St. Charles Crime is Out of Control.

Make sure to lock the door, folks.  Things have gone nuts in St. Charles.  Just when you thought it was a safe, nice, place to raise a family, there’s a crime spree.  This “community alert” has been posted courtesy of our friends at the Kane County Chronicle:

  • Graffiti depicting male genitalia was reported Sunday, March 31, on fences in the 1300 block of Rita Avenue in St. Charles and on an electrical box at the Salvation Army, 1710 S. Seventh Ave., St. Charles. Total estimated damage was $300.

I sure hope the St. Charles Police Department has detectives working overtime on this one.  Look for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s press release and indictments soon.  Until then, be careful out there.



That dude from Moonshiners doesn’t listen (to me, anyway).

Moonshiners Arrest.JPEG-005ce

I try to be helpful here.  I really do. I know I probably fail.  It’s not for lack of trying, though.

A while back I wrote these riveting tips on what to do once you’ve been arrested.  It was ground breaking stuff.  Earth shattering, even.  I thought lives would be saved.  It felt good to help.

You ever seen that show Moonshiners?  It’s about the brightest in American small businessmen trying to eek out a living in this brutal world.  It’s entertaining.  If you’ve ever seen it, you know some of those guys could use any help they can get.

It appears that one of the “best” of those bright, small businessmen just got arrested.  As you know, I’m not one to hold an arrest against somebody.  I am one to hold mistakes a man makes after arrest against him, though.

So, re-read those tips about what to do once you’ve been arrested.  Then, read this article on the Moonshiner guy who got arrested.  Then look at his mug shot.  Does he look like a guy who was illegally drinking in the Quickie Mart parking lot?   Maybe just a little bit.  What conclusion can we draw from all of this?

Clearly the guy can’t read.


Kane County and the red light cameras.

I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything here about red light cameras.  I probably don’t have to tell you what I think about them, though.  I don’t like them.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  There was an article in the Daily Herald this weekend regarding what may soon become the last of the Kane County’s red light cameras.  We can only hope, anyway.

According to the article,

…Kane County implemented a change in the law in the fall of 2010 that capped the life span of any red-light camera on the county highway system at three years.

Only two cameras have not run up against against the 3 year cap so far- both are in Geneva (and, coincidentally, just south of the courthouse on Randall Road).  The interesting part of the article isn’t necessarily that the permits for the cameras could only span three years.  It’s the idea that you can re-apply to put cameras in (or put them up elsewhere), and there’s been “a lot less interest” in doing so.

So, why do I hate these things?  Why do other people hate them?  Why aren’t cities and villages as interested in putting them up as they were 4 or 5 years ago?

I hate them for what they represent.  There is nothing anywhere, ever that represents the grotesque metamorphosis of the traffic code going from being genuinely safety motivated to being financially motivated.  I’m a big believer that when there’s financial incentive for the government in criminal courts, things get messed up.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once forced to pay one of these violations after a guy who looked a lot like me, driving a car that looked a lot like mine, displaying a license plate exactly like mine failed (barely) to come to a complete stop on Route 64 just east of St. Charles.  I can tell you that the fines really aren’t that bad.  The whole system for these tickets is a little too slick, though.

Think about it- the city puts one in.  There is no officer on the street that has to patrol.  There is no time wasted by cops writing tickets or filling out red-light violation paperwork.   No cop has to waste his time actually seeing you roll over that line at 1 mph before making that right turn. If you’ve ever gotten one of these things, you know the ticket shows up in the mail from a seemingly private company, and your local cops didn’t even see the ticket.

There’s also no judge who will listen to your plea, or any added cost (to the government, of course) to make sure your pesky rights aren’t violated.  There’s not even a county clerk that has to “waste” her time taking your payment– you pay through the web site set up by that private company!  Just a piece of mail getting sent to you, and a check of yours getting sent back.

There are, no doubt, people out there that will argue that the cameras may make an intersection safer. And, if one person is saved, they’re worth it.  Whether or not they have any effect on traffic at a given intersection is hugely debatable, however.  Not to mention that if we’re willing to justify any intrusion on the basis that just one life may be saved… well, we could eliminate all traffic deaths by outlawing cars.

At least on this one the tide of public opinion (based on the fact that the cameras are disappearing) seems to jive with my opinion.  For once.

The police didn’t read me my Miranda rights! Can I have my case dismissed?

Just read me my rights, or drop my case.

T.V. is usually the best way to “learn” everything you need to know about the law.  Before law school, I used the T.V. for my legal knowledge, too.  I think that’s why everybody has a favorite legal show.  Mine was always Miami Vice.   Don’t deny that you have a favorite.  Law & Order, Dog the Bounty Hunter,  Matlock, L.A. Law… whatever.  Everybody has one.

