Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have used wiretaps and other electronic surveillance methods to gather evidence of criminal activity for over a century. The privacy issues involved in listening in on the conversations of private citizens invoke constitutional protections that have been addressed by both Arizona and Federal courts. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently affirmed a defendant’s conviction for drug trafficking offenses, rejecting his contention that the wiretap evidence used to convict him was obtained in violation of federal law.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant had been a suspect in an ongoing drug trafficking investigation. In 2016, the Maricopa County attorney’s office submitted a request for wiretap authorization to the superior court, which was granted. Based on the evidence obtained by listening to the defendant’s phone conversations, he was arrested and charged with several drug trafficking offenses. Before trial, the defendant’s attorney attempted to suppress the wiretap evidence, arguing that a recently decided federal court case set the standards for wiretap applications, and the one submitted in the defendant’s case was not up to the standard

The federal law concerning wiretap applications was recently clarified by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Arizona. The 9th Circuit determined that a valid application for a wiretap must be signed off by the “principle prosecuting attorney” for the jurisdiction where the wiretap is requested. The application, in this case, was signed off by a deputy district attorney, not the principal prosecuting attorney for Maricopa County.

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In a recent opinion coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant argued that the trial court made an error in determining the scope of her original convictions and sentences. Originally, the defendant was charged and convicted of several drug-related charges after a police officer found methamphetamine on her person in a routine traffic stop. Four of the convictions revolved specifically around the defendant’s possession of drug paraphernalia. On appeal, the defendant argued that these convictions for drug paraphernalia should have been merged into a single conviction, and she should not have been tried for four separate crimes. The court of appeals ended up agreeing with the defendant, and it modified the trial court’s decision to reflect only one conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was pulled over one evening in 2018 for a traffic violation. The police officer conducting the traffic stop quickly suspected that the defendant had been drinking, and he arrested and searched her to confirm his suspicions. During the search, the officer found methamphetamine in the defendant’s clothing.

Once the defendant arrived at the station, she told officers that she routinely dealt drugs and that she had drugs at her residence. Officers searched her home and found marijuana, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, and a gun. She was charged with several crimes, including two counts of possession of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana for sale. She was subsequently found guilty at trial.

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In a recent Arizona drug case, the court was tasked with deciding whether or not juries are required to unanimously agree on what type of drug a defendant used when issuing a guilty verdict for certain drug crimes. After considering the arguments on both sides, the court decided that a jury must unanimously identify the specific kind of drug when convicting a defendant for possession of drug paraphernalia or sale of narcotic drugs.

Facts of the Case

In this case, three different defendants were charged with drug crimes, and because their cases were all substantially similar, the court combined their three cases into one. The defendants were all U.S. residents who had come from Mexico, and they all had legal status in the States. One of the defendants was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, and the remaining defendants were convicted of possession of a narcotic drug for sale.

Because the defendants were not originally from the U.S., their charges had different consequences than they would if they were all born in the States. For some criminal offenses, judges can impose immigration consequences on defendants as a form of punishment. In this case, the immigration court ordered that the three men be removed from the country, telling them that they had to return to Mexico because of their drug convictions. The defendants appealed.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s appeal of his marijuana conviction was denied. The defendant had been found guilty of transporting marijuana for sale, and he made multiple arguments in his attempt to reverse this original conviction, including an argument that the incriminating evidence used against him should have been suppressed. The court, however, disagreed with the defendant’s arguments and affirmed his original verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving alone in his SUV when two State Troopers pulled him over for speeding. The troopers found two bundles of marijuana in the SUV that weighed approximately 46 pounds. At first, the defendant told the troopers he knew nothing about the marijuana, saying that he had recently lent the car to a friend. Later, though, the defendant admitted that he knew about the marijuana but did not know specifically that it was in his car.

A jury trial was conducted. The jury found the defendant guilty of transportation of marijuana for sale, and he was sentenced to time in prison as a result.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that his motion to suppress incriminating evidence was unfairly denied. At trial, the defendant had been found guilty of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia. On appeal, he argued that the original traffic stop leading to his charges was unreasonable and that it was an infringement on his privacy rights. The court disagreed, affirming the defendant’s convictions and sentence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was pulled over in December 2019 when he was driving on the highway. Originally, the police officer who pulled the defendant over noticed his car because the defendant made an “odd gesture” and because the officer noticed an object in the windshield. After a few minutes, the defendant began driving through a dirt parking lot, over a curb, and into the parking lot of a nearby casino. Suspicious, the officer followed the defendant into the casino, approached him, and said he was conducting an investigatory stop for improper material on his windshield.

