5 Things You Should Do When Facing a First Offense DUI

first offense DUIImagine this scene: you’re having happy hour cocktails with friends from work, and the night is winding down. You’re a little buzzed, but don’t feel drunk. You know you should probably not drive, but home isn’t far, so you decide to go for it.

You only get a few miles down the road when you see the police lights in your rearview mirror. The next thing you know, you’re being booked at the local police station for a first offense DUI.

It only takes a few critical decisions to join the ranks of 1.5 million people who are arrested for drunk driving every year.

When getting a DUI, it’s important to know what steps to take to ensure your rights are protected. Here are 5 steps you should take right away.

1. Stay Level Headed

If you get pulled over, it is crucial to keep your calm. While you probably won’t be able to talk your way out of a first offense DUI, being rude to the officer certainly won’t help your case.

Make sure to cooperate with the officer’s requests and directions. Legally, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test and the field sobriety test. Keep in mind, however, that the officer may still decide to arrest you for a DUI charge.

Refusal of these tests may eliminate certain evidence against you.

2. Contact an Attorney

After you have been charged with a first offense DUI, you will probably have to make court appearances. This is where you will face sentencing, and could be charged with fines, probation, or even prison time.

You will have the option to represent yourself in court, but this is not necessarily a good idea. An attorney will better understand your unique circumstances and can navigate the legal process.

Also, you should make sure to contact an attorney who has experience with DUI cases. Just because your buddy went to law school does not mean that they know how to help you with a DUI. With the consequences that are at stake, it is crucial to be represented by someone who knows how to get the best outcome for you.

Depending on the incident that led to the DUI, the case could go on for a long time. For instance, if there was a collision that involved another vehicle or property, you could be sued for personal injury or property damage. If this happens, the case could drag on for several years.

3. Get Your Story Straight

If you are facing a case that could take several years to resolve, you should make sure to get your story straight as soon as possible. You will likely be asked to give statements and multiple depositions. If details change from one deposition to another, it can make your testimony look weak.

Write Things Down

Do you remember what you were doing three weeks ago tonight? Probably not off the top of your head. You would likely need to consult your calendar or people who were with you.

For this reason, you should never rely on your memory to help you keep your facts straight when it comes to legal issues. You may forget minor details that seem minor to you, but that opposing counsel can latch onto.

Write things down like where you were, who you were with, what you did, etc. This will help you ensure that you are telling the truth with consistency.

Talk to Witnesses

If there were witnesses the evening you were out or in the vehicle at the time of the DUI, make sure to speak with them as well. Their testimonies will also be important.

In the best case scenario, what they remember can help you. But even in the worst-case scenario, it’s better to hear a testimony that will hurt your case before the fact.

Don’t Overshare

Whenever you are dealing with legal issues, it is important to be circumspect about who you share details with. For example, your coworkers do not need to know everything about your case. You should also avoid discussing details in public places.

Additionally, be mindful of what you share on social media. Even something that seems harmless, like sharing photos of nights out with your friends, could hurt your case. For instance, if your pictures frequently have alcohol in it, opposing counsel could use that as evidence against you, perhaps imply that you’re an alcoholic.

4. Understand the Consequences

As you get started with your case, it is important to know what kinds of consequences are at stake. Depending on the severity of the charge, you may face hefty fines or prison time.

In most cases, your license will be suspended for some length of time. You may also need to take an alcohol education or driver education course.

If you are mandated to do these things, you should always follow through. The more compliant you are, the more smoothly the process will go.

5. Talk to Your Insurance Company

Often, after a DUI, you will see your insurance rates go up. This is because insurance rates are based on how the insurance company evaluates the risk of having you as a client. If you are charged with a DUI, that will make you seem at higher risk of causing an accident.

Reach out to your insurance company to see what kind of rate increase you can expect. Also, find out if there is anything you can do to bring your rates back down. Sometimes a driver education course may help to lower your rates again.

Know What You Should Do After First Offense DUI

Even a first offense DUI can have serious consequences. But, if you know how to navigate the next steps, you can make sure that you get your life back on track.

Need help with your DUI offense? Contact us today to speak with one of our expert attorneys about your case for a free consultation.


The Latest on Pot Laws in Illinois

new laws for Illinois in 2016Here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet, we wanted to share a bit about the latest on pot laws in Illinois. With laws changing frequently state by state, it’s easy to be confused about what’s going on here in Illinois. So, to provide clarity, medical marijuana is legal and recreational marijuana is not – that includes growing and possession.

Legal and Not Legal

Cannabis, generally known as marijuana, is illegal to grow and possess. This includes the leaves and flowers. It also includes the following forms:

  • Hash oil
  • Keif
  • Hashish
  • Seeds that can grow into a cannabis plant
  • Infusions, including tea, brownies, and lotions
  • Any resin extraction

Hemp, which is the mature stalks of the cannabis plant, is legal. Hemp oil and hemp fiber are also legal.

Cannabis Possession

According to pot laws in Illinois, it is illegal to carry cannabis on your person, in your car, or in your home. Luckily, the state took steps to decriminalize cannabis in 2016. Now if you’re caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana, you will face a civil citation and fine of up to $200. Prior to the change in laws, it would’ve been a Class B misdemeanor that came with jail time of up to 6 months and fine maximums of $1,500.  However, more than 10 grams will subject to a criminal charge and large amounts of cannabis can result in felony charges.

