WBEZ | Criminal Justice http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago police to start body camera pilot program http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-start-body-camera-pilot-program-111428 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/body-cameras.png" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago has joined the list of cities where police officers wear body cameras.</p><p>The Chicago Police Department announced Tuesday it is launching a pilot program in which some officers will wear one of two types of body cameras. Some cameras will be clipped to the officers&#39; clothing and others will be clipped to their glasses, goggles or headgear. A total of 30 cameras will be tested during the initial pilot program.</p><p>The program is not a surprise. In the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African American in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, departments around the country scrambled to equip their officers with cameras or announce they were considering doing so.</p><p>Chicago police announced in September they were formulating a pilot program.</p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 09:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-start-body-camera-pilot-program-111428 State: Court should deny appeal of man at center of 'Serial' http://www.wbez.org/news/state-court-should-deny-appeal-man-center-serial-111401 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/adnan.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>BALTIMORE &mdash; A court should uphold the conviction of a man accused of strangling his high school sweetheart after they broke up in a case at the center of the wildly popular &quot;Serial&quot; podcast, Baltimore prosecutors said Wednesday.</p><p>Adnan Syed, now 34, has appealed the conviction and argues he received ineffective counsel because his attorney ignored his requests to negotiate a plea deal. He was accused of killing Hae Min Lee in 1999 after becoming inconsolably jealous when she began dating someone else.</p><p>Prosecutors said in their response to the appeal Wednesday that Syed was never offered a plea deal, and that there was no evidence aside from his own &quot;self-serving post-conviction testimony&quot; that attorney Cristina Gutierrez failed him. Gutierrez was disbarred in 2001 after client funds went missing from a trust account. She died in 2004 of a heart attack.</p><p>&quot;What the record shows is that Petitioner was totally satisfied with Gutierrez&#39;s services until the jury returned an adverse verdict,&quot; prosecutors said in their 23-page filing. Furthermore, going to trial was the only option Syed wanted to pursue at the time.</p><p>Syed&#39;s current attorney, Justin Brown, declined to comment because the case is still active.</p><p>Syed also claims Gutierrez failed to interview a witness who could have provided him with an alibi, though the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland asked prosecutors to focus only on the claims about a plea deal in their response.</p><p>Lee&#39;s slaying became the focus of &quot;Serial,&quot; a podcast hosted by former Baltimore Sun reporter and longtime radio producer Sarah Koenig that exhumed the 15-year-old case and raised serious questions about whether Syed received a fair trial, and whether or not the man now serving a life sentence is guilty of the crime.</p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 12:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-court-should-deny-appeal-man-center-serial-111401 Colorado NAACP office vows vigilance after blast near office http://www.wbez.org/news/colorado-naacp-office-vows-vigilance-after-blast-near-office-111362 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/0107naacpbomb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>DENVER &mdash; Staff members at a Colorado NAACP office say they are waiting for more information before drawing conclusions about an explosion near their chapter, even as the FBI investigates whether the blast was domestic terrorism.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re standing vigilant and are trying not to let this disrupt anything,&quot; Colorado Springs NAACP volunteer Harry Leroy said Wednesday, a day after someone set off a homemade explosive device outside the group&#39;s building, about an hour south of Denver.</p><p>The FBI said it had not determined whether the nation&#39;s oldest civil rights organization was targeted.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re exploring any potential motive, and domestic terrorism is certainly one among many possibilities,&quot; Denver FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders said.</p><p>An improvised explosive device was detonated about 11 a.m. Tuesday outside a barbershop that shares a building with the NAACP chapter, but a gasoline canister placed next to the device failed to ignite. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the low-slung building, which sits in a mostly residential neighborhood.