Matt Haiduk is "Mattlock"
I put the “Matt” in “Matlock”.

Thankfully those shows are completely accurate on the law.  If they weren’t, a whole bunch of people might have the wrong idea.  By a “whole bunch” I mean all of us who watch the law shows.  No need to go to law school when you pick up everything you need from an episode of Ally McBeal, right?

One area the legal T.V. shows must not cover is what they call “Miranda” warnings. Too many people seem confused about them.  If you’re not sure what Miranda warnings are, they’re the “rights” people presume the police will read when arresting somebody.  I say “presume” because people are always saying that “the police never read me my rights,” as though the police are required to do so.  The fact that a huge number of people believe this presumption is what leads me to believe  Night Court didn’t adequately teach us about Miranda.  Let’s clear up the issue Night Court was too soft to tackle, shall we?

The first thing you need to know is that your case is not going to be dismissed because the police didn’t read you your rights.  What will happen (what the law calls “your remedy”) is that certain statements might not be allowed to come in at trial.  See, if you said things to the police that they’re trying to use against you, that’s usually called a “confession.”  And if “confessing” to a crime meant the charges would be dropped… well, that would make for a weird world.

So, before we even talk about Miranda warnings, we need to know if you talked to the police.  Did you make any statement to the police? Yes?  This isn’t going to be easy, but I’ll try to forget that you clearly haven’t been listening to me (or this guy, this guy, or this guy).  If you were listening and you didn’t make a statement, though, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  If that applies to you, I’m awarding you a gold star for following my previous posts (and that of this guy, and this guy and this guy <—– all new guys, by the way).

Ok, you talked?  Is the prosecutor going to try and use that statement against you at trial?  If not, it doesn’t really matter, either.  Since the “remedy” would be to keep the statements out of trial, consider a prosecutor’s not intending to bring them up a “mission accomplished.”  Nice work!

Now, have you been “arrested” by the police prior to making the statement?  If not, it also doesn’t really matter.  Cops are allowed to talk to you in the same situations that normal people can.  If they just happen to wander upon your stranded car, they can ask you questions.  The rights only come into play once they start acting like police investigating crimes and use their “police-ness” against you.

Finally, were your statements the result of the police asking you questions or interrogating you?  If not, Miranda doesn’t really matter.  There’s  nothing that requires the police to read you your rights when you’re happily babbling your guilt for no reason- even if it’s the 16 cans of Hamms making you talk.  And, really, think about it for a minute. If talking to the police when they’re asking you questions is a bad idea, what do you think about talking to them when they’re not even asking you questions?  It hurts me to even ponder.  It should hurt you, too.

So, you went ahead and talked to the police?  You talked to them after you were arrested, only because the police were interrogating you, and the prosecutor is going to use your words against you? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Like I said, if the police didn’t read you your rights when they should have, your statements should not come in at trial.  That doesn’t mean the prosecutor will dismiss your case.  Unless, that is, there is no evidence other than your confession– which means there would have been no evidence if you’d have just listened to me in the past (or listened to this guy, this guy or this guy <—– do you really think I can’t find 3 more links?).

So, there you have it.  If the police didn’t read you your rights… Wait.  Why did you talk to the police, again?

Matt Haiduk is a veteran criminal defense lawyer with offices in Kane and McHenry Counties, Illinois.

Drew Peterson, technicalities, and your cats.

Until something with Herrera changes, though, you can tell those cats to grow thumbs and learn to use a can opener themselves.

I don’t know how I sleep some nights.  I mean, between representing all those people I “know” are guilty and having freed so many people on “technicalities” I’m a pretty reprehensible person.  That’s what people tell me.  Essentially.

I mean, they don’t tell me directly.  They tell me things like they “couldn’t do” my job.  Or that they “would have a hard time” representing somebody they “knew” was guilty.  Plus, they use the term “technicality.”  As in “so, he got off on a technicality?”

Technicality.  This sounds like a bad thing.  Like somebody “got away” with something.  Somebody like, for instance, Drew Peterson.  That guy might get off on some sort of technicality.  Never mind the fact that they changed the state law just to try and prosecute him. Or that the government’s own experts originally said she wasn’t murdered.  It’s always a technicality.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re on the same team as far as wanting Peterson locked up.  We have different reasons, though.  You want him locked up because you think he killed a half-dozen people.  I want him locked up because he was an annoying, egotistical, loudmouthed wind-bag before he was taken into custody.

If Peterson walks, its going to be blamed on that too-often-used technicality of being not guilty.  By that, I mean it’s that one technicality where either the state can’t/won’t/doesn’t prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or that he didn’t actually do what they say he did.  Unfortunately it is the state’s burden to prove these things… that poor, poor, poor state and their nearly insurmountable burdens.

Daily Herald article on technicality
If the government doesn’t prove something, is that a technicality?

