In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence was denied. After having been found guilty of illegally possessing firearms, the defendant argued in his appeal that the state trooper who stopped him and found his gun had no right to pull him over in the first place. The court disagreed, saying that because the defendant had extensively violated traffic laws, there was ample reason for the trooper to conduct the traffic stop that eventually led to the trooper finding incriminating evidence.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, an Arizona State Trooper pulled the defendant over for failing to remain within a traffic lane. Approaching the vehicle, the officer asked the defendant if he had any weapons in the vehicle; the defendant denied having any firearms in his car, but the officer immediately saw and seized an AR-15 pistol from near the front driver’s seat. At the time of the traffic stop, the defendant was prohibited from possessing weapons as a condition of his felony probation. His fingerprint was later found on the pistol.
At trial, the government found the defendant guilty of possessing a firearm while being a prohibited possessor and of failing to accurately answer the trooper’s questions regarding a concealed firearm.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the initial traffic stop was illegal and thus that any evidence found during the traffic stop was unusable at trial. According to the defendant, the trooper “lacked a sufficient basis” to stop his car for allegedly veering between lanes. In his testimony, the trooper recalled that he saw the defendant crossing over the marked lane line at least five times; the defendant also, said the trooper, kept looking at his phone while he drove. In contrast, the defendant testified that he had not committed any traffic violations. While the defendant did admit to driving with a suspended license, he denied veering between lanes at all on the night in question.
The court decided that the trooper’s testimony was credible, based on the fact that his oral testimony was consistent with what he wrote in his original incident report. Because the officer saw the defendant cross the marked lane line at least five times (an “extensive” amount of times), the court said there was enough reason for the officer to pull the defendant over. Thus the original traffic stop was valid, and any evidence found during the stop was also reasonably used in court. The defendant’s appeal was denied, and he was sentenced to time in prison because of his convictions.
Have You Been Charged with Firearm Possession in Arizona?
For many defendants in Arizona, seemingly routine traffic stops can lead to unexpected criminal charges. If you are facing charges after having been pulled over by a police officer, know that there are possible defenses that could help you fight your case. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we are experienced litigators who will use our vast experience in Arizona criminal law to advocate on your behalf. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499.