Published on:

Arizona Court Rejects Defendant’s Request for Border Checkpoint Discovery

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug possession case discussing the defendant’s request for specific discovery related to a border checkpoint. Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s request for additional discovery, finding that he could not establish that there was a “substantial need” for the material or that he was unable to obtain the requested discovery on his own. The case illustrates the importance of understanding the legal framework that governs discovery requests and how to effectively request desired discovery.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving through a border checkpoint when he was stopped by border patrol agents. A drug-sniffing dog alerted to the defendant’s car, and an agent directed the defendant to pull into an area for secondary screening. Upon searching the vehicle, agents found marijuana and methamphetamine. The defendant was eventually charged with possession of marijuana and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Before trial, the defendant requested “all search and seizure raw data” from the border checkpoint where he was stopped. The defendant argued that the information was relevant to determine whether the primary purpose of the checkpoint was for immigration enforcement or drug detection and enforcement. The court denied his request, and the defendant was ultimately convicted.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the court’s denial of his motion to compel the border checkpoint discovery. The court began by noting that there are two different standards when it comes to a defendant’s request for discovery. Rule 15.1 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure primarily is concerned with evidence that is within the prosecution’s control. However, a defendant can request discovery outside of the prosecution’s control if the defendant can establish 1.) that there is a “substantial need” for the requested discovery, and 2.) that the defendant “cannot obtain the substantial equivalent by other means without undue
hardship.”

Here, the court noted that the defendant did not claim that the information was within the state’s control. Upon reviewing the defendant’s motion, the court also held that the defendant did not offer any “meaningful explanation or factual support” for his argument that there is a distinction between a checkpoint set up for immigration purposes versus one set up for drug-enforcement purposes. In other words, the court determined that, whatever the purpose of the checkpoint, it would not have made a difference. The court also held that the defendant failed to show that he could not obtain the requested information without undue hardship.

Have You Been Arrested after Being Stopped at an Arizona Checkpoint?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime after being stopped at an Arizona checkpoint, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a well-respected criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of serious crimes, including Arizona drug crimes, theft offenses, DUIs, and allegations of sexual assault. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.