Last week I had a meeting with a client in my office in Schaumburg who was being charged with a felony in Rolling Meadows. The client has a lawyer who was representing him for the case. The client came in for a consultation because he was not happy with the services that his current lawyer was providing and was considering hiring me to represent him in the case. The client told me that he had spoken to his lawyer and requested copies of the police reports. His lawyer refused to provide copies of the police report and the client was very upset with that decision.
This is a very common scenario. I frequently talk with clients who want copies of the police reports so that they can review them at home with their friends and family. I’m sure that many of those clients want to talk to another lawyer and get a second opinion. When a criminal defense lawyer tells a client that they cannot give them copies of the police reports, the clients usually think that’s because the lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case. While that may be the reason behind refusing to give a client police reports in some cases, people need to understand that your criminal defense lawyer is prohibited from giving you copies of the police reports. Let me explain why.
Your lawyer is required to follow certain rules. Your lawyers’ conduct is governed by the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Those rules provide for certain ethical responsibilities that lawyers have to their clients and to the Court. The Supreme Court of Illinois has also enacted certain rules which limit what your lawyer can, or cannot do. The Supreme Court Rules govern what happens in court and what your lawyer can or cannot do while they are representing you in a criminal case in court. Your lawyer is required to follow all those rules.
The prosecutor is required to give your lawyer all of the evidence in your case. Not only is the state required to give your lawyer all of the evidence that proves your guilt, they are also required to give your lawyer any evidence that proves that you may be innocent. This is called the “Discovery” stage of a criminal case. The discovery includes all of the police reports and any other evidence such as photographs, statements, video recordings, audio recordings and scientific testing results.
Rule 1.4 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct require that your lawyer reasonably consult with you about the means by which your objectives will be accomplished, keep you reasonably informed about the status of your case, and promptly respond to your reasonable requests for information. Your lawyer is required to explain what is happening with your case in a way that is reasonably necessary for you to make informed decisions about your case. However, the same rule provides for certain limitations on what your lawyer can share with you. Supreme Rule 1.4 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Responsibility provides that, “rules or court orders governing litigation may provide that information supplied to a lawyer may not be disclosed to the client…”
The Illinois Supreme Court has enacted a rule that does just that. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 415(c) provides that any Discovery material given to your lawyer “shall remain in his exclusive custody and be used only for the purposes of conducting his side of the case.” The purpose behind this rule is that police reports in a criminal case may include information that the law seeks to protect. Police reports may include the names and addresses of witnesses and police officers, and other identifying information that the Supreme Court does not want to be made public.
So, your lawyer is prevented from making copies of the discovery and giving it to you. However, your lawyer remains obligated to communicate with you and keep you reasonably informed about your case. While Supreme Court Rule 415(c) may seem to be in conflict with the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, the legal issues have been litigated and decided by the Courts. The Courts have upheld these rules and ruled that they are legal and proper.
While your lawyer cannot make copies of the discovery and give it to you, your lawyer is allowed to sit down with you and review the discovery with you. Your lawyer is allowed to ensure that you are aware of the evidence in your case and allow you to assist your them in defending you in your case. This can be accomplished by allowing your lawyer to read the discovery to you and allowing you to read the police reports in your lawyer’s presence. If your lawyer believes that allowing you to see the names and the identifying information of witnesses may result in great bodily harm to that witness, your lawyer can cross out that information to protect the identity of those witnesses.
If you fire your lawyer and hire someone else, your lawyer must turn over all of the discovery to the prosecutor. Once your new lawyer files his appearance, the prosecutor will turn over the discovery to your new lawyer.
James Dimeas is a nationally-recognized, award-winning criminal defense lawyer. James Dimeas has over 25 years of experience handling criminal cases throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County. James Dimeas has been named a “Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Chicago” by Expertise. James Dimeas has been recognized as a “Best DUI Attorney.” The National Trial Lawyers have named James Dimeas a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer.” The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys have named James Dimeas a “10 Best Attorney for Client Satisfaction.” Recently, the American Society of Legal Advocates named James Dimeas a “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer in the State of Illinois For the year 2018.” AVVO rates James Dimeas as “Superb,” the highest rating possible for any criminal defense attorney in the United States.
If you are being charged with a criminal case in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Lake County, you can contact James Dimeas anytime for a free and confidential consultation. You can always talk to James by calling him at 847-807-7405.