Last night was my second citizen’s police academy class where we talked about Juvenile Law, Constitutional Law and the Illinois court system. Lots and LOTS of information!
The Juvenile Law part was pretty straightforward, but there were a few things I didn’t know. For instance, not every juvenile offense goes directly to court. The officers can do a “station adjustment” where everything is handled right there within the department. No court appearance. Some adjustments are completely verbal others are more official where the juvenile must write a written confession. Then we have a Peer Jury made up of kids aged 13 to 18 who can hear the case and then decide what punishment should be given. Usually monetary restitution and/or community service. Of course these options are only for minor offenses. But it avoids labeling a child as a criminal with a record at a young age. But on the other hand you’re only allowed so many station adjustments (usually five) before you get sent directly to court. You only get so many chances!
The Constitutional Law and the Illinois court system section was presented by our Watch Commander, who as it turns out is also a lawyer! He works nights at the station then by day he’s a defense attorney specializing in defending police officers in constitutional law incidences. I’ve never known a police officer who is a lawyer at the same time!
I think my head was going to explode with all the info he gave us. But it was a great presentation. We talked about the step by step arrest process from an initial traffic stop, probable cause, searches, the bringing of charges whether a misdemeanor or felony, and the setting of bond/bail. Then through the entire court process as well from a preliminary hearing, an indictment by a Grand Jury (for all felony cases), arraignment, pre-trial motions and then the differences between a Bench Trial and a Jury Trial. Then finally sentencing – anything from court supervision to prison time.
During the Constitutional Law part we went over the different Amendments that protect us, from the First (freedom of speech/religion) to the Fourteenth (due process). The main focus though was on the Fourth amendment (unlawful arrest, search and seizure). Wow, the nuances that this entails is pretty staggering. It all revolves around “reasonable expectation of privacy” whether that be your own body, your car, your house and your property. For instance, the police can obtain your DNA without violating your Fourth Amendment rights because it is not an invasive internal search and is not a violation of privacy. They can’t randomly enter your house to search without probable cause, but they can search through your garbage when it’s at the curb because that is now considered “abandoned property”. But if you leave your garbage up against your house or garage, they can’t touch it. Like I said, nuances! We also learned about the all important Terry Stop and the Carroll Doctrine which deal with searches without warrants.
Like I said, a night chock full of a LOT of information. I took so many notes my hand was cramped up after the three hours!
Next week is our first “hands on” class. We’re going to be talking about DUI, traffic stops and radar. We get to go out on the main, busy road in front of the police station and run radar. Sweet! Trust me when I say no one goes the speed limit there. Hope I get to nab someone! 🙂