Multiple Charges, Prior Convictions, Lead to Minimum Sentence
Unfortunately, in the world of criminal defense, not every client is innocent and not every charge results in a dismissal or not guilty verdict. Many times, providing the best defense means minimizing the penalties for our clients. Attorney Rusty Reinoehl recently resolved just such a case with the best possible resolution for one of our clients in Illinois.
Our client was initially arrested in 2018 and charged with aggravated battery of a police officer after it was alleged he punched and kicked an officer several times during an arrest. Several months later, while those charges were still pending, he was arrested again and charged this time with possession of methamphetamine. Again, while both of those charges were still pending, the client was arrested a third time, this time charged with Home Invasion, Residential Burglary and Aggravated Battery. By the time it was all said and done, the client was looking at one Class X Felony (6-30 years), one Class 1 Felony (4-15 years), two Class 2 Felonies (3-7 years) and two Class 3 Felonies (2-5 years). For the Class 2 and Class 3 felonies, he was extended term eligible due to his prior convictions, meaning that he could have been sentenced to 3-14 years and 2-10 years on those charges. All in all, he was facing many years in prison, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
From the beginning, it was clear that our client was guilty of at least some of the charges he was facing. However, that did not mean Rusty was just going to roll over and let the State send him off to prison for what would amount to a significant portion of the rest of his life.
As always, Rusty set to work pouring over the discovery materials. In these cases, that required a lot of hours as there were numerous reports, videos, laboratory results, witness statements, call logs and more accounting for hundreds of pages of documents. In going over these multiple times with a fine tooth comb, Rusty was able to find and, ultimately, exploit many inconsistencies between the various witness statements, police narratives and other loose ends in the State's cases. These were not gaping holes, they were very minor inconsistencies. Without his detailed approach to discovery, in all likelihood, they would have been missed or glossed over.
When they were all added together, these minor inconsistencies added up to some major problems for the State's prosecution. Rusty was able to use them to the client's advantage and, after lots of negotiating was able to secure a negotiated plea agreement for our client. When all was said and done, he pled guilty to a single count of Aggravated Battery, a Class 3 Felony, and was sentenced to 2 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, the minimum for that offense. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, less than 5% of the total amount he could have been facing had he been convicted at trial.
This case is a shining example of the great criminal defense work our attorneys are capable of performing. While the client did not go free, due to our meticulous preparation and attention to detail, we were able to secure an agreement for the absolute minimum sentence, despite an overwhelming number of charges and a mountain of evidence against him.
Civil Forfeiture of Client's Vehicle is Denied
Attorney Rusty Reinoehl was recently hired by a client who was facing the seizure/forfeiture of her Ford F-150 pickup truck. Our client's son was driving her vehicle and was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Unfortunately, his driver's license had been revoked due to a prior DUI conviction so he was arrested and charged with driving on a revoked license. More unfortunately, this was not his first charge of driving revoked, making it a felony in Illinois.
Illinois law allows the State to seize and ultimately forfeit a vehicle when someone is arrested for driving while revoked or suspended. Even if the stop was just for a minor traffic violation. And even the driving revoked/suspended is a first offense making it only a misdemeanor. In this case, our client's vehicle had been purchased only the year prior for more than $35,000.00.
Defending these cases is extremely difficult. The law is specifically designed to allow the State to seize these vehicles to be later sold or used by the arresting police department. Many articles have been written on "policing for profit" here in Illinois and on how difficult it is for someone charged with a minor crime to prevent losing their vehicle, their cash, or their other assets.
Due to the value of this vehicle, the State had every motivation to seize it, and they attempted to do exactly that. The State filed a civil complaint against our client as well as her son and the vehicle for forfeiture.
After researching the issues, Rusty filed a motion for the Court to consider whether our client was an "innocent owner" - meaning that she did not know her son was using the vehicle illegally. Unfortunately, the facts were mostly against us in that she knew her son's driver's license was revoked. She knew that he had previously used the vehicle on a handful of occasions. After learning that he had previously used the vehicle, she did not take any actions to hide the keys or otherwise prevent him from doing it again. And probably the worst fact for our case, she had recently signed title to the vehicle over to her son so that he could become the primary driver for insurance purposes if he was able to get his license reinstated.
Despite that, all of the facts weren't against us. The son had recently had a formal hearing to reinstate his license, although admittedly, he had not received a decision on the date of his arrest. Because he was still waiting, he had not yet filed to have the title transferred officially into his name. That meant the truck was still in our client's name and still insured by her. She still used it around her farm and to run errands, hauling hay and other items for her livestock.
The hearing on our motion was strongly contested by the State. The prosecutor spent a long time cross examining our client, getting her to admit to all of the facts against us. However, fortunately, the law was on our side and, after taking the case under advisement and requesting that the parties submit points and authorities (cases that were decided in favor of each party on similar facts), the Judge ruled that our client was in fact an innocent owner, dismissed the forfeiture action and returned her valuable truck to her possession!
