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Arizona Court Determines Defendant Consented to Extended Traffic Stop

Recently, an Arizona appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug crime case affirming the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was seized during a traffic stop. The case required the court to discuss whether the officer’s stop was extended beyond the time that was required to write the ticket issued to the defendant and, if so, whether that extension of the stop required the suppression of the evidence.Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant consented to the extended encounter. Thus, the evidence seized as a result of the stop was not required to be suppressed.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was driving on the highway when he was pulled over by a police officer for following too closely. After running the defendant’s name, the officer determined that the defendant’s license was suspended. The officer wrote the defendant a ticket.

After the officer signed the ticket and provided it to the defendant, the officer told the defendant that the highway on which he was driving was known for drug trafficking. The officer then asked whether the defendant had drugs in the car and asked for consent to search the car. The defendant denied that he had drugs in the car and permitted the officer to search the car. During the officer’s search of the car, he recovered nearly seven pounds of methamphetamine hidden behind a panel in the car’s trunk.

The defendant was charged with several serious crimes. The defendant filed a motion to suppress anything found in the vehicle, arguing that the officer impermissibly extended the duration of the traffic stop by asking unrelated questions about the presence of drugs. Thus, the defendant claimed that his consent to search the car was invalid.

The Court’s Analysis

The court began by acknowledging that a police officer can only seize a motorist for as long as is necessary to “address the traffic violation that warranted the stop.” The court also noted that once the officer’s reason for initiating the traffic stop is complete, he must let the motorist go on their way.

However, the court then explained that an officer can continue a traffic stop if the officer develops probable cause during the permissible encounter, or if the encounter between the officer and motorist becomes consensual.

Here, the court held that the encounter between the defendant and police officer became a consensual one after the issuance of the ticket. The court noted that after being handed the ticket, the defendant did not try to leave. The court also pointed out that the officer was not displaying any force or making any threats when asking the unrelated questions. Finally, the court explained that the defendant testified the reason he stayed to answer the questions was out of respect to the officer, rather than because he felt legally compelled to do so. Taking this into account, the court determined that the defendant consented to the additional conversation with the officer and that his consent to search the car was valid.

Have You Been Arrested After Your Car Was Searched?

If you have recently been arrested after evidence was recovered from your vehicle, you should contact Attorney James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Tempe drug crime attorney with decades of experience handling all types of Arizona criminal cases. He understands the anxieties and stresses his clients face throughout the process, and he takes care to ensure that his clients are kept informed and up-to-date. To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak to see how he can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 today.

Additional Resources:

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

Court Discusses Accomplice Liability in Recent Arizona Robbery Case, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, July 19, 2018

Plea Bargains in Arizona Criminal Cases, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, June 26, 2018

Recent Supreme Court Case Protects Privacy of Cell Phone Location Data, Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, July 5, 2018


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