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After a defendant is found guilty of a crime, whether by judge or by jury trial, the court will then move on to the sentencing phase. Arizona law provides for a sentencing range within which the judge must sentence the defendant. For the most part, a judge has discretion on the sentence that he gives a defendant, as long as the sentence is within the statutory range.prisoner

A skilled Arizona criminal defense attorney can help defendants compile compelling mitigation evidence in hopes of receiving a lenient sentence. Judges will normally look at a defendant’s background, including the defendant’s contributions to society as well as their prior convictions, when fashioning a sentence. A judge, however, cannot sentence a defendant to the maximum statutory term without a jury finding that an aggravating circumstance exists. Similarly, a judge must document at least one mitigating circumstance if he intends to sentence the defendant to the minimum allowable statutory sentence.

Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-701 specifies Arizona’s aggravating circumstances. Recently, Arizona lawmakers passed House Bill 2007 (HB2007), adding an additional aggravating circumstance to the list of 26 that were previously enumerated in the statute. The newest aggravating circumstance is triggered when a defendant “uses a mask or other disguise to obscure the defendant’s face to avoid detection.”

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Recently, an Arizona appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug crime case affirming the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was seized during a traffic stop. The case required the court to discuss whether the officer’s stop was extended beyond the time that was required to write the ticket issued to the defendant and, if so, whether that extension of the stop required the suppression of the evidence.highway

Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant consented to the extended encounter. Thus, the evidence seized as a result of the stop was not required to be suppressed.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was driving on the highway when he was pulled over by a police officer for following too closely. After running the defendant’s name, the officer determined that the defendant’s license was suspended. The officer wrote the defendant a ticket.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona criminal case requiring the court to determine if police had probable cause to arrest the defendant without a warrant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the information police had at the time they decided to arrest the defendant gave them probable cause to believe that she had acted as an accomplice in the robbery.

Police OfficerThe Facts of the Case

The complaining witness was approached by someone in a convenience store parking lot who took her purse. Video of the parking lot showed that person get into the passenger door of a green “Jeep-like” vehicle with a white bumper sticker in the top-right corner of the rear window. After taking the robbery report, a police officer put out a description of the vehicle over police radio.

About 30 minutes later, the officer received a report of a suspicious vehicle that other officers believed to be the one involved in the robbery. The investigating officer drove to where the vehicle was parked and confirmed that it was the same vehicle as seen in the video. In the bushes not far from the vehicle was the complaining witness’ purse. A witness told police that a woman had recently moved the car to its current location from a driveway a few doors down. Police ran the license plate, and it was registered to the defendant’s name.

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In a recent United States Supreme Court opinion, the Court reversed the lower court’s ruling that denied a defendant’s motion to suppress the historical location data obtained by the police from the defendant’s cellular phone provider. The opinion is very important to those charged with an Arizona crime where the prosecution is planning on introducing evidence that was seized as a result of a questionable police search or seizure.

Tracking Your LocationThe Facts of the Case

The police were investigating a series of robberies. They arrested one man they believed to be involved and asked him who else was involved. The man provided the police with the defendant’s name and phone number.

Under the Stored Communications Act, the police were able to obtain the historical location data from the defendant’s cell phone. In order to obtain this information, the police needed only to show that there was a “reasonable probability” that the evidence was “relevant and material to an ongoing investigation.” This is a significantly easier burden for police to meet than the normal “probable cause” that police are generally required to have before conducting a search.

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A defense attorney’s job is to vigorously fight for the rights of his client, and, ultimately to do what is in his client’s best interest. At the same time, any seasoned Arizona criminal defense attorney knows that not every case can result in a “Not Guilty” verdict.

Plea BargainIn some cases where there is a concern about an unfavorable verdict, pre-trial motions can be litigated in hopes of creating a more favorable scenario. For example, a pre-trial motion to suppress physical evidence or a motion in limine to preclude certain harmful testimony may make a defendant’s case much stronger. However, in situations where these pre-trial motions are denied or where the prosecution’s case against the accused is exceptionally strong, an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney should discuss the idea of a negotiated guilty plea, or a plea bargain.

