Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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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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Recently, an Arizona defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for the possession of a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. The case arose after a patrol officer in a “high-drug area” witnessed the defendant enter the parking lot of a closed grocery store to briefly talk to a man on a bicycle. The officer, believing that the defendant was engaged in a crime, called for backup. Meanwhile, the defendant entered a gym for a few moments and then left and drove away. The officers pulled the defendant over when they noticed that he did not have a license plate or license plate light.

The officers advised the defendant that they were stopping him because of his license plate issues, and they asked him for his identification, registration, and insurance. The officers noted that the defendant seemed nervous, continually tried to put his hands in his pockets, and denied having any drugs. The officers requested K-9 units based on the man’s evasive answers, perceived drug residue on his tongue, and the time of night and nature of the high-crime area in which he was driving. A search revealed methamphetamine, a metal spoon, glass pipe, measuring cup, ice cream scoop, and medical syringes. The trial court sentenced him to nine years in prison. The defendant argued that his stop was not “based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” and even if the stop was reasonable, the length and duration of the stop was impermissible.

Under the Fourth Amendment, an investigative stop is a type of seizure. However, because they are less intrusive than arrests, they do not require the probable cause necessary to effectuate an arrest. Police officers only need to have a reasonable suspicion that a person violated a traffic law or is engaged in criminal activity to conduct an investigatory stop. In this case, the defendant argued that the stop was improper because he had a temporary license in his window. Here, the court found that the temporary registration was not “clearly visible.” Therefore, the court found that the trial court did not err in finding that the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant for his missing license plate.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case discussing whether the defendant was eligible for probation under Arizona Revised Statute section 13-901.01. Section 13-901.01 is titled “Probation for persons convicted of possession or use of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia,” and states that “any person who is convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia is eligible for probation.”

While section 13-901.01 provides a general rule that a person convicted of a possessory drug offense is eligible for probation, the statute outlines several exceptions. The question in this case was whether the defendant was eligible for probation despite his prior convictions. Under section 13-901.01, a person is not eligible for probation if they have three prior convictions for personal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia in 1996, and solicitation to sell a narcotic drug in 2006. In 2017, the defendant was arrested and convicted for several drug offenses.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona gun crime case involving the defendant’s challenge to the legality of the search conducted by police officers that led to the discovery of the firearm. Ultimately, the court held that the defendant voluntarily answered the questions posed by police, and he was not seized before the police officers developed probable cause to search his vehicle. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

According to the court’s opinion, two police officers pulled into a dark parking lot and saw the defendant sitting in a car with another person. The officers observed the two men for about a minute before approaching the defendant’s car. One officer approached on each side of the car, and as they approached, they recognized the smell of burnt marijuana.

One of the officers asked the defendant, “Real quick, [are] there any guns, bombs, knives, Bazookas, or dead bodies inside the vehicle that I need to learn about?” The defendant replied that there were not. When the officer followed up with a request that the defendant exit the car, the defendant told him no and asked for a supervisor or a lawyer. The defendant was removed from the car, and the officers recovered a firearm and narcotics from the car. Subsequent to his arrest, the defendant admitted to possession of the gun and the drugs.

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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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