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As a general matter, Arizona criminal law prohibits assaulting another person. An assault can occur in several different ways. Under Arizona’s assault statute, it is against the law to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause physical injury to another person; to intentionally place someone else in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or to knowingly touch another with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke them. However, there are exceptions when using force against another person is justified.

A justification defense is considered an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one that, if proven by the defendant, defeats the legal consequences of what would otherwise have been an illegal act. In other words, when claiming a justification offense, the defendant is not contesting any of the elements of the offense. Instead, the defendant is saying “yes, I did what you say I did, but I did it for a good reason.”

As noted above, there are several different situations in which physical force can be used against another person. These include self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property. While each of these defenses is outlined in separate statutes, a defendant must establish that they reasonably believed the force was necessary. However, physical force is never justified based on verbal provocation. Courts consider both whether the person using force was justified in the use of force, as well as whether the extent of the force used was proportionate to threat posed.

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Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens are guaranteed the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Over the years since the passage of the Fourth Amendment, courts have interpreted this to mean that police are generally required to obtain a warrant that is supported by probable caused before they can search a person, car or home.

Of course, there are exceptions to this general requirement. For example, if a police officer has probable cause to arrest a defendant for the commission of an Arizona crime, the officer is allowed to perform a search incident to that arrest. Similarly, if a police officer is in hot pursuit of a defendant who is believed to have committed a serious crime, the officer may not need a warrant to enter a home or vehicle.

One of the most common exceptions to the warrant requirement is when the officer obtains consent to search from the defendant. However, in order for an officer to conduct a search based on a defendant’s consent, that consent must be valid and not coerced. A recent case discusses consent, and how courts determine if it is valid.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona gun possession case requiring the court determine if the police officers’ stop of the defendant violated his constitutional rights. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss when a police officer is justified in stopping and searching someone they believe to be suspicious.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, police officers were in the middle of a traffic stop when they saw the defendant walk past them on the street. The defendant was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and red sneakers. The officers knew red to be the color of a local gang. The officers also noticed that the defendant seemed to be avoiding looking in the officers’ direction. As the defendant walked away, he removed his hood, and officers were able to see that he was black and had long hair.

The officers believe the defendant was someone whom they had interacted with before, and ran that person’s name for warrants. It turns out that person had several warrants, and officers decided to stop the defendant. The officers stopped the defendant, who was placed on the curb and asked his name and if he had any weapons. The defendant provided the officers with a name and indicated that he did not have any weapons. An officer went to check the name supplied by the defendant, and while that officer was gone, another officer patted the defendant down, finding a gun. The defendant was then arrested and searched, during which the officers found methamphetamine. The officer then returned from conducting the name check, finding no warrants. It was later determined that the name the defendant gave was not his own.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case in which the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence that was used to convict him. However, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for burglary on the basis that the two-drawer filing cabinet he was seen peering into was a “nonresidential structure.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, a man received a notification on his cell phone that something triggered his home’s motion sensor. The man grabbed his gun and went outside to check around his property. Once the man got outside, he evidently saw the defendant holding a flashlight looking in a two-drawer filing cabinet that the man kept alongside his garage. The man told the defendant to stop, and the defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with burglary.

Burglary in Arizona

In Arizona, section 13-1508 defines burglary in the first degree as “entering … a nonresidential structure … with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein” while possessing a weapon. The term nonresidential structure is defined in section 13-1501 as “any structure other than a residential structure and includes a retail establishment.” Section 13-1501 also defines the term “structure” as an “object… with sides and a floor that is separately securable from any other structure attached to it and that is used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage.”

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case discussing under what circumstances a defendant’s un-Mirandized statement made to law enforcement should be suppressed. Because the court concluded that the defendant was not in custody at the time she made the statement, it was not suppressible and was properly admitted at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was riding as the front-seat passenger in an SUV that was traveling through a border-crossing checkpoint. As the driver pulled into the checkpoint, the border-crossing agent’s drug-detection dog alerted to the vehicle. The agent directed the driver to pull over into the secondary screening area.

