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Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal in Drug Case

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that his motion to suppress incriminating evidence was unfairly denied. At trial, the defendant had been found guilty of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia. On appeal, he argued that the original traffic stop leading to his charges was unreasonable and that it was an infringement on his privacy rights. The court disagreed, affirming the defendant’s convictions and sentence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was pulled over in December 2019 when he was driving on the highway. Originally, the police officer who pulled the defendant over noticed his car because the defendant made an “odd gesture” and because the officer noticed an object in the windshield. After a few minutes, the defendant began driving through a dirt parking lot, over a curb, and into the parking lot of a nearby casino. Suspicious, the officer followed the defendant into the casino, approached him, and said he was conducting an investigatory stop for improper material on his windshield.

The officer checked the defendant’s license and registration, which led him to the realization that the defendant’s license was suspended. The officer called back up to the scene, including a unit of dogs to help him investigate. One dog sniffed the air around the defendant’s truck and led the officer to three packages of fentanyl. The defendant was indicted, and he moved to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop. The trial court denied his motion to suppress.

The Court’s Opinion and Analysis

On appeal, the defendant argued that his motion to suppress was unfairly denied. First, the defendant argued that the officer did not have enough reason to initiate the traffic stop. According to the defendant, even though there was a cell phone mount and air freshener on his windshield, the officer had no right to approach him based on “improper material” on the windshield. The court disagreed. Arizona law is clear, said the court, that an officer can pull a driver over if it appears that there are objects in the windshield obstructing the driver’s view. Because of this law, the initial traffic stop was indeed reasonable.

Next, the defendant argued that the dog’s sniff of the vehicle was unlawful. Because the officer had no reason to suspect there were drugs in the car, it was unfair to have a dog search the perimeter of the vehicle. The court, however, disagreed. The use of a trained narcotics dog during a traffic stop is not a violation of an individual’s privacy rights, and as long as the dog did not unnecessarily prolong the traffic stop, the use of a narcotics dog was reasonable. Thus, said the court, the officer’s actions during the traffic stop were legal, and the defendant’s motion to suppress was reasonably denied.

Have You Been Arrested Following a Traffic Stop in Arizona?

If you are facing criminal charges related to a traffic stop in Arizona, you have legal defenses that are available to you. With so much at stake, you need counsel from an attorney who is experienced, transparent, and willing to fight for your rights. With representation from the Law Office of James E. Novak, you can be confident your case is getting the attention it needs. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499.

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