Saturday, November 7, 2009

The System Works

I had arguably my best week in court all year. On Monday a judge granted two of my motions. I argued there was no probable cause to arrest my client and that the immediate 'show-up' identification was unnecessarily suggestive. The judge agreed and sustained both motions. In this case, my client was looking at up to a minimum of 21 years in prison if convicted.

For those that don't know what a 'show-up' is, here is an explanation. You all know what a police line-up looks like, right? 5 people that look somewhat similar are brought into a room for the victim or witness to view. A photo spread is similar except that 5 photos are shown rather than the actual people.

A 'show-up' usually involves the viewing of only one suspect while they are in police custody. Imagine you're the victim of a robbery. The police come, interview you and then 10 minutes later drive up with someone in the back seat in handcuffs. This person is pulled from the car by police and you take a quick look at him. That is a 'show-up'.

'Show-ups' can be lawful or not. In my case, the judge said it was not lawful. Also in my case the description of the offender was so vague the judge ruled there was no probable cause to detain him. My client was found by police walking and had nothing illegal on him or in other words, no evidence of the crime under investigation (an armed robbery with a handgun).

That was win #1.

On Wednesday at 26th & California I argued a motion to suppress a handgun found in my client's car. He was pulled over for having his music too loud and subsequently arrested for having no valid license. The police searched his car and found a small handgun inside the dashboard.

Here is where the law gets tricky. The police officer testified the search was being done prior to impound, which would typically be legal. But in this case, the car was lost from the police station and was never towed. I argued, therefore, it was not a valid impound, thus the search was illegal. The judge agreed. The state dismissed the case.

Win # 2.

But I did lose a motion too. On Tuesday in Markham I argued a motion to suppress a small amount of cocaine found in my client's car after he was arrested for driving with no valid license.

I thought I had a good motion too due to the recent US Supreme Court case, Arizona v. Gant. But the police officer testified the drugs were in plain view when he came back to prepare my client's car for towing.

There's the rub. If a police officer is in a place where he is authorized to be and sees something in plain view, the 4th amendment does not apply, thus the judge denied my motion.

I guess 2 out of 3 isn't bad.

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