Springfield, IL – Law enforcement officials will be able to pursue drug dealers more effectively and judicial officers will benefit from increased protections when several recently-signed laws take effect, according to State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove).
Illinois motorists will also receive additional protections through legislation signed late last week targeting excessive speeding and distracted drivers.
A new law (HB 4081/PA 97-0846) adds an exception to the state’s eavesdropping laws to allow 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 Sen. Sandack said that process can be lengthy and, as a result, past delays have resulted in missed evidence of criminal drug activity.
Allowing State’s Attorneys to approve the use of recording devices during the course of a drug investigation 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 more credible evidence to be entered into criminal proceedings—jurors and judges will be able 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.
Another recently signed law (HB 5877/PA 97-0847) increases protection of Illinois judiciary officers in response to what the Illinois Judges Association reports is a decade of steadily increasing threats against judges. Action surpassed threats when the mother and husband of an Illinois U.S. District Judge were killed in what law enforcement believes to be retaliation against the judge following an unfavorable ruling.
Now, 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.
The safety of Illinois’ motorists was the focus of several laws signed July 20. “Julie’s Law” (SB 2888/PA 97-0831) will ban courts from granting supervision to individuals found speeding 31 miles-per-hour or more above the posted speed limit on highways. That limit reduces to 25 miles-per-hour 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.
Roadway work crews will also benefit from additional protections targeting distracted driving when Senate Bill 2488/PA 97-0830 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013. 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/PA 97-0828 bans use of a mobile phone within 500 feet of an emergency scene and House Bill 5101/PA 97-0829 will prohibit commercial motor vehicle operators from using a hand-held mobile phone or texting while behind the wheel.
Additional bills signed into law this week include:
Aquatic Transportation (HB 3888/PA 97-0850): Allows the Department of Natural Resources to ask people to clean their seaplanes or watercraft of aquatic plants or animals on the exterior before they are placed in different bodies of water. The measure is designed to prevent the spread of invasive species.
Cook County Landfill (HB 3881/PA 97-843): Bans new landfills or landfill expansions in Cook County. Opponents raised concerns that the measure seemed targeted at a single business and would force the eventual shutdown of a legal business, while giving a competitive advantage to other landfills.
Debtors (HB 5434/PA 97-0848): Adds procedural protections in debt collection proceedings to ensure that debtors receive proper notice and opportunity to show an inability to pay the debt. This is in response to what is being called "debtor incarceration" where contempt warrants are issued for the arrest of debtors who miss a hearing because they didn’t receive notice, or who didn't pay their debt due to lack of assets. This was an initiative of the Attorney General to address situations highlighted in news reports about the extreme use of arrest warrants for contempt of court in debt collection cases, which resulted in customers being unfairly sent to jail.
Disabled Parking (HB 5624/PA 97-845): 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. This is a change to current law, which allows all persons with disabled plates to avoid paying meters. 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.
Disability Plate Fraud (HB 5056/PA 97-844): Increases penalties for using another person’s or a deceased person’s disability plate, decal, placard or device.
Forest Preserve Buildings (HB 3892/PA 97-0851): Allows the Lake County Forest Preserve District to sell buildings located on land owned by the district without selling the land itself. This is designed to help the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which purchased land with historic barns and other structures on it. The forest preserve district has no use for the buildings and wants to be able to sell them and have them removed.
Home Loans (SB 1692/PA 97-0849): Clarifies and streamlines the definition of a high-risk home loan, to better inform Illinois consumers and meet federal guidelines. Establishes limits on fees and penalties on home loans, and prohibits pre-payment penalties on mortgages that are paid off before the scheduled term. Limits the amount that can be charged to a taxpayer seeking a check or loan that is tied to their federal and state tax refund.
Plumbing Standards (HB 4496/PA 97-0852): Requires that by January 1, 2013, the Plumbing Code Advisory Council must recommend amendments to the existing minimum code of standards for plumbing to reflect advances in new technologies and methods that more efficiently utilize natural resources and protect public health. Further, after examining the recommendations, the Department of Public Health (DPH) must submit amendments to the existing minimum code of standards to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules by May 31, 2013.
Recycling Review Task Force (HB 4986/PA 97-0853): Creates a Task Force to review recycling and solid waste management planning in Illinois.