IRS PHONE CALL SCAM CONTINUES

I was called by a client who got that “You owe $4,000 in back taxes — pay us now or you will be arrested” call. She put me on a conference call with the guy, and I read him the riot act. If you get one of these calls, ask for the person’s name, phone number, IRS Identification Number, and for the IRS phone number — he’ll probably hang up, but if not call the IRS to see if he is legit.

In the near future the IRS WILL be turning collections over to private entities, but not yet.

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UTAH LOWERS DUI BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT TO .05


Soon in Utah if you’re a man who weighs 150 lbs, you can be presumed under the influence after 2 beers, a woman who weighs 120 after one beer. The Utah governor just signed the new bill which is expected to go into effect in 2019. Most of Europe and Australia already have the .05 B.A.C. level, which is supported by our National Traffic Safety Board — but only Utah has adopted .05 in the U.S. Watch out, your state may be next!

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“BUT IT JUST DOESN’T SEEM RIGHT TO FILE BANKRUPTCY”

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As a bankruptcy attorney I hear this all the time. The statement is made in order to regain what the client mistakenly perceives as the respect I have lost for him because he fell behind in his bills. The next statement of mitigation is usually, “I waited as long as I could.” This usually means that for several years the client has made minimal payments on a number of bills, and has developed a great dislike for macaroni and cheese. Meanwhile the creditors who know the client will never be able to get out of debt by paying the minimum on all their debts, benefits by each new month the client suffers.

If you see that you might have to file bankruptcy, talk to a bankruptcy attorney as soon as you consider the possibility. Bankruptcy planning, like tax planning, is a legitimate method of protecting your financial estate. Just because you visit a bankruptcy attorney does not mean you will be advised to file bankruptcy. And most bankruptcy attorneys will be glad to give you a free consultation.

England once had debtors’ prisons – but not today in America. In the U.S. financial speculation has made our economy as powerful as it is, and regardless of its ups and downs, it is still the envy of the world. In order to promote speculation, the risking of money to make more, we have bankruptcy. It allows us to do the best we can to survive economically, but if we can’t, we have a fair legal option for a fresh start using the bankruptcy laws.

“But isn’t filing bankruptcy admitting failure?” When asked this question, I like to provide my clients a list of a few famous successful Americans who have filed bankruptcy, and rebuilt their financial estates, including: Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, Charles Goodyear (of Goodyear tires), Henry John Heinz (catsup manufacturer), Milton Snavely Hershey (the Hershey bar), Mickey Rooney, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Wayne Newton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Larry King, P.T. Barnum, and Donald Trump. Without bankruptcy these contributors to America would have been stopped dead in their tracks.

And to those clients who are not comforted by the above arguments, one can refer to the Bible. I can’t explain it better than this:

“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’s release” (Deuteronomy 15:1-2).
“…the borrower is a slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
“…in the seventh year you shall let [your Hebrew slave] go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; but you shall supply him liberally from your flock…” (Deuteronomy 15:12-14).

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WHAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOUR ON-LINE BANKING ACCOUNT

There is a little known fact about on-line banking that created a recent client serious problems, and after some research, I discovered could someday hurt me.

For a long time I have wondered exactly what the “payment date” means in relationship to my on-line banking account. Is that the day that the bank sends a check or electronic debit to my creditor, or is that the day the creditor will make a withdrawal from my account? What difference does it make, you may say? In my circumstances here is the explanation:

My mortgage is due on the first of each month. I set up my on-line banking account so that the payment is made on the first of each month. That works great because I have a pay check that is deposited on the last day of each month.

My bank is so efficient that they tell me by email when they make an automatic payment from my account. Recently that mortgage payment was sent to my mortgage company on the 27th! Banks only allow payment to and from each other by paper check, so in order for my mortgage to be paid on the 1st, the mortgage bank has to have the check printed by my bank, and mailed before then.