It is also illegal to sell or deliver cannabis to another person. It is additionally illegal to carry cannabis with the intent to sell, deliver, or manufacture. Actual sales or production do not have to take place in order for the activity to result in a charge.

If you or someone you know is facing a criminal cannabis charge, please contact us here at O’Dekirk Allred & Associates in Joliet for a confidential consultation.

Civil Offenses

If you are charged with a civil offense, you will generally be fined in accordance with how many times you have been caught with marijuana before. Some areas have additional laws with respect to marijuana possession. You can be fined at both a state and local level. Additionally, some local areas will fine you for possessing what is considered to be a personal amount (10 grams or less).


The various tools used to grow, produce, process, distribute, measure, or ingest marijuana are also illegal in Illinois. The pot laws in Illinois state that paraphernalia can include digital scales, grinders, zipper bags, smoking masks, bongs, pipes, products used to pass a drug test, and containers used for hiding or storing marijuana. Additional information is taken into account when determining whether an object is paraphernalia, including whether cannabis was present or near the object and whether the object can actually be used to ingest marijuana.


Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal. If you are under the influence and have more than 5 nanograms of THC in your system, you can be charged with a DUI.

The latest on pot laws in Illinois may be more lenient but can still result in serious criminal charges. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges related to cannabis, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet for help with drug offenses.

Is a DUI a Felony in Illinois?

Is a DUI a felony in Illinois? In our state, most DUIs are a misdemeanor. Today,  O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet shares a bit about DUIs so you understand what happens if you are facing such charges. You’re also welcome to contact our attorneys to discuss your case and determine if our knowledgeable legal team can help protect your rights.

If you are pulled over and have a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, you could be charged with a DUI. Though most DUIs are classified as Class A misdemeanors and come with a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2500, there are instances where a DUI may be a felony.

When is a DUI a Felony in Illinois?

The first time you are convicted of a DUI, it is considered a misdemeanor. The second DUI conviction within 20 years is still considered a misdemeanor, but it carries tough penalties that include a 5-year loss of full driving privileges, 5 days in jail or 240 hours of community service, along with additional possible jail time and a maximum fine of $2,500. A third DUI becomes a Class 2 felony.

Class 2 Felony

There are a few additional instances in which a DUI becomes a Class 2 Felony:

  • If this is your second or subsequent DUI and you were transporting a child under the age of 16.
  • If you are driving a vehicle while transporting a child under 16 and they were injured as a result of a crash while you were driving under the influence, even if it is your first DUI.

If you are facing a DUI charge and need a defense attorney, contact us at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet. We have lawyers who can help you face this difficult legal challenge.

Class 4 Felony

There are instances when an Aggravated DUI is considered a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies can carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Here are some of the instances in which state law allows for charging someone with a Class 4 felony:

  • If a person commits a DUI with any passengers under the age of 14 or while driving a school bus.
  • If a person was driving a vehicle for hire with any passengers when committing a DUI offense.
  • If a DUI results in permanent disability, disfigurement, or bodily harm. Additionally, your license could be revoked for 2 years.
  • If a person is driving under the influence without a valid driver’s license, including suspended or revoked licenses, or without vehicle liability insurance.

There are additional instances where a driver can be charged with a Class 4 felony as well as times where higher-class felony charges are permitted. Higher-class felony charges include longer sentences and severe long-term penalties.

Is a DUI a felony in Illinois? It absolutely can be – and come with harsh penalties. If you or someone you know is facing a possible felony conviction for a DUI, contact us at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet for a consultation to determine your best course of action.

What Are Some of the New Illinois Laws for 2018

new laws for Illinois in 2016If you’ve been wondering about the new Illinois laws for 2018, our legal experts at O’Dekirk, Allred, & Associates in Joliet would like to share a few highlights. More than 200 new laws took effect on January 1, 2018. This may or may not affect a legal issue you’re involved with, so if anything we discuss applies to your situation, please get in touch to learn more.

Tough on Crime

In a move to support Chicago’s effort to reduce gun violence, one of the new laws will increase sentences for those who commit repeated gun crimes. Instead of being sentenced to three to 14 years in prison, the sentences will be seven to 14 years. Judges who depart from this guideline will be required to explain why.

Supporters of the new law feel that the tougher penalties will be a deterrent while critics indicate there is little evidence that longer sentences are effective. Those opposed to the law are also concerned that tougher sentences will lead to additional arrests of African-American and Latino men while having no effect on gun-traffickers.

Both sides of the aisle supported the new law because the law also included a number of provisions intended to assist with reducing the overall prison population. Lawmakers who supported the bill felt that repeat gun offenders present enough of a danger that the new sentence lengths make sense.

If you are in need of a lawyer for your criminal case, contact O’Dekirk, Allred, & Associates in Joliet. Our attorneys and staff are committed to working relentlessly on your behalf.

Hate Crimes and Sentencing

Another of the new Illinois laws for 2018 expands hate crimes to include those crimes that are committed at mosques, synagogues, churches, and other places of worship. This change was passed in response to an increase in racist graffiti and vandalism at religious spaces all over Illinois. Cyberstalking, stalking, and sending obscene messages can all also be considered hate crimes because technology has increasingly been used in these attacks.