</p><p>Speculation swept across social media about whether the explosion was a hate crime. Investigators have not ruled out any possibilities, and members of the FBI&#39;s Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating because of the explosion&#39;s proximity to the NAACP office, Sanders said.</p><p>Investigators apparently have few leads. They are looking for a person of interest &mdash; a balding white man in his 40s who might be driving a dirty pickup truck.</p><p>In a joint statement Thursday, local law enforcement and Colorado Springs NAACP President Henry Allen Jr. said the case was a high priority and that tips from the public provided the best hope of figuring out who was responsible.</p><p>&quot;Regardless of if this act is determined to be a bias motivated crime, the law enforcement community in El Paso County does not condone this or any act of violence,&quot; it said.</p><p>Both the office and the barbershop reopened Wednesday with little police presence.</p><p>Gene Southerland owns Mr. G&#39;s Hair Design Studios next door and was cutting a client&#39;s hair there when the explosion occurred. The blast was strong enough to knock items off the walls, but the quick police response was comforting, he said.</p><p>Southerland said the FBI had given him no information on its early findings but said he didn&#39;t believe the barbershop or its predominantly black clientele was targeted.</p><p>Leroy, the NAACP volunteer, said he believed there were surveillance cameras behind the building, but he did not know whether they captured anything of value.</p><p>Gregory Alan Johnson, who lives nearby, said he was unaware of any prior problems near the NAACP offices. Colorado Springs Lt. Catherine Buckley said the department found nothing concerning in any previous calls for service.</p><p>Those who heard the blast, including Southerland, said it sounded like a single, loud &quot;boom.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/colorado-naacp-office-vows-vigilance-after-blast-near-office-111362 Illinois man in terrorism case negotiating possible deal http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-man-terrorism-case-negotiating-possible-deal-111358 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP72537487970.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An attorney for a suburban Chicago man accused of trying to join al-Qaida-affiliated fighters in Syria says the defense has begun negotiations with prosecutors on a possible plea deal.</p><p>Abdella Ahmad Tounisi&#39;s attorney, Molly Armour, disclosed the development at a Thursday status hearing in U.S. District Court in Chicago. She told the judge the sides are in &quot;preliminary plea negotiations.&quot;</p><p>The 20-year-old was arrested at O&#39;Hare International Airport in 2013 trying to board a plane for Turkey. Prosecutors say the then-teenager from Aurora hoped to join Nusra Front.</p><p>Tounisi pleaded not guilty to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group. His maximum prison term would be several decades. Prosecutors typically recommend lower sentences if defendants agree to plead guilty.</p><p>Tounisi&#39;s next hearing is set for March 25.</p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 09:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-man-terrorism-case-negotiating-possible-deal-111358 DCFS director Bobbie Gregg leaving post http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-director-bobbie-gregg-leaving-post-111351 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi-bobbie-gregg-20140429_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 3:51 p.m.</em></p><p>The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is poised to get its fifth director in less than a year and a half, as current director Bobbie Gregg announced Wednesday she will leave the post Jan. 19.</p><p>Lance Trover, a spokesman for Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, said that Rauner recently informed Gregg &mdash; as well as other undisclosed state agency directors appointed by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn &mdash; that she would not be reappointed by his administration. Trover did not outline a timeline for replacing Gregg, who has been the child-welfare system&rsquo;s director since April.</p><p>&ldquo;The governor-elect is committed to a transformation at the Department of Children and Family Services and will work closely with the General Assembly to ensure we protect our most vulnerable residents,&rdquo; Trover said.</p><p>Gregg&rsquo;s announcement came during a legislative hearing about problems raised by a Chicago Tribune investigation of DCFS residential treatment facilities.</p><p>Her predecessor, Arthur Bishop, resigned in February in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ investigation that raised questions about a criminal conviction and paternity case in his past. Quinn had appointed Bishop just a month earlier in the wake of DCFS admitting that it had miscounted the number of children who&rsquo;d died of abuse and neglect for several years.