I was concerned that toward the end of the month before my paycheck arrives, that my account might be running a little low, so I called my bank. Surely the check sent to the mortgage company would be dated the 1st – the day I authorized the bank to pay the bill — but I was wrong, it was dated the 27th!

So what this means is that if the mortgage bank gets the check the day after it is mailed, and they cash it, the amount will be taken from my account before my paycheck arrives, and I could overdraw my account, and be assessed an overdraft fee.

It might be a good idea to ask your bank exactly when an on-line banking disbursement is paid.

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED – When you use online banking, and set up bill payments, be aware that payments may be paid a few days before your request, so make sure you have enough money in your account at all times to cover any on-line payments you have authorized.

LESSON TWO – Just because your bank informs you that a check has been sent to pay a bill, doesn’t mean that the debt is paid. It may only mean that the check has been mailed and depending on the creditor, it could be days or weeks before the check is cashed. This lesson is particularly important if you close a bank account, or withdraw authorization for a creditor to take payments from your account. If you close the account, or withdraw the authorization, it is of no importance that a check has been sent by your bank to the creditor. That check cannot be cashed if you have closed your account. So before closing an account, confirm that all checks and on-line payments issued have cleared your account.

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Illinois Free Legal Advice?

No, I am in no more of a position to give free legal advice, than is any other attorney – or a carpenter to build you a free shed – but certain people can acquire free legal advice if they qualify.

Public Defenders in Illinois are lawyers paid for by county governments to represent defendants in criminal court. They only are assigned to cases in which the defendant is in jeopardy of serving jail time. So you cannot be appointed a Public Defender if you have a speeding ticket, but you maybe can if you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you are charged with an offense for which you could go to jail, the judge will ask you at your first appearance before the court if you plan to hire a lawyer. He will ask whether you have the means or choose to hire your own lawyer, and if you do, no public defender will be appointed. If you tell the judge that you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, and can convince him or her of that fact, and you so choose, a public defender should be appointed.

But if you have an income that the judge believes is sufficient to hire a private attorney, she may suggest that you call a few lawyers to determine how much they would charge to take your case, so you and the court will know for sure whether you have the means to hire private counsel. Should the judge still believe your income is sufficient, he may determine that you should pay a nominal fair amount for your being represented by a Public Defender.

If your arrest was for DUI, a Public Defender can represent you before the local court on the criminal charge, but he is not paid by the county to represent you in an attempt to eliminate the suspension of your license that arose from the DUI arrest. We are talking apples and oranges here – the criminal DUI offense, and the license suspension are two separate matters. Public Defenders do not file petitions to eliminate DUI suspensions.

So far I have mentioned only one segment of the population that is eligible for free legal advice. There is the equivalency of Public Defenders available to help some people with non-criminal cases, such as evictions and divorces – The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. Because their budget has been slashed for decades, they have the resources to help very few clients. Senior citizens, and Southern Illinoisans with very low incomes may be eligible for Land of Lincoln’s help. If they deny services to you, even if you are below the poverty level, the denial was not their preference. Our government leaves this honorable organization with just barely the funds to stay in business.

The SIU Legal Clinic at www.law.siu.edu/selfhelp offers information and guidance to help pro se (doing it yourself) litigants with a number of legal matters such as divorce, housing, name changes, expungement, children, wills, powers of attorney, guardianships, small claims, and immigration, to name a few. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you can depend that the information on the SIU website is correct and user friendly.

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NEW WAY TO POST “NO TRESPASSING” WITHOUT SIGNS IN ILLINOIS

If you want to keep trespassers off your land, there is now a way to warn them without spending money on pre-painted signs, or time and money, making your own signs.

The “Purple Paint Law” went into effect in 2011. At that time even using purple paint, you had to display “no trespassing” signs to give trespassers legal notice that they were not welcome on your property. As of 2013, the “no trespassing” signs are not needed – you can provide the same legal notice with purple paint.

Such notice is a relatively easy way to eliminate an unwelcome hunter’s claim that he didn’t know he was trespassing. Landowners or lessees (the person leasing the land) can now ban trespassers with a series of purple marks on trees or posts.

