Ignorance no excuse for breaking the law

“Ignorantia legis neminem excusat” is such a well-worn legal maxim that its meaning is apparent even to those of us who don’t remember or never took Latin: “Ignorance of law excuses no one.” In legal matters, ignorance definitely is not bliss. The following is a brief discussion of several state and local laws you should be aware of if you want to avoid legal difficulties while enjoying the festivities associated with the school year.

Disorderly Conduct—Chapter 38, Section 26-1 (a) (1) of the Illinois Revised Statutes states: “A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly: does any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace.” An excessively noisy social event that disturbs others can result in this charge. Disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor carrying a possible penalty of up to a $500 fine or up to 30 days in jail, or both.

Unlawful Use of a Drivers License or Permit—Chapter 95 1/2, Section 6-301, Ill.Rev.Stat., states: “It is a Class C misdemeanor for any person: (1) to display or cause or permit to be displayed or have in his/her possession any cancelled, revoked, suspended, fictitious or fraudulently altered license or permit; (2) to lend his/her license or permit to any other person or knowingly allow the issue thereof by another; (3) to display or represent as his/her own any license or permit issued to him.”

Besides the penalties possible for Class C offenses above, conviction also will result in the suspension or revocation of one’s drivers license. Even greater penalties can be imposed under the state Dramshop Act on persons convicted of selling or furnishing alcohol to minors or furnishing minors with a false or fraudulent ID. Such acts are designated as Class A misdemeanors and can result in a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of $1,000. A person who presents a false or fradulent ID for the purpose of obtaining alcohol commits a Class B misdemeanor.

Alcohol on the Public Way—Section 38.132 of the Municipal Code of the City of DeKalb states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to carry on any street, alley or other way (that is) publicly maintained, an open container of alcoholic beverage.” Upon conviction of this offense, one can be fined from $50 to $500. Under state law, possession of alcohol on a public way is regarded as a Class B misdemeanor, so penalties can be even more severe.

Cannabis Control Act—Chapter 56 1/2, Section 704 of the Illinois Revised Statutes states: “It is unlawful for any person to possess cannabis” (plants included). Note that if one has in his or her possession a cannabis plant which is observed through a window, etc., from a point where a police officer has the right to be, probable cause for arrest exists. Also, if a police authority happens upon a person in a park or other public place who is obviously in possession of marijuana, an arrest is likely.

The City of DeKalb Noise Control Ordinance prohibits noise which exceeds 65 decibels during daytime hours (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.) or which exceeds 60 decibels during nighttime hours (10 p.m to 7 a.m.). Exemptions exist for emergency operations, such as street repair; power equipment such as lawn mowers used in repairing or maintaining property; and community events such as parades or the DeKalb Corn Fest. Holders of liquor licenses issued by the city, including Class G licenses, would seem to be governed by different sound-level code provisions. If you want to determine your eligibility for an exemption under the ordinance, contact the City of DeKalb. The penalty for violation is a fine of $25 to $100.

Bicycles and Rules of the Road—Chapter 95 1/2 of the Illinois Revised Statutes imposes upon bicycle operators the same rules and regulations imposed upon motor vehicles. This means bicycle riders must stop at stop signs, yield when appropriate and so on. The fines imposed for a conviction are comparable to those involving an automobile. By DeKalb ordinance, no bicycle may be ridden on city streets or public pathways unless the bicycle has been registered with the DeKalb City Police Department. (NIU Police will also register bicycles.) There is no charge for registration. Also note that to operate a motorcycle, a special drivers license must be obtained; in effect, the license issued to drive an automobile does not cover a motorcylce.