Articles Posted in Appeals

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Last month, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case that limits the government’s ability to seize the assets of those convicted of crimes. Typically, when someone is arrested for an Arizona crime, any assets that are potentially evidence will be seized. For example, it is common that a vehicle used to transport drugs will be seized as potential evidence. In the event that the defendant is found guilty, the government can proceed with a civil forfeiture claim in an attempt to keep whatever assets were seized.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant pleaded guilty to dealing in a controlled substance. When the defendant was arrested, he was driving a Land Rover that he had recently purchased for $42,000 with the proceeds from a life insurance policy.

The defendant was sentenced to one year of house arrest, followed by five years’ probation. The defendant was also fined $1,203. After the defendant was convicted, the state moved for civil forfeiture of the Land Rover. The trial court denied the government’s claim, noting that the value of the Land Rover was over four times the maximum fine for the crime for which the defendant was convicted. Thus, the court held that the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines precluded the government from taking ownership of the vehicle.

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Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens are guaranteed the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Over the years since the passage of the Fourth Amendment, courts have interpreted this to mean that police are generally required to obtain a warrant that is supported by probable caused before they can search a person, car or home.

Of course, there are exceptions to this general requirement. For example, if a police officer has probable cause to arrest a defendant for the commission of an Arizona crime, the officer is allowed to perform a search incident to that arrest. Similarly, if a police officer is in hot pursuit of a defendant who is believed to have committed a serious crime, the officer may not need a warrant to enter a home or vehicle.

One of the most common exceptions to the warrant requirement is when the officer obtains consent to search from the defendant. However, in order for an officer to conduct a search based on a defendant’s consent, that consent must be valid and not coerced. A recent case discusses consent, and how courts determine if it is valid.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case in which the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence that was used to convict him. However, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for burglary on the basis that the two-drawer filing cabinet he was seen peering into was a “nonresidential structure.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, a man received a notification on his cell phone that something triggered his home’s motion sensor. The man grabbed his gun and went outside to check around his property. Once the man got outside, he evidently saw the defendant holding a flashlight looking in a two-drawer filing cabinet that the man kept alongside his garage. The man told the defendant to stop, and the defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with burglary.

Burglary in Arizona

In Arizona, section 13-1508 defines burglary in the first degree as “entering … a nonresidential structure … with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein” while possessing a weapon. The term nonresidential structure is defined in section 13-1501 as “any structure other than a residential structure and includes a retail establishment.” Section 13-1501 also defines the term “structure” as an “object… with sides and a floor that is separately securable from any other structure attached to it and that is used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage.”

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Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug trafficking case requiring the court to determine whether the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court ultimately concluded that the police possessed reasonable suspicion to approach the defendant in his car and order him out, at which point the defendant was legally arrested based on the officers’ observations. Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion was properly denied below.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, Tucson police received a tip that someone was selling narcotics out of a home. Officers drove to the location, and watched as a man entered the residence and then left a short time later. Police followed the man to a restaurant parking lot.

Evidently, shortly after the man pulled into a restaurant parking lot, another man got into the vehicle through the front passenger door. Initially, the two men were sitting upright; however, shortly after the second man got into the car both seats reclined below the level of the window so that they were not visible by passersby. At this point, the police officers pulled their vehicles up next to the defendant’s, effectively boxing him in so he could not leave.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case discussing whether the trial court properly reversed a defendant’s conviction after the jury was allowed to view digital pictures that had only been admitted into evidence as hard-copies. Ultimately, the court concluded that the digital images were “duplicates” of the original hard-copy photographs, and that showing the digital images to the jury was permissible.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, a witness saw a man and a woman jumping over a fence and entering a home. A few minutes later, the witness saw the same couple leaving the home carrying a black bag. The witness took several pictures of the couple on her cell phone.

Police later determined that jewelry and several guns were missing from the property. The defendant was arrested and charged with several crimes, including burglary and possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor.

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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.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona criminal case requiring the court to determine if police had probable cause to arrest the defendant without a warrant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the information police had at the time they decided to arrest the defendant gave them probable cause to believe that she had acted as an accomplice in the robbery.

The Facts of the Case

The complaining witness was approached by someone in a convenience store parking lot who took her purse. Video of the parking lot showed that person get into the passenger door of a green “Jeep-like” vehicle with a white bumper sticker in the top-right corner of the rear window. After taking the robbery report, a police officer put out a description of the vehicle over police radio.

About 30 minutes later, the officer received a report of a suspicious vehicle that other officers believed to be the one involved in the robbery. The investigating officer drove to where the vehicle was parked and confirmed that it was the same vehicle as seen in the video. In the bushes not far from the vehicle was the complaining witness’ purse. A witness told police that a woman had recently moved the car to its current location from a driveway a few doors down. Police ran the license plate, and it was registered to the defendant’s name.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona marijuana crime case involving a defendant’s challenge to a warrant that was obtained based on information that was provided by an informant after her own arrest for drug possession. The case presents important issues for those charged with crimes based on an investigation that may have included testimony from a potentially biased witness.The case also illustrates how a witness’ recantation of a statement will not always result in the information being disregarded.

The Facts of the Case

A woman (the informant) was arrested after police discovered a significant amount of marijuana in her backpack. After the informant’s arrest, she made a series of statements to police indicating that she obtained the marijuana from the defendant, who had a much larger supply. The informant explained that the defendant was flying in marijuana on light-weight planes and also that she saw a gun at the defendant’s house.

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In Arizona criminal cases, the defendant can argue that the evidence seized was in violation of his statutory or constitutional rights, and should not be admitted in a trial against him. This is normally done through a motion to suppress evidence. These motions to suppress are very common in Arizona drug cases, as well as Arizona DUI cases.In general, a court may grant a defendant’s motion to suppress when it finds that a police officer’s conduct in obtaining the evidence violated the defendant’s rights. However, under A.R.S. section 13-3925, the evidence will not be suppressed if the prosecution can establish that the officer’s actions were based on a “reasonable, good faith belief that the conduct was proper.” This is called the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The exclusionary rule is the general rule that precludes evidence from being admitted if it is seized in violation of a defendant’s constitutional or statutory rights. Thus, the good-faith exception acts to allow some evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the admissibility of the defendant’s diagnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Being an issue of first impression, the court was required to fashion a rule to determine the admissibility of such diagnoses, ultimately concluding that the evidence should not be admissible.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was nine months pregnant when she shot her boyfriend, the father of her child, in the head, killing him. When asked by detectives, the defendant explained that her boyfriend was abusive and had woken her up by kicking her in the stomach. He also told her that he did not want the baby.

The state charged the defendant with first-degree murder. A few days later, she gave birth, and the state sought to terminate her parental rights. In that proceeding, several experts testified that the defendant suffered from PTSD; however, they noted that the defendant did not answer any questions about the shooting.

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