The Legalization of Marijuana Doesn’t Solve Financial Problems. So What.

For years I’ve been saying that legalizing marijuana so we can “tax the stuff” and put the money to good use was a really bad idea.  That’s not to say that marijuana should be prohibited. It shouldn’t.  That is to say, however, its legalization shouldn’t be championed by people claiming the extra tax revenue would solve the world’s problems. Continue reading “The Legalization of Marijuana Doesn’t Solve Financial Problems. So What.”

Why Do Cops Let People Drive Drunk?

You know how drunk drivers are a danger?  They cause accidents?  You know how they kill people?  You know how we can’t tolerate having impaired drivers on the road?  You know how we are so gung-ho on punishing DUI that we won’t even tolerate a drunk driver pulling off the road to “sleep it off”?

Maybe none of that is true. Maybe it’s ok to let a drunk drive for a little bit. Or maybe keeping drunks off the road isn’t really as important as letting drunks on the road so we can then take them off the road and look like we’re doing some sort of good work.  I don’t know.

I do know that last week I was watching a hearing on a DUI case up in good, old Woodstock, Illinois, McHenry County, U.S.A.  From what I gathered (I missed a part), a cop was outside a bar late one night watching patrons as they leave. Nothing illegal about that- it seems that that’s the sort of place drunk drivers might be coming from.  Good policing there.

Our hero watched a man leave the bar and cross the street. Apparently the man stumbled or fell… his movement was so obviously impaired by what was likely alcohol that the officer moved his car around to get a better view of where the guy was going.  From the second spot, the officer watched the man get in the car and start it all up.

Then the officer did exactly what you’d expect him to do… Nothing.  Once the man started the car and drove away, the officer followed.  Of course, the man who couldn’t walk couldn’t drive either and, after watching him swerve all over the road the officer pulled him over and ended up arresting him for DUI.

Good police work you say?  I don’t know.

Can’t a drunk driver kill somebody in a blink of an eye? Isn’t no distance the acceptable distance for an impaired driver to drive?  Or, is there some magic rule that a drunk driver can’t plow into an innocent family as long as a cop is watching?  Shouldn’t DUI prevention actually mean prevention regardless of who is watching?  Safety is safety, right?

I know what you’re saying- this is America and a cop can’t tell the dude he’s not allowed to drive.  I agree with that. But, this is also America and a cop can walk up to a drunk man, tell him that if he drives he’s going to get pulled over before he gets out of the parking lot, and strongly suggest the man call a friend or a cab.  If cops can talk people into confessing to murder (even murders they never commit) can’t they talk people out of driving?  Maybe my way is just silly.

My way doesn’t risk a drunk man on the street possibly killing somebody, though.  My way doesn’t leave open the possibility of a high-speed pursuit with a drunk man at the wheel. My way also doesn’t net anybody an arrest or another smiley face on the record from AAIM.

My way keeps the streets safer, though.  Isn’t that really what’s most important?

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Department lets us know man lifeflighted after atv crash has been charged with DUI- as though it’s important.

I love reading these police press releases.  I learn so much from what they say. I learn even more from what they don’t.  So, out of curiosity I occasionally check out McHenry County Sheriff’s media releases.  I like to know what they think is important.

Yesterday a release about a man crashing his ATV, being unconscious, and having to be evacuated by helicopter to the hospital caught my eye.  According to the McHenry County Sheriff’s police:

“On November 3, 2013 at approximately 3 PM, McHenry County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and the Nunda Township Fire Protection District responded to the intersection of Riverside Dr. and Kerry Ave, in unincorporated McHenry regarding a reported ATV crash.  Upon arrival Deputies discovered that Timothy P. Ritchie had been operating an ATV on the roadway and it had overturned; landing on top of him.  Nunda Township called for the Flight for Life helicopter and Ritchie was transported to Condell Medical Center.  Ritchie’s injuries were later discovered to be non-life-threatening.”

This sounds bad.  I’m glad to hear that the Sheriff’s office says the injuries are non-life-threatening.  I’m curious as to what the extent of the injuries are.  The Northwest Herald is reporting that the man “was knocked unconscious…”

Unconscious usually means brain injury.  Brain injuries can be fairly serious, resulting in nasty things like paralysis and severe disability- possibly lasting a lifetime.

So, while it’s good that the man will likely live, it’s not like he’ll necessarily be walking out of the hospital tomorrow- we don’t know.  There’s more to the MCSD press release, though.  They’ll let us know what his prognosis is, right?

