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Archive for the ‘Cook County Criminal Defense Lawyer’ Category

What is a Statute of Limitations?

April 7th, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, Illinois criminal law,When the news reports on crimes that happened a long time ago, they often say that a person cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. However most people do not not actually know what a statute of limitations is, why it exists, or when it applies. They can actually be quite complicated so if you find yourself charged with a crime that is alleged to have happened years ago, you will need the specific advice of a criminal defense attorney.

What is a Statute of Limitations and Why Does it Exist?

A statute of limitations is a statute that limits the time frame in which a certain cause of action can be brought. A cause of action could be something like a slip and fall lawsuit or a sexual harassment complaint, or it could be a criminal charge. Every state has different statutes of limitations and most states, including Illinois, have different statutes of limitations for different crimes. The purpose of these laws is two-fold. First of all, a statute of limitations prevents people from having to live in fear their entire lives of being sued or criminally charged for something that happened years or even decades earlier. Second, and most importantly, it protects everyone’s right to have a fair trial on the matter. Having a trial soon after an alleged wrong, when witnesses are still alive, available, and have clear memories, is vastly preferable when compared to the alternative. Charging a person with a crime decades after it was committed nearly guarantees that he or she will not be able to establish an alibi or find other witnesses even if he or she is absolutely innocent.

What is Illinois’ Criminal Statute of Limitations?

The criminal statute of limitations in Illinois depends upon the crime to be charged. If a person is charged with certain crimes that result in the death of another, concealment of homicidal death, treason, various types of arson, forgery, certain child pornography charges or certain sexual offenses, there is no statute of limitations. There are prolonged and complicated statutes of limitations that apply to many offenses that involve child victims, particularly offenses that are sexual in nature. Some crimes have their own specific statute of limitations. As a general rule though, if none of these circumstances apply, the statute of limitations usually mandates that felony prosecutions must be commenced within three years of the date the crime was committed, and misdemeanor prosecutions must be commenced within one year and six months.

One thing that is important to note is that while these are the current statutes of limitations, the laws on this matter change. In particular the laws have changed regarding the statute of limitation for certain sex offenses. So if a crime occurred decades ago and the statutory time limit ran out before the statute of limitations was changed to make it longer or non-existent, then a person may have a statute of limitations defense if a prosecutor were to try to charge the person for that crime now.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you are being investigated for a crime or have been arrested, you need help. You need an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today at (847)394-3200. We will fight for the best possible result in your situation.

Miranda Warning: You Have the Right to Remain Silent. You Should Use It.

April 2nd, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, your rightsAnyone who has watched television in the last 40 years has heard it: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed before any questioning.” Even though we have heard these rights over and over again, most people do not understand what they mean, as well as the importance of asserting these rights. When you are a suspect in a crime, regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent, using these rights may be the most important thing you do to protect yourself.

Where Do These Rights Come From?

Even though the exact words we hear on TV and that people hear again when they are interrogated by police are not found within it, they exist because of the United States Constitution. Specifically, it is the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that requires police to inform you of these rights before interrogating you. They have had to do this ever since the United States Supreme Court determined it is required in the case Miranda v. Arizona. This is why the rights are often called your “Miranda Rights.” The Fifth Amendment is the one that, among other things, protects you from being required to be a witness against yourself. In Miranda, the United States Supreme Court decided that it is extremely important for people being interrogated by the police to understand that they do not have to answer questions and that they have the right to an attorney.

The Miranda Warnings Leave Out an Extremely Important Part

Remember the part of the warnings where the officers say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”? What they do not tell you is an equally important and true piece of information: Anything you say cannot and will not be used to help you in a court of law. Countless criminal suspects, both innocent and guilty, waive their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney and talk to police thinking that what they say will help them. But in most cases, it will not. This is because of a rule against “self-serving hearsay.” When you find yourself at trial months or years after your interrogation, you cannot introduce your early denials into evidence to help your case. The law does not allow it. It only allows the prosecution to introduce your statements against you, not the other way around. Also, what many people do not realize is that police do not make charging decisions; prosecutors do. And prosecutors are trying to prosecute you, not look out for your best interests. That is why it is extremely important for you to assert your rights so that you can have an attorney in the room who is on your side.

