Archive for March, 2009

No Police Reports for Clients

If a person hires me to represent him in a felony case, I can’t give him a copy of his police report.  This is due to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 415(c).  This rule provides that “materials furnished to an attorney pursuant to these [discovery] rules shall remain in his exclusive custody . . . .”  The Committee Comment on the rule states that discovery material received by a lawyer is not to leave the lawyer’s office:

While he will undoubtedly have to show it to, or at least discuss it with, others, he is not permitted to furnish them with copies or let them take it from his office.

What is the purpose behind the rule?  The Committee Comment says that the rule helps to prevent “public availability” of discovery material.  If discovery material were to become publicly available, says the committee, then there would be “prejudice” to the  “administration of criminal justice.”  In other words, the committee decided to hide behind fancy-sounding words rather than clearly tell us the purpose of the rule.  I guess it was too hard for the committee to say the purpose of the rule is to prevent bad people from doing bad things to potential witnesses after getting police reports (and other documents).

I would like to give my clients copies of their police reports.  In order to give the best defense possible, I need the help of my clients.  I can read and analyze reports until I am blue in the face, but when I read police reports, I don’t bring the same background that my clients do.  (For example, clients may be eye witnesses to events,  may know witnesses well, may know incident scenes well,  etc.)  My clients, of course, can come to my office and read their reports, but it would be better if they could take the reports home.  At home, they can take the time to read their reports multiple times and slowly digest the information in the reports.  Under the current rule, they have to make an appointment with me each time they want to come and review the material.  In short, the rule impedes the preparation of the best defense possible.

There are some lawyers that ignore SCR 415(c); they freely give copies of police reports to their clients.  I am not one of these lawyers; I will whine about the rule, but I will not ignore it.  If a person wants a lawyer who plays fast and loose with the rules, that person should not contact me; I cannot help him.

On a final note, as much as I dislike SCR 415(c), I am certainly glad that I, the attorney, get police reports.  It is my understanding that my brothers and sisters in some other jurisdictions do without them to a large extent.

Jeremy Richey

Online Case Info Q&A

Have you ever looked up a case on judici.com, or some other site containing online case information, and wondered what the different words and acronyms  meant? (For example, what do the acronyms  “SA” and “PTR” mean?)  If so, this post is for you.  Post your questions in the comments section of this post and I will do my best to answer them.  Please be advised, however, that all comments on this site are moderated, so there will be a delay between the time you submit your comments and the time they appear on this site.

Jeremy Richey

Related Posts:

Update:

Since the comments on this post are now closed, please e-mail your questions to me at jr -at- jeremyrichey.com.  Please reference this blog post in your e-mail.

Hey Judge, Slow Down

Judges like to resolve cases; sometimes they push them through the system too fast.  One thing that I have learned in my short life is that sometimes slower is faster.  In a recent Illinois Appellate Court decision, People v. Adams (.pdf), we learn about a trial judge that pushed a case through the system too fast and was then slapped with some of the scariest words a trial judge can receive: reversed and remanded.

In Adams, the trial judge would not appoint a public defender to a defendant because the defendant owned a Camaro possibly worth $6,000.  The judge wanted the defendant to sell the car and use the money to hire a lawyer.  By the time the defendant requested a public defender, his case had been continued a number of times for different reasons.   The defendant’s jury trial began twelve days after the judge denied his request for appointed counsel.  The defendant represented himself at trial and lost.  He received a prison sentence of eight years.

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded the case because the trial judge, after receiving the defendant’s request for appointed counsel,  neither properly evaluated the defendant’s financial situation nor gave the defendant enough time to sell his Camaro.  Regarding the latter point, the Court stated that the defendant should have been given a reasonable amount of time to sell the Camaro and  “twelve days was not a reasonable amount of time.”

Jeremy Richey

Can My Wife Testify Against Me?

Question: I have been charged with domestic battery.  My wife is the victim.  Can my wife testify against me?

Answer: Yes.

In Illinois, in any type of criminal case, a defendant’s spouse can generally testify about the things the spouse sees the defendant do.  The issue becomes trickier if the issue deals with something that the defendant communicated to his or her spouse.  Statements from one spouse to the other are privileged in many instances, but those statements will not be privileged where the defendant is charged with an offense against his or her spouse’s person (e.g., domestic battery with the spouse as the victim).

The applicable statute is 725 ILCS 5/115-16 (emphasis added):

In criminal cases, husband and wife may testify for or against each other.  Neither, however, may testify as to any communication or admission made by either of them to the other or as to any conversation between them during marriage, except in cases in which either is charged with an offense against the person or property of the other . . . .

Jeremy Richey

Patience Please

Many criminal defendants get frustrated when their cases are not resolved quickly.   I understand their frustrations, but they need to be patient.

The criminal-legal system is slow.  Prosecutors and defense lawyers need time to exchange information, explore potential plea agreements, investigate cases, conduct legal research, draft motions, argue motions, etc.  A case filed today may be tried to a jury a year from now.

The impatient defendant also needs to keep in mind that his file is not the only one in his lawyer’s cabinet.  There are only so many work hours in a week and all those hours can’t be dedicated to a single case.

Jeremy Richey


BROUGHT TO YOU BY:
Jeremy J. Richey, Attorney at Law
© Jeremy J. Richey and The East Central Illinois Criminal Law & DUI Weblog, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.