Police Officer's Conduct Nullifies DUI Convictions
By: Mary Ann Pekara
A Chicago police officer who failed to follow procedure during DUI arrests may have jeopardized two years worth of DUI cases.
Prosecutors in Cook County are currently reviewing more than 500 DUI arrests made by Grand-Central District Officer John Haleas for failure to follow proper procedures while administering breath and field sobriety tests during DUI stops.
As a result, prosecutors have already dropped 50 cases in which he was the arresting officer.
The Chicago police have reportedly been conducting an internal investigation into the matter for the past two years, since Haleas' improper procedures were noticed and reported by prosecutors-in-training in April 2005.
According to the initial report filed with Internal Affairs, Haleas failed to give a DUI suspect a field sobriety test, did not make him aware of his rights to refuse a breathalyzer test and did not observe him for the required 20 continuous minutes before administering the exam.
Police records show that Haleas made 718 arrests in 2005 and 2006, and was the primary witness in literally hundreds more DUI cases.
Ironically, Haleas was honored two times by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists as a "Top Cop" for having more DUI arrests than any other officer in the state.
Though staying in communication with Internal Affairs to follow progress on the internal investigation, the state's attorney's office apparently did not receive word until October 10, 2007 that the investigation into the incident was completed and that Haleas was indeed guilty of misconduct.
As a result of the investigation, Haleas received a one-day suspension and was reassigned to desk duty until further notice, a spokesperson for the police department said.
But the damage has been done. In one week, prosecutors dropped a reported 50 misdemeanor DUI cases, and regretfully admitted that hundreds more could be dropped. Felony DUI cases could also be disputed and thrown out.
According to the story reported in the Chicago Tribune, DUI attorneys with clients who were arrested by Haleas are planning to challenge the legitimacy of their cases. Because the testimony of the officers is crucial to a DUI conviction, if the officer's credibility is in question, DUI attorneys often focus on this aspect to defend a client against the DUI charge.
One of the most perplexing elements of this saga to DUI attorneys is why Haleas was permitted to remain on active duty while the internal investigation was underway, the Tribune reports. Had he been off the street for the past two years, hundreds of DUI cases would not now be in jeopardy.