Recently, you were charged with selling drugs. The police say you were under surveillance, and they caught you in the act. Something about this doesn’t seem right. Where was this surveillance located? The state doesn’t want to tell.

Do you have a right to know?

The state’s right to withhold information about the officers’ location is known as the surveillance location privilege. Whether you have a right to know can be decided on a case to case basis. Your right to know may also depend on the timing of the proceedings in your case. For example, you may have a greater right to know at trial, than you do at a pretrial hearing.

To determine if the privilege applies, the court must balance your need to prepare your defense against the state’s need to keep the location secret. The state may argue that the location is useful, and its disclosure would compromise other investigations. The court considers the crime charged, the importance of the officer’s testimony and your possible defenses. If the officer is the sole witness, your right to know his or her location becomes critical. On the other hand, if the officer is corroborated by video or other sources, the court may deny your right to know.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Most crimes require the state to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can look for weaknesses in the state’s case and if necessary, fight their attempts to withhold critical information from your defense.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

Source: People v Flournoy.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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