Cool Christmas Video or Criminal Act?

Many people like driving around and looking at Christmas lights during the holiday season, and that popular pastime gave John Pauly an idea. Equipped with his drone, Pauly went outside and recorded a 3:22 second clip of the holiday lights from a unique perspective. He landed his drone and uploaded the video, setting the footage to the popular Christmas tune, “White Christmas.” Many people have praised the footage in the comments section, but one viewer wasn’t too happy with what he saw. That viewer was Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall, who attempted to have Pauly charged with a crime.

Thankfully for Pauly, and common sense, the police chief was unable to charge Pauly with a crime, since there are no laws against appropriate drone use (There is one law that says it’s a violation to disturb wildlife, hunters or fishers with a drone, but that wasn’t the case here).

Although there’s no criminal aspect to Pauly’s actions – yet – the Federal Aviation Administration has slapped numerous drone flyers like Pauly with fines, since drones are technically classified as an aircraft.

Pauly takes precautions to prevent any problems. He said he always calls the local police department to inform them when and where he’ll be flying the drone, as he did prior to making the video.

“We always let the police know,” Pauly said. “You can’t be reckless with it, that’s when you can get in trouble.”

Drone

Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said he knows regulations will be put in place for the new technology, but lawmakers should consider the interest of recreational flyers.

“This is new technology that has outpaced regulation, and we’re at the early stages of a bell curve,” said Toscano. “Look at the automobile. It took a while after its invention for us to realize we needed speed limits to keep them safe.”

Although Marshall originally wanted to press charges against Pauly, the police chief did concede that drones could be very useful in the hands of law enforcement.

“Drones can be used very productively for law enforcement if there’s a lost child or senior citizen,” Marshall said. “If we can get a camera up in the air, it can help locate missing people.”

Related source: Chicago Tribune, Photography Is Not A Crime

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Law Banning Police Ticket Quotas Goes Into Effect Jan. 1

Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 3411 back on June 16, but the law banning police ticket quotas won’t go into effect until Thursday, when the calendar turns to 2015. There has been a lot of debate over what the law really bans, so today we delve into SB 3411.

Two Big Changes

SB 3411 offers two large tweaks to the ticket quota system. The law:

  • Provides that a county or municipality may not require a law enforcement officer to issue a specific number of citations or warnings within a designated period of time, and;
  • Provides that a county or municipality may not, for purposes of evaluating a law enforcement officer’s job performance, compare the number of citations or warnings issued by the law enforcement officer to the number of citations or warnings issued by any other law enforcement officer who has similar job duties.

Essentially, police leaders can’t tell their officers to write 200 speeding tickets each month or give Bill a promotion over Bob just because Bill writes more tickets. State Representative Jay Hoffman, of Swansea, said the banning of quotas will help restore the public’s trust in police.

“Arbitrary quotas on the number of tickets that have to be issued by police officers undermines the public trust in the police departments’ priorities,” Hoffman said. “By eliminating these quotas, we can restore that trust and ensure that police officers are free to do their job protecting the public.”

Illinois Ticket Quota

That said, not all police quotas have been banned. In some instances, police departments must meet certain targets in order to be eligible for federal and state grant money. Officials say targeted grants, like funding for extra DUI patrols during the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, will be exempt from the ban. In most cases, the instances in which you may be subjected to a quota are times when you were going to get a citation or arrested regardless of whether or not a quota was in place.

Also, although ticket quotas have been banned, the law says nothing about required daily or monthly contacts. These are situations where an officer interacts with a citizen, but does not necessarily need to involve a crime.

“It could be serving a warrant, serving orders of protection, doing a community program,” said Sangamon County Sheriff Wes Barr.

Police believe these regular interactions help foster trust in officers and ensure their presence is made public in the community.

If you believe you’ve been unjustly given a traffic ticket or related violation, contact an Illinois criminal defense attorney right away.

Related source: The State Journal-Register, The Metro Independent

Explaining the New Eavesdropping Law in Illinois

Illinois recently passed a bill called SB 1342, but it is more commonly being referred to as the new Eavesdropping Law.

There has been a lot of speculation and misinformation about this bill, with some saying it’s now illegal to film the police while others are claiming it gives the police too much power to eavesdrop on citizens. Today, we break down some key points of the Eavesdropping Law so everyone can get a better understanding of the actual regulations.

Eavesdropping Law

1. You Can Still Record The Police

Simply put, you can still record the police, you just aren’t allowed to eavesdrop on them. The law states that citizens may record an interaction so long as the involved parties don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, if you see a police officer arresting a resisting suspect on the sidewalk, you are more than welcome to record the ordeal. If you are pulled over for speeding, you can certainly record the interaction with the cop. On the other hand, you’re not allowed to wiretap a phone or a squad car and collect information between parties who have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like in their home or office. Most times, police conduct their duties in the public sphere, so you are well within your right to record them.