Other changes to criminal laws included removing what has been referred to as the “gay panic” defense in murder trials and sentencing. Defendants can no longer excuse violence by indicating the crime was an act of passion upon discovering a victim was gay. Also, sexual orientation can no longer be a provocation in second-degree murder trials and sentencing.

Policing for Profit

Our state’s civil forfeiture laws are now different base on the new Illinois laws for 2018. Previously, police and prosecutors could take money, vehicles, land, and other property from suspects. The items were often auctioned off, which led to this practice being called “policing for profit” because the proceeds of the auctions funded both police and prosecutor’s offices.

Changes to the forfeiture laws now make it easier for property owners to have their case adjudicated. Additionally, the burden of proof has now shifted to officials and the threshold has been changed from probable cause to now being a preponderance of the evidence.

Organ Donors

The new Illinois laws for 2018 state that 16 and 17-year-olds are now allowed to sign up to be organ and tissue donors at the time they receive their driver’s license. However, parents and guardians can keep them off the official registry until a teen’s 18th birthday. Advocates are hoping that allowing teens to sign up earlier will prompt conversations to help parents agree to allow their teen to be a donor.

Birth Certificate Changes

Laws for transgendered people have been eased. It will now be easier for a transgendered person to change their sex designation on their birth certificates. In the past, the change could only be done if a doctor confirmed that the individual had transition surgery. Now, the law allows for a medical or mental health professional to indicate that someone has had “clinically appropriate” treatment which will allow a wider range of transition practices, such as hormone therapy, to be sufficient for a birth certificate change.

In an entirely different arena, birth certificates will now be provided free of charge to those individuals who leave state prison. This is part of an effort to make it easier for convicts to go on to lead more productive lives. This change is meant to allow them to get jobs, find housing, enroll in school, and receive medical and mental health assistance more easily.

Health Care

In response to potential federal health care changes, laws in Illinois now bar health insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The laws also now make it illegal for employers to penalize employees who don’t want to participate in wellness programs or disclose genetic information.

Consumer Protections

There are a number of consumer protections that are effective this year. Here are a few that are now in force:

  • Hair salons, barbers, and tailors are now required to provide customers with a price list upon request. The intention is to allow added transparency and to help deter the practice of charging women more for the same service provided to men.
  • Businesses can no longer enforce disparagement clauses. These clauses threaten customers who post critical reviews with additional fees. Disparagement clauses are generally found in the fine print.
  • Life insurance policies must now inform families if they are due benefits from policies as far back as 2000. Companies will have to check Social Security records to make the determination.


Preschool and early childhood education programs are now prohibited from expelling students unless there are safety concerns for other children. Schools must instead find services and programs to help them resolve those issues presenting a problem. Additionally, public schools must now provide a space for breastfeeding and offer feminine hygiene products in an effort to help increase school attendance rates.

What are some of the new Illinois laws for 2018? These are just a few of them and there are over 200. If you need a lawyer to help you navigate some of these new laws, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred, & Associates in Joliet. We have a number of lawyers that specialize in various areas and we will use our extensive experience to help you.

Spousal Maintenance Changes for 2018

Spousal Maintenance Changes for 2018 O'Dekirk, Allred & Associates IllinoisIf you weren’t aware, there are spousal maintenance changes for 2018 that our legal team at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet want to share with you. Changes to alimony (known as maintenance in Illinois law) became effective on January 1, 2018, so it may be important to know about these changes if you are in the middle of divorce proceedings, plan to file for divorce this year, or are looking to have an existing spousal maintenance decision adjusted.

Definition of Maintenance

In Illinois, maintenance is the court ordered financial support that is paid by one spouse to another as a part of their divorce settlement. Under the new guidelines the term “permanent maintenance” is now “indefinite maintenance” which is used to describe maintenance payments that do not have a specific expiration date. Unless the divorce specifies otherwise, indefinite maintenance continues until one spouse dies, the receiving spouse remarries, or the receiving spouse cohabitates on a continual conjugal basis.

If there is a substantial change in circumstances, spousal maintenance may be modified. However, there are divorce settlements that have explicitly non-modifiable maintenance and such maintenance cannot be adjusted no matter the circumstances.

Raised Application Amount

Under the original 2015 law, statutory maintenance guidelines were applied when the gross combined income per year was less than $250,000. This was a guideline and the Illinois courts took other circumstances into consideration, such as the total length of the marriage, ages of the spouses, and differences in assets and income. Other factors were also considered, including physical and emotional problems. These will all continue under the 2018 changes.

According to the spousal maintenance changes for 2018, the threshold for the maintenance guidelines will be raised to a combined gross income per year of $500,000 or less. This means that more couples will be subject to the statutory guidelines. For those couples whose combined income exceeds this amount, they are not necessarily subject to the guidelines, though they could still be used. Additionally, the courts can still deviate from the guidelines for those couples who should be subject, but the court will need to provide a solid rationale for doing so.

If you need the spousal maintenance changes for 2018 explained further, please contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet. We can help you with your divorce and help you determine how these new rules will affect you.