A Note about Extreme Police Misconduct

Unfortunately there are some police officers who do not play by the rules. In the Chicago area we have even historically had some police who have subjected suspects to torture to force them to confess to crimes. Obviously any person can only withstand so much, and if this sort of thing should ever happen to you then you can only do your best. In these cases it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as you can in order to take steps to obtain any evidence that remains of what happened to you.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When police try to interrogate you, they often take many steps to dissuade you from exercising your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning. Do not let them get away with it. Call an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney like Christopher M. Cosley who can protect your rights. The phone number for the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley is (847)394-3200.

How Do You Fight for Your Fourth Amendment Rights in Court?

March 25th, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, your rights,Some people charged with crimes are innocent. Other people charged with crimes are guilty. Both deserve a passionate and skilled defense. But in some cases, the court should never even get to the issue of guilt because a more serious issue arises. There are cases where the government violates the United States Constitution, the foundation of our entire justice system. In those cases, more than any other, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. One of the most common parts of the United States Constitution violated by the government is the Fourth Amendment.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Say?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects your right not be be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. This includes searches of your person, searches of your home, and searches of your stuff. This is the part of the constitution that requires police to get a warrant in order to perform a search unless either (1) you consent to a search or (2) certain exceptions to the warrant requirement are met. Unfortunately, the list of exceptions to the warrant requirement keeps growing and growing, chipping away at our constitutional rights, and each one of them is complicated enough to warrant its own article or articles. But, on a basic level, the Fourth Amendment is the part of the constitution that says the police cannot search you, your home, or your property just because they feel like it. The amendment also prevents unreasonable seizures, or takings, both of you and of your property.

How Can I Assert My Fourth Amendment Rights?

The most important way you can assert your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is to speak up. When a police officer asks you permission to take a look around, you can say no. When an officer asks you to sign a permission to search form, you can say no. Now, in some circumstances this is not possible. If police do not ask for permission, you do not have a chance to say no, and putting up a physical resistance will undoubtedly end up in criminal charges, so do not do that. And if they have a warrant, you absolutely have to let them search. But when a police officer gives you the option to say no, you can use it. They may threaten that going and getting a warrant will make things more difficult for you, but they may very well be bluffing because they may not have grounds for a warrant, which is why they are asking for permission in the first place.

Once My Fourth Amendment Rights Have Been Violated, How Does that Affect a Criminal Charge?

Of course, usually you do not get a chance to say no. The police conduct the unlawful search or seizure and you are left wondering what you can do about it. A constitutional violation like this does not lead to your case automatically being dismissed. Instead it can give you the opportunity to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search. This is allowed under the exclusionary rule. Under this rule, evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure is inadmissible in court. This means it cannot be used against you. In some cases, like many drug possession cases, this may result in all or almost all of the government’s evidence against you being thrown out.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you are charged with a crime, you need an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney who is ready to fight for your constitutional rights. You should call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley. Christopher Cosley has the experience, knowledge, and passion to fight for you. Our phone number is (847)394-3200.

Retail Theft Carries Real Consequences

February 11th, 2015 at 8:04 am

shoplift, Illinois defense lawyer, Cook County criminal attorney,Many people think of shoplifting or retail theft as a relatively minor crime. In Illinois that is absolutely not the case. Shoplifting in Illinois will lead you in serious need of an experienced criminal defense attorney. In order to avoid finding yourself in that position, you should understand exactly what retail theft is and how it is punished in our state.

What is Retail Theft?

Generally speaking, what most of us call shoplifting is a type of retail theft. Illinois statute defines retail theft as  one of the following actions:

  • Takes merchandise with the intent of keeping it or depriving the merchant of it permanently without paying for the merchandise;
  • Alters or removes a price tag or similar marking in an attempt to pay less for a piece of merchandise;
  • Transfers merchandise from one container to another in an attempt to deprive the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise;
  • Under-rings merchandise with the intent to deny the merchant of the full retail value;
  • Steals shopping carts;
  • Knowingly lies to a merchant claiming that the person owns property so he or she can sell the property to a merchant;
  • Uses or possesses theft detection shielding devices or theft detection device removers; or
  • Keeps property that should have been returned by a lessee.

