Illinois State Police Defy Court Orders
By: Gerri L. Elder
Failure to obey a court order can be a serious matter that can be punished with a criminal charge called contempt of court. When it becomes clear that a direct order of a court is being disregarded, contempt of court charges are commonly used to impose punishment for frustrating the judicial process. According to Cornell University Law School, defendants who are charged with criminal contempt of court are given the same rights as any criminal defendant, such as the right to a criminal defense attorneys, to request a trial by jury, to testify and call and question witnesses.
In Cook County, Illinois, a judge has threatened to charge the Illinois State Police with criminal contempt of court because his orders to expunge criminal records have been routinely ignored. When a criminal charge is expunged from a criminal record, no record of the arrest or charge against the person remains in the file and the person is effectively cleared of the charge, just as if the arrest never happened.
The Associated Press reported that Judge Ronald Riley has called the Illinois State Police an “arrogant organization” due to their failure to expunge criminal records after being ordered by the court to do so. Judge Riley has vowed to correct the problem by using whatever means necessary, even if it means charging the state police with criminal contempt of court.
Here’s what happened.
The judge is particularly frustrated by the case of a woman from Dolton, Illinois. The court agreed that a 2006 charge against her that had been dismissed should be expunged from her criminal record and ordered the state police to do so. The Illinois State Police then sent the woman a letter informing her that due to the nature of the offense she was charged with, it could not be expunged from her criminal record.
The Legal Assistance Foundation brought attention to the case and now the Illinois State Police may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. If the judge decides to press the issue and contempt of court charges, the state police agency will effectively become a criminal defendant.
When a criminal record that is ordered to be expunged is not, charges that could prevent a person from getting a job or housing remain on the criminal record. The Legal Assistance Foundation alleges that the state police did not simply make a mistake when they refused to expunge the Dolton woman’s criminal record, but that they routinely disregard orders of the court and many people have been affected by not having their criminal records expunged, even though they have obtained a court order to have their criminal records cleared.
According to a report by Chicago Public Radio, the Illinois Attorney General’s office is consulting with the Illinois State Police and all parties will return to court on July 16, 2008.