$6.50 or 40 years in prison???
How do you start off with an unpaid ticket for $6.50 and wind up with a 40 year jail sentence?
Bad luck, poor choices and a lengthy string of legal errors.
That’s exactly what happened to one Vineland man, after an arrest warrant was issued for failure to pay a minor traffic fine.
Robert Evans was out for a drive one night, when he was pulled over for “trespassing” on the parking lot of a Day’s Inn. A warrant search came back “hot” for a $6.50 ticket and Robert was arrested on the scene. During the arrest, Evans was strip-searched (a search that revealed rocks of crack cocaine and balloons of heroin stuffed between his underwear and groin).
With the confiscated drugs, police obtained a warrant to search Evans’ car. With that, police found an illegal gun and hollow-point bullets. Based upon the seized contraband, Evans was charged with various drug and gun offenses and hauled into Criminal Court.
At trial, prosecutors called a “violent crime specialist”. He testified that “in his expert opinion” Evans was probably a high level drug dealer. That was because high level drug dealers use guns and Evans had both a gun and drugs on him. The jury heard this testimony before finding Evans guilty on all counts. Robert was sentenced to 40 years in NJ State Prison.
The strip search that found the drugs was of course illegal…as was the search of his vehicle that found the gun…and the testimony from state’s witness that having a gun was strong evidence of drug-dealing.
The police did not have reasonable grounds to perform a strip search of a man being arrested for a minor traffic infraction. Also, they never would have found the drugs without performing an illegal search. The police never should have been able to get a warrant to search the car. Besides a whole host of reasons, the state’s witness never should have been allowed to give the testimony that he gave to the jury.
These were cumulative errors that ultimately made the difference between the smallest of tickets and half a lifetime behind bars.
An attorney was able to catch these errors. An attorney appealed the case and an attorney was able to get the conviction thrown out on appeal.
Always walk into court making sure you have someone in your corner—a lawyer who knows the system and knows when the state is doing something it’s not supposed to do. When you’re facing a criminal charge, there’s too much at stake to go it alone.