There is also an additional related crime called “theft by emergency exit” that involves using an emergency exit to commit retail theft.

What is the Punishment for Retail Theft?

Usually, for a first offense where the value of the property does not exceed $300 (or $150 if the property is motor fuel) the crime will be considered a Class A Misdemeanor. A second offense can be a Class 4 felony. The prior offense in these cases can be for a wide variety of stealing-related offenses. If the value of the property is greater than $300 then it is a Class 3 felony. Violations relating to the theft detection shielding devices or theft detection device removers are Class A misdemeanors for a first offense, but upon a second offense they can be a Class 4 felony. Theft by emergency exit is a Class 4 felony if the value of the property does not exceed $300. If the value of property is greater than $300 it becomes a Class 2 felony.

Each of these classes of crime is given a range of punishment under the Unified Code of Corrections. The misdemeanor sentences are less than one year in jail. The felonies can carry hefty prison terms, however. Class 4 felonies carry a term of one to three years in prison. Class 3 felonies carry a range of two to five years. The Class 2 felonies carry a range of three to seven years.

Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with retail theft or any other type of criminal offense, you will need an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer. You should call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley. When you call us at (847)394-3200 we can schedule an appointment to go over the facts of your case and figure out how we can best be of help.

Supervised Release in Illinois

February 3rd, 2015 at 8:53 pm

Illinois defense attorney, sentencing guidelines, Illinois criminal lawyer,Most people who have not had dealings with the criminal justice system base their knowledge of that system on what they see on television. Unfortunately, television depictions of criminal law are not always accurate, and even when they are, they cannot possibly represent the criminal law of every state because every state has different laws. One example of this issue has to do with parole. People assume because of television that when someone is released from prison, he or she is released on parole. However, in Illinois, that is not the case. Illinois eliminated parole (except for those people who were sentenced long enough ago that parole was a possibility when they were sentenced) and replaced it with supervised release, a different system entirely.

Who is Subject to Supervised Release?

Illinois statute requires a program known as mandatory supervised release. The statute says that whenever someone is sentenced to prison and that sentence is not one of natural life, “every sentence includes a term in addition to the term of imprisonment.” If a person was sentenced under the law in effect before February 1, 1978, then that term is one of parole, just like is seen on TV. If the person was sentenced under the laws in effect after that date, the term is one of “mandatory supervised release.”

What is the Difference Between Parole and Supervised Release?

Under parole systems, which many states still have, the person is released before he or she serves every day of his or her sentence. The person has specific parole rules he or she has to live by, and if he or she violates one of those rules he or she might go back to prison to finish serving out the sentence. If the person does not break the rules then he or she remains on parole until his or her sentence has expired, and then he or she is let free. Under a supervised release system, the person serves his or her sentence in prison, and after it is served there is an additional term of supervised release on top of that sentence. The supervised release term is usually two or three years. It is usually served out of custody under supervision, but some offenders actually wind up serving it in prison either by their own choice or because they are unable to find an approved home plan.

Federal Court Cracks Down on Supervised Release Conditions

Under parole systems, there are a host of conditions that can be placed on a parolee’s release. However, conditions are different under a supervised release system. There are limits on what sorts of conditions courts can impose. The Chicago Sun Times recently reported that a U.S. Appeals Court overturned four sentences because of the supervised release conditions judges had imposed. These conditions included:

  • A ban on “excessive drinking” that did not define “excessive”;
  • A lifetime ban on a person being around children under age 18, including his own children, without a probation officer’s approval; and
  • An order to get a GED or go back to prison, even if the inmate lacks the intellectual capacity to pass the GED test.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you are convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison in Illinois, supervised release is mandatory. Before you plead guilty or go to trial in any case where this is a possibility, you need to seek the advice of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley at (847)394-3200. We will schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

I Wasn’t The Shooter” is Not a Defense: Principles of Criminal Liability

January 23rd, 2015 at 10:59 am

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, conspiracy to commit a crime, While every criminal case is different, some situations happen over and over again. One thing we see all too often is the situation where a person tries to get him or herself out of trouble by telling the police that he or she was at the scene of the crime but was not the primary culprit, thinking this partially absolves them of criminal liability. It is totally reasonable that people would think this would decrease the amount of trouble they are in — after all, the lookout at the bank robbery doesn’t seem like she is nearly as bad as the co-defendant who shot the bank guard. Unfortunately, while that may make sense, it is not the law. Instead, that lookout will be in just as much trouble as the person who shot the guard.

