Going to Summer Camp This Memorial Day Weekend?

The Johnson Law Group has handled countless cases for individuals charged going to, from or at Summer Camp over the years. Before you pack up and head to Three Sisters Park for the annual summer musical event near Chillicothe, make sure you know what the consequences could be if you are charged with a crime.

Ordinance Violations to Class X Felonies and Everything in Between

Summer Camp related arrests are for everything from a tiny quantity of cannabis - or "weed" - to cocaine, and everything in between.[1] Charges range from an Ordinance Violation to Class X felonies with minimums from a fine to several decades in prison. From 2014 to 2015, the number of just Class X felony arrests for the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group alone rose more than 36%![2]

From 2009 to 2013 in Peoria County alone, 235 people found themselves in jail for drug-related charges that do not include so-called "minor" drug offenses.[3] Of those 235 people, more than 64% were convicted, meaning that they will have a drug offense on their record for life![4]

Furthermore, police have discretion in several jurisdictions to issue an Ordinance Violation instead of taking a person to jail. An Ordinance Violation is a municipal offense usually punishable by a fine. And police write hundreds of Ordinance Violations for everything from a marijuana pipe to so-called "small" drug offenses. In 2013 alone, just Chillicothe and Peoria Heights police wrote more than 150 Ordinance Violations.[5]

And Don't Forget About Traffic Offenses and DUI's as well! Remember, in Illinois, it is still against the law to drive with any amount of cannabis, methamphetamine, or a controlled substance in your body.[6] Cannabis can stay in a person's system for up to 30 days, and, if your driver's license just happened to expire over the weekend or the insurance on the car you're driving lapsed, you can expect to be charged with a felony Aggravated DUI offense, even if it's the first time ever being in trouble![7]

Police Love Summer Camp

To be at or get to Summer Camp, you'll have to travel through one of the following counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Woodford, Marshall, Stark, and Knox. But arrests by police don't just happen in close proximity to Summer Camp. People were arrested by police task forces on their way to or from Summer Camp in Putnam, Bureau, and LaSalle counties as well, resulting in 110 people being arrested alone just in Putnam County.[8]

A lot of people don't realize it, but Summer Camp is a major money-maker for law enforcement, so police look forward to Summer Camp too. Whenever Summer Camp is set to begin, in the weeks leading up to it, local law enforcement from all the surrounding counties begin preparing. This is why completely separate police agencies work together around the time of Summer Camp. Just at Summer Camp itself, you'll see Chillicothe police officers, Peoria County Sheriff's deputies, Illinois State Police troopers, and officers from the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group.[9] Between speed traps and road blocks, police are out in droves, ready to pounce if given the least reason to do so. In addition, individual police agencies routinely have covert undercover agents at the festival so they can maximize their arrests.[10]

Why is it a money-maker for them? First, many counties will require a person charged to pay more than the minimum fine because their arrest was related to Summer Camp. Secondly, fines, not to mention seizures (which are discussed below), amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for these counties. Just the mandatory fines and court costs for the misdemeanor offense of possessing under 2.5 grams of cannabis - or "weed" - will be around $1,000, and 2.5 grams only weighs about as much as a penny! For offenses like a DUI or possessing a Controlled Substance, you can expect to pay at least $2,000! Even offenses that are fine only, such as traffic and Ordinance Violations, can cost you a pretty penny. For example, from the Ordinance Violations written in 2013 by just two police departments alone, more than $361,000 in fines and fees were paid, and that's just the money paid by those people who were convicted of their Ordinance Violation![11]

Summer Camp is also a money-maker for police, because of forfeiture proceedings. Forfeiture proceedings occur when police seize property seized possessed by a person who is charged. In Illinois, police can not only seize all cash and valuables a person has on them, but they can also seize vehicles. For example, in 2014 a single police enforcement team seized almost $12,000 just in cash over a single weekend.[12]

Keep Your Record Clean

People are frequently arrested for what police think are crimes or think are easily proven crimes. In Illinois, however, it is the State's Attorney who actually brings criminal charges against someone, not the police, barring certain exceptions, such as traffic-related offenses and ordinance-related ones. One of the services we provide to our clients is to convince the State out of ever filing any charges all together.

The number of people who police arrest at Summer Camp is staggering, but the number of people who are never charged is even more shocking. In a single year, only 31 of the 60 people arrested during Summer Camp were actually charged.[13] This meant they were put into handcuffs, taken to jail, booked in, and made to sit until they could post bond in order to get out.

Many people don't know that even arrests appear on a person's criminal history and will never be removed from their record. It takes a separate petition that must be pursued aggressively in order to remove even arrests from people's records. If you need help with any of these issues, our staff is available 24/7 to assist you.

So be safe, have fun and happy camping!

Written by Attorney Brendan Bukalski,

Partner, Johnson Law Group

May 6th, 2016

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