On March 1, someone — allegedly a man wearing a dark coat and a light hoodie with a bag slung over a shoulder, and seen “walking around the neighborhood overnight” — toured southwest Urbana slashing the tires on over 100 cars. Damages could exceed $100,000.
Four days later, Urbana police arrested Dallas Bone, 36, on charges of criminal damage to property.
Under current Illinois law, if the police had knowledge of the tire slashing and of the above description, they probably could have temporarily stopped a man who fit the description in the area on the night in question.
They probably would not have had “probable cause” to arrest the stopped person for having committed the crime of felony criminal damage to property. However, they would seem to have a “reasonable suspicion” the man might be the tire slasher.
They could have conducted a so-called “Terry stop-and-frisk” — named after a 1968 Supreme Court decision that authorizes such temporary police action if it’s supported by a reasonable suspicion that the person stopped has committed or is committing a crime.
If the stopped man suddenly bolts, the police could chase him and arrest him on a charge of resisting arrest. Under current Illinois law, “an individual commits the crime of resisting arrest if they knowingly obstruct the performance by a peace officer, firefighter or correctional institution employee of any authorized act within his or her official capacity.” Someone who flees a legal Terry stop is obstructing the police officer who is conducting it.
In our example, if the man with the bag was caught during the ensuing chase, the bag would be subject to a search as part of the arrest procedure (or a later inventory). If it revealed an object that reasonably could have made the tire punctures, such as a drill, it could support an arrest in the tire slashings. In other words, a resisting-arrest charge could bootstrap a charge for the tire slashing.
It would be solid police work. Crime solved. The victims stand some chance of restitution. The public’s fear is allayed.
But under Illinois’ new criminal-justice reform law, a person cannot be arrested on charges of resisting arrest “unless there is an underlying offense for which the person was initially subject to arrest.”
Translated, that means if the man bolts in the above scenario, the police must decide to give chase, and that requires knowing whether his act of fleeing gives them probable cause to believe he’s the tire slasher — and that depends. It depends upon the skill of a defense lawyer and a court’s analysis, as mere fleeing isn’t dispositive of the legal issues.
If the police go to the risk and expense of a chase, and it turns out the evidence doesn’t support probable cause for the tire slashings, they cannot charge him with resisting arrest. The calculus of chases after a Terry stop has dramatically changed, with the police losing the tool of a resisting-arrest charge in close cases.
One can soon simply run away from a lawful Terry stop-and-frisk procedure and possibly (probably?) avoid any negative consequences. Many authorities will choose not to pursue a fleeing person, given a benefit/risk analysis. This serves as a deterrent to Terry stops, an absolutely invaluable, constitutionally authorized tool for police to apprehend criminals and protect the public. And it encourages fleeing from police.
This is just one of many anti-public-safety consequences of Illinois’ ill-guided, anti-police criminal-justice reform bill.
Government’s duty in criminal-law legislation is always a balancing act: balancing the interests of the public to be safe from criminal behavior with a criminally charged defendant’s right to just treatment. Every provision — even those arguably justified — of the new criminal-justice reform law is tilted in favor of the defendant and against police action previously designed to promote public safety.
There was even an attempt to make police personally liable for violating someone’s civil rights — as would most assuredly be alleged in Terry stops — but that draconian action had to be dropped to garner enough votes to pass the bill.
Clearly, anti-police animus was present in the drafting of this bill; however, justified or not, the bill hit the public in the gut when it swung a haymaker at the police.
As violent crime explodes across our landscape, do we really want to handcuff police instead of criminals?