Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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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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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug possession case requiring the court to determine if the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The court ultimately determined that the defendant, who was a passenger in a lawfully stopped vehicle, was legally detained, and the subsequent investigation by police officers did not exceed their legal authority.

Police CruiserThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The car was stopped by police for having an expired registration. The driver quickly pulled over in front of a residence, and the police parked behind the stopped car. As the police were exiting their vehicle, the defendant started to get out of the front-passenger seat; however, police ordered that he get back in the car. The defendant explained that he lived at the residence, and he wanted to go inside. The officer denied the defendant’s request and had him remain in the vehicle.

As the police officers were running the occupants’ licenses for warrants, they noticed a substance they believed to be marijuana in the center console area. The police asked both men out of the car and asked if they would consent to be searched. The defendant responded, “I got nothing on me, that’s fine.” However, police found a crack pipe and a bag of heroin in the defendant’s pockets.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona marijuana case resulting from an arrest of a California citizen who was stopped in Arizona with marijuana. The case is the latest in a line of many cases dealing with the relatively new laws across the country legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Marijuana BudsThe Facts of the Case

The defendant, a California resident, was stopped by an officer with Arizona Public Safety for failing to have functioning headlights. When the officers stopped the defendant’s car, they reported a smell of marijuana coming from the car. As they peered inside the car, they saw a white pipe with black residue near the defendant.

The police officers removed the defendant, and he admitted that the pipe was his and also that he had medical-grade marijuana as well as THC wax in the vehicle. The officers then asked the defendant if he had an Arizona medical marijuana card. The defendant responded that he did not but that he did have a recommendation letter from a California doctor stating that he would “significantly benefit from the use of medical marijuana,” and the doctor “approved the use of cannabis as medicine.”

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methIn a recent Arizona meth crime decision, the court considered whether using or possessing several deadly weapons while perpetrating a drug felony should be considered just one offense under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) section 13-3102(A)(8) and whether a defendant convicted of transporting methamphetamine for sale under A.R.S. § 13-3407(A)(7) should be able to get an early release.

The case arose when a highway patrol officer saw the defendant driving by with his windows down and then slowed while passing him. The policeman followed him and stopped him for hitting the brakes for no reason and twice swerving over the fog line.

The defendant and his passenger provided inconsistent statements, so the policeman asked for a drug canine unit. The dog alerted. The police found handguns, four pounds of meth, half a pound of heroin, and another case that held a bit of heroin and a used syringe. The defendant admitted he’d used heroin and gave a urine sample. A drug test showed metabolites of marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin.

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dogIn a recent Arizona drug crime decision, a woman appealed her conviction for possession of dangerous drugs. The case arose in 2014, when a Tempe officer initiated a traffic stop of a car driven by the defendant. He’d seen a traffic violation. While stopping her, he saw her moving inside the car, leaning forward, and then moving in her seat. Her arm went behind her back such that he became suspicious there was a weapon or contraband in the car.

The officer completed a check of records. He came back to speak to the defendant and her passenger. The defendant explained that she’d been moving in order to find her keys so that the officer wouldn’t think the car was stolen. She explained her ignition was messed up, and the key had broken inside it. The officer asked for police assistance after determining he would ask the defendant and her passenger to leave the vehicle in order to perform a canine sniff or consensual search. He saw the defendant pick something up and move it while waiting for backup.

Another officer came. The first officer approached the car again, and this time he saw that the defendant had her purse on her lap and a multi-tool. He also noticed she had cut her thumb. She explained she had the multi-tool because she wanted to ensure she could start her car.

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car washIn a recent Arizona drug crime decision, the defendant was convicted of transporting a dangerous drug for sale, possessing a dangerous drug, possessing a dangerous drug for sale, possessing drug paraphernalia, and possessing a deadly weapon while committing a felony drug offense. He was sentenced to presumptive, minimum, and concurrent prison terms. The longest of these was five years.

On appeal, he argued that the trial court incorrectly denied his motion to suppress, his convictions for transporting and possessing dangerous drugs violated the double jeopardy rule, and the court had miscalculated his entitlement to pre-sentence incarceration credit.