Accountability for the Conduct of Another

This situation presents an issue of accountability. Under Illinois statute, a person is accountable for another person’s actions under various circumstances. The part of the statute that comes up most often, however, says:

When two or more persons engage in a common criminal design or agreement, any acts in the furtherance of that common design committed by one party are considered to be the acts of all parties to the common design or agreement and all are equally responsible for the consequences of those further acts.

What this means is that when two people agree to go commit a crime, each of them becomes completely criminally responsible for everything the other one does in the furtherance of that crime. For example, imagine two cousins who decide to break into a house to steal some marijuana. Someone sees them and calls the police. One of the cousins gets into a high-speed chase with the police and winds up almost hitting an officer. That other cousin, who never intended to do anything other than steal and smoke some pot, is now on the hook for attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

Mere Presence at the Scene Is Not Enough, but It Is Still a Bad Idea

The statute also says that mere presence at the scene of a crime in and of itself does not make one accountable for that offense. But, being at the scene can be considered with other circumstances in order to determine whether one should be held accountable. One common theory of accountability for those at the scene is the theory that they are a part of a “show of force.” Prosecutors argue that the person at the scene was helping the primary actor commit a crime by adding to his or her intimidation factor by being present. And unfortunately, sometimes this argument works.

The Special Case of Felony Murder

Another related common misconception is that in order to be guilty of first-degree murder, one has to have premeditated a killing. That may be the case in some states, but it is not the case in Illinois. In Illinois the murder statute says it is first-degree murder when one person kills another person while attempting or committing a forcible felony. This, combined with the accountability laws, means that in our bank robbery example the lookout can be convicted of first-degree murder even though she was not even in the bank where the killing occurred.

Call a Rolling Meadows Criminal Defense Attorney

Being charged with a crime can be scary, stressful, and confusing. It can be even more confusing if you are charged as having “acted with” someone else to commit a crime. If this happens to you, you will need the help of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley at (847)394-3200.

Burglary: It Is Not Just Breaking and Entering

January 21st, 2015 at 10:41 am

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal law statutes, Illinois criminal lawyer,Thanks to police procedural shows and courtroom dramas, the public has a lot of ideas about what the law is and what it is not. Unfortunately, since every state has different laws and television writers are not bound to accurately represent any of them, sometimes these ideas about the law can be mistaken. This can be particularly problematic when it comes to criminal law. One example of a crime that is often misconstrued is burglary.

So What is Burglary?

Most people think of burglary as breaking into a house or business to steal something. And this is, in fact, correct: that would be a burglary. But in Illinois, the crime of burglary includes much more than those two possibilities. Like all state crimes in Illinois, burglary is defined by statute. According to the state statute:

A person commits burglary when without authority he or she knowingly enters or without authority remains within a building, housetrailer, watercraft, aircraft, motor vehicle, railroad car, or any part thereof, with intent to commit therein a felony or a theft.

This means two things. First of all, burglary is not just about breaking into buildings. In Illinois one can commit burglary in planes, trains, automobiles, and a whole host of other areas. The other important thing that most people do not realize is that burglary does not have to be about stealing something. While intent to commit a theft is sufficient to make the crime a burglary, it is not the only way. An intent to commit a felony while one is unlawfully in one of the covered areas is also sufficient to make the crime a burglary. What, then, is a felony? A different Illinois statute defines a felony as “an offense for which a sentence to death or to a term of imprisonment in a penitentiary for one year or more is provided.” Thus, an intent to commit a serious crime is enough. For example, breaking into someone’s airplane to commit an aggravated battery would count as a burglary. It is important to note, however, that if the underlying crime is theft, the theft does not have to be a felony theft. Any sort of theft is enough to constitute a burglary.