2. Eavesdropping Penalties Lowered

Prior to this law, illegally recording a law enforcement officer or judicial official was met with a Class 1 felony. Under the new legislation, it’s still a felony to illegally record officers and judges, but the penalty has been reduced to a Class 3 felony.

3. Police Have More Leeway To Eavesdrop

This point may sound disconcerting, but the ability to eavesdrop on a conversation where a person could reasonable expect privacy only applies if the person in question is suspected of committing one of the following offenses: first degree murder, solicitation of murder for hire, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated arson, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, child abduction, trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, or gunrunning.

Prior to SB 1342, police needed to obtain a warrant “within 48 hours of the commencement of such use.” If they didn’t get the warrant within two days they had to stop attempting to eavesdrop without consent. Now, they can continue without a warrant after 48 hours.

4. Reasonable, Reasonable, Reasonable

As we mentioned in the first point, the whole bill hinges on the term “reasonable” expectation of privacy. There are limitless situations where one party may wish to record an interaction, so there’s no possible way to have a cut and dry law where everything either is or isn’t legal. For example, you may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your home, but if the police come busting in, you are certainly welcome to record them without asking for their permission.

So if you see something and want to record it, ask yourself this question. “Would the involved parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy?” This is very different from the question, “If I were in their shoes, would I want to be recorded?” The cop may not want his use of excessive force recorded or the shoplifter may not like that his pants fell down to his ankles while running away because he forgot a belt, but if it happens in the public domain, you are well within your rights to record the interaction.

If you have any questions about the bill, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Chicago Police To Wear Body Cameras in Pilot Program

Police Body CamerasIf you’re stopped by a Chicago police officer in the coming months, you’ll want to smile, because you might be on camera.

According to Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, some Chicago police officers will begin wearing body cameras within the next 60 days as part of a pilot program.

McCarthy didn’t go into too much detail about the program, but he believes they’ll help provide an impartial view into what transpired during a citizen encounter. He noted that many officers volunteered to be part of the program.

“We have a number of officers who have volunteered because that’s how we’re going to handle it initially,” McCarthy said. “I endorse the program. I would say within 60 days we’ll be up and running.”

Proponents of the body cameras believe they’ll work two-fold to prevent issues. First, they’ll keep officers on their best behavior as they know their actions are being recorded, likely reducing the number of police brutality suits, and secondly they’ll preventing citizens from making baseless accusations against police officers. The U.S. Justice Department cautioned that there is not a lot of evidence to suggest body cameras will cut down on police-citizen problems, but the cameras certainly worked for officers in Rialto, California.

McCarthy didn’t elaborate, but it’s possible the move to begin the pilot program was a response to the recent Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’re aware of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9. The decision not to indict the white officer in the shooting death of a black teen led to demonstrations across the nation, including in Chicago. Had Wilson been wearing one of the cameras, we’d have a much clearly idea of what truly transpired on that early August day.

Brett Appelman comments

Just like I said last month when lawmakers were discussing exactly how a body camera program would be used, I fully support the idea. I noted the question was more of “when” officers would get than “if” they would get them, and it appears we’ll begin seeing them in the next 60 days.

I’ve dealt with cases where both my client and the officer on the stand have bent the truth or shaped the narrative to support their case. With video evidence, we’ll have an impartial third party at the scene to tell us exactly what happened. I look forward to seeing these recordings being presented as evidence in future trials.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Chicago Woman Ticketed For Going Topless

Public indecency illinoisAmericans are endowed with the freedom to bear arms, but a Chicago woman has filed a federal lawsuit after being ticketed for baring her breasts.

Sonoko Tagami, 41, a stauch supporter of the bare-chested advocacy group GoTopless, filed the federal lawsuit after she was ticketed for appearing topless in public back in August. Police issued Tagami a $140 ticket for violating Chicago’s decency law, which states:

Any person who shall appear, bathe, sunbathe, walk or be in any public park, playground, beach or the waters adjacent thereto, or any school facility and the area adjacent thereto, or any municipal building and the areas adjacent thereto, or any public way within the City of Chicago in such a manner that the genitals, vulva, pubis, pubic hair, buttocks, perineum, anus, anal region, or pubic hair region of any person, or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any female person, is exposed to public view or is not covered by an opaque covering, shall be fined not less than $100.00 nor more than $500.00 for each offense.

In her lawsuit, Tagami claims the city statute is purposely vague and is a violation of free speech. She also claims the law is sexually discriminant.

“It’s a poorly written, very very old ordinance that would, I think, make illegal many of the fashions that women wear today,” said Tagami’s attorney Kenneth Flaxman. “She believed she had appropriate body paint covering the naughty parts of her breasts.”

Flaxman also noted that Tagami has been participating in topless demonstrations in years past and has never had any issues with city officers.

“She was out there for several years making a statement about the absurdity of the law, and each time she had opaque body paint and the cops thought it was cute,” Flaxman said. “l guess this time the cops didn’t think it was OK.”

Tagami is hoping the federal case will call attention to the law and her cause.

