An amazing “coincidence.” What are the odds?

What are the odds that the police would have an eye on a house because they think a burglar lives there?  That, while they’re keeping an eye on the house, some completely random person comes up and asks them to go into the house for a “well being” check?  That fire and rescue, along with the police, enter the house to find two people they say need medical assistance, but who don’t need it so bad they’re willing (or required) to go to the hospital?  That a subsequent search of the home (the cops are already in, so why not, right?) turned up not only the stolen items but the alleged burglar?  That all this happened on the same day in the same town at the same house?

What are the odds?

Pretty good if you take the Oswego Police department’s version of things.  From today’s Beacon News:

Well-being check leads to burglary arrest in Oswego

BY ERIKA WURST November 21, 2013 5:14PM

Updated: November 21, 2013 6:05PM

 An Oswego man is facing burglary charges this week after police allegedly found stolen items in his home during a well-being check on Sunday.
Police entered the home of Zachary Harmon, 21, 800 block of Columbus Drive, to conduct a well-being check, and during a search found items linked to a recent series of burglaries.
Oswego police took two reports from residents who reported having their vehicles broken into between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday on Manhattan Circle.
A laptop computer, a phone, a radar detector and a GPS unit were allegedly taken during the burglaries, police said.
Police received a tip from one of the victims that the items might be located at a home in the 800 block of Columbus Drive. As police were watching the home, a woman showed up, concerned about the well being of someone inside, they said…

How lucky those officers must have been?  Clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time!  If that completely random woman hadn’t happened upon them (completely randomly, I’m sure) and possibly given them an exception to the 4th Amendment’s requirement to get a warrant before going into the home that was, coincidentally, I’m sure, the subject of their surveillance, they may never have been able to go in.  All pure luck, I’m sure!

Or, there’s more going on in this one than the Beacon News was lead to believe.  My money is on option #2.

It know it’s not that much of a concern to you, though.  The police had a hunch, they got their man.  You don’t care about his rights as long as he’s guilty.

I care about his rights. I care about your rights, too.  Mostly because his rights and your rights are my rights.  That’s really what I’m worried about.

So, I read this report and I’m concerned.  Let’s just say I don’t think it was all a coincidence.

Area crime rates: People have no idea.

I just stumbled upon the Tribune’s crime rate listings.  It’s buried in the “Homes” section, but updated through 2009.  There’s some interesting stuff in there.

Interesting, but not surprising, is that crime (or, at least, criminal filings) has dropped substantially from 2003 to 2009.  For instance, St. Charles had a crime rate of 30.4 (per 1,000 residents) in 2003. That number has dropped to 24.2 for St. Charles in 2009.  That’s fairly representative of the types of changes every town has seen.

Even more interesting is where some of the larger Kane County towns land in the rankings.  Most notably, Aurora.  People not from the area think one of two things when they think of Aurora: either that it’s filled with gangs or that it’s like living in Wayne’s World.  Neither of those perceptions is really accurate.

I’m not sure anybody thinks it’s got a lower crime rate than Woodstock, though.  According to those stats, though, it does.  Maybe Woodstock is over-run with gangs?  Hardly.

It’s easy to play games with the numbers.  Woodstock might have a higher crime rate because of they way it reports crime or because it’s more willing to charge and prosecute minor offenses than other towns.  It’s hard to tell.  I’m not worried about going to either place, though.

That guy deserved that sentence.

Earlier this week I accused you of being angry.  Your anger stems from criminals “getting off light” and prosecutors not taking cases to trial and demanding the ultimate punishment.  I thought your anger and outrage was misplaced.

I still do.

And, here’s why: Horrible Plea Bargains Are Your Best Friend. A gift, if you will.

There you go.

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.



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.