Legislation would let police withhold arrest details for weeks

 
Updated 4/13/2018 8:45 AM
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  • The public has a right to know whom their police officers are arresting and for what, but they might have to wait weeks after an arrest to find that out, under a measure proposed by a downstate lawmaker.

    The public has a right to know whom their police officers are arresting and for what, but they might have to wait weeks after an arrest to find that out, under a measure proposed by a downstate lawmaker.

  • Eric Pence of Carol Stream

    Eric Pence of Carol Stream

Imagine a host of police cars and first responders swarming into your neighborhood one night. Not long after, you see someone being led away in handcuffs. Another person leaves in an ambulance.

You'd want to know who was arrested, what for, and whether you and your family are safe.

Under a change in state law proposed by a downstate legislator, getting that information could take weeks. And that concerns the ACLU, a prison watchdog group and media organizations across the state.

"It's who, what, where, why information about police exercising their authority," said Don Craven, a media law attorney representing the Illinois Broadcasters Association, an opponent of the measure. "It absolutely should be public record."

Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, a Republican from Jacksonville, is the sponsor of HB4230, which would amend the Local Records Act. Currently, police have to release arrest information, including names and a mug shot, within 72 hours of an arrest, unless doing so threatens an active investigation or public safety.

Davidsmeyer wants to change that to "as soon as practicable" after arraignment, the court proceeding in which a person accused of a crime enters a formal plea. That usually occurs weeks -- and, in extreme cases, months -- after an arrest.

He told us the legislation was inspired by the arrest of a college-aged woman after a domestic dispute. She ultimately wasn't charged, but news of the arrest was published, causing her to face ridicule on Facebook.

(Side note: Davidsmeyer wouldn't tell us her name, or the town or county where this took place, so we couldn't confirm the account.)

Davidsmeyer said he wants to make sure "innocent people are not put through the court of public opinion. ... She should never have been put through it."

At a committee hearing Thursday, Davidsmeyer said he is working with the Illinois Press Association and the broadcasters and that the bill "is going to look much different" when it comes up for a House vote.

Taking sides

Among those who signed on in Springfield to support Davidsmeyer's proposal are the DuPage County Mayors & Managers Conference and the Illinois Municipal League. Besides the broadcasters association, opponents include the ACLU of Illinois, the Illinois Press Association and the prison-reform group John Howard Association of Illinois.

The ACLU's Ed Yohnka said the proposal flies against the principle that people shouldn't be held in secret. He cited the Chicago Police Department's Homan Square facility, where according to a 2016 report by The Guardian newspaper, thousands of suspects were detained, sometimes for several days, while being denied phone calls to relatives or attorneys.

"We think it is important to have transparency in that process as soon as possible," Yohnka said.

Craven told us the current 72-hour rule was established about 15 years ago through a compromise between media outlets and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Full disclosure

Before deciding to write about the proposal, Susan also filed a witness slip of opposition to the measure. A witness slip is a way to address legislation being debated at a committee hearing. You can file as a proponent, an opponent or with no position.

Offer you can't refuse

Refusing to submit to a police breath test has its downsides, like a temporary loss of driving privileges. But for drunken drivers, especially repeat offenders, that's a small price to pay if it helps avoid a DUI conviction.

Authorities in McHenry County hope to change that starting Sunday, when they institute a new "No Refusal" policy for drivers they believe had a few too many before getting behind the wheel.

Nine police departments -- Algonquin, Cary, Huntley and Lake in the Hills among them -- are teaming with the McHenry County state's attorney's office to enact the policy.

Under their plan, when a suspected drunken driver refuses a breath test, police will work with prosecutors to seek a warrant for the driver's blood.

If the warrant is given, the suspect will be taken to a nearby emergency room, where blood will be drawn and tested.

"The days of drunk drivers refusing to blow thinking that they can beat a DUI charge are coming to an end," McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said in an announcement of the new policy. "This new policy means that we're going to ensure we have all the evidence we need to successfully prosecute drunk drivers every time."

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer is proposing a change in state law that would allow police to withhold information about arrests for weeks.
State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer is proposing a change in state law that would allow police to withhold information about arrests for weeks.
Award-winner

Congrats to Round Lake Park police officer Christopher Valle, who last week was awarded the inaugural "Above and Beyond Award" from the Round Lake Area Exchange Club.

Valle was nominated by Chief George Filenko for his unprecedented investigation, arrest and intervention in more than 16 child abuse cases over the past year.

"Officer Valle's dedication and compassion and relentless pursuit of justice for victims and families is representative of him is as an individual and police officer," Filenko said.

Round Lake Park police officer Christopher Valle earned the "Above and Beyond Award" from the Round Lake Area Exchange Club.
Round Lake Park police officer Christopher Valle earned the "Above and Beyond Award" from the Round Lake Area Exchange Club. - Courtesy of Round Lake Park Police
Unfriended

Reaching out to an old acquaintance with a Facebook message reading, "Hey. Long time no talk. How have you been?" doesn't normally qualify as disturbing or a breach of the peace. But when the sender is a registered sex offender and the recipient is his victim, that changes things.

That was the ruling a state appeals court handed down last week in the case of Eric Pence, a Carol Stream man convicted of felony disorderly conduct in 2015 for sending that message to the teenage girl he'd tried to arrange a sexual encounter with three years earlier when she was just 12.

In his appeal, Pence, 25, argued his "innocuous greeting" wasn't tantamount to disorderly conduct, legally defined as an act that alarms or disturbs another and provokes a breach of the peace. The appellate court disagreed, ruling that given Pence's past with the girl, his message was threatening.

Pence, who was sentenced to 30 days in jail for the message, more recently ran afoul of the law when charged last January with sending threatening emails to the offices of Gov. Bruce Rauner and DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba. He pleaded guilty to an intimidation charge in February and was sentenced to six months in jail and two years probation.

Drug drop-off

State police district headquarters in Elgin and Des Plaines are among those where you now can drop off unused or unwanted medications.

The Save a Star Drug Awareness Foundation of Highland Park has provided the receptacles.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications, including controlled substances, pet medications, drug samples, vitamins, liquids and creams, are accepted.

The Elgin HQ is at 777 S. State St. (Route 31); Des Plaines is at 9511 W. Harrison St.

Tax-time fraud

With the deadline for filing 2017 tax returns looming, the IRS is reminding people how not to get ripped off. One suggestion: Don't use a ghost tax preparer.

These are people you pay to prepare your returns but who refuse to sign them. Anybody who accepts money for helping you with your taxes has to be registered with the IRS and sign the returns.

The IRS says ghost preparers sometimes base their pay on the size of a client's refund. As such, they've been known to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or fake deductions.

There also have been cases in which ghost preparers direct refund money into their own bank accounts.

• Got a tip? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4483.

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