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Privileged Information vs. Defendant Rights in Criminal CasesAn Illinois appellate court recently granted a defendant a retrial in his criminal case because the circuit court improperly allowed a testifying police officer to withhold important information regarding the case. The defendant had been convicted for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Law enforcement will try to protect information during a trial that it deems sensitive and likely to put people in danger. However, a defendant also has the right to know the full details of the case against him or her in order to present an effective defense. Courts are supposed to weigh the two interests, with disclosure becoming more important when the prosecution’s case relies on the information.

Surveillance Privilege

The recent drug possession case involved a police officer watching the defendant in order to catch him in the act of selling heroin. After allegedly witnessing the defendant conduct multiple transactions, the officer approached him. He was apprehended at the scene, and the substance in the bags he was allegedly selling tested positive for heroin. During the trial, the police officer refused to disclose the location where he surveilled the defendant because officers may still be using the site. The officer did confirm that:

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