Changes to Duration of Payments

The most substantial change in the Illinois law is with respect to the calculation of the duration of the maintenance payments. In 2015, the duration of payments was decided using a basic calculation. To determine the length of the payments, the following formulas were used:

  • If the marriage lasted 5 years or less, the length of the marriage was multiplied by .20. So, if you were married for 4 years, (4 times .2 equals .8 years) the length of the payments would equal 9.6 months.
  • 5-9 years would be multiplied by .40
  • 10-14 years would be multiplied by .60
  • 15-19 years would be multiplied by .80
  • Marriages that lasted 20 years or more will have a maintenance length that is equal to the marriage or the maintenance will be permanent.

Under the spousal maintenance changes for 2018, the length of time will usually be less than it was under the old law. People married less than 5 years are subject to the same percentage as are those who happen to divorce at the end of the cutoff of the previous benchmarks (years 9, 14, and 19). Those people who stayed married for 20 years or more are also subject to the same rule as before though the wording used is different. Everyone else will find that the duration of their payments will be less than it would have been under the old law. Under the new law, the duration is calculated using the following breakdown:

  • Marriages that lasted less than 5 years are multiplied by .20
  • Marriages that lasted 5 years are multiplied by .24
  • Marriages that lasted 6 years are multiplied by .28
  • Marriages that lasted 7 years are multiplied by .32
  • Marriages that lasted 8 years are multiplied by .36
  • Marriages that lasted 9 years are multiplied by .40
  • Marriages that lasted 10 years are multiplied by .44
  • Marriages that lasted 11 years are multiplied by .48
  • Marriages that lasted 12 years are multiplied by .52
  • Marriages that lasted 13 years are multiplied by .56
  • Marriages that lasted 14 years are multiplied by .60
  • Marriages that lasted 15 years are multiplied by .64
  • Marriages that lasted 16 years are multiplied by .68
  • Marriages that lasted 17 years are multiplied by .72
  • Marriages that lasted 18 years are multiplied by .76
  • Marriages that lasted 19 years are multiplied by .80
  • Marriages that lasted 20 years or more, the maintenance will be as long as the length of the duration of the marriage or it will be indefinite

Already Divorced?

The spousal maintenance changes for 2018 does not mean that couples that are already divorced can use the new rules to renegotiate the length of their existing maintenance. There must be a substantial change in circumstances for maintenance to be modified or terminated.

Unchanged Elements

Some elements of the Illinois law are unchanged. It is still the case that all spouses are not entitled to maintenance. One spouse must have a demonstrated need and the other must have an ability to pay. Additionally, Illinois is still gender-neutral when it comes to awarding maintenance. Husbands can be awarded maintenance much like wives can.

The determination of the spousal maintenance amount is still made using the same formula and takes into consideration the economic lifestyle of the couple. Additionally, if a spouse waives maintenance, the waiver is still forever binding.

If you may be affected by the spousal maintenance changes for 2018 and need a lawyer for your divorce case, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet for your free consultation. We can discuss everything with you and help determine how these new changes may change the maintenance outcomes of your divorce.

Blogs and articles by O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC are for educational purposes only and to give you a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice or be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed, professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. These materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content of this site or for damages arising from the use or performance of this site under any circumstances.

Criminal Law Process for a Felony in Illinois

Criminal Law Process for a Felony in Illinois O'Dekirk, Allred & Associates JolietHere at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet, we are very familiar with the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois and have helped numerous clients through each step. If you find yourself facing any type of felony charges, including a DUI or drug offense, we can provide you with aggressive representation to ensure the most positive outcomes.

Before we get to the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois, let’s look at the three basic kinds of crime in the state.

  • Minor violations are generally considered petty offenses. These types of violations are frequently punished with a fine.
  • The next level is misdemeanors. In Illinois, these crimes can carry as few as 30 days in jail or as many as 364 days. Additionally, fines can range from $1,500 to $2,500.
  • The most serious category is a felony which can carry a sentence of up to 60 years. While the penalties vary, the process for all felony charges is essentially the same.

After an Arrest

The police officers that were involved in an arrest must communicate with the State’s Attorney Felony Review office. Police cannot independently charge someone with a felony. The decision to charge someone with a felony rests with the State’s Attorney who gathers information from the officer. The defendant’s criminal history is reviewed and the defendant may be interviewed in an effort to decide if felony charges are appropriate.

The State’s Attorney may reject the charges if there is insufficient evidence or if the circumstances are inappropriate for a felony charge. If the State’s Attorney accepts the charges, the police will process the defendant and the defendant will be held for a bond hearing. If the felony charges are rejected, police can still file misdemeanor charges which they do have full authority over.

Bond Hearing

Within 72 hours of an arrest, a bond hearing is generally held. The bond court judge is presented with basic facts and charges for the case, as well as the defendant’s criminal history. The defendant’s attorney will make a presentation on behalf of the defendant. After both sides have presented, the judge will make a determination about the terms of release.

Preliminary Hearing

The next step in the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois is a preliminary hearing. A judge will be presented with evidence to determine that a felony crime was committed and to determine if there is reason to believe the defendant was responsible for committing it.

The state will present witnesses and the defense can ask these witnesses questions as well. The standard for a preliminary hearing is much lower than at the trial. At this point, a judge is simply determining that there is a likelihood that the defendant committed the crime. If the judge determines that there is no probable cause, the defendant wins the hearing and the case is generally dismissed.

