Lights Out!

Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa.  Some things you must see to believe.  The prosecution and law enforcement attempted to convince a judge to not believe what everyone could clearly see.  Thankfully, the judge believed what he too could see.

Two Iowa City Police Department police officers, Maddie Friedrich and her Field Training Officer, Brad Reinhard, attempted to claim that GRL Law’s client was driving through downtown Iowa City, at night, without the vehicle headlights illuminated.  According to Officer Friedrich’s report and sworn affidavit, “the defendant was seen driving without his headlights when required.”  The officers’ squad car video contradicted this claim.

Understanding that law enforcement videos contradicting officer claims have a tendency to mysteriously disappear, GRL immediately began tracking down  alternative pieces of evidence to ensure that a court could believe that the vehicle headlights were indeed illuminated.  Following up on a lead from our client, GRL subpoenaed the surveillance video footage from the gas station our client had been at immediately prior to being pulled over.  That video clearly showed that the vehicle headlights were illuminated when the vehicle pulled in and pulled back out of the gas station.

Anticipating that law enforcement may still attempt to make the argument of “believe what I tell you, not what you see,” GRL continued to secure additional evidence proving our client’s innocence.  GRL continued to gather additional video footage.  Noticing that the intersection that the squad car and client’s vehicle traveled through immediately before the traffic stop were equipped with intersection cameras, GRL obtained the video footage from that intersection camera from the city.  Iowa City’s own intersection cameras proved that the vehicle headlights were activated and illuminated, before, during and after our client’s vehicle passed the police squad car.

All of the videos obtained by GRL were provided to the prosecution with the hope of resolving the case fairly and efficiently.  Despite the overwhelming evidence establishing that the vehicle headlights were clearly illuminated, the prosecution pressed on.

An evidentiary hearing was held asking for the court to conclude that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they stopped the vehicle without probable cause.  The prosecution resisted, arguing that the judge should not believe what he could see.  Instead, the prosecution claimed as the officers did that the vehicle headlights were not properly illuminated.

At the hearing, under oath, both officers continued to insist that the vehicle’s headlights were not on.  Instead, they claimed that the daytime running lights were all that were illuminated, making it only appear as if the headlights were on.  The officers claimed that what showed up on their in-car camera video as illuminated headlights was simply a “glare” from the running lights.  Again, law enforcement wanted the court to believe what they told him not what he could clearly see on the objective evidence.

GRL Law presented the judge with the additional videos from the different angles, all of which proved that the vehicle headlights were properly activated and illuminated.  Under cross-examination, both officers had to concede that if a vehicle’s taillights were activated, so too were the headlights.  GRL then showed the officer’s their own in-car video clearly establishing that the taillights were activated the entire time the vehicle was on the roadway.

Despite being presented with incontrovertible video evidence, the officer’s stubbornly continued to insist that the headlights were not on.  The prosecutor likewise refused to surrender, continuing to argue that the stop of the vehicle was lawful.  Ultimately, after the hearing the judge properly concluded that the stop of GRL’s client’s vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment because there was no probable cause to believe the headlights were not properly illuminated.

All charges have now been dismissed and GRL Law’s client’s driving privileges will be reinstated.  What happens next with the officers has yet to be determined. #NFG

As a footnote, GRL does not make it a habit of using law enforcement officer’s names in blog posts.  However, under the circumstances we feel it is necessary to appropriately put the public on notice that these officer’s credibility in future cases should be subject to intensive scrutiny and skepticism.