Related source: Chicago Tribune

Illinois Lawmakers To Discuss Police Body Cameras Friday

Police Body CamerasMembers of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee will meet today to discuss the possibility of outfitting police officers with body cameras, and how the cameras could affect other laws.

More police departments are looking into the idea of outfitting officers with recording devices in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Many proponents of the cameras say they’ll keep officers and civilians on their best behavior, but others wonder if the constant recording is an invasion of privacy. Legislators also want to discuss who has access to the recordings once they’re filed.

“Where is that data stored?”asked Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz. “How much of it is kept (and) for how long? And then who has access to it? Does the media have access to every interaction?”

The discussion will also be used to help write eavesdropping legislation in the near future. Earlier this year the Illinois Supreme Court rejected an eavesdropping proposal after the law was deemed too broad.

Rep. Nekritz outlined some more talking points that will be discussed Friday.

“Everything from: when is the camera on? Do the police have to give notice to everyone that they talk to that they’re recording? Are there some conversations that are protected? If you have a victim of domestic violence that is interacting with a policeman, does that have to be recorded,” Nekritz said.

Other departments across the nation have adopted police body cameras, and the early reports show that they have been successful in preventing conflict and complaints. The Rialto Police Department in California equipped each officer with body cameras, and an analysis of department data uncovered a 50 percent drop in the total number of use-of-force incidents and a ten-fold reduction in the number of citizen complains in the 12 months following their adoption.

Brett Appelman comments

The prospect of being recorded keeps everyone on their best behavior because they don’t want to be seen or caught in a negative light. Not only would cameras remind people to act more civilized, the recording would act as a third party observer. Far too often cases come down to he said-she said arguments, and without a neutral witness, it can be hard to discern who is telling the truth.

Based on everything I’ve heard about body cameras, it sounds as if the question is more “When will police get them” than “Will police get them?” The equipment, storage, processing and review doesn’t come cheap, but it’s an investment that would easily pay for itself in terms of a reduction of lawsuits against police. Considering the Chicago Police Department paid out $500 million in settlements over the last decade, the cameras would likely pay for themselves countless times over.

Related source: Daily Herald, Northern Public Radio

Movie Technology Helping Combat Crime in Chicago 

Minority ReportIf you haven’t seen the movie Minority Report, try to track down a copy this weekend. Without giving away too much of the plot, the movie centers around a futuristic way to prevent crime. With the help of three precognitive humans, known as “precogs,” the Washington DC police department can essentially look into the future and prevent crime before it occurs. The movie takes a twist when one of the precogs has a vision that the main character, played by Tom Cruise, will commit murder, and thus a warrant is issued for his arrest. A chase ensues, all while the viewer contemplates the moral ramifications of the idea, “Can you be guilty of a crime without attempting it?”

While we don’t yet have precogs on the police force, the Chicago PD is using a similar technology in hopes of deterring future crimes. The technology attempts to look into the future using a mathematical algorithm to formulate a list of individuals deemed likely to be involved in a crime. The names the formula spits out land on what the CPD calls its “heat list.”

Unlike Minority Report, a person on the list isn’t arrested or tried for a future crime, but they are informed that the police are keeping a close eye on their actions. Police believe the extra attention can help deter crime.

“This program will become a national best practice,” said CPD Commander Jonathan Lewin. “This will inform police departments around the country and around the world on how best to utilize predicative policing to solve problems. This is about saving lives.”

At What Cost?

While the technology sounds harmless enough, as a person wouldn’t end up on the list unless they met several factors – another CPD Commander put it bluntly, saying “if you end up on this list, there’s a reason you’re there” – and even then they only get a warning from the police, those who oppose the technology say it’s invasive, and at times, racist.

The exact science behind the algorithm remains hidden, and a Freedom of Information request to obtain the list was denied out of safety concerns, saying its release could “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person.” Without knowing how someone ends up on the list, some wonder if it relies too heavily on demographic information, like age, ethnicity and living location. Some fear this could unfairly target minorities.

“First of all, how are we deciding who gets on the list and who decides who gets on the list?” said attorney Hanni Fakhoury. “Are people ending up on this list simply because they live in a crappy part of town and know people who have been troublemakers? We are living in a time when information is easily shareable and easily accessible, so, let’s say we know that someone is connected to another person who was arrested. Or, let’s say we know that someone’s been arrested in the past. Is it fair to take advantage of that information? Are we just perpetuating the problem?”

He added, “How many people of color are on this heat list? Is the list all black kids? Is this list all kids from Chicago’s South Side? If so, are we just closing ourselves off to this small subset of people?”

Without going into any details, the National Insititute of Justice, which provides grants to police departments interested in using predictive technology, simply stated that the algorithm only finds people “who the model has determined are those most likely to be involved in a shooting or homicide, with probabilities that are hundreds of times that of an ordinary citizen.”

So where do you land on the spectrum? Do you believe police departments should be able to profile and compile lists of potential criminals, or do you believe the technology is crossing into murky legal waters?

Related source: The Verge