The Indictment

Many cases are presented to a grand jury instead of having a preliminary hearing. The state can charge a person with a felony by presenting evidence to a grand jury. A grand jury is composed of 18 people from the community. The proceedings are conducted in secret and the defense cannot cross-examine the witnesses. The majority of felony cases go through a grand jury process. The grand jury is responsible for determining the same issues as a judge at a preliminary hearing.

If the grand jury believes a crime was likely committed by the defendant, an indictment will be issued which is the official document accusing a person of a crime. With an indictment, a warrant will be issued if the defendant is not already in custody. The State’s attorney can bring cases to the grand jury even if the charges were originally dropped at the preliminary hearing.

Trial Court

Following the indictment or preliminary hearing, the case goes to the county’s Chief Judge. The Chief Judge is responsible for assigning the case to another judge in the county using a prescribed random process.


After assignment to a specific trial court, the defendant is formally arraigned. This is where the charges can be formally read. This is often waived to save time. The defendant’s lawyers already know what the felony charges are. More importantly, at an arraignment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is formally entered.


During this part of the process, the state is responsible for sharing all evidence. The state is required to share specific types of evidence in its possession with the defense, particularly any evidence that has major implications of guilt or innocence for the defendant.


Motions are requests for something specific to be done. For example, the defense can submit a motion to quash arrest, motion to suppress a statement, or motion to suppress evidence to the judge during the pre-trial process. The decision of the judge on these motions can have a very large impact on the outcome of a trial.

Plea Agreement

If the State’s attorney, the defense attorney, and the defendant agree on a penalty, a plea agreement will avoid a trial and it is often the way that many cases conclude. In the criminal law process for a felony in Illinois, the judge also participates in the plea agreement if the defendant agrees in open court. The defendant must agree to it because the judge will often learn things that would not be known otherwise to the judge. If a plea is agreed to without the judge, the judge has the ability to impose a different penalty than the one agreed to by the defense and the state.


If the case is not settled, it will continue to either a jury trial or bench trial (which is a trial by a judge). The defendant will be found guilty or not guilty of their felony crime and based on the results, the judge will impose the penalty.

The criminal law process for a felony in Illinois can be complicated. If you need a defense attorney with experience, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet. Our attorneys can help you through each step and use their experience to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Common Questions About Child Custody in Illinois

Common Questions About Child Custody in Illinois O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates JolietHere at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates here in Joliet, we wanted to cover common questions about child custody in Illinois. Child custody can be fraught with concern and frustration. Getting answers to common questions can help you understand custody and can help allay concerns and fears about custody issues.

Who gets custody?

When a court must determine who gets custody, they usually use “the best interest of the child” as their standard. There are a number of factors when the court weighs custody issues. When a court weighs factors, no one factor is a controlling factor and not all factors will have the same significance. Some of the factors that go into determining parental custody include:

  • Each of the parents’ wishes and preferences
  • The child’s wishes, often taking the age of the child, maturity, and education into account
  • Parents’ interactions with child
  • Adjustment of the child to school, community, and home
  • Physical and mental health of involved parties
  • Any violence exhibited by either parent
  • The willingness and ability of parents to have a close and on-going relationship, as well as encourage and facilitate a close relationship with the other parent.

Joint Custody and Sole Custody—How are They Different?

This is one of the more common questions about child custody in Illinois. When parents are able to cooperate, communicate, and work together for the sake of their child, joint custody may be awarded. In joint custody, parents share decision making for major decisions that include healthcare, education, and religion.

A Joint Parenting Agreement is drawn up when joint custody is awarded. The agreement outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities for their child and determines the residence arrangements. The agreement also specifies what should be done when there is a disagreement about a parenting decision.

If one parent is not suitable or able to be appropriately responsible for parenting decisions or if the parents cannot cooperate effectively with each other, sole custody may be awarded to one parent. Sole custody designates one parent as having sole authority for the child’s major life decisions.

Sole custody does not mean one parent no longer gets visitation rights and joint custody does not mean that the parents split visitation rights equally. There is a visitation schedule that is either court ordered or agreed to by both parents. Visitation schedules may dictate that one parent has most of the time or that the time is shared to varying degrees. Regardless of sole or joint custody, both parents have a right to school, medical, dental, and child care records.

Joint Custody and Child Support—Does Custody Determine Support?

The parents’ financial resources and the needs of the children are the main factors in determining child support but other factors such as parenting time do play a role in determining each parent’s financial responsibilities. Parents may have joint custody and share time equally, but one parent may be expected to pay more.

Can You Prevent Visitation if Child Support has Not Been Paid?

You cannot refuse visitation based on whether or not child support has been paid. At the same time, you cannot refuse to pay support if you are prevented from seeing your child. Denying visitation or child support can result in being found in contempt of court.

Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Another of the common questions about child custody in Illinois, children in the state do not get to outright choose to reside with one parent. The child’s wishes can be taken into consideration as one factor in determining where a child will reside.

What Happens when Parents Cannot Agree on Custody?

When parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the court will sometimes mandate mediation. A mediator is trained and appointed by the court as a neutral third party. Mediators work to help parents reach an agreement on custody. Mediation discussions remain confidential regardless of the outcome and if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the issue will proceed to trial.

Sometimes, when parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (custody evaluator) to assist the court in making a determination about custody, based on the best interest of the child. The custody evaluator’s determinations will be taken into consideration when the custody issue goes to trial and the judge makes a determination.