We should do away with that technicality of forcing the state to prove people guilty.  Then we could lock up all those people we “know” are guilty, right?  While we are at it, we should eliminate some of those other pesky technicalities like the Bill of Rights and the State Constitution.  If we got rid of all that stuff, we could probably lock this Peterson fella up without the trouble of a trial.  Maybe O.J., too.

Believe it or not, I sleep fine at night.  I’m with you on wanting to eliminate some of the technicalities and bringing “truth” back to the system, though.  Especially when we’re talking about the technicalities that prosecutors don’t gripe about.  How come nobody ever asks me about those technicalities?

Wait.  What’s that?  Are we not on the same team anymore?  What sort of technicality is that?  If the burden of proof and Bill of Rights are a defense attorneys’ favorite “technicalities” there is a LONG list of technicalities a prosecutor loves.   Technicalities like that one the Supreme Court invented in the case of Herrera v. Collins.

You know, it’s the one where you can be completely, truthfully actually not guilty and you still can’t appeal.  I mean, do you ever wonder what happens if you are charged with a Federal crime you absolutely didn’t do, but the prosecutor convinces the 12 jurors that you did?  Maybe somebody wrongfully identifies you.  It does happen.

Now you’re locked up, they’re about to throw away the key, and you’re begging your lawyer to appeal?  No sweat, right?  Your lawyer is going to appeal this thing and show the Federal Appeals Court how you’re actually innocent.  You’ll be out by lunch, right?  Maybe out by dinner at the latest.


You’re going to appeal that thing and the appeals court is going to use the Herrera case to tell you that a “freestanding claim of actual innocence is no basis for appellate relief.”  Do you know what that means? I do.  It means that the United States Supreme Court says you can’t appeal just because you’re not guilty.  Seriously. Let me say that again.  You can’t appeal a case in Federal Court just because you’re actually not guilty.  That appeals court doesn’t care that you’re not guilty and have starving cats waiting for you to get home.  Hell, those kittens can’t open the Meow-mix themselves.  Until something with Herrera changes, though, you can tell those cats to grow thumbs and learn to use a can opener themselves.

It’s not like this is some obscure thing that courts ignore, either. It’s used by prosecutors on appeal all the time.  I’m sure people ask Federal Appeals Prosecutors how they sleep at night, too.  Them and their technicalities!

Herrera is but a relative newcomer to the prosecutor technicality arsenal.  They’ve got technicalities going back hundreds of years.  Ever hear of felony murder?  It’s the one where, when you’re driving to the  7-11 for some Funyons and Redbull and your buddy in the passenger seat thinks it would be funny to steal a ho-ho by telling the clerk he’s got a bomb.  He’s telling you this as you’re driving there and you guys laugh thinking it’s funny.  When your buddy hands the clerk a note saying “I have a neutron bomb and I’m going to use it unless you let me take this ho-ho, kthnxbye” and starts to walk out, the clerk guns him down from behind.  

The clerk kills the robber (your pal).  Justice done?  Not yet.  You drove him there knowing he was going to “rob” the store.  Your taking part by driving him makes you just as guilty of a robbery as if you had walked in with a gun and stolen all the cash.  Even better, your’e also guilty of murder.  The technicality of felony murder means you’re looking at decades, if not a lifetime, behind bars because anybody died for any reason while you were committing a felony.  Don’t forget to smile for your mug shot.

I’m not saying you should have much compassion for somebody who thinks it’s funny to rob the convenience store.  I am saying that the punishment should fit the crime, and you shouldn’t ever be found guilty of Murder on such a weird technicality.  Oddly, people don’t ask me about this technicality.

And, don’t even get me wound up about possession of drugs.  You know how “possession” requires that you actually possess something?  Wrong.  Illinois courts tell us that possession can be something called “actual” possession.  The flipside to this, of course, is possession doesn’t have to be “actual” possession.  You can possess something without actually possessing it?  Sweet!

Makes perfect sense.  So much so that I’m headed to the bank right now with a whole bunch of money I don’t “actually” possess.  If the bank gets snotty, I’m going to tell them that I “constructively” possess about a million dollars I’d like them to credit to my account.  When the bankman tells me I can’t deposit cash I don’t possess, maybe I’ll ask him how he sleeps at night refusing my deposit on such a technicality.  After all, I need to get this fake money on my account so I can go buy that cat food my felines so desperately need. This is a matter of cat survival.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Peterson’s case.  Maybe it ends with a “technicality” and maybe it doesn’t.  I suppose we’ll all find out soon enough.  I just know that the word “technicality” is a bad word to describe complex aspects of the law.  I also know that no cats were actually harmed in the writing of this post, and that, even though I don’t have any cats, I wish all cats of the world a healthy, hearty meal tonight.