As a Chicago criminal lawyer, I have too often encountered situtations in which police, after roughing up or beating a person during an arrest, charge them with battery to a police officer, resisting arrest, or obstruction of justice in order to cover their tracks. For example, according to journalists, after beating the unarmed man in the video, Streamwood Illinois police charged him with resisting arrest and threatening a police officer. This article discusses this phenomenon and outlines some of the ways to beat false charges of battery to a police officer in Illinois.
First, what is battery to a police officer? Battery to a police officer is known in Illinois by its legal name of "Aggravated Battery" or "Aggravated Battery to a Police Officer." Aggravated Battery is the enhanced version of "Simple Battery" which is a misdemeanor and occurs when a person makes physical contact with another person to either injure, insult, or provoke them. Generally, a simple battery that does not cause great bodily harm remains a simple battery. However, when a simple battery is committed against a police officer, that simple battery becomes "Aggravated Battery" which can be as severe as a class 1 felony punishable by 4-15 years or $25,000. 720 ILCS 5/12-4.
What are some of the ways you can beat charges of Simple or Aggravated Battery to a Police Officer?
(1) Video is key. As can be seen in the above clip, unlike a self-serving police report, a video can prove what actually happened. If a video exists in your case it could be the difference between victory and defeat but it must be found and preserved before it is destroyed.
(2) You have a legal right to defend yourself against an officer who uses excessive force. Although normally a person has no right to use force to resist even an unlawful arrest, the use of excessive force invokes the right of self-defense under Illinois law.
(3) Use a history of violence or misconduct to show that the cop was the true aggressor. As the accused, you have a right under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to confront your accuser, including in some cases the right to inspect the officer's personnell record. An officer who beats an unarmed man or woman and then charges them with battery, aggravated battery, resisting arrest, or obstructing a police officer, is a bully, and bullies usually have a history of violent behavior. If so, under Illinois law, that history of violence can be used to show that the cop was the true aggressor.
(4) The jury is society's conscience. Although judges are sometimes reluctant to find that an officer has acted illegally or testified dishonestly, juries are less hesitant to do so. If your back is against the wall and no plea deal is acceptable, a trial by a jury may be the best way to defeat the accusation.
(5) Legal defenses. Legal and technical defenses may apply to your case and are best discussed in person.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once posed the question "Who guards over the guardians?" In other words, who polices the police? While the great majority of police officers are honorable men and women who keep society safe from dangerous criminals, what happens when the very people who are supposed to guard us from criminals become criminals themselves? Americans cannot afford the millions of settlement dollars paid to victims of cops who have an anger management problem, are having a bad day, or who are just naturally brutish; a recent study found that police misconduct has cost Illinois taxpayers $214 million. If you are a victim of a brutal police action and now have to defend yourself against accusations that you were in fact the aggressor, you are on the front lines of a war against an evil that has plagued humanity since the beginning of civilization: government sponsored abuse of power. But you are not alone in this fight. The founding fathers, in their eternal genius, have provided you with the right to confront your accuser, the presumption of innocence, and the right to trial by jury, to help you along the way.