Published on:

Arizona Court Finds Detectives Had Reasonable Suspicion to Stop Defendant’s Car, Leading to the Discovery of a Firearm

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona gun case requiring the court to determine if the lower court should have granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. The case contains an informative discussion on police officers’ ability to stop a motorist. Specifically, the case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the police had a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity when they stopped his car. Finding that such a suspicion existed, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

According to the court’s opinion, detectives responded to a sexually explicit ad on backpages.com, a website known to the detectives as one that frequently contained ads for prostitution. Through text messages, the detectives set up a meeting with two women. The detectives waited at the pre-arranged meeting place. They saw the defendant driving a car into the apartment complex and drop off two women. Police stopped the women, and detectives determined the vehicle was registered to the defendant, who was on supervised release for a robbery.

The detectives stopped the defendant’s car and approached. Ultimately, a handgun was recovered from the front seat, by where the defendant was sitting. The defendant was arrested and charged accordingly. Before trial, he filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that it was recovered as the result of an illegal stop. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court began by noting that an officer must have a “reasonable, articulable suspicion based upon the totality of the circumstances that the suspect is involved or about to be involved in criminal activity” to stop someone. The court explained that this requires more than a “hunch,” but only requires a minimal legal justification for the stop.

Here, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion. The court explained that the detectives’ prior communications with the contact from the advertisement, along with their training and experience, caused them to reasonably believe that the defendant was transporting the women for prostitution. In the alternative, the prosecution argued that the defendant might have been acting as the women’s pimp. In either case, the court held, the detectives had a reasonable belief that the defendant was in the process of committing, or about to engage in a crime. Thus, the court determined that the detective’s stop of the defendant was legally justified.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious Arizona crime, contact Attorney James E. Novak for assistance. Attorney Novak is a well-respected Tempe criminal defense attorney who has decades of experience representing clients charged with all types of crimes, including Arizona gun crimes. Attorney Novak is a former prosecutor who understands how the other side thinks, and puts that knowledge to use in each of his clients’ cases. To learn more about how Attorney James Novak can help you defend your freedom against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule your free consultation.

Additional Resources: