personal injury lawsuits are based on the negligence of someone failing to do something or negligence involved in some act that was done, either of which results in potentially injuring someone or jeopardizing their health or life. It is obvious that you should exercise extreme caution when driving on ice and snow covered roads because of potential liability caused by the negligence of not doing so. It is also arguably obvious that a reasonable person should know that they have to clear all snow and ice from their car’s windshields and side windows before setting out on the roads.

Chicago winters can be extremely cold, icy and miserable, making for dangerous commuting conditions. Because of blowing winds and frigid winter temperatures, it’s tempting to clear just enough snow from the windshield of your car in the morning to enable you to see the road ahead, leaving the rest of the snow and ice to be blown off the car while you’re driving or melting as the day warms. But, when roofs, windshields, rear and side windows are not properly cleared of snow and ice, the driver cannot see potential obstacles or hazards and accidents often result.

Failing to properly remove snow and ice can result in excess snow flying off the roof of your car, thereby limiting the ability of the drivers behind you to see the road ahead of them. Also, you can be involved in accidents in parking lots, when changing lanes or inadvertently missing a red light or stop sign since you don’t have clear sight of everything around you because of snow and ice on your car’s windows. If an accident ensues because of someone’s failure to properly remove snow and ice from their car, they can be held liable for damages and injuries that occur as a result.

If you or a loved one have suffered personal injuries due to the negligence of someone failing to properly clear snow and ice from their car’s windows, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other damages.

Contact the law office of Michael J. Brennan today to schedule a consultation to discuss your particular situation by calling (312) 379-9270 in the Chicago area, (708) 460-9300 in Orland Park, or (708) 349-3995 in Burr Ridge.

The Price of Justice

lNational Trial LawyersThe American criminal justice system was on display for the world to see during the trial of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.   Zimmerman (who was 29 at the time of the incident) was charged with Second Degree Murder for shooting and killing a 17-year-old teenager named Trayvon Martin, who was walking home from 7-Eleven on a rainy Sunday evening in February of 2012. Although Martin didn’t live in the community known as “The Retreat at Twin Lakes” where the shooting took place, he did have a legal right to be on the premises because he was visiting his father and his fiancée, who lived on the property.

Zimmerman was the captain of the Neighborhood Watch program at Twin Lakes, which was initiated because of recent home burglaries in the gated community, responsibility for which was attributed to young, black males. In his Neighborhood Watch training and capacity as the leader of the program, Zimmerman was instructed to be the eyes and ears of the Sanford Police Department, but to not serve in any vigilante capacity by taking the law into his own hands. Despite that, he took it upon himself to follow young Trayvon Martin in the dark through the neighborhood because he fit the description of perpetrators of previous crimes in the community and Zimmerman was armed with a 9 mm KelTec semi-automatic pistol, for which he had a CCW permit (Carry Concealed Weapon). A confrontation and subsequent struggle ensued among the two and Zimmerman suffered what were later determined to be “insignificant injuries” during the scuffle that left Trayvon Martin dead of a gunshot wound directly through his heart.

Many people in America and around the world were upset that Zimmerman wasn’t immediately arrested on the night of the shooting but, instead, had his injuries cleaned up by first responders and was then permitted to go home after speaking with detectives at the Sanford Police Department. Since Zimmerman is white/Hispanic and Martin was black/African American, many people thought the State of Florida conducted a miscarriage of justice against the black community in Sanford and America, in general, by its lack of criminal prosecution of the man who shot and killed an innocent, unarmed teenager and chaos ensued in the form of the State of Florida versus George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial.

In the beginning, the media announced that Zimmerman would be represented by one of America’s leading public defenders but, in the end, two high-priced criminal defense attorneys named Mark O’Mara and Don West handled his case.

This may have led many to believe that any criminal defendant in America is entitled to the best defense money can buy, including expensive attorneys and the testimony of experts and private investigators, but that is not necessarily true. The only reason George Zimmerman was able to retain O’Mara and West was that he created an internet website that collected money from people around the world to fund his defense. Otherwise, Zimmerman would probably have been represented by the public defender first mentioned at the onset of the criminal proceedings.

Mr. Zimmerman ultimately raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his criminal defense via the internet website and those funds were used to pay his bail bond, living expenses and personal security, as well as thousands of dollars that were used to compensate private investigators, expert witnesses, court reporters for pre-trial depositions and, of course, his lawyers.

It is believed that Zimmerman raised nearly half a million dollars, which afforded him the best criminal defense money can buy in America, an entitlement to which most Americans are not privileged. If it didn’t already, the world now knows that justice in America requires a lot of money and, if you don’t have a lot of money, you may not experience justice. The more money you spend, the stronger your case will be and, in the Zimmerman trial, the State of Florida’s prosecution team did not have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars to devote to the prosecution of this particular case.

The fact that the quality and results of any prosecutor’s case against a criminal or civil defendant is dependent upon the amount of money made available by the jurisdictional state means that the prosecution and defense sides are often not equally funded, which sometimes results in a miscarriage of justice. In the Zimmerman case, donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars entitled him to the best representation available while Trayvon Martin’s family was only entitled to the best representation that the State of Florida could reasonably afford.

In a case that involved over $300,000 in “costs” alone, it is quite evident that Zimmerman was afforded a “full and fair” trial because of the amount of money he was able to throw into his defense case. In America, in civil and criminal matters, those who have access to large amounts of money fare better than those who don’t because of the stronger case money enables. Zimmerman’s website raised over $70,000 in one week, an amount that is approximately double the average American’s annual wages. Without access to a lot of money, the average defendant cannot afford the pricey lawyers, expert witnesses and private investigators and, therefore, do not enjoy a “full and fair” trial like the one Zimmerman experienced.

So, how do you get justice in America? You have to have a lot of money!

If you need an experienced attorney…Read More

Sexual Abuse of Children

trial-attorneysIf only the topic of sexual abuse of children did not have to be discussed! Unfortunately, though, open and honest discussions of this criminal behavior is necessary for parents (and other family members), teachers, coaches, scout leaders, church officials, law enforcement and others to be able to recognize potential perpetrators of abuse and to protect the children upon whom they prey. If we do not discuss this terribly destructive behavior, inform our children about the possibility of being a victim and how to recognize the signs, as well as encourage those who’ve been abused to come forward and report the abuse, this does nothing but leave the perpetrator free of criminal charges and living among us, preying on more innocent victims. We have to talk about it with our children!

There are currently approximately forty-two million adult victims/survivors of child sexual abuse in America and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in six men were victims of sexual abuse before they reached the age of eighteen years.   Another disturbing fact is that approximately seventy-three percent of victims of child sexual abuse don’t tell anyone about it for at least a year, forty-five percent wait as long as five years and some victims never tell anyone about it. Also, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, juveniles are more frequently victims of sexual assault than adults.

While most child sexual abusers are males, a smaller number of females also commit sexually related crimes against children. Very often, perpetrators of child sexual abuse were abused themselves as children. Sexual abusers of children include people from every socioeconomic class of all races and age groups. Many offenders hold highly respected positions of authority in organizations like community clubs, churches and schools. In fact, more often than not, “stranger danger” is not the source of most child sexual abuse and, instead, the children are familiar with and have established relationships with the abuser in whom they have gained great confidence and trust.

This is no coincidence, inasmuch as many offenders attempt to establish trusting relationships with, not only the children, but also their family members and friends. Child sexual abusers take advantage of this familiarity and close proximity by using progressively inappropriate language and/or touching behaviors that are so sublime that they go unnoticed by the abused child until the situation has escalated into outright sexual abuse, at which time the abuser will employ a variety of means to maintain compliance of their victims.

Convicted perpetrators of child sexual abuse admit that they usually seek children who seem lonely, quiet, troubled or those who live in broken homes or single-parent households. They’ve also admitted that they will employ excessive attention and privileges, purchasing material things for the child, violence against the child or their loved ones (or threats thereof), as well as misrepresenting socially acceptable things to the child in order to continue abusing them. They will also attempt to make the child feel complicit in and responsible for the sexual abuse, which contributes to the fact that many victims wait long periods of time to report the abuse, if ever.