Lies by a "Victim" Lead to Dismissal of Domestic Battery Charges
We were recently retained by a client in Illinois who was charged with domestic battery against his ex-girlfriend. During the initial consultation, the client swore that he was innocent of the charges and that instead, his ex had forced her way into his apartment and then called the police to report she had been battered.
After obtaining the police reports, the story told by the "victim" was clearly different. She had told police that she had been called and invited over and that after she arrived, her boyfriend became violent, locking her inside his room and becoming physically violent toward her.
In many cases such as this, when the State's witness says one thing and the defendant says another, the he-said/she-said nature of the evidence make them likely to go to trial. However, Rusty noticed several inconsistencies and discrepancies in the police reports based on the "victim's" story of the events. Her timeline did not seem to make sense and the sequence of events seemed to be different between the officer's report and the "victim's" written statement.
Based on that, we were able to obtain cell phone records that contradicted her timeline as well as text message records that showed she was lying about being invited to the apartment on that night. Additionally, we were able to uncover an independent witness who saw and heard some of the events and directly contradicted the "victim's" version of events. After being presented with the evidence we uncovered based on our thorough investigation, the State decided to dismiss all charges against our client rather than go to trial.
Inconsistent Testimony and Video Evidence Leads to Dismissal of DUI Charges
Partner Rusty Reinoehl recently represented a young man charged with DUI in Illinois. He was stopped while riding an ATV on a rural county roadway and after a brief investigation by the arresting officer, charged with DUI. After being retained, Rusty investigated the case, including reviewing the police report, videos of the traffic stop and other materials produced by the State during discovery. In closely reviewing those videos, Rusty noticed some inconsistencies between what they appeared to show and what the officer's report said about how our client performed on his field sobriety testing.
During a hearing regarding the suspension of our client's driver's license, the officer testified consistently with the reports that we had received. However, again, that testimony was inconsistent with some of the things Rusty noticed on the videos. Rusty was able to use his detailed approach to the discovery process to point out those inconsistencies to the Judge during the hearing.
Shortly after the hearing was concluded the State determined that it did not have sufficient evidence to move forward with the DUI prosecution and ultimately dismissed all charges against our client and he was able to keep his driver's license as well. This is just one of the many recent successes Rusty has had in defending DUI's in Illinois and keeping his clients' driving privileges.
Discovery Violations and Suppression of Evidence Lead to Dismissal of Meth Charges
We recently represented a young lady who was charged in Illinois with Possession of Methamphetamine in excess of 15 grams. After being charged and learning that she was facing a potential sentence of up to 7 years, she retained Rusty Reinoehl to represent her.
This arrest and the subsequent possession charge took place after the police searched her vehicle while it was parked at a convenience store overnight. The vehicle was parked in an area which had surveillance cameras present, and the officers obtained copies of that footage showing our client driving her vehicle into the parking lot and then leaving with a friend in another vehicle.
A separate crime occurred in the same parking lot later that night, which led to the search of our client's vehicle and ultimately, the discovery of methamphetamine.
Attorney Rusty Reinoehl received initial discovery in the case which included only a partial video from the parking lot surveillance system. After repeated requests for the full video it was finally determined that the arresting officer had either failed to obtain a full video or had mistakenly erased a portion of the video. Ultimately, this failure to properly preserve evidence was able to be used to limit the evidence and testimony permitted by the Judge at trial. After gaining favorable rulings on those issues, the State ultimately dismissed the charges against our client.
Improper Search Leads to Dismissal of Meth Charges
Attorney Rusty Reinoehl was retained to represent an out of state client who was arrested in Illinois on charges of possession of methamphetamine. This client was a repeat offender who was facing potential extended term sentencing if convicted.
The client was stopped late at night for allegedly having a license plate light out on his vehicle. After stopping the vehicle, the officer indicated that our client seemed more nervous than most people would be. After calling in the client's information to dispatch, the officer learned of our client's past drug charges and immediately became suspicious that he might have drugs in the vehicle.
Our client knew his constitutional rights and refused to allow a search of the vehicle. This only made the officer more suspicious, so he called for a K9 unit to respond to the scene and perform an "open air sniff." The K9 officer did alert outside the vehicle and, after searching, the officers found methamphetamine inside.
The initial discovery disclosures in this case seemed to indicate a significant gap in the timeline between when our client was first stopped and when the K9 sniff occurred. After obtaining significant additional discovery in the form of videos and call and radio transmission logs between the responding officers and dispatch, Rusty realized that in fact a considerable time had elapsed between the initial traffic stop and the K9 arriving at the scene.
Rusty filed a motion to suppress the evidence as a result of the delay in response and when that motion was granted, the State decided it would not have sufficient evidence and dismissed all charges against our client. Rusty's meticulous preparation and detail oriented approach to reviewing the discovery materials saved the client a minimum term of 5 years in prison.