Construction is underway on a new eight-story criminal court at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Illinois. The new 200,000 square foot building is set to be completed by June 2018. The courthouse has not been expanded since 1989. It will include 12 new courtrooms and a walkway to the main courthouse. There is still some uncertainty as to the use of the top two floors.

The new building will also have an underground tunnel, which will allow inmates to be transported to the courthouse more efficiently. The Babcock Justice Center, which houses the county jail, is also slated for updates of the intake and booking areas and kitchen and dining areas which is scheduled to be completed in 2019. No additional jail cells will be added.

The Lake County Bar Association has expressed concerns over the current state of the courthouse including the safety and security of witnesses and privacy for meetings between attorneys and clients.

A new pilot program in Lake County offers treatment, rather than jail time for those struggling with drug abuse or addition. “A Way Out” is an initiative that will allow individuals that may be in possession of narcotics or paraphernalia to go to participating police departments requesting treatment. In exchange for their participation in the program, there will not be any criminal charges filed against them. The participants will be connected with the appropriate treatment facility immediately and the police may even provide their transportation to the facility.

A few participants have already entered the program after arriving at police stations asking for help. They were then transported to treatment facilities, mainly for opioid addiction.

Every three to six months, the program will be evaluated, changes will be made accordingly and additional police departments will be added.

Two new bills, which will make it easier for individuals with a criminal record to obtain employment, are now awaiting the signature of Governor Rauner. Under HB 5793, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would be prohibited from barring criminals from working in certain fields, such as barbering, roofing and cosmetology, unless their crimes directly relate to the occupation for which they are trying to obtain a license. Simply put, it will be much easier for individuals with a criminal record to obtain occupational licenses. This is especially important since approximately 25% of Illinois residents need an occupational license to perform in their trade. The second bill will help individuals with criminal records obtain a license to work in healthcare.

Under current law, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation can deny occupational licenses to individuals with criminal records. Illinois provides for more than 100 licenses which may or must be denied because of a felony arrest, or sometimes even a misdemeanor.

New Bills Will Make It Easier For Felons to Find Work, www.wbez.org, June 1, 2016

By the end of July 2016, Illinois driver’s licenses and ID cards will no longer be issued at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Instead, the DMV will be issuing temporary paper cards with a photo on it, which the applicant will have for 45 days while multiple fraud checks are being performed at an off-site state facility. The new cards will be equipped with anti-counterfeiting security that will help prevent individuals from using another’s identity. After these changes are put into place, Illinois will be 84 percent compliant with the federal mandate, REAL ID, which is designed to prevent fraud and identity theft. The new license and ID cards will have a new, upgraded design as well.

Illinois Rolls Out New Design, Process for Obtaining Licenses, State ID Cards, www. nbcchicago.com, May 17, 2016

A new Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission report released last month examined juvenile expungements from 2004 to 2014. It concluded that only three records for every 1000 juvenile arrests are expunged including those cases that are ultimately dismissed. In Illinois, it is not a criminal offense to improperly share records of juveniles, as it is in many other states. The study concluded that the laws and policies of this state threaten public safety and the ability for juveniles to transition to productive adulthood.

The Commission made recommendations to increase the scope of confidentiality and access to juvenile record expungement.

Report: Only A Fraction of Juvenile Records Expunged in Illinois, www.progressillinois.com, May 2, 2016

The number of shootings in the first three months of 2016 is the highest of the decade in Chicago. At least 775 people have been shot in the city, which is up 80 percent from last year. As of March 28, there were at least 650 separate shootings. The surge in shootings is a major concern heading into the spring and summer months.

Not only are shootings in Chicago on the increase, but homicides in general are as well. So far this year, 1,142 people have been murdered in Chicago. While a majority of the homicides have occurred on the South and West sides, there has been a rise in murders all across the city.

On Easter weekend, an astounding 38 people were shot. Only one of those shootings resulted in a fatality. According to the Chicago Tribune, 40 percent of those shootings occurred in either the Englewood District or the Harrison District.

Kim Foxx will be the democratic candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney, defeating current State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Alvarez came under fire after waiting a year to file murder charges against an officer accused of shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Charges were pressed only after a judge ordered the squad-car video be released to the public. Many accused Alvarez of a “cover-up.”

Foxx previously worked as chief aide to the Cook County Board President and worked in the juvenile division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for years. In November, Kim Foxx will face-off against Republican nominee Christopher Pfannkuche.

Dorothy Brown, who is serving her 4th term as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, will be the democratic nominee in the upcoming election despite the federal probe into her office. While Brown did not have a majority of the vote (48 percent), she dominated over the other candidates, Michelle Harris and Jacob Meister had 31 percent and 22 percent, respectively. In October of last year, the Democratic Party announced they would no longer endorse Dorothy Brown, but would instead endorse Harris. Brown will challenge Republican nominee Diane Shapiro, who ran unopposed.

According to jail guards at the Lake County Jail, unsafe jail conditions are causing very dangerous situations. A letter to the Chicago Tribune from Cass Casper, senior staff attorney for the union local, states that there is a “substantial risk of the safety of the officers” due to broken elevators and radio systems. The letter alleges nine instances in which the radios or elevators failed from November to January.

Jail guards allege they have been stuck in elevators without the ability to use their radios due to radio “dead zones.” Wait times up to 25 minutes and rescues by ladders have been reported. An officer reported that the response time to an attack in which another officer was grabbed by the throat and thrown to the floor was “severely delayed due to one of the two elevators being nonoperational.”

According to jail officials, the main elevator has been fixed and the radio system will be replaced. Lake County plans to spend more than $7 million to buy a more advanced radio system that should be up and running by April.

The prosecution of cyberbullying has been a challenge for states looking to protect minors from harassment. A new Illinois bill, introduced by Republican Representative Terry Bryant, provides that those who post videos of fights online with the intent to condone or promote violence could be charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. One obstacle of the proposal is proving intent of those who post the videos. Another concern is the unconstitutionality of such a law; mainly, infringement on the right to free speech.

The proposal stems from a video that Representative Bryant saw on Facebook, showing two young boys fighting, with their classmates watching and recording without anyone calling for help.

Social media and the advancement of technology have posed major issues for lawmakers trying to keep up. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, only half of the anti-bullying laws across the country address cyberbullying. Other than infringement of free speech, there are additional concerns of over-criminalizing teenage behavior.

Effective today, January 1st, 2016, new DUI laws go into effect which benefit revoked and suspended drivers who want to seek driving privileges before the Illinois Secretary of State. One of these significant changes in the law will allow drivers with a lifetime ban on driving the opportunity to apply for driving relief.

Attorney Larry A. Davis, principle of The Davis Law Group, P.C. assisted in the drafting of these new laws and represented the Illinois State Bar Association in securing their passage.

Contact The Davis Law Group, P.C. if you would like a consultation or further information on these important changes in the laws.