</p><p>Gregg, a lawyer turned social worker, vowed to reform the agency, but it became clear that her days were numbered after Rauner was elected. Rauner called for DCFS reforms on the campaign trail.</p><p>&ldquo;My heart will remain in child welfare,&rdquo; Gregg said. &ldquo;My objective in seeking this position was to effect change in child welfare and if this is the way in which that happens, then all for the better for the State of Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, an advocate for DCFS reforms during his years as a state legislator, spoke kindly of Gregg when he, too, testified before lawmakers.</p><p>&ldquo;When Director Gregg came on board, she met with me within a week. She&rsquo;s fantastic,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;We started working on a couple things together but . . . she inherited a train wreck. Absolute train wreck.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 11:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-director-bobbie-gregg-leaving-post-111351 How driver's license suspensions unfairly target the poor http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332 <p><p><em>This is the second of two stories. Read the first story,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309">here</a>.</em></p><p>If you get caught drinking and driving in Wisconsin, and it&#39;s your first offense, you lose your license for nine months. For a hit and run, the punishment is suspension for one year.</p><p>But if you don&#39;t pay a ticket for a minor driving offense, such as driving with a broken tail light, you can lose your license for two years.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s an incredible policy,&quot; says John Pawasarat of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. It&#39;s &quot;a policy of punishing people who can&#39;t pay their fines.&quot;</p><p>The practice &ndash; repeated in states across the country &ndash; is mostly impacting the poor and creating a spiral of bad consequences.</p><p>NPR&#39;s recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/series/313986316/guilty-and-charged">&quot;Guilty and Charged&quot; investigation</a>&nbsp;found that rising court fines and fees &mdash; reaching hundreds or even thousands of dollars per person &mdash; often hurt poor people the most.</p><p>Pawasarat, who runs the university&#39;s Employment and Training Institute and studies Milwaukee&#39;s poor neighborhoods, says one of the biggest barriers to getting a job is not having a driver&#39;s license.</p><p>&quot;Two out of three African-American men in this neighborhood, of working age, don&#39;t have a driver&#39;s license,&quot; he says while walking down Martin Luther King Avenue in Milwaukee. &quot;And are consequently unable to access the jobs that are beyond the bus lines.&quot;</p><p>But among the typical barriers to employment &mdash; such as having a prison record, or a poor education &mdash; a suspended license is the easiest to solve, says Pawasarat.</p><p>McArthur Edwards, who lives nearby, knows from personal experience.</p><p>&quot;It hinders you because most jobs are not in the inner city nowadays. And they get pushed far back. And the buses don&#39;t go out there. So the inner-city jobs that we have are not able to provide for our families that we have and to provide for ourselves,&quot; he says.</p><p>In 2013, Edwards was stopped by police and ticketed for driving with a broken light over his back license plate. State department of transportation records show that when he didn&#39;t pay the $64 fine, his driver&#39;s license was suspended for two years.</p><p>He kept driving and got more tickets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 75 percent of Americans who get their licenses suspended, continue driving.</p><p>Edwards, who&#39;s 29, has come to the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, where lawyers and case workers help people with low income get suspensions lifted.</p><p>His reason for wanting his license is simple: He wants a better job.</p><p>From time to time, Edwards is hired to work in warehouses around the city. But those are temporary jobs, often at around minimum wage.</p><p>That makes it difficult for him to pay both the landlord and the electric bill.</p><p>Edwards, who lived in foster care or state homes from the time he was 2, wants to be a good father to his four children, who are 4- to 11-years old.</p><p>&quot;I want my kids to look up to me. I want my kids to be like, &#39;Me and my father did that,&#39; or, &#39;I need these,&#39; or &#39;I want these,&#39; or &#39;the school said I needed this,&#39;&quot; he says. &quot;And I can&#39;t afford to buy it. Or I can&#39;t provide for my children. I don&#39;t want that to be that way.&quot;</p><p>Recently, Edwards responded to ads for long-distance truck drivers. Two companies promised to train him, but not until he has a valid driver&#39;s license.