Sheriff’s Deputies completed their investigation and issued citations to Ritchie for: Driving Under the Influence, Driving on a Revoked License, Operating an ATV on the Roadway, and Careless Operation of an ATV.

Ah.  Glad they didn’t leave that part out. We’d all be horrified if we knew this man had not been cited for DUI and traffic offenses almost immediately.  Thankfully they didn’t wait on either charging him, or letting us know they charged him.

I’ll let you know when they issue the media release on his updated condition, so you can be sure he’ll even be competent and able to go to court to answer the charges.  I’m sure the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department is working on it right now.

Harvard drug defendant can post bond (as he should be able to).

If you follow some of the other nonsense I post on the internet you know how I’m annoyed by anything that might be considered excessive bail.  So, when it comes to bonding people out of jail, you can say I’m a little touchy.  The article in the Northwest Herald today about the man arrested as part of the recent drug sting in Harvard strikes a nerve.

It’s not that the article is poorly written or mixes up the law- it doesn’t. It’s the idea that the government can force you to prove where your bond money comes from in certain situations:

Defendant in Harvard drug ring allowed to post bond

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 3:11 p.m. CDT
By JIM DALLKE – jdallke@shawmedia.com
WOODSTOCK – A defendant in an alleged Harvard drug ring was allowed to post bond Thursday after the defense was able to prove that the bond money would not come from illegal drug sales.
* * *
Earlier this week the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office filed motions to inspect the source of each of the defendant’s bond money.
* * *
Judge Sharon Prather accepted the testimonies and also reduced Figueroa’s bond from $150,000 to $120,000.
The arrests were part of a year-long investigation by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department where officers said they made at least eight cocaine buys from the individuals….

I know you’re wondering why I find that annoying, right?  For a couple of reasons. First, people think it’s “so hard” to prove a defendant committed a crime.  After all, the government has the burden and they have the nearly impossible job of convincing the judge or jury.  The reality is that, in nearly every other situation (there are a few exceptions, but they rarely come into play) the defense has the burden.  Almost always.

You want your license back when it’s wrongfully suspended for a DUI? Prove it.  Police held you in an interrogation room for 14 hours and threatened to torture you if you didn’t confess to something you didn’t do?  The courts will presume that you’re wrong. Prove it otherwise.

The second, and more important reason has to do with that “technicality” they call “the constitution.”

You know what the Illinois constitution says about bail? I do:

SECTION 9. BAIL AND HABEAS CORPUS
All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for the following offenses where the proof is evident or the presumption great: capital offenses; offenses for which a sentence of life imprisonment may be imposed as a consequence of conviction; and felony offenses for which a sentence of imprisonment, without conditional and revocable release, shall be imposed by law as a consequence of conviction, when the court, after a hearing, determines that release of the offender would pose a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of rebellion or invasion when the public safety may require it.

What about the federal constitution? Boom:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

So, you’ve got a constitutional right to be able to post bail in nearly all cases.  You’ve got a state constitutional right to bail in nearly every case.

Where does it say anything about a person have to prove anything?

Is the flesh-eating Heroin substitute in McHenry County?

Heroin is pretty scary stuff.  They’re claiming it’s on the rise again all over McHenry County.  I don’t have access to the numbers, but I’m not buying that there’s necessarily been a huge increase.  Every couple of years they say it’s “on the rise” or becoming an epidemic.  Despite possessing the stuff being a felony or even handing heroin to somebody who ends up overdosing (even if it’s somebody you’re using with), carrying some fairly harsh felony consequences, it hasn’t disappeared.

I know that deaths are up, although that’s not necessarily an indication that general usage patterns have substantially increased. It’s not uncommon for a batch of “bad heroin” (not that any of it is good) to cause a cluster of overdoses.  So deaths can actually rise and fall without any real correlation in total usage.

Anyhow, Krokodil use is on the rise, for sure.  The Northwest Herald seems to believe somebody in McHenry County has been hospitalized by the substance this week:

“Dangerous flesh-eating drug may have arrived in county

A nasty flesh-eating street drug may have made its way to McHenry County, experts warn.

Centegra Health System advised Tuesday that it may be treating someone who injected themselves with “krokodil,” a heroin substitute of Russian origin. The drug is a toxic cocktail of opiates like codeine and substances such as gasoline and lighter fluid.

The drug causes users’ skin to turn scaly and green, hence the name, which is the Russian word for crocodile. The skin subsequently rots and falls off.

Centegra said in a statement that it is treating an intravenous drug user who has large skin lesions. Because the drug is cheaper than heroin, and heroin use is on the rise in McHenry County, officials fear local hospitals could see more krokodil victims…”

Bad stuff right there. Don’t think so? Here’s video of a girl from Joliet showing you how nasty the sores are and talking about it:

 

The Advantage Group (T.A.G.) is gone. This is a shame.

Northwest Herald is reporting today on the demise of The Advantage Group.  This is a bad thing.  Going back to my days as a fresh-faced attorney in the McHenry County Juvenile Court system, I’ve had a lot of clients involved in T.A.G.  While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of substance abuse programs, I always respected T.A.G.  It’s really a shame that things having nothing to do with the success of the kids in the program are what has forced it to close its doors:

“The Advantage Group, based in Crystal Lake, shut down for lack of funding. The group lost funding from the McHenry County Mental Health Board last year after an audit revealed multiple fiscal irregularities, and another controversy scrapped a last-ditch effort to secure a $49,000 payment to stay afloat.
The group unsuccessfully took the Mental Health Board to court, and the audit prompted an ongoing state investigation into TAG’s finances. Executive Director Pat Owens pinned blame for the closing squarely on the board, which disburses property-tax revenue to agencies working with the mentally ill and disabled.”

If you haven’t seen, the McHenry County Mental Health board has (rightfully) come under fire lately.  It’s never good to see politics getting in the way of helping kids recover.  It looks like T.A.G. may not have been immune, though:

The Mental Health Board, most of whom are new members after a significant County Board shakeup, was poised last month to give TAG the $49,000 payment. But Owens abruptly withdrew the request the morning of the scheduled vote. It was later revealed that TAG was asked to do so because of allegations the group had violated its tax-exempt status by endorsing political candidates.

I’m not going to claim to know Pat Owens. I have enough experience with the program to believe that after decades of working with these kids, though, she didn’t intend to do anything to jeopardize T.A.G’s future. I believe it when she says the political endorsements are a mistake and she didn’t know it was a “no-no” for a tax exempt organization.

Even if it weren’t, it’s still sad to see a good program die for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the program.  It’s difficult enough to get good rehabilitation programs in McHenry County, the county can’t afford to lose one. Especially a good one.

No Rehab in Bull Valley’s Back Yard!

Interesting article in the Northwest Herald today.  It seems that somebody has proposed polluting the pristine woodlands and rolling hills of Bull Valley with a “Rehab Center.”  According to the article:

“Representatives from La Voie Inc. appeared in front of the Bull Valley zoning board Monday night for a public hearing on a special permit for a group home for adolescent and adult males recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.”

Now, I used the term “polluting” facetiously.  The local residents, on the other hand, would not:

“Residents voiced concerns about declining property values, noise and traffic that would come with the business, Keinz said.
Todd Scheel, who lives next door, said the effect on property values is a main concern, but it’s not the only thing he’s worried about. The house, he said, could be detrimental to the neighborhood’s safety.
“You will do stupid things to get drugs, to get money,” Scheel said.”

While I can appreciate the local Bull Valley resident’s concerns about having people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction in their neighborhood, I can’t help but wonder if those concerns are remotely valid.  There certainly have been people who have done dumb things for drug money.  My experience is that the overwhelming majority of people stealing for drug money are stealing from people they already know, though.  Plus, what’s with the assumption that there aren’t a bunch of people living in Bull Valley who aren’t already suffering from addiction of alcohol or drugs.  Are they out thieving?

So, to that end, I’d agree with the people proposing the rehab center:

“Kyle Oremus, president of La Voie Inc., said that perception was part of an unfortunate stigma that surrounds addiction.
“The fact of the matter is this disease affects everyone from all walks of life, no matter what your socioeconomic status is,” she said.”

That’s not to say I don’t understand the concern.  Would I want a drug rehab center to open right next to my house? It wouldn’t be tops on my list of desired neighbors.  On the other hand, I just attacked google to see where the nearest rehab center is to my house.  Turns out there’s one offering fairly intensive treatment right in town, less than a mile away.  It’s not even in the middle of “25 acres currently zoned as agricultural.”

I’m not sure how long it’s been there- which is a pretty good sign that, whenever it showed up, it didn’t change things much.