Don’t Taze Me Cary, Illinois Bros.

Electrifying news from the Cary, Illinois police department! For the cost of only about ten thousand taxpayer dollars, seven of the officers are going to be armed with tazers. According to the Northwest Herald:


CARY – Police officers in the village will soon be carrying Taser.
The village’s police department plans to equip officers with the electronic control weapons. Adding the additional level of use of force is set to cost the village about $10,750, according to Police Chief Patrick Finlon.
After training, the department will have seven units. The costs also include the battery packs, holsters and data packs, among other things.

This quote from the Cary police chief gave me the biggest chuckle, though:

The use of [electronic control weapons] has become an industry standard and with a properly developed policy and training in the area of tactics, court decisions and policy, the introduction of ECWs can reduce the possibility of injury to both law enforcement and offenders and thereby reduce exposure to the municipality,” Finlon wrote in a village memo.

That’s definitely true.  There’s a flip side to that, though.  Tasers can also be used improperly.  They can be used to harm people who otherwise wouldn’t be harmed with “traditional” policing.  They can be used by officers out of frustration, without a real reason- like this cop who tased a man as a result of a traffic stop (and subsequently cost his municipality another $40,000 plus whatever defending the lawyers cost in a law suit):

(the electrifying action comes just after the two minute mark)

I watch that and I wonder just what would have happened if that officer didn’t have a taser.

A few years back, over the course of a single month, I represented two men who had been tasered by the same department.  Both incidents stemmed from traffic tickets. In one, the man getting ticketed refused to hang up his phone and the officer got frustrated.  I seriously doubt either of them ever threatened harm to an officer. I also doubt either of them ever would have had force used against them if the officer didn’t have a taser.  Tasers seem to be the preferred method of dealing with annoying people that otherwise might not be subjected to force.

That’s not to say that tasers don’t have their uses- clearly they do.  It’s just that they seem to be over-used because they usually aren’t lethal.  Of course, sometimes they are.  And, when that happens, they cost the government tens of millions, not ten thousand dollars.

Hopefully this won’t be an issue in Cary.

That Cary Shaken Baby Case, And How Prison Time is Calculated.

Alvin Santiago had been facing charges of shaking a baby in his care while in Cary, Illinois. Today, Judge Prather sentenced him to 9 years in prison.  The Northwest Herald has a great article on today’s sentencing hearing:

Judge orders 9 years for Cary man in shaken baby case

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 5:24 p.m. CST


WOODSTOCK – Outside the courtroom, James Greve said he wished his daughter’s former caregiver had been given the same sentence the baby had.

Alvin D. Santiago, 30, on Thursday was sentenced to nine years in prison for shaking Tegan Greve so violently that she required brain surgery. The child was 2 months old at the time.

With day-for-day credit, Santiago will serve about four and a half years behind bars.

But for baby Tegan, it will be at least five more years of doctors visits, medical tests and medication. Even then, James Greve said, whether or not she’ll fully recover remains unknown.

“He got a lesser sentence than my daughter,” he said after an emotional sentencing hearing that included statements from he and wife, Rachel Greve, and tearful testimony from Santiago and his family members.


The article goes on to talk in more detail about the crime as well as the hearing in court.  The part that catches my attention is the focus on the actual amount of time Santiago will spend in prison.  It’s speculated to be around four and a half years.

I say “speculated” because nobody actually knows how long it will be at this point.  It will likely be no less than 4.5 years and will absolutely be no more than 9 years.  Essentially, actual prison time in Illinois gets computed as follows:

  • Most cases are subject to some sort of reduction in time for “good behavior.”  Some are not (like, for example, murder, where there is no good time allowance).  The majority of felonies are “50% cases”, meaning that you may receive a reduction in your sentence up to 50% of the total time.
  • Without getting too technical, it’s also possible to “earn” extra time off.  Some of that extra time is “earned” without any effort- typically 6 months worth.  You might also get an extra break for doing something like earning a G.E.D.

So, typically, its safe to say that on a “garden variety” felony, a person who takes a 5 year sentence will have a minimum sentence of 2 years (5 years multiplied by 50%, and then minus 6 months), and a person sentenced to 9 years will have a minimum sentence of 4.5 months.

Now you’re wondering why somebody could be out in 4.5 years for shaking a baby when they’re sentenced to 9 years?  How is that justice, right?  Especially when the reality is that the overwhelming majority of defendants serve the minimum.