</p><p>It&#39;s a potential job that he speaks of wistfully. &quot;I like traveling. And trucking is a good way to travel. Just see the sights of America, man. It&#39;s a beautiful country,&quot; he says. &quot;I just want to see everything. I love the road.&quot;</p><p>To lift his suspension, staff at the center helped Edwards reset the original unpaid ticket.</p><p>For six other tickets &mdash; most of them for driving while suspended &mdash; he paid $600 on the $1,800 he owed. He then cleared the rest by doing community service.</p><p>The most common way that people lose their driver&#39;s license in Wisconsin is not for drunk driving or other unsafe driving. It&#39;s for failure to pay the fine on a ticket for a non-moving traffic offense. Those make up 56 percent of all license suspensions in the state, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.</p><p>Nationwide, the numbers are similar: about 40 percent of suspensions are for unpaid traffic tickets, and for things like not paying child support, or getting caught with drugs &mdash; things that have nothing to do with unsafe driving, according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.</p><p>People with money pay off their tickets and are done with the courts. When people don&#39;t pay, a minor ticket can set off a chain of problems.</p><p>Like for Angel Hinton, who also came to the center for help.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/hinton-img_0480-edit_custom-245e81c52238a85d88a7ad54b3619443cde2b637-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Angel Hinton with her daughter, Cameisha, 8. Hinton's business suffered after her license was suspended. (Joseph Shapiro/NPR)" />Hinton had a small janitorial business, but money was tight. So she challenged a parking ticket she received outside of the suburban office building she cleaned on Sunday mornings.</p><p>But the unpaid ticket meant she couldn&#39;t renew her car registration. She then got more tickets for expired tags. She missed a court date. She says she wasn&#39;t notified. That triggered an arrest warrant. And one day, she was stopped by police, pulled out of her car and handcuffed in front of her young daughter.</p><p>Without a license, she could no longer drive to the places she cleaned.</p><p>&quot;This basically ruined my life,&quot; she says. &quot;I mean, I was to the point that I&#39;m building my business. I&#39;m growing. And now I&#39;m back to depending on public assistance.&quot;</p><p>When Jim Gramling was a judge on Milwaukee&#39;s Municipal Court, he saw the problems that license suspensions created for poor people. He worked with lawyers, court officials and community activists to help start the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, a public-private partnership between Wisconsin Community Services, a non-profit community agency; Legal Action of Wisconsin, which provides legal services to the poor; Milwaukee Area Technical College and the city&#39;s Municipal Court.</p><p>After retiring from the bench, Gramling immediately started working at the center as a volunteer lawyer.</p><p>&quot;What we see constantly here at the center are drivers who have accumulated a series of tickets that are directly related to their lack of income,&quot; he says.</p><p>Since the program started in 2007, it has worked with about 10,000 clients, helping nearly 3,000 get their license.</p><p>&quot;People should pay their tickets. No doubt about it,&quot; says Gramling. &quot;They should be held accountable for what they&#39;ve done that violated the traffic laws. But at some point, a balance has to be introduced into this. And the balance is, if people don&#39;t pay because they&#39;re low income and can&#39;t budget that expense, what&#39;s an appropriate penalty?&quot;</p><p>Gramling says most judges never ask people if they have the money to pay traffic tickets. So he argues for alternative penalties. For example, to let people pay in small monthly amounts, or arrange for community service instead.</p><p>The retired judge is also lobbying state lawmakers to end the two-year suspension on failure to pay a ticket.</p><p>Municipal Court officials declined to speak about the policy of giving two-year suspensions, but the threat of losing a license does push people who can pay, to pay. Then there&#39;s the issue of fairness: If there&#39;s no punishment for people who can afford to pay, but don&#39;t.</p><p>Still, a new analysis of city records by the non-profit Justice Initiatives Institute, says there&#39;s no evidence that the long suspensions stop people from driving and getting more tickets. Sometimes, people then get arrested and put in jail &mdash; which is expensive for the city. Mostly, the report says, the two-year suspensions just put poor people more in debt.</p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-drivers-license-suspensions-unfairly-target-poor-111332 As police get body cameras, what happens to all that video? http://www.wbez.org/news/police-get-body-cameras-what-happens-all-video-111328 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1204_body-camera-624x415.