In a recent case before the Arizona Court of Appeals, the defendant argued against his conviction for the possession or use of dangerous drugs. On appeal, the defendant argued that the two officers that found drugs on his person infringed on his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Looking at the evidence, the court ultimately disagreed with the defendant and affirmed the guilty verdict.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, two police officers were patrolling early one morning when they noticed a grey van circling an empty parking lot. The van’s driver then drove out of the parking lot and took an illegal turn, at which point the officers activated the car’s siren to conduct a traffic stop. The van stopped, and the officers approached the vehicle.
One of the officers immediately noticed a tied-off, plastic bag under the console. It was clear to the officer, based on his years of experience in the field, that the white, crystalized substance inside the bag was methamphetamine. The officers arrested the defendant and found methamphetamine, marijuana, and a glass pipe in his pockets. The defendant was charged with possession or use of dangerous drugs.
The defendant was subsequently convicted at trial. He quickly appealed, arguing the incriminating drug evidence should not have been used against him at trial. Under the constitution, said the defendant, he had the right to be free from unreasonable searches by police officers. The officers’ search of his vehicle without his consent was illegal, and the evidence should have been suppressed at trial.
In considering the defendant’s argument, the court pointed out a notable exception to the general rule that officers cannot conduct a search without first securing a warrant. This exception is called the “plain view exception”, and it lets officers seize evidence without a warrant as long as that evidence is clearly visible to the officers when they seize it.
Here, said the court, the officers acted reasonably in that they approached the defendant because he had engaged in suspicious activity. When they approached, they saw the drugs in a plastic bag, in plain view from their position outside the vehicle. Because they did not conduct any actual search of the vehicle before coming across the drugs, the process did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights.
The court thus ruled that the drugs were properly admitted. The defendant’s original verdict was upheld.
Are You Facing Drug Charges in the State of Arizona?
For those who have been charged with drug crimes in the state of Arizona, the process of figuring out how to fight those charges can be brutal. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we believe that the client’s needs and defense come first, and we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients facing criminal charges. We pride ourselves on our ability to consider your individualized circumstances and priorities as we create a case plan that works best for you. For a free and confidential consultation, call us today at 480-413-1499.