Can I Increase My Chances of a Larger Custody Agreement?

An experienced family attorney, such as O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet, can advise you about ways to increase your chances at a better outcome and answer your questions about child custody in Illinois.

Here is an additional list to help you when proceeding with a divorce and wanting to achieve your goals in regards to the time you wish to be granted with your children.

  • Do not make the other parent’s visitations difficult or complicated. Also, do not interfere with their visitation rights.
  • Do not yell at the other parent or your child.
  • Avoid any physical confrontations.
  • Make all child support payments
  • Do not take your child out of daycare or school for a non-emergency without discussing it with the other parent.
  • Try to engage in positive interactions as much as possible with the other parent and your child.
  • Consult with your attorney before making any significant changes to your living arrangements.
  • Do not unfairly or excessively criticize the other parent to others or your child, even if you feel your criticisms are all warranted.
  • Do not deny the other parent phone contact when the child is with you.

What Should I do at a Custody Trial?

In a custody trial, it is important to present yourself in the best possible light. Be sure to dress professionally and exhibit good conduct at all times. Be calm during all testimony and try to maintain neutral facial expressions – no matter what. It is important to avoid letting the judge see expressions of anger or frustration. Let your attorney object when objections are needed. If you need to tell your attorney something in court, write a note. It is important to conduct yourself professionally at all times in court.

If you have additional common questions about child custody in Illinois, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates in Joliet. We can help you with your custody issues and work diligently on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Why You Need a Real Estate LawyerToday, O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet discusses why you need a real estate lawyer. We know that buying a home is one of life’s most significant purchases, involving a lot of paperwork and various legal issues. Even as a seller, it’s not as easy as finding a buyer and collecting a check. Everything must be handled systematically, contracts need to be read and understood, and if anything goes awry, both buyers and sellers need legal protection.

Let’s break down why you need a real estate lawyer even further…

Purchasing a Home

For the majority of home purchases, a seller contracts with a real estate agent, usually in writing. This contract is called a brokerage contract. When the agent (also referred to as the broker) locates a buyer, any negotiations that need to take place are done through the broker because the broker is responsible for acting as an intermediary between the two parties, the buyer and seller.

Once the parties have reached an informal agreement on an offer, a formal written contract is drawn up and signed. The buyer must then pay or obtain financing if they don’t have it already. A title search, inspection, and appraisal are performed. Eventually, the buyer takes possession of the property and the seller receives the agreed upon amount of money.

Like any purchase, there can be issues. For example, some houses, like cars, can turn out to be lemons. This is when and why you need a real estate lawyer.

Unclear Terms

A real estate lawyer will help you avoid problematic terms in the sale of your home. Some of these problems begin with the brokerage agreements. Many real estate agents use standard forms. These forms can lead to problems. For example, if there is no agreement to the contrary, the seller may have to pay a brokerage commission, even if the property doesn’t sell. Also, the seller can end up paying more than one commission.

Using a residential real estate attorney can help ensure that particular options are available to you as either the buyer or the seller. A real estate lawyer can ensure that a seller or buyer has the right to negotiate on his or her behalf. Lawyers can also help if there are issues and the seller needs to withdraw from the contract.

There are a number of laws and issues that a real estate lawyer can prevent and they can help prepare buyers and sellers. Real estate lawyers also ensure that their clients are better aware of what their contracts mean and whether it is really in their best interest to sign. If you need a real estate lawyer, contact us here at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet.


Even if one not necessary during negotiations, the buyer or seller may want to consult with a real estate lawyer regarding the tax consequences of the sale. Income tax for the seller, in particular, can be substantial. A great reason why you need a real estate lawyer prior to the sale is to learn about and take advantage of various tax provisions to lessen the impact.

Purchase Agreement

The single most important document in a property sale is the purchase agreement. Using a real estate lawyer to step through the purchase agreement for the sale can help offer an opportunity to tailor the agreement to better address the needs of the parties involved.

Here are some common examples of things a real estate lawyer can help determine:

  • Was there a lawful addition to the property or has the property been altered?
  • Will future changes to the property that the buyer wants to make be legally allowed?
  • If an inspection reveals lead-based paint, termites, asbestos, or radon, what will happen?
  • What will occur if the property is found to contain hazardous waste?
  • If the closing fails to take place, what happens? What are the legal consequences? What happens to the earnest money and down payment?
  • Will the down payment be held in an escrow account? Will a lawyer oversee the escrow account? What are the escrow instructions and are they appropriate?
  • Does closing depend on the buyer getting financing? Is the condition appropriate for this sale? Most buyers need to finance most of the purchase price for a home with a mortgage. The purchase agreement should include a carefully worded condition that the purchase agreement is contingent upon the buyer obtaining financing.

Title Search

Once a purchase agreement is signed, it is appropriate to determine the title for the property. It is important that both the buyer and the financial institution offering to finance are satisfied with the results of the title search. It is also important to ensure that the legal description is accurate and that there are no issues with prior or adjoining owners.

Review of the title and ensuring the accuracy of the legal description can be confusing which is why you need a real estate lawyer. They can help determine if there are any exceptions to the title or whether there are potential problems.


A real estate lawyer can also ensure that you are aware of any zoning issues. The title search does not include any zoning information. If there are future plans for improvement, the real estate lawyer can help determine whether any zoning ordinances would be violated.


