The program is revolutionary in the way it involves different authorities—from police officers to women’s shelter employees—and emphasizes quick justice and fast turnarounds. But while this new program is intended to protect victims of domestic violence, it could simultaneously have a reverse effect on the men and women who have been accused of these crimes.
What is the Program?
As the Chicago Sun Times recently reported, the city’s new program seeks to protect victims of domestic violence by stopping abusers before they become habitual offenders. The goal is that this program will decrease the number of full-scale domestic assaults, battery cases, and murders in both the near future and for years to come.
The new program was launched in May 2014 and has only expanded to Chicago’s 3rd District as of February 2015. Under the program, the following practices have been implemented:
- Domestic violence cases are to be considered a joint effort between the police force, the state attorney’s office, and local advocacy groups; these parties are to work together to bring quick and effective justice.
- Officers have been equipped with smartphones so that they can quickly and easily access an offender’s record and send accident reports back to the station, where they can then be forwarded to local shelters if need be.
- Thorough protocol has been established for officers dealing with victims; officers know exactly how to act as soon as they arrive on scene.
- Through collaboration with local courts, accused individuals may be brought to court within 24 to 48 hours of an arrest.
What are Some of the Risks?
Although Chicago’s new program is designed to be as effective as possible, large-scale operations like this are rarely as successful in practical application as they initially seem. Despite its seeming path to success, this new law could prove to be disastrous.
Some potential and serious problems with Chicago’s new anti-domestic violence program include:
The rush. The most glaring problem with this new program is its emphasis on speed. While time is certainly of the essence in domestic violence situations, so is thoroughness. And it is no secret that attention to detail can sometimes go right out the window when people feel rushed.
If police officers are expected to not only make arrests but also take individuals to court and dole out sentences in less than 48 hours, law enforcement officials might wind up cutting corners. This may lead to insufficient gathering of evidence, which may lead to unfair accusations.
In addition, the emphasis on speed means that defendants are given little to no time to collect their thoughts. With no time to process what is happening, a defendant may be so swept up in the rush and fear of an arrest that he or she may agree to a guilty plea without thinking it through. This could lead to unjust convictions based on inaccurate information.
More zealous prosecutions. This new program—in theory, at least—is truly cutting-edge in terms of how domestic violence cases are handled in the United States. Given this, it is possible that this program could bring national attention to the Chicago police force.
With attention comes expectations, and with expectations may come hasty arrests or overzealous prosecutions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best and trying to go above and beyond the call of duty, but if that drive leads to a fanatical desire to deliver by any means necessary, there could be a problem.
In Chicago, laws against domestic violence have always been strong, but now they may be getting too strong. Law enforcement officials are serious about protecting Chicago’s citizens, but zealous overprotectiveness can certainly have its downsides. Citizens need to be on the lookout for those downsides and be ready to defend themselves if they must.
Do Not Forfeit Your Rights
If you find yourself facing a domestic violence accusation, understand that even if cops are trying to push you through the legal proceedings as quickly as possible, you are still entitled to your rights. You deserve a fair trial, and you can still defend yourself by seeking out and working with a knowledgeable, practiced criminal defense lawyer who gets results.
A domestic violence charge can be a frightening thing to deal with, but do not be intimidated by this new program. Defend yourself by contacting an experienced domestic violence attorney today.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.