Lawyers plan to offer free legal advice Saturday at all 22 city police districts

SHARE Lawyers plan to offer free legal advice Saturday at all 22 city police districts

Remember when immigration lawyers went to O’Hare to help anyone who needed it? On Saturday, a group called First Defense Legal Aid will do something similar, stationing volunteer attorneys at all city police districts to offer free legal advice to people who have been arrested. | Sun-Times file photo

Despite an order last year by Cook County’s chief judge to make it easier for those held at city police stations to talk to an attorney, less than 2 percent of arrestees actually saw one in 2017.

That’s according to First Defense Legal Aid, a volunteer lawyer group that’s planning what they’re calling a first-of-its-kind event this weekend.

Lawyers will be stationed at all of the city’s 22 police districts Saturday, offering free legal services to arrestees.

“People are held incommunicado all the time. Chicago has a serious problem with false confessions. We hope that this will in some way help stem the tide,” said Daniel Massoglia, an attorney for First Defense.

Too often, people arrested in the city don’t get access to an attorney until they make their first court appearance. To try to help change that, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans issued an administrative order last year which, in essence, requires police to allow an arrestee access to a lawyer any time he or she requests one. As part of the order, signs with numbers for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and First Defense Legal Aid were to be posted in all police stations with lockup facilities.

“Before the order, police would need to stop questioning that person when the right to counsel is invoked, but didn’t necessarily need to provide an attorney because there was nothing formal that said they had to,” Massoglia said.

Last year saw “the highest rate of access to counsel inside Chicago police stations on record,” according to to FDLA. But that was still only about 1.5 percent of the approximately 84,000 people arrested in 2017.

On Saturday, the lawyers plan to be both inside and outside police stations. Each lawyer will carry a copy of Evans’ order, Massoglia said. The lawyers then plan to ask police to check with those who’ve been detained to see if any of them would like legal counsel.

“We hope they will make the right decision and let people have access to their attorney,” Massoglia said.

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