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Arizona’s Good-Faith Exception

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.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was pulled over on suspicion of driving while under the influence. During a conversation with the defendant, a police officer requested that the defendant provide a breath sample for testing. The officer told the defendant that Arizona law requires that he agree to the testing. This was a misstatement of the current law; however, at the time the officer made the statement to the defendant, the officer was correct. Subsequent to the defendant’s arrest, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion prohibiting mandatory testing requirements for blood draws. There had been no decision regarding whether mandatory breath tests were permissible.

The defendant’s breath-test results indicated that the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit, and he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant claimed that the test results should be excluded from evidence because they were only obtained based on the fact that the officer incorrectly told the defendant that the law required that he consent to the test. In making this argument, the defendant assumed that mandatory breath tests were impermissible under the U.S. Supreme Court case law.

The court did not answer the question regarding the distinction between mandatory testing for blood and breath tests but instead decided the case on good-faith grounds. The court held that, even if the officer was wrong in his statement of the law to the defendant, the officer was basing his statement on a good-faith belief that he was correct. Thus, Arizona’s good-faith exception prevented the trial judge from excluding the test results.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been arrested for an Arizona DUI, you should contact the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak has decades of experience representing those charged with Arizona DUI crimes, and he is keenly familiar with this evolving area of the law. States across the country have scrambled to enact new laws in the wake of landmark U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and many of these laws are subject to challenge. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak to discuss your Arizona DUI case, call 480-413-1499 today.

Additional Resources:

Other Articles of Interest from The Law Office of James Novak’s Award Winning Blog:

The Importance of Effective Cross-Examination of Witnesses in Arizona Criminal Defense Cases, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, April 25, 2018

Arizona Court Upholds Validity of California Recommendation Letter in Marijuana Case, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, March 26, 2018

Arizona Court Precludes Evidence of Defendant’s PTSD Diagnosis in Recent Homicide Case, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, April 11, 2018