Cook County to start texting court date reminders to defendants

In an excellent decision to take advantage of modern technology, starting in December, Cook County will phone or text criminal defendants to remind them of their upcoming court dates.

This is good for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the vast majority of missed court dates are because the defendant forgot their court date.  I used to have a lot of clients miss court dates until I began a practice of texting, emailing or calling clients the day prior to court as a reminder.

The other reason is because it is not unusual for court dates to get confused for one reason or another.  For example, recently I had one case where the judge wrote 8/3/17 as the new court date on the court file instead of the actual continuance date which was supposed to have been 8/30/17.  This would have resulted in a warrant for my client but for the client being told about his “upcoming” court date by pre-trial services.

Ultimately, this program should reduce costs, because there will be less court dates, less warrants, less need to go out and arrest fugitives, and less housing costs while the arrestees sit in Cook County Jail.

You can read more about this in a DNAinfo story, linked here.

Cook County Jurors: Buy your own breakfast and snacks!

While at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street this week, I saw a memo from Chief Judge Timothy Evans that was left “in plain view” as the police like to say.

It said that due to budget cuts, Cook County jurors would no longer get breakfast and snacks for the rest of the year.  Even with the reinstatement of the “soda tax.”  It also said that it was expected that this cutback would likely become permanent in all future budgets.

So, to all you Cook County jurors out there:  if you want a cup of coffee and a croissant in the morning, you’d better stop off somewhere else because you aren’t getting it at court.

As new Cook County bail order goes into effect, Central Bond Court gets revamped

Earlier this summer, Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued General Order 18.8A, which went into effect today for felony cases (it won’t go into effect in misdemeanor cases until January 1, 2018).

The key change is that unless a defendant poses “a  real and present threat” to persons or is unlikely to appear in court, the “presumption [is] that any conditions of release imposed shall be non-monetary in nature, and the court shall impose the least restrictive conditions or combination of conditions necessary to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant for further court proceedings.”

In order to implement these changes, Judge Evans has swapped out the entire roster of judges who handled Central Bond Court.  He also changed the name — now it will be called the “Pre-Trial Division.”  The new Division will be headed by long-time Felony Judge John Kirby, and assigned to the division will be Sophia Atcherson, Michael R. Clancy, John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., Mary C. Marubio, Stephanie K. Miller and David R. Navarro.

Here is a link to a story about this change in today’s Chicago Sun-Times.

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.