50 DUI cases dropped over cop's improper procedure
October 24, 2007 (WLS) -- Dozens of drunk driving cases in Chicago have been dropped as the police officer who wrote the tickets is investigated for failing to follow proper procedures. That officer was honored several times in the last five years for writing the most drunk driving citations in the state of Illinois.
The state's attorney says hundreds of DUI cases may now be in jeopardy. The Chicago Police officer served a suspension, has been reassigned, and faces the possibility of being hit with criminal charges.
There is a big difference of opinion between the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state's attorney's office on just how severe this officer's credibility problem has become. Prosecutors have already dropped 50 dui cases involving Officer Haleas and worry it may undermine as many as 500 other cases. There are also questions about why a police internal affairs investigation took more than two years to complete. It is all the buzz in traffic court at the Daley Center where Officer John Haleas is something of a local legend.
"He testifies well. He's not a person you'd see who has malice. It's not like he's out to hurt people, at least that's not the impression you get from him. It's a bit of a surprise frankly," said Charlie Beach, defense attorney.
The surprise is the officer the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists was preparing to honor as the most prolific writer of DUI citations in the state has just been busted off the beat.
In April of 2005, two prosecutors joined Officer Haleas for a ride-along as he pursued people driving under the influence. The prosecutors claim Haleas failed to follow basic procedure, including failing to inform drivers of the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer exam, failure to observe a suspect for at least 20 minutes and failing to give the driver a field sobriety test. However, prosecutors say the police report Officer Haleas filed indicated he did all of those things.
ABC7 asked Chicago Police Spokesperson Monique Bond if she thinks this was one mistake in a single incident or that it is part of a bigger problem. "We can only speak to one allegation that we're confronted with," Bond said. "As far as the 500 additional cases, we have no indicationg that those cases have been compromised."
The state's attorney disagrees. Fifty DUI cases -- mainly misdemeanors -- have already been dropped. As many as 500 of Haleas' other cases are being reviewed.
Attorney Charlie Beach has 20 defendants who may get off.
"The state is policing itself and dealing with something that makes them nervous, which is, maybe, putting an officer on that they don't feel confident about," said Beach.
The prosecutors who went on the ride-along with Officer Haleas and observed the alleged infractions made a formal complaint to the Chicago Police Department's internal affairs division in May of 2005. But it wasn't until earlier this month -- 2 1/2 years after -- that internal affairs sustained the complaint. A police spokesperson says investigations take time and chain-of-command must be followed.
Officer Haleas has worked part-time for a private security firm used by ABC7.
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