On November 16, 2011, Officer Luke Tillman with the Collinsville Police Department pulled over his neighbor Cheryl Helfrich, just outside of the city limits. He arrested and charged her with a felony. But now it’s Officer Tillman who faces charges, for the unlawful arrest and detention of Helfrich.
According to the Post Dispatch, Tillman was indicted last week on four counts of obstruction of justice relating to the November stop. He initially arrested and charged Helfrich with failure to display any registration, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance after claiming to find a crack pipe in the car. But recordings of the arrest would later vindicate Helfrich.
The Collinsville police department requires all videos be logged when the contact results in a felony charge. Tillman made no mention of the recording in his reports. But, the state’s attorney’s office reviewed the tapes and found that his reports were simply untrue.
He claimed that Helfrich had no tags on her car. But Helfrich insisted that she did have temporary registration affixed to the outside of her vehicle. These tags could be seen on the video. Charges against her were dropped on March 13 and the state’s attorney’s office then began investigating Tillman.
“There is no allegation that the evidence was planted, but because it was an unlawful stop, it would have probably been inadmissible in court,” said Stephanee Smith of the state’s attorney’s office, speaking about the crack pipe that was found.
If the police conduct an illegal stop of your vehicle, any further evidence of a crime they find within your vehicle, is inadmissible in court because it is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree,” or the results of a search/seizure that was in violation of your constitutional rights.
Tillman is now on suspension from the police department and faces probation or up to three years in prison for the charges against him. He was released on his own recognizance.
It isn’t clear what the relationship was like between the neighbors prior to the initial arrest, though there is likely some backstory here that would cause Tillman to act in the way that he did. Is it common for police to trump up charges, cover their tracks, or make unlawful arrests? Not common, but it does happen.
If you’ve been arrested, whether for something like domestic violence or drug possession, you need someone on your side within the criminal justice system. The cops and the prosecutor surely don’t have your best interests in mind. Contact our offices today to discuss the charges against you and how we might be able to help.