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>One of the ideas catching hold after the non-indictments of police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown is equipping police with body cameras. Advocates of the idea say they increase transparency, and improve trust between communities and the police.</p><p>The Los Angeles Police Department recently bought 860 body cameras, and over the course of this year, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says he wants all of the department&rsquo;s roughly 7,000 front line officers wearing cameras.</p><p>The L.A.P.D bought its cameras from <a href="http://www.taser.com/" target="_blank">TASER</a>, one of the leading companies in the law enforcement body camera industry.&nbsp;Along with the cameras, TASER also sells subscriptions to a site called <a href="http://www.evidence.com/" target="_blank">evidence.com</a> that police departments can use to store and manage all the video officers record while out on a shift.</p><p><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org">Here &amp; Now&rsquo;</a>s Lisa Mullins spoke with Steve Tuttle,&nbsp;one of the founding members of TASER, and the company&rsquo;s vice president of strategic communications&nbsp;about who the cameras benefit, how the video is stored and managed, and concerns over privacy.</p><p>&ldquo;The privacy concerns are certainly there and that&rsquo;s up to the individual agencies and state laws that deal with that,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So we want to give them the features that can make this shareable in the manner that&rsquo;s necessary for the public, but at the same time manage those expectations for privacy.&rdquo;</p><p>Ultimately, Tuttle says the equipment is beneficial to both police and the public.</p><p>&ldquo;If we were to empower the police with what we call the legal body armor of these on-officer cameras, I think we would give more accountability to the public and provide a lot more transparency of a use-of-force situation in which there&rsquo;s a he-said-she-said,&rdquo; Tuttle said.</p><p><strong>On&nbsp;how&nbsp;TASER&rsquo;s&nbsp;cameras work</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The camera that you put on your body, once you go on patrol is always recording in a video mode. Now what that does is it saves all the most recent video of the previous 30 seconds &hellip;&nbsp;And once it&rsquo;s doing that, what the officer is then waiting for is an event to occur.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;ve got a radio callout, you&rsquo;re going to double-click that button and it will grab the previous 30 seconds of video only and then it begins to add the audio portion. And that officer then goes on to the scene of the crime, maybe interviews a suspect, maybe arrests somebody. Keeps that camera rolling until that person is in jail. And then they press and hold that button for five seconds. You now have an event of that recording. If it were played back, you would hear 30 seconds of silence prior to when that officer pressed that button and you would then capture all that audio visual currents that occurred from pressing the button forward.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>On&nbsp;statistical evidence for body-camera effectiveness</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The evidence shows that it actually keeps the officer safer and the suspect safer. There was a watershed moment for us; it was called the Cambridge University Rialto Police Department Study. Rialto is a suburb of Los Angeles and they looked at the TASER AXON Camera Flex system for one year in a blind study. They found that the complaints were reduced by 88% &mdash; that&rsquo;s a game-changer in and of itself, because you&rsquo;ve now got a witness to certain situations where there&rsquo;s been previously no witness. The bigger game changer was the 59% drop in use of force. That clearly is changing behavior on both sides of the badge.&rdquo;</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/02/police-video-data" target="_blank">via Here &amp; Now</a></em></p></p> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 14:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/police-get-body-cameras-what-happens-all-video-111328 Report: Number of police officers killed spikes in 2014 http://www.wbez.org/news/report-number-police-officers-killed-spikes-2014-111310 <p><p>The number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased in 2014, a report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund finds.</p><p>In total, 126 officers were killed in 2014. That&#39;s a 24 percent increase from 2013, when 102 officers were killed.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nleomf.org/facts/research-bulletins/">According to the report</a>, the number of police officers killed by firearms also rose by 56 percent &mdash; from 32 in 2013 to 50 in 2014.</p><p>Here&#39;s a graphic that puts those numbers in historical context:</p><div><a href="http://www.nleomf.org/facts/research-bulletins/" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2014totalfatalities-web_custom-df784be8fe541622a01105419bc5bfbd56a9e39f-s800-c85.png" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="A graph showing officer deaths per year. (NLEOMF)" /></a></div><div><p><a href="http://www.nleomf.org/newsroom/news-releases/eoy-report-2014.html">In a press release</a>, the fund adds:</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;Ambush-style attacks, as evidenced earlier this month by the shooting deaths of New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos while sitting in their marked patrol car, were the number one cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth year in a row. Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, matching 2012 for the highest total since 1995.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>One important asterisk to this news: While gun deaths of officers have increased, they still remain 12-percent lower than the decade-long average of 57.</p><p>&quot;Firearms-related fatalities peaked in 1973, when 156 officers were shot and killed. Since then, the average number of officers shot and killed has decreased<br />from 127 per year in the 1970s to 57 per year in the 2000s,&quot; the report notes.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/30/373985338/report-number-of-police-officers-killed-spikes-in-2014" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 11:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/report-number-police-officers-killed-spikes-2014-111310 Can't pay your fines? Your license could be taken http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/desiree-seats_custom-53edb94a443a5c9d7ba9c3b6e5118097e0f8c447-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Drive drunk, drive recklessly, and the state can suspend your driver&#39;s license. But many police and motor vehicle administrators worry about a recent trend: A large number of suspensions are for reasons that have nothing to do with unsafe driving.</p><p>These reasons include unpaid traffic tickets, falling behind on child support, getting caught with drugs, bouncing checks; or minor juvenile offenses like missing school, using false identification to buy alcohol, or shoplifting.</p><p>Increasingly, people who study driver safety say this makes little sense.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aamva.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&amp;ItemID=3723&amp;libID=3709" target="_blank">A study in 2013</a>&nbsp;from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators raised concerns that police and state and local motor vehicle officials find too much of their time and budget tied up going after people with suspensions for minor lawbreaking that has nothing to do with safe driving.</p><p>&quot;They want to focus on the people who pose a risk to the general population that&#39;s driving on the roadway. And those are usually the people who are suspended for ... things like hit-and-run crashes, DUIs, unsafe speed, reckless driving &mdash; those actions that we as a society consider severe and dangerous on the roadway,&quot; says Robert Eger, who wrote a study for the motor vehicle administrators.</p><p>In Milwaukee, Desiree Seats, 23, knows how a suspended license can be limiting, and how having a valid license can open opportunities: She lost her license before she even got it.</p><p>This summer, Seats went for her first driver&#39;s license and passed the road test. But instead of being given the license, she was told it already was suspended.</p><p>About six years ago, when she was 16, Seats had been caught shoplifting jeans and a shirt at a suburban department store. She went to court and was fined on a juvenile charge, but the fine never was paid. Seats says she didn&#39;t know about the fine and that neither she nor her mother would have had the money back then to pay it.</p><p>She still owed $315, and that kicked in a license suspension for two years from the day she was eligible to receive one.</p><p>Eger, a retired police officer who is now a professor at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., found that nationwide about 40 percent of people whose licenses are suspended lose them for reasons other than bad driving.</p><p>It all started with laws passed by Congress in the late 1980s. First, a law took away the driver&#39;s license of men who didn&#39;t pay child support. Then came one for people caught with drugs.</p><p>Next, state lawmakers added hundreds of reasons that had nothing to do with unsafe driving. Eger found that at least 18 states will suspend someone&#39;s driver&#39;s license for failure to pay the fines on nondriving traffic violations. And four states will suspend it for not paying parking tickets. Among the other reasons: school truancy, bouncing a check, not paying college loans, graffiti and littering.</p><p>Eger says that no research shows that suspending a license will make someone likely to change his behavior.