MORE TOOLS IN FIGHT AGAINST DRUGS
Law enforcement officials will be able to pursue drug dealers more effectively when several recently-signed laws take effect.
House Bill 4081 allows law enforcement officers to receive approval from a State’s Attorney to record or listen with the aid of an eavesdropping device during the course of an investigation into a felony drug violation. Currently, a court order can be obtained to record evidence of a drug crime, but that process can be lengthy and past delays have resulted in missed evidence of criminal drug activity.
The new law will not only speed up law enforcement’s access to the helpful tool, but will increase protection for undercover officers who may require immediate assistance during the course of their investigation. The new law will also allow jurors and judges to hear actual conversations of suspected criminal drug suspects, rather than relying on potentially unreliable witness testimony.
Once the law takes effect, Illinois law enforcement will have the same flexibility to record suspects in drug investigations as officers affiliated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and law enforcement officers in other states.
GIVING JUDICIAL OFFICERS MORE PROTECTION
Another recently signed law increases protection of Illinois judiciary officers in response to what the Illinois Judges Association reports is a decade of steadily increasing threats against judges.
House Bill 5877 states that businesses, associations, individuals and government entities must remove any judicial officer’s personal information that has been posted, if the officer requests in writing that it be removed. Government agencies will be required to remove the information within five days of receiving the request, whereas businesses, individuals and associations have 72 hours to remove the information.
The new law also establishes that it is a crime to publicly post a judicial officer’s personal information if the person should reasonably know that it will pose a serious threat to the judicial officer or his/her family. Lawmakers hope these increased protections will improve the safety and security of Illinois’ judiciary, and give them peace-of-mind to administer justice without fear of personal reprisal.
PROMOTING MOTORISTS’ SAFETY
The safety of Illinois’ motorists was the focus of several laws signed July 20.
Senate Bill 2888, also known as “Julie’s Law,” will ban courts from granting supervision to individuals found speeding 31 miles-per-hour (mph) or more above the posted speed limit on highways. That limit reduces to 25 mph or more above the posted limit in “urban districts,” including cities and most small towns.
The legislation was introduced in response to a fatal accident involving Frankfort Square resident Julie Gorczynski, who was killed in 2011 by a motorist speeding 76 mph in a 40 mph zone. The driver who struck Gorczynski had received court supervision seven times for excessive speeding.
NEW LAWS TARGET DISTRACTED DRIVING
Roadway work crews will benefit from additional protections targeting distracted driving when Senate Bill 2488 takes effect on January 1.
By expanding the definition of construction and maintenance work zones to include those areas where signs have been posted to alert motorists to an upcoming speed zone, the law will prohibit the use of a cell phone in all roadway work zones. Previously, cell phones were only prohibited in work zones with speed-limit reductions.
Similarly, House Bill 5099 bans use of a mobile phone within 500 feet of an emergency scene and House Bill 5101 prohibits commercial motor vehicle operators from using a hand-held mobile phone or texting while behind the wheel.
CRACKING DOWN ON MISUSE OF DISABLED PARKING SPACES
Two other bills signed into law during the week crack down on the misuse of parking permits and placards issued by the state to people with disabilities.
House Bill 5624 creates a two-tiered disabled parking system beginning in January 2014.
The first tier would only be able to park in disabled parking spaces.
The second tier would be able to also avoid meter fees. Those exempt from parking fees would have to have a doctor's statement that they are unable to: insert coins into the meter; reach above 42 inches; approach a meter due to a wheelchair or other mobility device; or walk more than 20 feet.
The new law establishes fines for unauthorized or fraudulent use of a disability plate or placard.
House Bill 5056 increases penalties for using another person’s or a deceased person’s disability plate, decal, placard or device.