Have you ever been inside a jail or prison?  No?  Have you ever seen an episode of “Locked up”?

If you have, you know that taking an entire population of “criminals” and keeping them from causing trouble isn’t easy.  Some guy is throwing poop and clogging the toilet in the prison.  What are you going to do, put him in segregation?

Fine. Now he’s painting the walls in segregation with poop, and 35 guys in the general population are protesting the first guy’s getting put “in the hole” by urinating on the floor.  Plus, 6 guys got in a fist fight after somebody changed the TV channel in the middle of a great episode of Miami Vice.

What are you going to do now? Put them all in segregation?  Sounds great, but you don’t have the space. The taxpayers want to be tough on crime, but don’t want to pay to be tough on crime- so you don’t have the facilities.

That’s where good time comes in.  The facility has the option to yank some good time and effectively lengthen the sentence.  There’s no judge, no jury and no defense attorney to get in the way (although there typically are some internal jail procedures).  Go ahead… throw that poop. It’s going to cause you 8 more months of prison living.  Is it worth it?

This is exactly what happened to Stevie Fielding.  He got a sentence of 10 years and his jailhouse antics caused him to serve every last day.

Stevie Trailer from Steve James on Vimeo.

If reduced prison sentences are a way to give prisons the opportunity to keep peace and enforce prison policy, then why are most people only serving the minimum?  Why aren’t more people losing good time?

Because the incentive system in prison generally works well.  Being able to lengthen somebody’s prison sentence will typically keep them in line.  The public might not like it, but it gets the job done.

There’s another reason why, too.  Try following the money.

Like I already said, you want to lock people up, but you don’t want to pay for adequate facilities.  There is a lot of pressure on the system to get folks “out” in order to make way for the others coming in.  Plus, there are other enforcement tools- prisoners can lose all sorts of privileges.

So, why would a prison lengthen somebody’s sentence and make its financial situation even more dire when it may be able to achieve the same result by taking away a man’s Fritos and locking him in a room without a TV?  It wouldn’t.

Judge Prather gave Alvin Santiago 9 years in prison today. He might serve 4.5. He might serve 9.  It depends on whether or not he behaves himself, and whether or not you’re willing to put more money into a system you don’t want to put money into.

Some DUIs might not be what they appear…

“Cary woman charged with DUI in single-vehicle crash”

That’s the headline of the article in the newspaper.  After reading it, curiosity got the best of me.  DUIs aren’t that uncommon.  Single-vehicle crashes aren’t uncommon, either.  Neither are the two of them together.  So, I read on:

WOODSTOCK – A 29-year-old Cary woman was charged with driving under the influence, after she veered her car off the roadway Tuesday and crashed into a culvert in unincorporated Woodstock.

The driver [whose name and address I’ll redact because she’s already having a bad enough day], was also charged with failure to reduce speed, marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia possession, and endangering the life of a child, according to a McHenry County Sheriff news release. A male juvenile was a passenger in the car.

Interesting.  Not so much for what it says, more for what it doesn’t.  What it doesn’t say is that alcohol, or any substance, was believed to contribute to the accident.  Nor does it say that it was an alcohol DUI.  Reading between the lines (because the clerk’s computers haven’t been updated), it very well might be a cannabis/marijuana/THC DUI.

There are people out there- lots of them, actually- who think the marijuana/THC DUI laws in this state are a little silly.  You can count me among those people.  Essentially, if there is any amount of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) in your system, you can be cited for DUI.  The odd part is that conventional testing can sense THC in your system as many as 30 days after consuming the drug.  That’s odd, because you really aren’t experiencing any effects from the drug at that point- but you can still get a DUI.
Which gets us back to the article.  Did the “DUI” contribute to the accident at all?  It doesn’t look like the police bothered to tell that to the reporter if it did:

Investigators found that [the lady’s] black 2008 Mazda veered from the southbound lane on Dean Street, north of Route 176, to the northbound lane and entered a ditch.

The vehicle then struck a culvert, overturned and hit a tree, police said. The juvenile was taken to Centegra Hospital – Woodstock as a precaution. [The driver] did not seek medical attention, police said.

They also didn’t say that in the McHenry County Sheriff’s Press Release.  I’d really hate to think that this accident only made the news because the police fed a story to the newspaper making it sound like the accident was caused by some sort of impairment when, really, the two are unrelated.  That happens too frequently.