Residential Burglary

There is a crime in Illinois called “residential burglary” that is closer to what people may commonly think of as burglary. This crime requires the unlawful entry into or remaining in the dwelling place of another in order to commit the theft or felony. One type of residential burglary occurs when a person falsely represents him or herself to be a government representative or utility worker to gain access to someone’s dwelling in order to commit a theft or a felony.

Call us Today

If you or a loved one is charged with burglary, or any other criminal offense, you will need the assistance of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. That is why you should call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley. Our phone number is (847)394-3200

Right to Bear Arms: Illinois Rules Age Restriction on Gun Possession Does Not Violate the Second Amendment

January 16th, 2015 at 7:31 am

Illinois defense attorney, violent crime, Illinois criminal lawyer, gun lawsGun crimes are one of the most contentious types of crimes there are in our society. On one hand gun, violence kills far too many members of our society, particularly young people. On the other hand, our constitution give us the right to bear arms. Issues of gun control seem to come up on both the state and federal level each year. Now the Illinois court of appeals has issued an important decision that seems to prioritize the need for gun control over the constitutional right to possess a gun.

Illinois Court Rules Against 18-Year Old’s Right to Bear Arms

The Illinois Court of Appeals recently addressed whether an 18-year-old has a right to bear arms that is protected by the Second Amendment. The case is called People v. Fields. The State charged Demonte Fields with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW). Ultimately the trial court convicted Fields after a bench trial and sentenced him to probation. Fields appealed, arguing that his conviction should be vacated because the statute prohibiting the possession of a handgun while under 21 years of age is unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals did not agree, and it upheld his conviction.

Fields was charged with AUUW because he was alleged to have, while not on his own land or in his own abode or fixed place of business, knowingly carried a firearm while he was under 21 years of age. In a previous case, People v. Aguilar, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Illinois’ flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside of the home was unconstitutional on its face because it violated the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Fields used this case to argue that the statute under which is was convicted is also unconstitutional. He claimed that as an 18-year-old at the time of the offense, he is a member of the community and guaranteed rights under the second amendment.

Court Compares 18-Year Olds to Felons and the Mentally Ill

The Court disagreed with Fields. In its opinion it explained that the courts have long said that the right to bear arms is subject to long-standing categorical prohibitions like prohibitions on the rights of felons and the mentally ill when it comes to possessing guns. It then wrote, “[D]efendant contends 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old adults are part of the virtuous citizenry and cannot be categorically disarmed like convicted felons, children, or the mentally ill. We disagree.” It went on to explain that the 21-year age limit is historically supported. It determined that people between ages 18 and 20 are less responsible and mature than other adults and that protecting the public and police officers by denying this group firearms protects a substantial or important government interest. It also decided that 18 to 20-year-olds can be discriminated against when it comes to Second Amendment rights because of the age group’s alleged high risk of being involved in gang activity. As a result, these non-felon, non-mentally ill adults can be convicted of a serious crime if they possess a gun in public in Illinois. It remains to be seen whether the Illinois Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court will address this ruling.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love is accused of a crime, you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the dedicated Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and schedule a consultation. Whether its a traffic matter or a serious felony, we can help.

Solicitation and a Sting in the Suburbs

January 14th, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, prostitution, When we think of undercover police work we often think of narcotics cases. Police go undercover to buy or sell drugs and catch people who do the same. But this is certainly not the only area where police work under cover. Sex crimes like prostitution and solicitation also provide undercover work for police and lead to arrests in the suburban area. If you have been arrested for a sex crime in the Rolling Meadows area, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney immediately.

A Sting in the Suburbs

The Chicago Sun Times reports that 14 men were recently arrested after meeting police officers in an undercover solicitation sting in the west suburbs. Undercover police officers placed ads for prostitution services on an adult classifieds website called Backpage.com. The men then allegedly went to a hotel to meet with the advertised prostitutes only to instead find undercover cops. In 2014, more than 130 men were arrested by Cook County Sheriff’s officers using this Backpage sting method. The unit has arrested around 700 people using this method since 2009. The men caught in this sting were charged with a violating a local Cook County public morals nuisance ordinance.