The purple marks must be either:

1) A vertical line of at least 8 inches in length. The bottom of the mark shall be between 3 and 5 feet high off the ground. Each mark shall be no more than 100 feet from another such mark and be readily visible to any person approaching the property; or
2) A post capped or otherwise marked on at least its top 2 inches. The bottom of the cap or mark shall be between 3 feet and 5 feet 6 inches high. Posts so marked shall be no more than 36 feet apart and be readily visible to any person approaching the property. Prior to applying a cap or mark that is visible from both sides of a fence shared by different property owners or lessees, all such owners or lessees must agree to the decision to post their own property.
Trespassing on property so marked constitutes a Class B misdemeanor, except when a person trespasses using a motor vehicle if the marked area is an orchard; an enclosed area containing livestock; a barn or other agricultural building containing livestock; or a field that is used or capable of being used for growing crops. Such trespassing constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.
No landowner or lessee is authorized to post purple marks if doing so would violate any applicable law, rule, ordinance, order, covenant, bylaw, declaration, regulation, restriction, contract, or other instrument.

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AUTO INSURANCE AND DUI IN ILLINOIS

When you are arrested for DUI, the Secretary of State makes an entry on your public driving record (abstract) that shows that you license is to be suspended for refusing to submit to breath or blood testing, or for taking a test and failing it. Your “Court Purposes” abstract will not include an entry for the arrest until you are found guilty, not guilty, or receive court supervision for the DUI. Court supervision is a court disposition in which even though you have pled guilty, or been found guilty, no finding of guilt appears on either driving record if you finish your (usually 12 months) of court supervision by paying your fine, completing alcohol treatment, and getting no new charges.

So meanwhile what’s your auto insurance company doing while all this is going on?

The Court Purposes Abstract is only available to law enforcement officers, state’s attorneys, and to the driver referred to in the abstract. If you get court supervision on the DUI, it is not a conviction and it is not on the public abstract, so the insurance company does not find out about the DUI court supervision when they request a copy of your public driving record. Usually such requests are made when one buys insurance from a new insurance company, or alters coverage, or any facet of an existing policy (maybe even a change of address). Your court supervision for a DUI, speeding, or most other traffic violations are reported on the Court Purposes Abstract, but not on the public abstract, because they are not convictions.

But if your insurance company gets a copy of the public driving abstract, there will be a listing for a statutory summary suspension for the DUI. This entry alone, regardless of whether you are guilty or not guilty of the DUI, can be expected to increase your auto insurance rates from around 40 to 100% (and 100% means your rates double). The length of time you pay the extra insurance charge penalty for the DUI depends on many things such as your age, your driving record, how long you have been with the company, etc.

The relationship between you and your auto insurance carrier is contractual, that means if either of you don’t like the deal you can cancel it according to the terms of the contract. Your contract might require you to periodically answer insurance company questions meant to disclose a DUI disposition, even if it does not appear on the public abstract. That answer could increase your insurance costs.

In short, a DUI can cost you thousands of dollars over many years, for increased insurance rates, along with numerous other related expenses. The Illinois Secretary of State estimates the cost of a DUI conviction (not court supervision which should be less) at $16,580. A DUI conviction will require 3 years of high-risk insurance for about $1,500 each year if you receive the right to drive after the DUI revocation.

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CAN I RECORD PHONE CONVERSATIONS?

Many of us will remember the days when we could not record a phone conversation without informing the person being recorded, that we were recording them, and we were required to periodically remind the speaker that the recording continued. Some answering machines were sold with a “record” button that repeated a “beep” every few seconds to act as a reminder that the conversation was being recorded.

The State of Illinois, and many other states had such a law. Illinois had that law until March of 2014 when the Illinois Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. The Court found that where there was no legitimate privacy interest in a spoken word (such as in a phone conversation), that to criminalize recording that speech – was unconstitutional, as was the law criminalizing it. So, yes, according to that Illinois Supreme Court decision, you have the right to record a phone conversation you are having with someone without telling that person, and do so without being in jeopardy of violating Illinois criminal law.

