Illinois Attorneys: Join the #Give72 Campaign: Donate 72 hours over the next year (just 6 “on-call” hours/month)
*Illinois licensed attorneys and 711 license-eligible senior law students and graduates only. Volunteers provide direct legal representation to clients in police custody all over Chicago before a public defender is available.
email First Defense at volunteer(at)first-defense.org to RSVP for orientation or schedule your monthly shift.
Upcoming Hotline Volunteer Orientations:
Monday, April 17th, 6-7:30 p.m.
West Side Justice Center, 601 S. California (Plenty of street parking available, accessible by blue & green line CTA trains and #94 & #7 busses)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: How do I become a volunteer?
Attend one volunteer orientation, usually hosted on the third Monday of every month from 6-7:30 p.m. at the West Side Justice Center. To ask questions regarding the program and to RSVP, email email@example.com.
Q: What do volunteers do?
Volunteer attorneys or 711 law students take at least one 6-hour shift per month as First Defenders responding to FDLA’s 24-hour hotline. During shifts, the on call First Defender will be called to represent clients who are in Chicago police custody to inform them of their rights and help enforce them.
Q: What kind of clients do we serve?
Most of the arrestees we represent are low income Black and Latino youth on Chicago’s south and west sides, where schools and clinics have been closed, jobs are scarce, poverty is high, and police and child welfare systems are aggressive.
Q: Does FDLA carry malpractice insurance for volunteers?
Q: Do I need to have a car to volunteer?
Preferably yes. The representation that First Defenders provide is time sensitive so it is highly recommended that you have access to a car while volunteering for a given shift. Other forms of reliable transportation are acceptable, but it is imperative that you arrive at the station as quickly as possible. A back-up attorney is on call if your transportation breaks down or you cannot get to a station within an hour.
Q: What if I do not have any criminal law experience?
Criminal law experience is not required to volunteer for FDLA’s 24-hour hotline. Our training and staff will support you to represent your clients effectively at the station.
Q: What if I am a law student?
Law students must obtain a 711 license to volunteer for FDLA’s 24 hour hotline. FDLA will sponsor law students and graduates who are eligible for a 711 license. The applications are provided at volunteer orientations.
Q: What if I still don’t feel ready after training?
FDLA offers “ride-along shifts” where supervising staff attorneys accompany new volunteers at the station. New volunteers are encouraged to take ride-along shifts until they are comfortable with representing clients on their own. Our staff attorneys are available at all hours of the day and night to assist volunteers.
Q: How do I sign up for shifts?
Our online scheduling website, Shiftplanning, allows you to easily sign up for the shift of your choice. It is accessed through our website at www.first-defense.org/24-hour-hot-line. You can also email, text or call FDLA staff to schedule it for you.
Q: What is the shift schedule?
Shifts are broken up into 6 hour increments: midnight -6:00am (1st shift), 6:00am- noon (2nd shift), noon -6:00pm (3rd shift) and 6:00pm- midnight (4th shift).
Q: Can I choose my own shifts?
Yes. FDLA tries to be flexible and accommodate your schedule. You choose the shift that works best for you. Regular monthly shifts are encouraged; e.g. “every 1st Wednesday for the 4th shift” or “every 2nd Saturday for the 2nd shift.” If you need any special accommodations during your shift, please contact Samoane Williams at samoane(at)first-defense.org.
Q: How far in advance can I choose a shift?
You can choose a shift as far in advance as you would like. We do ask that you sign up for a shift at least 48 hours in advance so we can notify our hotline service that you will be working.
Q: Where do I have to be while taking a shift?
You can cover your shift from anywhere in Chicagoland. You can stay at home, be sitting at a coffee shop, or even running errands. Just make sure that you have your phone on and that you will be able to arrive at the police station should a station visit be necessary within an hour of taking a call from our hotline staff.
Q: What if I have to cancel a shift?
You have the ability to delete yourself from the volunteer schedule if plans change. Please provide 24-48 hours’ notice if this happens. You can also leave a note on the “wall” in Shiftplanning or contact one of our staff members who can remove you from the schedule.
Q: Do clients call my phone directly?
No, FDLA has people who answer the hotline and screen calls. You will be called only for someone who is currently in Chicago police custody. Our staff handles all referral requests, etc.
Q: How many calls can I expect to receive?
Generally, a volunteer attorney receives 0 to 3 calls within one 6 hour shift. . The number of calls can also vary depending on the season and the time of day. Our busiest times tend to be Monday through Thursday, from 12pm to 12am (noon to midnight). Summer is a high volume time.
Q: What do I do if I get multiple calls?
If you receive multiple calls, tend to the client who has the most serious circumstance and call your supervising attorney to assist you with the other(s).
Q: How do I know if a client is at Homan Square?
There is no sure way to know if a client is at Homan Square, but a clear sign is not being able to trace the client at Central Booking or any police district or detective unit. Homan Square also tends to hold arrestees who were picked up for alleged drug or gang activity. It is likely that you will not be able to see your client at Homan Square, but First Defenders must still go so that they can alert the officers that the client is represented and document that you were on site and available. The supervising staff attorney is always available to answer questions.
At the police station
Q: What do I bring to the station?
Here is a list of what you will need during station visits:
1) ARDC card or 711 license
2) Photo ID
3) Volunteer Manual or Volunteer Manual Supplement
4) Declaration of Rights– Notice of Representation forms, printed in triplicate (provided by FDLA)
5) Pens and paper
Note: First Defenders do not bring their phones into the station.
Q: What do I wear?
You can wear anything that you are comfortable in and should focus on getting to the client. Some First Defenders find police more cooperative when they visit the station in business or business casual attire.
Q: Is there parking at the police station?
Yes. Parking is available at all of the police stations either right in front or very close by. You must pay attention to the parking signs.
Q: What do I tell the client?
Our service primarily entails:
1) Informing the client of their constitutional rights to silence and to counsel; and
2) Helping enforce their rights while the client is in custody.
As a volunteer, you are expected to make sure the client is aware of his or her rights, and knows how to invoke them. You are to document and advocate as necessary to watchdog these and other procedural justice issues. The actual details vary by the client. We cover this topic more during volunteer orientation.
Q: Will I have to argue with officers?
The potential to engage in arguments depends on the circumstances. First Defenders find their own style and build on our tool kit for representing custodial suspects. We strive to prepare First Defenders with the case law, policies and supplemental information to support CPD’s cooperation in respecting your client’s rights. First Defenders receive this information at volunteer orientation and from supervising staff attorneys.
First Defenders provide a valuable and much needed service protecting constitutional rights at the station. We encourage you to #Give72! Volunteer just 6 hours per month, for a year. This mirrors the 72 hours that a detainee could be in police custody without representation.
Non-attorneys: You can #Give72 too: donate 72 hours conducting Know Your Rights Outreach over the next year
FDLA’s Know Your Rights Education Campaigns conduct street outreach, workshops, leadership development and multimedia to build the hope, skills, and knowledge necessary for people to access their constitutional rights when in contact with police.