Evidently, once in the secondary screening area, law enforcement learned that the vehicle belonged to the defendant’s husband. The agent asked the defendant for permission to search the vehicle, and the defendant consented to the search. The agent’s dog hopped into the vehicle and alerted to a purse and then to two bags in the rear of the SUV. The defendant told the agent that the bags were hers. Inside the bags, the officer discovered several items she believed to be drug paraphernalia. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

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For decades, law enforcement officers have used dogs to detect narcotics due to their superior sense of smell. And over the years, courts have generally upheld police officer’s ability to use dogs to sniff the perimeter of a motorist’s vehicle on the basis that it does not constitute a legal “search” under the 4th Amendment. If you have questions that relate to topics such as these, reach out to an Arizona drug crimes attorney without delay.

In a 2007 case, an Arizona appellate court issued an opinion containing an in-depth discussion regarding the use of drug-detection dogs by Arizona law enforcement. In that case, a police officer pulled the defendant over for speeding. The officer noticed that the defendant’s car had two cell phones mounted to the dash, a map on the passenger seat, an open bottle of liquor, and some snacks. The officer issued the defendant a warning and, after the warning was issued, the police officer asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant replied that he had nothing to hide, but did not want to wait. The officer then let the defendant go.

The same officer pulled the defendant over a few minutes later, again for speeding. The officer issued another warning, and again asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant still refused, indicating that he had nothing to hide. The police officer went back to his car to call for a canine unit, and was informed it would be about 90 minutes until a canine unit arrived. The officer told the defendant, who explained that it was not a problem because he was retired and not in a hurry.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug possession case discussing an interesting motion to suppress that was brought by the defendant. The defendant argued that the smell of marijuana should no longer give a police officer probable cause to detain, search, or arrest based on the state’s loosening stance on marijuana and the availability of medical marijuana. The court, however, summarily rejected the defendant’s argument.

The Facts of the Case

According to the facts as outlined by the court, a postal inspector noticed several suspicious looking packages that were dropped off at various post offices. The inspector obtained a warrant to search the boxes, and found marijuana inside. The inspector then took fingerprints from inside the box, and the prints came back as belonging to the defendant.

Evidently, the inspector obtained an arrest warrant for the defendant. As police arrested the defendant, he asked if he could put his shoes on. The officer accompanied the defendant into his home as he grabbed his shoes. As the officers walked through the defendant’s home, the noticed large rolls of cellophane wrapping and could smell marijuana. Using that information, the officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home, and discovered marijuana and other items that the officers believed to be drug paraphernalia.

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Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug trafficking case requiring the court to determine whether the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court ultimately concluded that the police possessed reasonable suspicion to approach the defendant in his car and order him out, at which point the defendant was legally arrested based on the officers’ observations. Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion was properly denied below.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, Tucson police received a tip that someone was selling narcotics out of a home. Officers drove to the location, and watched as a man entered the residence and then left a short time later. Police followed the man to a restaurant parking lot.

Evidently, shortly after the man pulled into a restaurant parking lot, another man got into the vehicle through the front passenger door. Initially, the two men were sitting upright; however, shortly after the second man got into the car both seats reclined below the level of the window so that they were not visible by passersby. At this point, the police officers pulled their vehicles up next to the defendant’s, effectively boxing him in so he could not leave.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case discussing whether the trial court properly reversed a defendant’s conviction after the jury was allowed to view digital pictures that had only been admitted into evidence as hard-copies. Ultimately, the court concluded that the digital images were “duplicates” of the original hard-copy photographs, and that showing the digital images to the jury was permissible.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, a witness saw a man and a woman jumping over a fence and entering a home. A few minutes later, the witness saw the same couple leaving the home carrying a black bag. The witness took several pictures of the couple on her cell phone.

Police later determined that jewelry and several guns were missing from the property. The defendant was arrested and charged with several crimes, including burglary and possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor.

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Of the thousands of cases filed by Arizona prosecutors each year, many involve allegations of assault. Depending on the circumstances of the allegations, an Arizona assault charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense.

In Arizona, there are two types of assault that do not involve a sexual element: assault and aggravated assault. To prove either of these crimes, the prosecution must establish that the defendant, 1.) performed an act, 2.) while exhibiting the necessary mindset. In Latin, these terms are known as the “actus reus” and “mens rea.”

The actus reus is the physical action that constitutes an element of a crime. For example, in an assault case, the actus reus may be a punch, a stabbing motion, or the pulling of a gun’s trigger. However, to find a defendant guilty of a crime, the prosecution must establish that the defendant performed the act with the necessary “guilty mind.”

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