That Illinois Supreme Court decision has decriminalized a party to a phone call, recording that phone conversation in this state – but be careful! There may be other laws that make such a recording dangerous: such as the law in the state where the subject being recorded is speaking. Federal law will still be subject to the “one-party” consent rule, meaning that wiretapping of private conversations is illegal. Secret recordings (where only one party is aware of the recording) may not be criminally illegal, but they might serve as the basis of a civil suit for invasion of privacy.

And in an area similar to this subject, it still remains illegal to videotape someone where they have an expectation of privacy, such as in tanning rooms, motel rooms, changing rooms, or locker rooms.

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VOTE EARLY, NO NEED TO WAIT

In Illinois, we have early voting. You can cast your ballot before election day. Just visit the office of the your County Clerk. In Williamson County the Circuit Clerk office is in the new Administrative Building beside the Courthouse at 407 N. Monroe St, in Marion.

Are you sure you registered to vote after the last time you changed your residence? If you’re not sure, you can check at www.elections.il.gov by clicking “Am I Registered to Vote in Illinois, or calling your local County Clerk (998-2112 in Williamson County).

This year early voting begins on October 20. The Clerk’s office is open weekdays from 8:00 until 4:00 – you can vote anytime between those hours. On Saturday October 18th, Saturday October 25th and Saturday November 1st. In Williamson County you can vote at the Clerk’s office from 8:00 a.m. until noon on those Saturdays. Early voting ends on Saturday November 1 at noon. For other counties, call your clerk to see if voting on Saturday is an option.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can still do so at your County Clerk’s Office October 8 through November 4. You can even register and still vote on election day.

To vote, in Williamson County, just enter the new County Government annex at its south entrance. You will be required to walk through a metal detector (so leave pocket knives, or nail clippers in your car).

Early voters must present something with their signature: such as a driver’s license, state ID, or voter’s registration card.

You will be given the same ballot you would get had you voted in your regular polling place.

Any registered voter who meets the above qualifications may vote early for any reason, or no reason at all.

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ABSENTEE VOTING IN ILLINOIS

So you don’t like waiting in line at a polling place, or you just prefer to keep it your own personal business whether you vote or not – can you vote absentee? YES!

In Illinois, if you are a qualified, registered voter, you can request an absentee ballot beginning 90 days before an election. The next scheduled election is on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the past we were required to swear that we were going to be unavailable on election day before we could get an absentee ballot, but no more. Any reason is fine. The clerk will not even ask you for a reason.

Absentee ballot requests can be processed 90 days before an election, but the actual absentee ballot cannot be mailed to the voter until 40 days before the election, so this year no absentee ballots will be mailed to voters until September 25.

You can either visit your local County Clerk’s Office and request your ballot application, or give the clerk a call and ask that an absentee ballot application be mailed to you, or visit the Clerk’s website (in Williamson County, at WilliamsonCountyIL.gov) and print your own application. Complete the application and return it to your County Clerk.

After the request is processed, the ballot is mailed to the voter’s home. To be counted in the election, the absentee ballot must be accurately completed and post-marked by midnight the day before the election and must be received by the election authority within 14 days after election day to be counted, or if you prefer you can hand deliver your absentee ballot to the County Clerk. For general elections, the election authority is your County Clerk.

If you present the absentee ballot at your polling place on election day, it can be voided so you can vote a normal ballot. You have until 7:00 p.m. to personally hand deliver an absentee ballot to the Office of your County Clerk on election day if you so choose.

You must make a separate application for an absentee ballot for each election you choose to vote absentee – there is no such thing as permanent absentee voting.

Even absentee voting is still a secret endeavor. You are not allowed to give the ballot to someone else to fill out for you. When you vote absentee you will be required to sign an affidavit stating that the information on your request is valid, and that you have done the voting. Voter fraud is a criminal offense.

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