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Arizona Court Addresses Law Enforcement’s Ability to Issue Out-of-State Search Warrants

In today’s connected society, physical borders are becoming increasingly blurred. More than ever, we interact with people from across the nation—and the globe—on a regular basis. However, when we use the Internet, much of our information is also stored electronically. The availability and access to online data is a hot topic in criminal law and raises many valid concerns. For example, recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona attempted homicide case requiring the court to determine if and when an Arizona court can issue a search warrant pertaining to evidence located outside of Arizona.

The Facts of the Case

The case involved a woman who allegedly tried to poison her husband. According to the court’s opinion, the woman’s husband collapsed after a dinner party. The man’s wife called 911, and emergency workers took the man to the hospital. At the hospital, the woman told doctors to communicate only with her about her husband’s condition.

Through routine testing, medical workers discovered that he had high levels of ethylene glycol—the main compound in anti-freeze—in his blood. Doctors asked the man’s family if they found any anti-freeze in the house. This surprised the family, who were previously unaware that he had high levels of ethylene glycol in his blood. Upon learning this information, the couple’s children called the police.

Police obtained a search warrant and recovered several electronic devices from the home. After reviewing the contents of these devices, law enforcement discovered that the woman had previously purchased ethylene glycol from Amazon. Law enforcement then sought a search warrant to obtain the woman’s Amazon account information, which required out-of-state companies to provide the police with the woman’s data.

After a trial, a jury convicted the woman of attempted murder, sentencing her to 21 years in jail. She appealed several issues, including the issuance of the out-of-state search warrants.

The Court’s Opinion

On appeal, the woman claimed that the language in Article 6 Section 13 of the Arizona Constitution stating that “The process of the [Superior] court shall extend to all parts of the state” meant the court only had the authority to issue in-state search warrants.

The court rejected the defendant’s claim. In doing so, the court clarified that the cited language refers only to the court’s ability to issue a final disposition in a case and not its authority to issue a search warrant. The court explained that there is no geographical limitation on an Arizona court’s ability to issue a search warrant, provided the warrant was supported by probable cause and issued in the appropriate manner.

Have You Been Arrested After Law Enforcement Executed a Search Warrant?

If you are facing criminal charges based on evidence recovered through a search warrant, you may be able to challenge several aspects of the warrant and how the evidence was obtained. Attorney James E. Novak is a dedicated Tempe criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience representing clients facing all types of serious crimes, including Arizona attempted murder cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call the Law Offices of James E. Novak at 480-413-1499 today.

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