Solicitation Laws in Illinois

The public morals ordinance applied to these men has been around for a few years. It decriminalized being a john in a sense, in that it removed jail time from the picture. However, being punished under this ordinance can result in substantial fines, community service, and even the impounding of vehicles. These fines may be substantially greater than the punishments that were actually doled out back when these cases were prosecuted in criminal court. The upside, though, aside from no risk of jail time, is that prosecution under this ordinance does not result in an actual criminal conviction. This ordinance only applies in certain parts of Cook County.

State criminal law also addresses solicitation of a prostitute. The crime is called “solicitation of a sexual act.” Under the law, any person who offers someone money or anything of value to perform any act of sexual penetration or touching or fondling of the sex organs commits solicitation of a sexual act. This is a Class A misdemeanor normally, but if the prostitute is a minor or is severely or profoundly intellectually disabled it becomes a felony. Class A misdemeanors can be punished by up to a year in jail. The fine can be anything up to $2,500 per count.

Criminal Defense Attorney

When you or someone you love is charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the dedicated Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and we will schedule a free consultation.

Chicago Police May Soon Be Wearing Body Cameras

December 19th, 2014 at 7:20 am

surveillance, Illinois defense attorney, constitutional rights, Cook County criminal defense attorney,In the wake of public outrage over the police killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri, some, including President Obama, have called for the use of body cameras by police. The hope is that requiring officers to use these cameras may prevent or provide proof of the behavior of bad officers while protecting those who do their jobs correctly. These cameras may also be extremely useful in criminal defense cases as they could provide an actual record of what happened or was said rather than jurors being forced to guess at which witness is more credible. It appears that Chicago police officers may be amongst the first to use these cameras, perhaps within the next couple of months.

Chicago Police Could Wear Body Cameras Within Two Months

Chicago’s ABC7 reports that Chicago police could be wearing body cameras within two months, according to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. This comes after some police in Elgin have been testing the cameras for a year. The details of the Chicago program are not yet finalized. However, McCarthy told reporters that a number of officers have volunteered to use the cameras and that some sort of program should be up and running within 60 days.

Cameras and Conversations

While the use of cameras may seem like the obvious step forward to protect citizens from bad cops and to protect good cops from unfair complaints, not everyone supports their use. The Chicago Tribune reported on the discussion of body camera usage back in September. In that report the president of the union that represents Chicago police officers said that while he sees advantages of the body cameras, he has concerns that officers’ private conversations should not be recorded because their moments of dark humor could be misconstrued. While it is reasonable that a police officer, like anyone who sees horrific things in their line of work, may develop a harmless dark sense of humor, recording these conversations may be very important to detect officers who go beyond humor and slide into racist statements or other concerning behavior. Recording these conversations could tip off superiors that a problem is brewing so it can be addressed before it escalates into the use of excessive force or worse.

Destruction of Footage Should Not Be Allowed

The Tribune report also indicates that some are proposing that the body camera footage should be destroyed after three months unless there is a citizen complaint about the officer’s conduct or there is a criminal investigation into his or her conduct on that day. Destroying these recordings would be a huge mistake. First of all, the routine destruction of this footage would prevent investigators from examining an officer’s pattern of behavior if a complaint is filed against him or her in the future.

Second, destruction of these tapes would, in some cases, be the destruction of evidence in criminal cases. Since the statute of limitations for any crime is much longer than three months, a prosecutor who is slow in charging a defendant might not charge him or her until after the vital evidence on that tape has been destroyed. This regularly happens in some states, like Missouri, with dashboard camera footage in drunk driving cases.

Finally, routinely destroying this footage may lead to the accidental destruction of footage that is not supposed to be destroyed, which also has been known to happen with dashboard camera footage. While it’s true that storing this footage will take up electronic storage space, we are no longer in the days of VHS tape. Storing data is easier now than it has ever been. While destruction may be necessary at some point, it needs to strictly regulated and footage relevant to criminal investigations must be kept at least until the statute of limitations expires or all appeals in a criminal case are exhausted.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime, it is important that you obtain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you protect your rights. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley and schedule a consultation today.

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