Even the finish line can be problematic. All closing papers must be prepared, as well as the sale transaction. A real estate lawyer can help a buyer or seller with all of the closing paperwork and ensure that everything is appropriate and properly executed.

It is also helpful to have a real estate lawyer present just in case any last minute disputes arise. If other parties involved have a lawyer present and you are without one, your interests could be unprotected.

As you can see, there are many reasons why you need a real estate lawyer, so make sure your interests are protected during one of biggest events in your life. At O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates in Joliet, we want to make sure that the buying or selling of your home is a positive experience. Let us guide you through the process and provide peace of mind.

What is a Personal Injury Case Worth?

What is a Personal Injury Case WorthAt O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet, our clients often ask what is a personal injury case worth? In calculating what your case may be worth, there is a great deal that must be considered in damages: what have your injuries actually cost, both physically and mentally. Damages should also consider if the defendant needs to pay enough that the payment is a form of punishment, particularly in cases where such an injury or accident may occur again or is egregious in nature.

In personal injury cases, the plaintiff is the injured person. Money damages are generally paid by the person or company (the defendant and/or their insurer) who is legally responsible for the accident or injury. Damages can be settled out of court by negotiating a settlement. Such negotiations can involve the parties, their attorneys, and the insurance companies, for example. If a negotiation is not reached or agreed to by all parties, the case may go to trial where a jury or a judge may award damages.

Personal Injury Cases and Compensatory Damages

When it comes to what is a personal injury case worth, most of the damages are considered to be compensatory. This means that the award is supposed to compensate for whatever was lost during the injury or accident. Compensatory damages are intended to use money to make the injured party “whole” from a monetary standpoint. A dollar figure is intended to match the damage from the accident or injury. This can be straightforward for some compensatory damages.

For example, the cost of medical bills or property damage can be fairly easy to calculate. Other damages, such as pain and suffering, can be much more difficult to quantify. For example, if a plaintiff can no longer enjoy participating in his favorite hobby as a result of injury, finding a monetary amount to compensate can be more difficult.

Types of Compensatory Damages

There are different kinds of compensatory damages that are frequently involved in personal injury cases which can make it difficult to determine what is a personal injury case worth. Here are some of the more common types of damages that are awarded these types of cases.

Medical Treatment: Personal injury awards almost always cover the cost of medical treatment and care associated with the injury or accident. Medical treatment covers the treatment you have already received, as well as the estimated cost of all medical care and treatment expected or needed in the future as a result of your injury or accident.

Income: The accident or injury may have affected your ability to make money in the future and this loss can be calculated in the total compensatory damages. This is called compensation for a loss of earning capacity. Additionally, the loss of wages and salary that already occurred as a result of the accident or injury should be included.

Property Loss: Physical property that was damaged or destroyed as a result of the accident should be included in your compensatory damages. You should be able to be included the fair market value of the property that was damaged or destroyed.

Pain and Suffering: The physical discomfort caused by the accident or injury, as well as emotional stress that continues as a result of the accident, are all considered to be a part of pain and suffering. This component also takes likely future pain and suffering into account when determining the award and the defendant’s negligence.

Emotional Distress: This type of punitive damage is often involved in more severe accidents or injuries. This is intended to compensate for anxiety, fear, sleep loss or other emotional impacts that have occurred as a result of the accident. Emotional distress may be a part of pain and suffering in some states. Additionally, emotional distress can also include depression, anger, loss of appetite, mood swings, lack of energy, and sexual dysfunction.

Loss of Enjoyment: If you can no longer enjoy day-to-day activities such as exercise, hobbies, and other pursuits, you may be entitled to this type of personal injury award.

Loss of Consortium: Often this type of personal injury award is awarded because the injury or accident has impacted the plaintiff’s relationships, often the plaintiff’s spouse. Sometimes there is a loss of companionship or the couple’s sexual relationship has been altered. Sometimes “loss of consortium” in some states considers family members separately, so these damages can be awarded to family members that are affected not necessarily the injured party.

Damages Can Be Affected by Plaintiff

Plaintiffs in personal injury cases need to be aware that their role in the accident or possible inaction following injury can reduce the amount of damages awarded, and affect what is a personal injury case worth.

Comparative Negligence: If you were even partially responsible for your accident or injury, it is likely that your damage award will be lower as a reflection of your role. Usually, this is because many states have a standard for “comparative negligence” that looks at a plaintiff’s degree of fault in personal injury award decisions.

Contributory Negligence: There are a few states that use contributory negligence in personal injury lawsuits. Contributory negligence means that if you are even partially to blame for an accident, you may not be entitled to any compensation at all.

Failure to Mitigate Damages: Many states expect that a plaintiff will take reasonable steps to minimize the harm caused by an accident. For example, if a plaintiff fails to seek medical attention and this failure causes their injury to be worse, the award for damages may be significantly less. So if you have been injured in an accident, it will be important to make sure that you are receiving appropriate medical treatment both so that you take care of your health, but also to protect your ability to receive damages.

If you have been injured in an accident and are considering pursuing a personal injury case, contact us at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet to discuss what is a personal injury case worth. We can help you determine whether to pursue legal action and help you determine how much of an award we can help you pursue.


Blogs and articles by O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC are for educational purposes only and to give you a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice or be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed, professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction.