The case arose when a DEA agent got involved in a group surveillance of a stash house in a Tucson neighborhood that had a reputation for drug trafficking. The police saw two cars with out-of-state license plates involved in suspicious behavior at a convenience store. People with those license plates didn’t come there frequently. There was a lot of back and forth activity between the vehicles, and they left at the same time, which is a common sign of prohibited drug activity.

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drugsRecently, an Arizona appellate court considered an Arizona drug crime conviction for possession of narcotics for sale and possession of dangerous drugs for sale. The convictions were for class 2 felonies under A.R.S. §§ 13-3407 and 13-3408. The defendant argued that the fines imposed were unconstitutionally applied to him and that it was improper for the trial court not to consider his financial status when fining him.

The case arose when cops seized about 10 pounds of methamphetamine and under one pound of cocaine from the defendant’s home in Phoenix. The prosecution introduced evidence at trial to show that the value of the drugs seized was $8,000-10,000 for the cocaine and $30,000 for the meth. The defendant didn’t object to the prosecution’s evidence and didn’t offer any other evidence about the seized drugs’ worth. He was found guilty.

Under A.R.S. § 13-3407(H), the minimum he could be fined for possession of dangerous drugs was the greater of $1,000 or three times the value of the dangerous drugs as decided by the court. The judge had no discretion to suspend the fines. Under A.R.S. § 13-3408(F), the minimum he could be fined for narcotic drug possession was the greater of $2,000 or three times the value of the narcotics involved. The cap on fines was $150,000.

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drug signIn a recent Arizona appellate case, a defendant appealed from his conviction and sentences for possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested in 2014 after being found in possession of meth in a plastic bag. The police had responded to a call about a suspicious man going into yards and knocking on doors. The man was reported to be Hispanic and in his 30s.

The defendant matched the description of a 911 call and was located a short distance away behind a retaining wall on private property. He identified himself, and the officer asked if he had anything he wasn’t supposed to have, like drugs or guns. He answered yes and was ordered to stop and place his hands on his head. He took his hand out of his pocket. The officer saw a plastic baggie sticking out. When he took it out, he saw it held a substance that looked like meth.

The meth was in the baggie, which was also in another baggie. He was arrested and searched, and the officers found a plastic baggie that held syringes. He claimed this was for insulin for a medical condition, which he stated wasn’t diabetes. He was indicted for possessing a dangerous drug (a violation of A.R.S. § 13-3407(A)(1), (B)) and for possession of drug paraphernalia (a violation of A.R.S. § 13-3415(A), (F)(2)).

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syringeIn a recent appellate case based on an Arizona drug crime prosecution, an Arizona Court of Appeals considered a conviction for possession of a dangerous drug. A police officer had been conducting surveillance on a residence when a blue car approached. The car’s passenger entered the home and then went back to the car two times. Each time, he was carrying something in his hands. Another officer followed him after he left the home, and he stopped the car for a traffic violation.

The officer got identification from the driver of the car and a passenger. He checked for warrants, and there were none. Other officers came to the scene, and one of the officer’s drug detection dogs conducted a sniff of the outside of the car.

The officers asked the driver and the passenger to get out of the car. The officer asked the passenger if he had weapons. When the officer conducted a pat-down of the passenger’s waist to make sure he didn’t have weapons, the passenger ran away. He took off his jacket and dropped it while running. The officer followed and arrested him.

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bag of airIn a recent Arizona appellate case, the defendant appealed his conviction for the sale of methamphetamine, a class 2 felony under A.R.S. section 13-3407(A)(2), as well as possession of drug paraphernalia, a class 6 felony, and endangerment, a class 6 felony.

He argued that there was not enough evidence to convict him on the meth sale charge. Specifically, the police hadn’t found meth on him or inside his car, and his fingerprints weren’t found on plastic bags containing meth. The prosecution hadn’t presented any evidence showing that he possessed meth for sale. Ordinarily, this is evidence like cash, a scale, or a ledger.

The appellate court disagreed, explaining that the prosecution had presented quite a bit of evidence that he did possess meth and drug paraphernalia. The defendant had not stopped during a traffic stop, causing detectives to pursue him until he crashed. After crashing, he got out of the car and fled from the officers. One chased by foot, and the other chased by car. They witnessed him throw an object away like a baseball.

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