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A Chicago area police department to tweet names of DUI suspects

Posted by Steven H. Fagan | Dec 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

A suburban Chicago police chief has announced that his department will be tweeting out the names of persons who have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI).

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel told the Chicago Tribune that it is his hope that the additional exposure will provide an additional "deterrent for would-be drunk drivers to stay off the road."

The chief told the Chicago Tribune that his department has observed an increase in DUI arrests of late, particularly among drivers 30 years-old and younger. "I'm hoping that seeing these names, and seeing the amount of arrests that Riverside makes, will send a message," Weitzel said.

We are not amused, and take issue on several levels.

These individuals have been accused of DUI, not convicted, and are presumed to be innocent of any wrongdoing until proven otherwise. Those people are about to be victimized by the people charged with serving and protecting the public. Chief Weitzel and his department seem to have forgotten that includes the people they arrest. They will encourage vigilantism, and cost people far more than the legal penalties that our legislature has prescribed, circumventing the legal process.

The Riverside Police Department is picking out DUI and DUI related matters from all other possible crimes. The department created its Twitter handle, @PDRiverside, just a few weeks ago - curious timing indeed. Chief Weitzel also said that the department will also tweet the names of those arrested for DUIs involving drugs, as well those arrested for driving while license suspended due to a prior DUI charge. Weitzel said his department already gives out information on arrests under Freedom of Information laws to the public and area media. "It's nothing that we're not already giving out," he said. "It's just that we're going to be sending it out ourselves, through our social media account."

Why not tweet those arrested for retail theft or battery or possession of cannabis or homicide? Why release information that otherwise has to be requested via an FOIA (partially meant to protect against this very thing)? Because targeting DUI feels so good. Nothing more than that.

It's vicious, it's vindictive, it's petty, and it's wrong. The attorneys at Fagan, Fagan & Davis focus on Illinois legal defense including driving under the influence (DUI) at courthouses in Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County. Certainly people are found guilty, but in our decades of experience, countless people are also found not guilty or have had their cases dismissed.

We'd like to know how the Riverside Police Department intends to handle instances where the DUI charges brought by officers within their department have resulted in an outcome other than a finding of guilty. Do they intend to tweet an apology when a case is dismissed, amended to some lesser charge or the motorist is acquitted? And will they do that before or after lawsuits are filed? Inquiring minds want to know.

If the Riverside Police Department thinks this will have some sort of deterrent effect, let them show proof of that effect before they decide to humiliate people considered innocent under the law. That is, if they have any actual respect for the Constitution of the United States of America, and basic human dignity.

About the Author

Steven H. Fagan

Steve Fagan earned his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law, is a member of the NCDD, NACDL, ISBA and a founding member of the DUIDLA. He is published and has taught CLE for lawyers on subjects such as sex offenses, DUI and criminal defense, focuses on trial work and Real Estate closings


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