In the News
Blogtalkradio, November 28, 2011, Roadside Safety Checks and Illinois DUI Law with Sarah Manning
Chicago Tribune, October 16, 2011, Jon Yates' "What's Your Problem?"
Problem Solver: Motorist raises ruckus after car is impounded over noise violation. Man paid Berwyn $500, faces further potential fines at Nov. 3 court date.
It was an unseasonably warm October day, and as Jack Stewart drove down Cermak Road in Berwyn en route to pick up a pair of shoes for his wife, the 42-year-old state employee rolled down the windows on his 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix and cranked up Eminem on his car stereo.
Crossing Oak Park Avenue, he noticed a police car behind him, lights flashing.
"I pulled over thinking he was going somewhere else," Stewart said of the Oct. 4 incident. "He got on his loudspeaker and said to pull over and park around the corner."
Thirty minutes later, Stewart's car was impounded — whisked away under Berwyn's noise ordinance, which prohibits any sound that can be heard more than 75 feet away.
Getting his car back was not cheap. When he showed up at the impound lot, Stewart was charged a $500 penalty, paid directly to Berwyn, and another $206 in towing and storage fees.
Upset with the impoundment and the fees, Stewart's wife, Shavon Dawson, emailed, "What's Your Problem?"
Dawson said she knew getting the money back was impossible, but she thought publicizing the incident was a public service.
She called the act of impounding the car for loud music "unethical."
"It's one thing to issue a $100 ticket as a warning, but to automatically just take my car?" Stewart said. "I believe this is their way of gouging people and trying to make up revenue the city doesn't have."
Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois, said vehicle impoundments — and correlating fees — have increased dramatically nationwide, as cash-strapped municipalities look for ways to fill their dwindling coffers.
"One of the things we've seen is relatively minor offenses now have incredible economic consequences that disproportionately fall on people who can't afford them," Yohnka said. "I think there is no question that in many places around the country we've seen that the issue is not law enforcement but rather funding."
In most cases, towns have begun impounding cars for violations such as DUI, solicitation of prostitutes or drug possession. In Chicago, impoundment fees are $1,000, double what Berwyn charges. Chicago's impound fee for DUI arrests would increase to $2,000 next year under Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed budget.
A Chicago police spokesman said officers are allowed to impound vehicles for a noise violation, but observers say that rarely happens.
Charles Beach, a Chicago DUI and traffic attorney, said villages like Berwyn sometimes enact "draconian measures" like vehicle impoundment to crack down on violence.
"The statute is used as a tool to go after gangbangers," Beach said.
But when used on peaceful motorists like Stewart, such fines have different implications. In some cases, the impound fees are nothing more than a revenue source, Beach said.
"It's just the money-grubbing municipalities looking to make more money," he said.
A survey of the villages surrounding Berwyn show that most have ordinances prohibiting motorists from playing loud music but none impound vehicles for the infraction.
In Forest Park, motorists violating the village noise ordinance are given a ticket, but generally only after someone has complained about the music, most often neighbors living near a carwash, said Tom Aftanas, the village's deputy police chief.
"We don't specifically set up somewhere to try to catch someone with their radio loud," Aftanas said. "We do not impound vehicles for it."
In Oak Park, officers can issue tickets for loud car stereos, with fines ranging from $20 to $750. Village spokesman David Powers said most fines wind up on the lower end of the scale, "unless there was some kind of history or mitigating circumstance."
There is no provision in the Oak Park ordinance for impounding a vehicle for a noise violation.
In neighboring Cicero, cars can be impounded for loud stereos, but town spokesman Ray Hanania said such impounds are extremely uncommon. Police officers use the ordinance as a tool to crack down on noise in neighborhoods and on gang activity, Hanania said.
If a vehicle is impounded, it is likely for another infraction discovered in the process of issuing the noise ordinance ticket, he said. The last vehicle impounded in Cicero for a noise violation was in May, though it was not clear if the motorist was charged with other violations, Hanania said.
The impoundment fee in Cicero is $100, with an additional $100 charged for each day the vehicle remains on the impound lot, Hanania said.
When asked whether Cicero had ever set up a trap to impound cars playing loud music, the spokesman said no.
"We've never done that," he said. "That's not to criticize (Berwyn). What they do is their business. But on our end, there is a concern for the circumstances involved."
In Stewart's case, he was driving down a busy, nonresidential street at 3 p.m. and insists there were plenty of other motorists playing music as loudly as him. He saw no signs announcing Berwyn's noise ordinance and said the officer never provided proof he violated the law.
Stewart said he tried to argue that both the citation and the fees were unwarranted, but the police officer wasn't interested in his pleas.
"He said he sets up a trap for this type of stuff. 'That's how serious we take it in Berwyn,'" Stewart said. "I'm like, 'You're crazy. You can't be taking my car.'"
On top of the $706 he has already paid, the Elmhurst resident is required to attend the Nov. 3 court date to determine whether he is guilty of the actual infraction. He faces up to $165 in court fees and as much as $750 in additional fines. In all, the incident could cost him $1,621.
In Stewart's mind, the money he paid to get his car back following the impound means Berwyn has already determined his guilt. The Nov. 3 hearing, he said, becomes more like an appeals hearing.
Both Beach and Yohnka said courts have ruled repeatedly that impound penalties are legal, and that they are separate from whatever fines a judge imposes for violation of an ordinance.
"I'm not opposed to ordinances to keep down noise and violence," Stewart said. "But the way they're doing it is all wrong."
The Problem Solver called Berwyn's village hall and was referred to Police Chief Jim Ritz. Ritz told the Problem Solver to call the village attorney, Anthony Bertuca. Bertuca never called back, but a secretary at village hall said Bertuca had referred the matter to Mayor Robert J. Lovero.
Lovero did not return calls or an email seeking comment.
Stewart said he will go to the court hearing and argue that the officer has no proof his car stereo was too loud.
"They pull you over for speeding, at least they have a radar gun; if they give you a ticket for running a red light, at least there's a photo," he said. "How do you prove that my music was a danger? And again, since when is loud music an offense of that magnitude where you take my car?"
Stewart said his experience wasn't 100 percent bad. After getting the car out of the impound lot Oct. 4, a few hours after it was taken, he and his wife drove to the shoe store and bought the shoes.
"We needed to walk around, we needed to blow off some steam," he said. "So we bought them."
Fox Chicago News, August 31, 2011
Chicago - Got a parking ticket you don't think you deserve? How exactly do you fight it and win? Attorney Charlie Beach specializes in traffic law, and he joined us with some advice.
This week we saw the story of Orland Park's Mark Geinosky, who received 24 tickets that were all thrown out by a judge when Geinosky proved he was nowhere near the location on the tickets.
Now, five Chicago police officers are being disciplined for issuing those tickets.
So if Geinosky can beat City Hall, what about you?
Beach gave us four tips. First, if you want to contest a ticket, you must do so within seven days. He also said in-person hearings are better.
Beach also recommends reading the ticket carefully looking for any errors in location or vehicle description. Anything wrong on the ticket can help you get it thrown out.
Third, Beach said to take pictures and use outside sources to support your case.
Finally, Beach recommended at hearings you be polite, be on time and be prepared.
Linked Local Network Business Spotlight, August 9, 2011
Charles S. Beach is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer representing those facing criminal charges, including narcotics, DUI defense, felony driving while revoked and license reinstatement. Their law firm has helped many clients throughout the Chicago area in all criminal matters. Their phone number is (312) 739-0500 and their website is www.duichicago.com.
We had the privilege of interviewing Sarah Manning, an Associate with the Charles S. Beach firm.
How long have you been in business? Where are you located?
Ms. Manning: Our firm has been in existence for approximately ten years. I’ve been here since 2007. Our office is located in downtown Chicago and we deal with cases that are primarily in Cook and DuPage counties.
What are your specialties?
Ms. Manning: Since we are a criminal defense firm, we can handle anyone who gets arrested. However, we do specialize in DUI and revoked driving defense. We have extensive experience in these types of cases and are very successful in defending our clients. Because of our experience in this area, I am often asked to give advice to attorneys in other firms who are defending clients in DUI cases.
Who are your clients?
Ms. Manning: Our clients come from all walks of life and from all over the greater Chicagoland area. We can help anyone who has been arrested, especially in the area of DUI defense.
What changes have taken place in your industry?
Ms. Manning: Because of the current economy, many legal specialties such as real estate law have been hit pretty hard. Since DUI and revoked driving defense are often seen as “easy” cases, we have more competition from attorneys who have expanded the types of cases that they handle. However, we have been going to court and fighting for our clients in this area for 10 years. We have the knowledge and experience that few others have.
What marketing or branding strategies have you found to be the most effective way of reaching potential clients?
Ms. Manning: We send out direct mailers on a weekly basis and also use a Yellow Pages ad. Many of our clients come to us through word of mouth and repeat referrals. We have also started venturing into the world of social networking and are in the process of revising our website.
What message would you like to send?
Ms. Manning: If you get pulled over for suspicion of driving while under the influence, our advice is to refuse the tests (Breathalyzer and field sobriety) and call us as soon as possible. We offer free consultations. We have a very high success rate in defending our clients because we have the experience and knowledge of the law and the court system.
Chicago Tribune, February 25, 2009, Andrew Wang
Lawsuits allege cop falsified DUI charges
The men's attorneys accuse Fiorito of manufacturing fake DUI and other traffic charges against motorists in a scheme to garner the extra overtime pay that comes with making court appearances on cases.
According to one of the attorneys, Brendan Shiller, Dean was arrested on Oct. 7, 2007 for driving on a suspended license and taken to the Town Hall District station, where he spent about 1 1/2 hours before bonding out.
His car also had been towed there, and after he was released Dean was standing in the parking lot wondering how he was going to get his car home when Fiorito approached and ordered him to move the vehicle, the lawyer said.
Dean complied and drove "around the corner," where Fiorito allegedly pulled him over, Shiller said. According to the suit, the officer cited Dean for several offenses, including operating a vehicle without insurance, driving on a suspended license and DUI.
Shiller said Fiorito called Dean anti-gay names and used a racial slur in his report.
In Rauch's case, Shiller said Fiorito made a traffic stop on April 17, 2007 in which he "manhandled" Rauch and calling him anti-gay names. Though Rauch was charged with DUI, the lawyer said, Fiorito didn't perform field-sobriety tests, nor did he conduct a breathalyzer test.
Shiller is one of four attorneys also representing Susan Kolinek, who was stopped by Fiorito on Jan. 10 and allegedly called anti-gay names.
Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city's law department, wrote in an email that the department could not comment on the cases because it had not yet reviewed the complaints.
Mother's Against Drunk Driving last year honored Fiorito for making 313 DUI arrests between Jan. 1, 2007 and June 6, 2008, according to the group's Web site. According to the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists site, he made 230 DUI arrests in 2007.
Last year the Cook County State's Attorney's office dismissed more than 150 DUI cases based on arrests by another Chicago police officer, John Haleas. Haleas was charged with official misconduct, obstruction of justice and perjury. The case is pending.