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Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Challenge to Search Warrant

In a recent Arizona drug trafficking case, the Court of Appeals of Arizona discussed a defendant’s challenge to a search warrant that was obtained by an officer who omitted facts that the defendant claimed were relevant to the probable cause determination. Ultimately, however, the court concluded that the defendant was unable to meet the high burden of showing that the police officer “knowingly, intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth included a false statement.” Thus, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The Facts of the Case

Police received a tip that the defendant was selling marijuana out of his house. Officers went to the defendant’s home and made observations with a “stick camera.” The camera allowed officers to see the outside portion of the defendant’s home; however, they could not see inside the home.

The officers observed the defendant and another male leave the house in two separate cars. The defendant drove a van and the other man drove a Honda. They met up with a third man who was driving an Impala, who switched cars with the driver of the Honda. The Impala was then driven back to the defendant’s home. Officers believed this to be a “blind sale” of narcotics; however, when they stopped the Impala they did not find any narcotics or evidence of drug sales.

Officers continued to observe the defendant’s home, and observed two men enter the home carrying a bag. A few moments later, the men left with the bag and drove away. Police stopped the men a short time later and recovered marijuana, cash, and a handgun inside the bag. The men admitted to buying marijuana, and one of the men told police that he had obtained it from the defendant’s address.

Officers applied a search warrant for the defendant’s home. In the affidavit of probable cause presented to the magistrate the officer mentioned that the defendant had been previously arrested for selling marijuana and was on probation for that offense. The affidavit, however, did not include the following information:

  • That the officer’s description of the bag being carried by the two men into the defendant’s house did not match the description of the bag the men left with;
  • That the officers did not witness any criminal activity at the defendant’s home;
  • The officers did not see anything being placed into either the Honda or the Impala;
  • That the officers did not find any evidence of drug sales when they stopped the Impala; and
  • That the officers found other narcotics on the two men that were not tied to the defendant.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the police officer failed to include relevant and necessary information in the affidavit of probable cause. The defendant claimed that the officer’s failure to include this information rendered the search warrant invalid.

The court, however, disagreed, explaining that in order to establish that a search warrant is invalid the defendant must establish that the police officer “knowingly, intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth included a false statement in the search warrant affidavit” and also that, once the false statements were removed, the search warrant lacked probable cause.

Here, the court explained that none of the police officer’s omissions were problematic. The court held that the officer did not have to include every known detail of his investigation, and that his failure to include facts he viewed as irrelevant did not mean the officer was being intentionally deceptive. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and affirmed his convictions.

Have You Been Arrested after Police Searched Your Home?

If police have recently searched your home and taken evidence that you believe they plan to use against you at an Arizona criminal trial, contact Attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney with decades of experience handling all types of criminal cases. To learn more, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.

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