Imagine that you are actually innocent of a crime you are accused of, but charged nevertheless. The District Attorney offers you a felony with no jail time and probation at the pre-hearing conference. Do you take it?
On the day of your preliminary hearing, the District Attorney tells you that he will offer you a misdemeanor with no jail time and probation. Do you take it? Do you take the risk and go to trial when you can receive a sentence of three years if found guilty of a felony?
Axel Rodriguez faced this predicament. Axel served in the first Gulf War, and later became addicted to meth. Attending veteran’s court on a weekly basis, he was trying to straighten his life when he was arrested for stealing a car.
In July, Axel was on his bicycle when the police found him standing next to a stolen car, a run-of-the mill Honda Civic. The car belonged to a friend of Axel’s, who had given him a key three or four months earlier so he could store his belongings in the trunk. The car was stolen six days earlier after the owner had it fixed. As far as Axel knew the car didn’t run. The owner claimed that he, his wife and Axel were the only people with access to the car. So the police arrested Axel even though they never saw him drive nor enter the car because he still had the key to the car in his backpack.
Although these circumstances looked suspicious, it did not make sense. Why would Axel recently steal a car if he has had the key for months? Why was Axel on his bicycle if he had a car to drive in? Why was his stuff still in the trunk from months earlier if he had access to the car and a place to live? If he had stolen the car six days earlier, did he think he could just drive it around without the police stopping him?
Through the hard work of our investigator, we found that others had access to the Honda Civic. In other words, many people had borrowed a key and could have taken the car for a joy ride and parked it in alleyway. There was no damage, nor was anything stolen from the car. It clearly wasn’t an attempt to take the car and sell it for its parts. If anything, it may have been a prank on the owner.
When we appeared in court today, the District Attorney finally acquiesced and dismissed the case. Axel was relieved that he would not have to go to trial. He was grateful that the Law Office of Asit Panwala fought hard in his defense and would not give up.
Now Axel can refocus on working on himself by attending AA meetings, getting his life together, and working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant.