Legal Victories


Law GavelJohn F. Robbenhaar has defended hundreds and hundreds of clients in over ten years of practice. In many cases, charges are dismissed when prosecutors or police fail to fulfill their obligations within the legal system. In other cases, clients agree to a plea bargain so that a mediated resolution is reached. In a number of notable cases, Mr. Robbenhaar has achieved very favorable outcomes for his clients, either through trial or negotiated plea.

In the summer of 2003, John volunteered to represent one of several boys who were charged with causing a wildfire in the bosque in Albuquerque. One of the boys had fire-crackers, and in the tinder dry conditions the bosque caught fire. Several private residences were damaged or destroyed, and hundreds of acres of the bosque were reduced to ashes. Amidst “witch-hunt” conditions, John volunteered to represent one of the boys, an individual who had never been in trouble before and showed great promise as a student and future community leader. After much discovery and pre-trial negotiation, John achieved a very favorable result for this young man.

In 1999, students at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque staged a walkout in protest of administration policies. Several student marchers turned the peaceful march into a disturbance, and after police arrived numerous individuals were arrested. One Tenth Grade student was arrested, and when his father arrived to pick up his son, he too was arrested and charged separately. Each case proceeded separately through the court systems, and John secured a dismissal of all charges and readmission of the student back into the Public School system.

In 1999, John successfully represented one of two men accused of assaulting and battering a police officer in Questa, New Mexico. Despite a very damaging videotape of the police-citizen encounter, John was able to prove that the police officer was the aggressor and instigated the incident. John hired expert witnesses, including a physicist who was able to disprove several key claims made by the officer, and a use-of-force expert to demonstrate that the officer deliberately deployed unreasonable force against John’s client. All charges were dismissed against John’s client after jury trial.

Given his very strong writing skills, John was recruited in 1998 to write an amicus brief to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on behalf of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in the case of State v. Herbstman,1999-NMCA-014. In this case, the client disputed that the offense to which he pleaded guilty–criminal sexual penetration in the third degree--required him to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act of 1995, when the trial court awarded the defendant a conditional discharge at sentencing. The Court of Appeals agreed with the amicus’ position, and ruled that individuals who receive a conditional discharge, even after admitting to conduct that would otherwise constitute a sex offense under SORA, do not have to register as a sex offender. Herbstman represents a huge victory for individual rights.

In 1996, John represented a man accused of domestic violence. The defendant was eventually charged with thirteen separate incidents, each representing a separate criminal charge, based upon alleged conduct that occurred after the initial incident but prior to trial. Through an exhaustive investigation, John proved that many of the allegations brought against the defendant had to have been falsified, and that the alleged victim suffered from severe psychological problems which caused her to bring these false charges. While John’s client admitted to the initial incident, he was acquitted after trial of each of the twelve remaining counts.

In 2006, John was appointed by the Federal Court to represent an undocumented woman who, after previously being deported, returned to the United States without permission. This person was criminally charged with a violation of federal immigration laws. The maximum penalties associated with this crime are up to 20 years of incarceration, and in this particular case the client was facing a presumptive Sentencing Guideline sentence of between five to six years. Preliminary investigation revealed that the case turned on a traffic stop conducted by United States Border Patrol Agents in the Albuquerque area, despite regulations which restrict Border Patrol stops to within 100 miles from the international border.

John moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of an illegal traffic stop and, after a lengthy suppression hearing, the Chief Judge of the Federal Court ruled that the Constitutional rights of John's client (and her co-defendant husband) had been violated. All evidence which resulted from the traffic stop-including the identity of John's client and all statements that she had made-were suppressed and deemed inadmissible at trial. The decision is reported at United States of America v. Juarez-Torres and Betancourt-Perez, 441 F.Supp.2d 1108 (D.N.M. 2006)