In order to avoid opportunities for abusers to sexually assault children, we need to be aware of the circumstances under which they usually perpetrate the abuse. Most child sexual abuse takes place in the home of the perpetrator or the home of the child; in fact, eighty-four percent of abuse of children under the age of twelve occurs in someone’s home or other place of residence. Seventy-one percent of incidents of abuse of older children between the ages of twelve and seventeen also occur in a residential setting.

Also, sexual assault of young children usually occurs between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. and older children are commonly assaulted late in the evening. When the abuser is a juvenile, the sexual abuse often occurs after school on weekdays between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 p.m., not coincidentally when many parents are away from home at work.

Children living in homes where both biological parents also reside are the least likely kids to be victimized by child sexual abusers.   Incidents of abuse are twenty times more prevalent when the child lives in a single-parent home or one that involves a stepparent or live-in partner and ten times more likely for those children living in foster care.

While no child is immune from the possibility of sexual abuse, young girls are more likely to be abused than boys and both are most vulnerable between the ages of seven and thirteen. The median age of abused children is nine years, but approximately twenty percent are victimized before the age of eight.

Another factor that contributes to child sexual abuse is ethnicity and/or race. African American kids are twice as likely to be sexually abused and those who are Hispanic are also at greater risk than white children. Also, the possibility of abuse triples for kids whose parents are unemployed and children who suffer from physical or mental disabilities are also at greater risk, as are kids living in rural areas or those who have witnessed or been victims of any type of crime.

As a parent, you should be aware that many physical signs of abuse heal rapidly and you should immediately investigate and seek treatment for any genital irritation in a child, as well as infections or painful bowel movements.   Changes in behavior are more frequently noticed and can include nightmares, night sweats, bed-wetting, anxiety, anger, depression, loss of interest in activities, abusing drugs (including alcohol), fear of certain people or places and thoughts of hurting themselves or suicide. You should also watch for language that is not age-appropriate or sexual “acting out.”

Children and adult victims of child sexual abuse experience a tremendous amount of negative consequences after being sexually abused, not the least of which is damage to their psyche and mental health. Child sexual abuse lies at the root of many problems in society and is also a major contributor to teenage pregnancies, over sexualized behavior and the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases.

Knowledge of these facts is essential in order to identify child sexual predators and their modes of predation, as well as those children who are vulnerable or have already been victimized by these disturbed individuals. Together, we can put an end to this criminal, inhumane behavior and protect our precious children from predators.

Sex Crimes in Chicago

Chicago Sex Crimes

Not surprisingly, the State of Illinois is not immune to the depravity of sexually related criminal behavior. Chicago law allows for strict criminal convictions and extreme penalties, including loss of personal freedom, for those individuals convicted of sex crimes.

Sex crimes are usually committed by men, but a much lower percentage of women also commit those kinds of crime, which include rape, incest, sexual battery, sodomy, indecent exposure, lewd and lascivious behavior, as well as sex crimes committed against children, including child pornography.

Contrary to what you may think, sexual gratification is not necessarily a sex offender’s motivation for committing sex crimes. More often than not, the primary motivators are anger, power and control, which explain the unending number of sexual offenses committed by those individuals in highly respected places of authority, including politicians, law enforcement personnel and others.

Also contrary to what you may believe, most sexual offenders are not strangers, but know their victims and are very often family members or friends of the victim or his/her family. The perpetrator’s familiarity with their victims allows them to easily gain access to them through long-term relationships, enticement or deception and force is seldom used to commit these types of crimes.

This is true regarding sexual assaults against women, whose acquaintance with perpetrators give them a false sense of security because they trust and unknowingly have complete confidence in that person. Sex offenders who abuse children are not typically hanging around playgrounds or schools looking for victims and have already established a sense of trust via ongoing relationships, as evidenced by the recent conviction of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky, who gained access to his under age victims through relationships developed while participating in charitable organizations benefiting children.

Also, it is not safe to assume that an individual who commits sexual assault against an adult will not assault a child or that someone who assaults children will not also assault adults. Race is also not a determining factor with sexual predators.   Apparently, a person who will engage in sexual assault is not particular about the age, gender or race of their victims.

Extreme protective precautions should be taken when interacting with anyone known or suspected of engaging in sexual misconduct, whether they’ve been convicted in a court of law or not, because many sexual predators remain at large and continue to live among us because so many of their victims do not report the incident for fear of being disbelieved or held responsible, threats made by the perpetrator to kill or otherwise harm the victim or their loved ones or because the perpetrator is an important person in the life of the victim, despite the abuse they’ve suffered.

It is not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to wait years and years before telling anyone about the incident and this is especially true when the assault occurred during childhood. Those victimized as children bear deep emotional scars and may even choose to deny the occurrence of the incident altogether, hoping to just put it behind them or incorrectly assuming that they must have somehow contributed to the abusive incident(s). They also greatly fear the reaction of people in whom they may confide, fearing loss of important relationships.

However, failure to report an incident of sexual assault does not mean that the victim consented to it. Sexual assault very often causes physical harm but also deep psychological wounds and emotional distress that can endure for many years due to the loss of trust in that individual, which has a detrimental affect on the victim’s future relationships, not to mention their psyche.

Chicago’s War on Drugs

Chicago’s War on Drugs

 

drug-crimesThe Chicago Reader reported that Cook County spends at least $78 million every year charging, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating citizens for possession of small amounts of marijuana. It’s estimated that the City of Chicago could eliminate those costs and bring in an additional $7 million in revenue every year just by decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and also save countless man hours for law enforcement, court and jail personnel.

The City of Chicago is experiencing the same budget problems as other municipalities across the nation and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considering decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana as a means of producing much-needed revenue for the City. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wants to reduce the exorbitant costs of arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for low-level drug offenses and Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey agrees with and supports decriminalization of marijuana.

At a recent press conference on the matter, Commissioner Fritchey said “The simple truth is that the decades-long policies that we have had toward possession of small amounts of marijuana have failed to do anything other than fill our jails with nonviolent offenders, strain our budgets, and according to some studies, even cause an increase in more serious crime.”

In order to bring about the desired change, Alderman Danny Solis introduced an Ordinance to the City Council that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a “ticketable” offense.   Rather than charging, prosecuting and incarcerating people who are in possession of small amounts of marijuana, they would be required to pay a $200 fine instead of the current misdemeanor charges that are applied, which costs the city, county and state millions of dollars.

Solis told the Associated Press “In these trying times of the economy, we could really use the revenue generated by fines versus arrests. And each (arrest) means police officers are spending an inordinate amount of time outside the neighborhoods, inside the district offices doing paperwork.”

Solis has the support of Alderman Joe Moreno who shared his thoughts on America’s war on drugs in a blog recently written for the Huffington Post:

“The fact that governments all over the country are broke can be a good thing, if lawmakers are brave enough to stop appealing to the lowest common denominator and start telling the truth. This Ordinance begins this in Chicago.

“The War on Drugs started a year before I was born.   It needs to die A.S.A.P., because it has become a de facto war on poor people, minorities and reason.”

Several Aldermen have signed on as co-sponsors of the Ordinance, including Deborah Graham, Bob Fioretti, Joe Moreno, Walter Burnett, Ariel Reboyras, Richard Mell and Howard Brookins.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that even law enforcement officers have suggested decriminalization of marijuana and that the issue has two parts. “The first part, which is what’s motivating people, is the issue of the cost in the system: arresting, overtime, court, jail. Then, there’s also the criminal justice side. I have to evaluate and will evaluate. “

When Emanuel took over as Mayor of Chicago, he made it clear that he would do whatever is necessary to get Chicago’s fiscal house in order. As the City of Chicago and Cook County continually struggle with the same budget issues, the one topic that keeps arising as a potential solution is decriminalization of marijuana. The Offices of Michael J. Brennan..A Drug Crime Lawyer in Chicago.