The officer checked the defendant’s license and registration, which led him to the realization that the defendant’s license was suspended. The officer called back up to the scene, including a unit of dogs to help him investigate. One dog sniffed the air around the defendant’s truck and led the officer to three packages of fentanyl. The defendant was indicted, and he moved to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop. The trial court denied his motion to suppress.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress hundreds of pounds of marijuana found in his vehicle. Ultimately, the court found that the police officer unnecessarily and unjustifiably extended the duration of the traffic stop. Thus, the court held that the defendant was illegally seized and any evidence recovered as a result of the search could not be used at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper observed the defendant following another vehicle too closely on Interstate 40. The trooper initiated a traffic stop, obtaining the defendant’s information. The trooper then asked the defendant to exit his car and sit in the front seat of the patrol vehicle.

At this point, the trooper’s drug-detection dog, which was seated directly behind the defendant, began barking. In response, the defendant became nervous; however, he continued to answer the trooper’s routine questions. The trooper verified the information provided by the defendant and issued a traffic citation.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug case, affirming the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress. As a result, the defendant’s eight-year prison sentence for disorderly conduct and possession of narcotics was affirmed. The case is an example of the court’s ability to resolve conflicting versions of events at a motion to suppress.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call from the complaining witness, reporting a disturbance at her home. The complaining witness happened to work at the police station and called the responding officer as he was on his way to the scene. The officer could hear knocking and what he identified as a ringing doorbell in the background. The complaining witness told police that the defendant was the one causing the disturbance.

When the officer arrived, he saw the defendant outside the home and arrested him for disorderly conduct. Incident to the defendant’s arrest, the officer searched the defendant, finding methamphetamine and a pipe. The defendant tried to explain that he was trying to alert the complaining witness of a potential emergency. The complaining witness’s sister-in-law arrived on the scene, corroborating the defendant’s version of events.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona assault case in which the defendant was also found in possession of methamphetamine. The appellate court’s opinion dealt with several issues, including the defendant’s claim that the officer illegally searched his vehicle without consent. However, because the court found the officer’s testimony more credible, it denied the defendant’s motion. The case illustrates the importance of credibility in criminal trials generally, as well as during a defendant’s testimony in a suppression hearing.

The Facts of the Case

According to the appellate opinion, a police officer pulled the defendant over for a traffic violation. During the stop, the officer asked the defendant for permission to search the car. According to the officer, the defendant agreed. The officer then found methamphetamine in a sunglasses case in a void underneath the steering column.

Although not relevant to this issue on appeal, the officer then asked the defendant to get out of the vehicle. Initially, the defendant complied, but then ran back into the car. As the officer reached into the door to grab the defendant, the defendant slammed the car door on the officer’s arm several times before the officer let go. The defendant then drove off.

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Possessory offenses, including Arizona gun crimes and drug offenses, often stem from an arrest where the contraband at issue is physically removed from the defendant or their property. While it may seem like there are no defenses when a police officer finds a gun or drugs on you, that is not the case.

A motion to suppress is one of the most common defenses to gun and drug crimes. In a motion to suppress, a defendant argues that the police activity that led to the discovery of the items violated their rights, under either the state or federal constitution. Motions to suppress are argued before a case goes to trial, in hopes of suppressing the evidence that the prosecution intends to use against the defendant. If a defendant succeeds in bringing a motion to suppress, the evidence cannot be admitted and, often, the prosecution has no choice but to withdraw the charges.

One of the more complex issues in search and seizure law involves whether a person has “standing” to bring a motion to suppress. Standing refers to a party’s legal ability to challenge another party’s actions. To litigate a motion to suppress, you must show that the police conducted a legally recognizable search of an area that you had both a subjective and objective expectation of privacy.

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Recently, the Arizona Court of Appeals, issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of her conviction for the possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia. The case addressed whether the defendant experienced prolonged detainment and whether the detainment was supported by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Those facing Arizona drug charges should understand how the law protects their rights in these cases.

In this case, the defendant was driving in the early morning hours when she pulled over because she began to feel sick. A deputy noticed her car and pulled over to see if the woman and her occupants needed help. The defendant told the officer that she was on new medication and felt like she might have a seizure; however, she declined the officer’s offer to call an ambulance. The officer inquired about any drugs or weapons; however, she did not answer and then responded that she just ate. However, the officer called for a drug-detection dog and a medical unit. The woman’s boyfriend and an ambulance arrived, and the officer asked the boyfriend to wait at a gas station. Soon after, a drug detection dog arrived and alerted the officers of the presence of drugs.

Under Arizona law, officers can conduct a brief investigatory stop, if the officer has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that criminal activity is occurring. Reasonable suspicion requires that an officer explain some “minimal, objective” justification for the detention. Generally, courts must look at all relevant factors and review them collectively. Courts tend to provide deference towards an officer’s ability to determine whether a defendant’s actions were innocent or suspicious.

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