Articles Posted in Appeals

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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.

Prison FenceThe 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.

HandcuffedIn 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.

At GunpointThe 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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“Probation is a privilege that cannot be denied under AMMA; Penalties & criminal defense for probation violations.”

Nearly 5 years after the passing of Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) the Arizona Supreme Court heard two cases involving denial of the privilege of qualified patients to use marijuana.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that a condition included in terms of their probation that denies Registered Qualified Patients the right to use medical marijuana is invalid and unenforceable.

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A recent ruling could mean that a motorist who last smoked Marijuana in a legal state a month prior to traveling to Arizona, may be arrested and prosecuted for Marijuana DUI.

An Arizona Court of Appeals marijuana DUI dismissal was overturned recently in favor of the prosecution, and returned the case to the Superior Court for continued prosecution proceedings.

The issue in question was whether or not a motorist could be prosecuted for driving under the influence of Marijuana, even if the only evidence was blood test results that revealed a chemical compound that does not cause impairment; but can remain in the blood stream for a month.

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The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Reversed a Drug Conviction recently based on the cumulative effect of violations resulting in error by the lower court.

The errors pertained to two denials of requests for discovery by the defendant and violations in Rules of Criminal Procedure for sentencing.

The panel found that although the lower court abused its discretion in denying certain discovery requests by the defendant because the record did not clearly establish what exculpatory evidence, if any, may have been produced if the request had been granted; and what effect it may  have had on the trial outcome. As a result, The 9th District court vacated the conviction and remanded for continued proceedings to include evidentiary hearings.