Use all blogs and articles at your own risk. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. These materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content of this site or for damages arising from the use or performance of this site under any circumstances.

By reading our blog and articles you also understand that there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC.

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Illinois?

Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in IllinoisDo you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois? While self-representation is an option, we at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet do not recommend it. In fact, the overwhelming majority of defendants in criminal cases choose to be represented by a lawyer, particularly if there is a possibility of jail or prison. While it can be difficult to obtain good statistics, experts estimate that less than 1% of defendants choose self-representation and there are a number of important reasons why.

Legal Inexperience

While it may be tempting for a person to defend his or herself, self-representation can have severe drawbacks. Though law books contain a great deal of information, there is a lot to be gained from the actual time spent defending people in various cases and situations. Building a solid criminal defense comes from a comprehensive understanding of the written law, as well as the realities and actualities of the Illinois criminal justice system. The actual practice of criminal law can be quite very different than the knowledge offered in books.

Prosecutorial Discretion

When it comes to do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, a very good reason can be found by examining the power of a prosecutor. Their role determines much of what happens in a criminal case. Though from an average person’s view, there may only be one criminal act involved in a case, a prosecutor can charge a defendant with a number of crimes stemming from one act. The reasons for multiple charges ranging in severity can vary based on the merits of the case. The defense for a set of charges can become far more complicated and confusing to the uninitiated.

Whether you’re facing a felony or even a misdemeanor, having an experienced defense lawyer, like the ones we have at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet, can be an immense asset when it comes to facing harsh punishments like prison.

Novice v. Experience

Prosecutors have honed their legal abilities over time, both in and out of the courtroom. A prosecutor is not generally going to make things easy for a pro se defendant. Prosecutors will take full advantage of a novice in the courtroom because they want to win their cases regardless of who is performing the defense. They will use procedures and courtroom technicalities to trip up pro se defendants.

Prosecutors also have a great deal of experience with various defense strategies and they are well aware of how to effectively deal with any strategy a novice will use in the courtroom. Pro se defendants will generally be outmatched in courtroom experience, which can be not only detrimental but also costly in terms of outcomes. If you’re wondering do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, just think about facing an experienced and winning prosecutor in the courtroom.

The Power of Elections

Prosecutors and judges are elected officials whose records become the target of opponents in every election. The politics of these positions can play a huge role in how things play out in the courtroom. Prosecutors and judges are expected to be tough on crimes such as drug offenses and DUI cases. It is naïve to think that such pressures will not have an impact on how cases will be tried and prosecuted.

A lawyer who is knowledgeable of the local political scene will be able to better navigate the system to the benefit of the defendant. Someone who is self-representing will rarely have any level of knowledge of the role of politics in the particulars of their case.

How Will an Attorney Help?

No matter how well educated or smart a person is, when deciding do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, remember that the criminal justice system is much too complicated for even the smartest among us to effectively represent ourselves. Additionally, defense lawyers:

  • Have time to dedicate to the case because it is their job. Pro se defendants may have jobs of their own or responsibilities that limit the amount of time they can spend on their own defense.
  • Negotiate with prosecutors, often achieving lesser charges and reduced sentences. Often defense lawyers have a working relationship with the prosecutor, which allows for more savvy negotiations, something a self-representative would not have, making successful negotiation less likely.
  • Are familiar with local procedures, customs, and preferences. For example, your defense lawyer may know that your prosecutor doesn’t have the real authority to settle your case. Your defense lawyer may also be able to make arguments that they know are likely to appeal to the judge or prosecution.
  • Interview witnesses for the prosecution. The defendant may have trouble getting witnesses to share information. Witnesses may be fearful or angry and uncooperative with the defendant but cooperate fully and helpfully with a criminal defense lawyer.
  • Understand the true cost of pleading guilty. They know consequences that may or may not occur to the defendant or the defendant’s friends and family.
  • Hire investigators that can be effectively used during the trial. An investigator can sometimes be used to offer contradicting information for witnesses who may embellish their courtroom stories. This can be much more effective in court than a pro se defendant saying, “the witness had a different version of events the last time we spoke.”

Personally Invested

When deciding do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois, remember that as a defendant, you’re going to have a personal stake in all the courtroom proceedings. This high level of personal and emotional investment can sometimes cloud your judgment. Having an impartial and professional criminal defense lawyer can help keep the strategies and responses clear and effective, something that cannot always be achieved in pro se defenses.

After the Trial

If your defense attorney fails to properly defend you, this can be used to appeal your case or have a conviction reversed. People who choose to self-represent cannot use this argument. Though they may have made mistakes in their defense, the law does not allow them to use their own poor performance as a reason to re-examine the case.

Do you need a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois? Ultimately, the short answer is yes. We at O’Dekirk, Allred, and Associates in Joliet can help if you or someone you know needs a defense lawyer. We have experience with criminal trials and can get you the level of defense you need and deserve.


Disclaimer: Blogs and articles by O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC are for educational purposes only and to give you a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice or be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed, professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction.

Use all blogs and articles at your own risk. The information presented may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. These materials may be changed, improved, or updated without notice. O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the content of this site or for damages arising from the use or performance of this site under any circumstances.

By reading our blog and articles you also understand that there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and O’Dekirk, Allred and Associates, LLC.