Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Judge throws out DUI evidence against Chicago cop in fatal crash :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Every day, seasoned criminal and DUI defense lawyers in Illinois rail against weak investigations that result in DUI arrests. In particular, Chicago police officers are poorly trained for DUI enforcement, minimally document their investigations (most DUI reports written by Chicago Police officers contain only a single paragraph or two recording the entirety of their observations), and are rarely held to a high standard. This creates a two-edged sword, which can clearly be seen in recent decision of a Cook County, Illinois Judge which will result in dismissal of DUI and Reckless homicide charges against Chicago police officer John Ardelean.

Judge throws out DUI evidence against Chicago cop in fatal crash :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Two young men were killed in a crash involving Mr. Ardelean, and the anguish of the parents of these boys could have been averted. If officers had investigated with proper procedure, careful testing according to standardized and established practices, they could have either eliminated the suspicion that Mr. Ardelean was under the influence of alcohol then and there, or have built a well-founded case for DUI against him that would withstand the careful scrutiny of the Judge.

The blame for this case falling apart does not lie at the feet of the Judge. Judge Gainer simply did his job, examined the facts presented and weighed those facts in light of legal standards that form the backbone of our system of criminal justice. The blame does not fall at the feet of Mr. Ardelean's defense attorney, who again, simply raised and pursued a valid challenge that any carefully investigated matter ought to withstand if cool professionalism rules the minds and hearts of those who enforce our laws.

The blame clearly falls on the administration of the Chicago police, who despite repeated challenges in Court hearings, still have not installed video recording equipment in vehicles of officers assigned to DUI enforcement. Officers still regularly testify that they don't know about, or even have never heard of, the NHSTA's training manual on DUI Detection and Enforcement, despite the fact that it is part of the training all police officers receive for training in DUI enforcement. Chicago DUI officers still write one or two paragraph reports, as opposed to their suburban counterparts, who typically fill out multiple typewritten pages. This is a drag on our system resulting in bad arrests and resulting in dismissals of weak cases that could have been handled better.

The CPD could be far better, but it remains to be seen if the Chicago police department will react to this very public dismissal with a determination to raise their standards.