Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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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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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona gun possession case requiring the court determine if the police officers’ stop of the defendant violated his constitutional rights. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss when a police officer is justified in stopping and searching someone they believe to be suspicious.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, police officers were in the middle of a traffic stop when they saw the defendant walk past them on the street. The defendant was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and red sneakers. The officers knew red to be the color of a local gang. The officers also noticed that the defendant seemed to be avoiding looking in the officers’ direction. As the defendant walked away, he removed his hood, and officers were able to see that he was black and had long hair.

The officers believe the defendant was someone whom they had interacted with before, and ran that person’s name for warrants. It turns out that person had several warrants, and officers decided to stop the defendant. The officers stopped the defendant, who was placed on the curb and asked his name and if he had any weapons. The defendant provided the officers with a name and indicated that he did not have any weapons. An officer went to check the name supplied by the defendant, and while that officer was gone, another officer patted the defendant down, finding a gun. The defendant was then arrested and searched, during which the officers found methamphetamine. The officer then returned from conducting the name check, finding no warrants. It was later determined that the name the defendant gave was not his own.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case discussing under what circumstances a defendant’s un-Mirandized statement made to law enforcement should be suppressed. Because the court concluded that the defendant was not in custody at the time she made the statement, it was not suppressible and was properly admitted at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was riding as the front-seat passenger in an SUV that was traveling through a border-crossing checkpoint. As the driver pulled into the checkpoint, the border-crossing agent’s drug-detection dog alerted to the vehicle. The agent directed the driver to pull over into the secondary screening area.

Evidently, once in the secondary screening area, law enforcement learned that the vehicle belonged to the defendant’s husband. The agent asked the defendant for permission to search the vehicle, and the defendant consented to the search. The agent’s dog hopped into the vehicle and alerted to a purse and then to two bags in the rear of the SUV. The defendant told the agent that the bags were hers. Inside the bags, the officer discovered several items she believed to be drug paraphernalia. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

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For decades, law enforcement officers have used dogs to detect narcotics due to their superior sense of smell. And over the years, courts have generally upheld police officer’s ability to use dogs to sniff the perimeter of a motorist’s vehicle on the basis that it does not constitute a legal “search” under the 4th Amendment. If you have questions that relate to topics such as these, reach out to an Arizona drug crimes attorney without delay.

In a 2007 case, an Arizona appellate court issued an opinion containing an in-depth discussion regarding the use of drug-detection dogs by Arizona law enforcement. In that case, a police officer pulled the defendant over for speeding. The officer noticed that the defendant’s car had two cell phones mounted to the dash, a map on the passenger seat, an open bottle of liquor, and some snacks. The officer issued the defendant a warning and, after the warning was issued, the police officer asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant replied that he had nothing to hide, but did not want to wait. The officer then let the defendant go.

The same officer pulled the defendant over a few minutes later, again for speeding. The officer issued another warning, and again asked if he could search the defendant’s car. The defendant still refused, indicating that he had nothing to hide. The police officer went back to his car to call for a canine unit, and was informed it would be about 90 minutes until a canine unit arrived. The officer told the defendant, who explained that it was not a problem because he was retired and not in a hurry.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug possession case discussing an interesting motion to suppress that was brought by the defendant. The defendant argued that the smell of marijuana should no longer give a police officer probable cause to detain, search, or arrest based on the state’s loosening stance on marijuana and the availability of medical marijuana. The court, however, summarily rejected the defendant’s argument.

The Facts of the Case

According to the facts as outlined by the court, a postal inspector noticed several suspicious looking packages that were dropped off at various post offices. The inspector obtained a warrant to search the boxes, and found marijuana inside. The inspector then took fingerprints from inside the box, and the prints came back as belonging to the defendant.

Evidently, the inspector obtained an arrest warrant for the defendant. As police arrested the defendant, he asked if he could put his shoes on. The officer accompanied the defendant into his home as he grabbed his shoes. As the officers walked through the defendant’s home, the noticed large rolls of cellophane wrapping and could smell marijuana. Using that information, the officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home, and discovered marijuana and other items that the officers believed to be drug paraphernalia.

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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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In a recent Arizona drug trafficking case, the Court of Appeals of Arizona discussed a defendant’s challenge to a search warrant that was obtained by an officer who omitted facts that the defendant claimed were relevant to the probable cause determination. Ultimately, however, the court concluded that the defendant was unable to meet the high burden of showing that the police officer “knowingly, intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth included a false statement.” Thus, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The Facts of the Case

Police received a tip that the defendant was selling marijuana out of his house. Officers went to the defendant’s home and made observations with a “stick camera.” The camera allowed officers to see the outside portion of the defendant’s home; however, they could not see inside the home.

The officers observed the defendant and another male leave the house in two separate cars. The defendant drove a van and the other man drove a Honda. They met up with a third man who was driving an Impala, who switched cars with the driver of the Honda. The Impala was then driven back to the defendant’s home. Officers believed this to be a “blind sale” of narcotics; however, when they stopped the Impala they did not find any narcotics or evidence of drug sales.

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Recently, an Arizona appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving the defendant’s possession of a small amount of hashish, requiring the court to determine if the defendant was protected under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). Ultimately, the court concluded that the AMMA – which does not specifically mention hashish – does not afford protection to qualifying patients found in possession of the substance.

The Facts

The defendant was a “qualified patient” under the AMMA, meaning that he was able to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes. In March 2013, the defendant was found in possession of .05 ounces of hashish oil. The defendant sought dismissal of the charges based on the fact that he was a qualifying patient under the AMMA, but the court rejected the defendant’s motion. The defendant then proceeded to trial in front of a judge alone, where he was found guilty and sentenced to 2.5 years’ incarceration for the hashish and a concurrent term of one year incarceration for possession of drug paraphernalia (the jar containing the hashish).

The defendant appealed his conviction, making the same arguments on appeal. However, the court affirmed his conviction. The court began with an explanation that, when it comes to voter-enacted laws such as the AMMA, it a court’s job to “give effect to the intent of the electorate.”

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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 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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