Cook County will stop prosecuting some traffic offenses

From the Chicago Tribune:

Citing a lack of personnel, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office plans to stop prosecuting certain traffic offenses, a top county official said.

Under a policy expected to take effect later this year, the state’s attorney’s office will not prosecute people accused of driving on licenses that have been suspended or revoked for financial reasons — such as failure to pay child support, tolls or parking tickets.

Instead, individual cities will have the option to prosecute those violations.

“We are in a triage mode, and we can’t continue to do what we were doing 10 years ago with 30 percent less resources,” Eric Sussman, the first assistant state’s attorney, told the Tribune on Wednesday…

In the new policy on traffic cases, Cook County prosecutors will continue to handle cases in which a driver’s license was invalidated because of more serious crimes, such as DUI, fleeing a police officer and reckless homicide.

In addition, the new traffic policy raises the bar for felony charges against people who cause serious car crashes while their licenses were revoked for financial reasons.

Under current law, a driver’s license-related misdemeanor charge can be upgraded to a felony if the driver causes a serious car crash and has one prior conviction for driving on an invalidated license.

Under the new policy, the state’s attorney’s office would upgrade those charges only if the defendant has five or more convictions for driving on a revoked or suspended license, if the license was taken away for money-related reasons.

Off-duty Chicago police officer arrested in suburban Cook County

From ABC 7 news via WLS:

A Chicago Police officer was charged with driving under the influence after a May 12 incident in north suburban Northfield, police said.

Sean Lynch, 30, was also cited for excessive speeding and illegal transportation of alcohol. He is scheduled to appear in a Skokie court on June 16.

According to Northfield police, Lynch was stopped after he was observed speeding on northbound Interstate 94 at about 3:15 a.m. His Ford pickup was traveling 92 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone.

As police attempted to pull Lynch over, an officer observed Lynch’s truck speeding on an exit ramp and losing control of the vehicle, causing it to fishtail and then stop at Willow Road.

The Northfield police officer noted that he smelled a strong alcohol odor and that Lynch mumbled and slurred. The officer also saw an open can of Miller Lite beer on the front center console.

Lynch failed a field sobriety test and was arrested. After being charged, Lynch was released on $2,000 I-Bond.

Remembering Judge Raymond Myles

Myles

The entire Cook County legal community is shocked and saddened to learn about the murder of Judge Raymond Myles.

Judge Myles was a Cook County Judge for nearly 20 years.  He was assigned to the Criminal Division.  Over the years, I appeared before him many times, and tried two cases before him.  He was a very good trial judge, well versed in the law.  He was fair and impartial.  He was open-minded and did not pre-judge cases until he heard all of the evidence.  He was big-hearted and street smart.  In short, he was everything that you would want in a judge.

Just a few weeks ago it was reported that Judge Myles had been seriously injured a year a half ago, after a motor vehicle accident, when the other driver assaulted him, fracturing his nose among other injuries which required reconstructive surgery.

Police are still investigating the murder, and preliminary reports indicate that they believe that this was a robbery gone wrong, unrelated to the assault case or any other matter before him.

My condolences to his family.  He did so much for our community and will be missed tremendously.

“You have a right to an attorney” – but will you actually get to talk to one?

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County Chief Judge has issued an order requiring the Chicago Police Department to provide suspects with access to a lawyer upon arrest.  However, the mechanics of how this will work in reality were left murky.

Until this order, when a person is arrested, they are advised of their “Miranda rights” which includes the right to an attorney.  But this is a mere formality; the police will usually encourage the arrestee to “make it easy” on everyone by “explaining” what happened “so you can get out of here.”

Usually, when I get a call from someone that his or her relative has been arrested, it becomes a race for me to get to the station before the “explaining” starts.  If I call up the station to tell them not to question my client until I arrive, I will be told that the “detective is busy right now” and he or she will get back to me “when they get a chance” (i.e., after my client has confessed).

So I was gladdened to see the headlines about Chief Judge Evans Order requiring access to attorneys.  In my mind, I envisioned a public defender or two getting a space at each Chicago Police Station (like the State’s Attorney have) and getting the opportunity to interview and advise each arrestee.  Of course, I also imagined that this would not go over too well with the police, who have no interest in having lawyers interfering with their cases and preventing confessions.

But I am concerned about the lack of implementation in the Order (which I have not read).  According to the Tribune:

But the success of such an order may ultimately depend on the cooperation of Chicago police, who in the past, say legal aid officials, have been reluctant to grant suspects phone calls or give attorneys access to suspects while they’re being questioned.

A Chicago police spokesman said Tuesday the department has agreed to post signs with a phone number for “free legal services” in arrestee areas and outside interview rooms but did not comment on questions about granting phone calls to those in custody.

Posting signs is not much of an improvement.  They are almost certain to go unnoticed.  On the other hand, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli is quoted as saying, “I’m going to make it happen — this is way too important. This is groundbreaking,” she said. “I could have every lawyer do (a rotation) if I don’t get the funding.”  She is an aggressive advocate, and I am convinced she will work hard to provide representation.  But this will be a battle, because I expect that without an Order specifically stating what “access” entails, the PD’s office will face resistance from the CPD.

What do you think?

Lawyer who donned robes indicted, may still take bench as a real judge soon

Rhonda Crawford, the law clerk who was was running unopposed for judge this November and was allowed to put on a judge’s robes and hear traffic cases as part of an unofficial “training” has been indicted and charged with official misconduct, according to the Tribune.

She is still running in the election, although now she is opposed by write-in candidate Maryam Ahmad.  Assuming that Crawford wins election, she will be sworn in as a judge but will probably be put on administrative duty while this is pending.