Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Surrounded by Liars

On Monday I conducted a hearing on a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. My motion was denied. Since the client had no background, I was able to negotiate a pretty good plea deal for a special type of drug probation. If he completes the 24 months of probation satisfactorily, the charge is dismissed. He can then also have the arrest expunged.

The police alleged that my client ran a red light while turning from a side street onto a busy boulevard. He was pulled over. When the officers approached the car, they noticed loose marijuana in his lap. He couldn't produce a driver's license or insurance card. They ordered him out of the car and noticed that he was sitting on a bag that contained over 100 grams.

That was the police version of the case.

At the hearing, I called both officers as witnesses. Sadly, they stuck to the story. There was only minor deviation between their testimonies. But they both testified to what I wrote above.

Then I called my client to testify. He testified that he noticed the cops behind him several blocks before he was pulled over. He stated he was never on the side street as alleged. He denied running a red light. He further testified he was never asked for his license or proof of insurance. At the time his license was in his wallet which was in the coat on the passenger's seat. And his insurance card was in the glove box.

Instead, he said, the police walked up, ordered him out of his car, and began searching it. There was marijuana in his car hidden under the gear shift.

The prosecutor attempted to trick him on cross-examination, but he didn't waver. Why? He was telling the truth.

I rested. The State rested. I stood up to argue.

I told the judge that since Arizona v. Gant was decided, the police suddenly started seeing contraband in plain view during traffic stops. I said it wasn't a coincidence. I said that I didn't like calling sworn officers liars, but argued their testimony wasn't credible. I asked the judge which was the more likely scenario:

1. The defendant, while sitting on a big bag of weed with some even scattered on his lap, ran a red light on a busy street when there was no evidence he had been smoking since no paraphernalia was recovered. Or,

2. The defendant was pulled over because the cops wanted to search his car and they found marijuana hidden under the gear shift?

The judge found the testimony of the police credible. I wasn't too surprised but it deflated me. This scenario happens too often for my liking. Often as a defense attorney, we know a witness is lying but can't show it. It's very frustrating.

Many, if not most, of the judges show too much deference to the police in my opinion. And it really burns my hide to sit and watch a sworn police officer perjure himself without a thought. The fact that I can't show that they're lying makes my blood boil.

The perjury isn't limited to small weed cases like this one. It gets more foul when they lie at hearings in murder cases where the client faces the rest of his adult life in prison. The liars just don't care. And why should they? They are not discouraged nor punished for doing it.

I stand as an officer of the court and won't tell the smallest lie to anyone in the courtroom about anything. I never even claim I have a trial somewhere else just to get out of a scheduled hearing. But sworn police officers regularly come into court and take a second oath that, in practice, is meaningless.

I am not bashing all of the police officers here in Chicago.

Just the liars.



  1. Thank you for an interesting post. It's amazing how idiotic these defendants must be to drive around with contraband and firearms all over the place as they commit all these traffic offenses to draw police attention! It sure makes things convenient for the police officers not to have to actually search the car.

    But I do have to quibble with you on one point: I think police have been seeing contraband in plain view well before Arizona v. Gant.

  2. You may be right. I just remember that it was about this time last year that I noticed at preliminary hearings how many people were allegedly driving around with stuff in plain sight. Before Gant, pistols and drugs were found underneath seats or in closed center consoles.

    Thanks for reading and the comment!

  3. It's classic, like a enter and search w/out a warrant. R/Det suspected foul play, entered the home,no sign of foul play of course and finds a gun laying on the bed...It seems this is standard procedure...
    On another note, Judge Alonso rm 207 is one of the best in building...


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