4th Amendment Strikes Again

Today at 26th and California, prosecutors dismissed a case after a judge granted Villalobos & Associates’ motion to suppress evidence after police conducted an illegal search of his pockets.

Our client started backing out of his parking space at Walgreens when he heard a honk.  A marked Chicago police car was driving by but stopped so that he could not back out of the parking space.  After he parked his car, the police car didn’t move so he then exited the vehicle.  Police officers immediately ordered him to put his hands on the hood of his car. The officers then conducted a full body frisk and searched through his wallet.

In a pre-trial motion, Villalobos & Associates moved to quash the arrest and suppress any evidence that police found when they conducted the illegal search.  The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. In order to detain someone, police must have reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person has committed (or is committing) a crime.  In addition, in order to search a person police must have either the consent of the person or must believe that that the person is carrying a weapon and is a danger to the police or others.  Police may not search a person just because they have an unparticularized hunch that someone is engaging in criminal activity.  Moreover, they cannot search people with the sole intent of finding evidence.

In this case, police had no reason to stop our client because they did not have any a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he had committed a crime.  Because he was just backing up his car but stopped when he heard the car’s horn honking, he had not even committed a traffic violation.  Second, the police had no reason to believe that our client was dangerous and carrying a weapon.  Most importantly, after the police frisked our client, they had no reason to believe that it was  necessary to continue searching in his wallet.

Unfortunately, this kind of search happens very frequently and people do not realize that their 4th Amendment rights have been violated.  Villalobos & Associates has extensive experience with these types of cases and can help you if you have been charged with a crime after the police performed an illegal search.

Judge Sees Through Victims’ Improbable Story

This week Villalobos & Associates represented a client who was facing 25 years for the attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend and her sister.

At trial, the sisters testified that they were driving home from the planetarium on the Eisenhower expressway when they noticed a Chevy Tahoe following them.  They exited the expressway at Kostner and stopped at the first stop light.  Just then, the Tahoe pulled alongside the passenger side of their van.  From the driver’s seat, the ex-girlfriend saw the front passenger of the Tahoe crawl out of the passenger window, lean on top of the Tahoe and point a gun at her.  The person was wearing a bandana but then pulled it down to reveal that it was non other than her ex-boyfriend, our client.  Just then, he began firing at the van striking the rear side window of the van.  After a few shots, the Tahoe peeled out, turned left in front of the girls’ van, with the gunman firing several more shots, 4 of which hit the windshield.  The girls then called their mother who then called police, who were at their house when they got home a few minutes later.

The state introduced photos of the van showing the shattered back window and four bullet holes in the windshield.  The state also presented evidence that the ex-girlfriend and client had a turbulent and somewhat violent relationship.

On cross examination, however, Villalobos & Associates highlighted several flaws in the girls’ version of the story.  First, the girls testified that their front passenger window, though tinted, was open that night and that was why they were able to see the gunman so clearly.  When confronted with weather records from the date, the girls admitted that it was only about 46 degrees that evening but maintained that neither of them wore coats and they did indeed have the window down while driving on the expressway.

Second, the responding police officer testified that, contrary to the girls’ version of events, when he arrived at their house, the van had already been there for an indeterminate period of time.  In addition, after looking at their van, he did not find any bullets inside and did not call an evidence tech. Then, when he went to the intersection where the alleged incident occurred, he was unable to find to find a crime scene- no shell casings, no glass, nothing.  Lastly, 911 dispatchers told him that nobody called in any reports of shots fired near the intersection at that time.

Finally, Villalobos & Associates presented several witnesses who testified that the client was working at a laundry facility almost ten miles away at the time.  Timecards for that day were unclear, however, because the time clock was one month off and the client used a different name when he worked.

In the end, the judge did not believe the girls’ version of the story.  It was simply too improbable that the client concocted a scheme to shoot his ex-girlfriend while at work, left work undetected, figured out exactly where she would be at that exact time, then attempted to hide his identity only to reveal himself at the most crucial moment.  Accordingly, the judge found him not guilty and released him the next day.

This case was just another example where careful examination of witnesses and attention to detail can reveal inconsistencies and flaws that undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses.  When charged with a serious crime it is extremely important to have an attorney who is has extensive experience in litigating trials.