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Arizona Court Discusses Validity of Traffic Stop in Recent Sexual Exploitation Case

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona child sex sting operation, discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because he had not committed a crime or a traffic offense. The court, however, disagreed, finding that the stop was valid because there was probable cause to believe the defendant committed “luring a minor for sexual exploitation.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police set up a fake account in the name of “Sandi” in a teen chat room. The defendant began chatting with Sandi, and eventually, the nature of the conversation turned sexual, when the defendant asked Sandi if she would perform oral sex on him. The two arranged a time to meet at a location which was about 30 miles from the defendant’s home.

Police arrived at the area beforehand and waited for the defendant to arrive. However, when the defendant neared the park, he just drove around. Police officers claim that they eventually became concerned that the defendant would try to contact a real minor, and they pulled over his vehicle. No evidence was found linking the defendant to the crime, but he was arrested based on the chat conversations.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress “the stop and all evidence gathered from the stop,” arguing he had not committed a traffic violation, and police did not have probable cause to arrest him. The trial court rejected the defendant’s motion and the defendant was ultimately convicted. The defendant appealed the denial of his motion.

On appeal, the court held that the arresting officers had probable cause to arrest the defendant for luring a minor for sexual exploitation. The court explained that a person commits the offense when they offer or solicit “sexual conduct with another person knowing or having reason to know that the other person is a minor.” Here, the court held that the online chats between the defendant and Sandi, where he asked her to perform oral sex on him, constituted the basis of the crime. Thus, it was irrelevant whether the defendant had committed a traffic offense because the stop was justified based on the defendant’s criminal activity. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the police officers could not have known who was driving his car when they decided to pull him over.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Sexual Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona sexual offense, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a knowledgeable Tempe criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of cases, including Arizona sex cases. To learn more about how attorney Novak can help you defend against the allegations you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Novak continues to provide the same zealous representation during the COVID-19 crisis, and welcomes new clients to contact him for video or phone consultations.

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