</p><p>But Colleen Eubanks of the National Child Support Enforcement Association says just the threat of losing a license makes a difference. &quot;It&#39;s an effective tool for motivating people to pay their child support,&quot; she says. Billions of dollars of child support are collected each year using this tactic.</p><p>&quot;Driving is a privilege, and if you&#39;re not willing to support your children and [you] expect society to do it,&quot; she says, &quot;then you should lose the privilege of driving.&quot;</p><p>But there&#39;s also evidence that when people lose a license for reasons unrelated to safety, they take suspensions less seriously. At least 75 percent of people who have had their licenses revoked just keep driving, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.</p><p>&quot;You don&#39;t need a license to drive; you just need a car,&quot; says Jim Gramling, a former Municipal Court judge in Milwaukee. After Gramling retired from the court, he went to work as a volunteer lawyer at the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery and Employability, an organization he helped start. It&#39;s a place where those with low income can get legal help.</p><p>Courts will order arrest warrants when people don&#39;t pay court fines and fees. At the end of his time as a judge, Gramling dropped those arrest warrants for impoverished defendants. But they still had to pay off their fines. Similar ticket amnesties have been tried around the country &mdash; including this month in Ferguson, Mo. Those programs have had limited success.</p><p>In Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union took a different approach and argued in a 2013 lawsuit that the state discriminated against poor people when it took away their driver&#39;s licenses for failure to pay court fines and fees. About 200,000 drivers had their licenses suspended that year for not paying the fines. But a court has largely rejected the argument.</p><p>Gramling says people with money just pay off their fines &mdash; and avoid court. But people with little money often struggle when they get tickets.</p><p>&quot;Often they&#39;re living lives where they can&#39;t afford to leave a job early, or at all, to go to court. They can&#39;t hire a lawyer, can&#39;t afford a lawyer. So they often let the cases go by default and don&#39;t challenge tickets that maybe should be challenged,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s tough.&quot;</p><p>In Milwaukee, Seats went to the Center for Driver&#39;s License Recovery; lawyers and case managers there helped her negotiate paying off her fine in small amounts over several months and get the suspension lifted.</p><p>She had already bought a car &mdash; a used, nine-year-old Hyundai Elantra. With a dependable car and a valid license, she figured she had everything she needed to start making money.</p><p>Seats, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, now works as a personal care assistant, helping a woman with a disability fix meals, bathe and get dressed.</p><p>A few days after getting her license, she also started a second job delivering newspapers, and she has also applied for a job delivering pizza. And the freedom of being able to drive helps her attend a technical college as well, where she&#39;s studying to become a pharmacy assistant.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;m very goal-oriented,&quot; she explains as she drives to the house of the woman she helps with chores. &quot;I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish, in a set amount of time. And that&#39;s what I&#39;m working on now.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/29/372691960/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 10:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cant-pay-your-fines-your-license-could-be-taken-111309 Gov Quinn signs making 'revenge porn' a felony http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield flickr matt howry.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Distributing private images online without a person&#39;s consent will be a felony under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The measure addresses so-called &quot;revenge porn&quot; in which a former romantic partner posts private pictures or videos in retaliation.</p><p>Democratic state Sen. Michael Hastings is a sponsor.</p><p>He says it&#39;s &quot;psychological abuse to the highest degree.&quot;</p><p>His office says it&#39;s already illegal to put identifying or graphic information without consent on pornographic websites.</p><p>But state law didn&#39;t previously address privately-shared images.</p><p>Quinn said Monday that cyberbullying can have lasting and devastating effects.</p><p>He says the law cracks down on perpetrators and will prevent more people from becoming victims, most of whom are women.</p><p>Critics had expressed free speech concerns.</p><p>The law takes effect in June 2015.</p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 09:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308