Plea bargains get a bad rap. However, tens of thousands of Arizona criminal defendants accept plea bargains to resolve their cases each year. This is because Arizona plea deals are the product of significant negotiation and take into account several factors. Most notably, when a defendant accepts responsibility for a crime, the prosecutor is able to divert scarce resources elsewhere. Thus, a prosecutor is motivated to resolve cases through negotiated plea bargains in order to focus on other, potentially more serious, cases.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona marijuana crime case involving a defendant’s challenge to a warrant that was obtained based on information that was provided by an informant after her own arrest for drug possession. The case presents important issues for those charged with crimes based on an investigation that may have included testimony from a potentially biased witness.

Prison FenceThe case also illustrates how a witness’ recantation of a statement will not always result in the information being disregarded.

The Facts of the Case

A woman (the informant) was arrested after police discovered a significant amount of marijuana in her backpack. After the informant’s arrest, she made a series of statements to police indicating that she obtained the marijuana from the defendant, who had a much larger supply. The informant explained that the defendant was flying in marijuana on light-weight planes and also that she saw a gun at the defendant’s house.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug possession case requiring the court to determine if the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court ultimately determined that the defendant, who was a passenger in a lawfully stopped vehicle, was legally detained, and the subsequent investigation by police officers did not exceed their legal authority.

Police CruiserThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The car was stopped by police for having an expired registration. The driver quickly pulled over in front of a residence, and the police parked behind the stopped car. As the police were exiting their vehicle, the defendant started to get out of the front-passenger seat; however, police ordered that he get back in the car. The defendant explained that he lived at the residence, and he wanted to go inside. The officer denied the defendant’s request and had him remain in the vehicle.

As the police officers were running the occupants’ licenses for warrants, they noticed a substance they believed to be marijuana in the center console area. The police asked both men out of the car and asked if they would consent to be searched. The defendant responded, “I got nothing on me, that’s fine.” However, police found a crack pipe and a bag of heroin in the defendant’s pockets.

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In Arizona criminal cases, the defendant can argue that the evidence seized was in violation of his statutory or constitutional rights, and should not be admitted in a trial against him. This is normally done through a motion to suppress evidence. These motions to suppress are very common in Arizona drug cases, as well as Arizona DUI cases.

HandcuffedIn general, a court may grant a defendant’s motion to suppress when it finds that a police officer’s conduct in obtaining the evidence violated the defendant’s rights. However, under A.R.S. section 13-3925, the evidence will not be suppressed if the prosecution can establish that the officer’s actions were based on a “reasonable, good faith belief that the conduct was proper.” This is called the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The exclusionary rule is the general rule that precludes evidence from being admitted if it is seized in violation of a defendant’s constitutional or statutory rights. Thus, the good-faith exception acts to allow some evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

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In many Arizona criminal cases, the issue of witness credibility is key. This is because, by and large, most cases present two sides of the same story. Whichever side the judge or jury believes is generally the side that prevails at trial.

Arizona PlateWhether it be the testimony of a complaining witness, the arresting or investigating police officer, or the defendant himself, the importance of establishing that a witness is being truthful is crucial to the side calling that witness. On the flip side of the coin, the opposing side will often attempt to establish that an adverse witness is biased, untruthful, or somehow mistaken about their remembrance of the facts. This is most often done through cross-examination.

When a witness testified, he or she will first be asked questions by the party calling that witness. This is called the direct-examination of a witness. After that party concludes their questioning, the opposing side will then have an opportunity to ask questions of the witness through cross-examination. A skillful cross-examination can highlight problems with a witness’ testimony, casting doubt on that witness’ credibility.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the admissibility of the defendant’s diagnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Being an issue of first impression, the court was required to fashion a rule to determine the admissibility of such diagnoses, ultimately concluding that the evidence should not be admissible.

At GunpointThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was nine months pregnant when she shot her boyfriend, the father of her child, in the head, killing him. When asked by detectives, the defendant explained that her boyfriend was abusive and had woken her up by kicking her in the stomach. He also told her that he did not want the baby.

The state charged the defendant with first-degree murder. A few days later, she gave birth, and the state sought to terminate her parental rights. In that proceeding, several experts testified that the defendant suffered from PTSD; however, they noted that the defendant did not answer any questions about the shooting.

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