Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the propriety of the prosecution’s use of cell location site information (CLSI) taken from the defendant’s cell phone. Ultimately, the court reviewed recent Supreme Court case law, concluding that the prosecution’s use of the CLSI data did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights, affirming his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a man was shot and killed outside a club as he sat in his car. Evidently, he was talking to a woman, CK, when two men walked up and shot the man. Police retrieved the cell phones of several witnesses, including CK. During their investigation, detectives discovered that one of the witnesses was in contact with a phone number that belonged to the defendant.

Police officers presented a judge with an ex parte order, seeking to obtain the defendant’s cell phone records. The court signed the order, noting that there was probable cause to believe that the information requested would be relevant to the crimes. Detectives used the information provided by the defendant’s cell carrier to link him to the crime. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the CLSI information was illegally obtained without a warrant. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, finding that the request was supported by probable cause. The jury convicted the defendant of murder, and the defendant appealed.

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In May of this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that he claimed was illegally obtained when a probation officer searched through his cell phone after he had been arrested for violating his probation. Ultimately, the court held that the search was reasonable and permissible because, in accepting probation, the defendant permitted warrantless searches of his property.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in 2014, the defendant was on probation for an Arizona domestic violence offense. The defendant was placed on probation. As a part of his probationary sentence, the defendant signed a document outlining the conditions of probation. Condition 4 stated that the defendant consented to warrantless searches of his property.

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Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case that addressed an important issue that arises in many cases that begin with an Arizona traffic stop. The case, Kansas v. Glover, presented the Court with the question of whether a law enforcement officer is able to reasonably assume that the person driving a vehicle is that vehicle’s registered owner.

The import of the Court’s decision is in how courts evaluate the legality of a traffic stop. Under longstanding Supreme Court case law, a police officer must have “a particularized and objective basis to suspect legal wrongdoing” to stop a vehicle based on a traffic violation. This has come to be known as the “reasonable suspicion” standard. Notably, reasonable suspicion requires less than a finding of probable cause. The question in this case was whether a state frooper’s assumption that the driver of a pick-up truck was the truck’s registered owner was a “reasonable” assumption.

The Facts of the Case

According to the Court’s opinion, a state trooper was on routine patrol when he ran the tags of a pick-up truck being operated by the defendant. The tags indicated that the vehicle’s owner had a revoked license. The trooper, assuming that the driver of the pick-up truck was the registered owner, pulled the truck over.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona child sex sting operation, discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because he had not committed a crime or a traffic offense. The court, however, disagreed, finding that the stop was valid because there was probable cause to believe the defendant committed “luring a minor for sexual exploitation.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police set up a fake account in the name of “Sandi” in a teen chat room. The defendant began chatting with Sandi, and eventually, the nature of the conversation turned sexual, when the defendant asked Sandi if she would perform oral sex on him. The two arranged a time to meet at a location which was about 30 miles from the defendant’s home.

Police arrived at the area beforehand and waited for the defendant to arrive. However, when the defendant neared the park, he just drove around. Police officers claim that they eventually became concerned that the defendant would try to contact a real minor, and they pulled over his vehicle. No evidence was found linking the defendant to the crime, but he was arrested based on the chat conversations.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug possession case discussing the defendant’s request for specific discovery related to a border checkpoint. Ultimately, the court rejected the defendant’s request for additional discovery, finding that he could not establish that there was a “substantial need” for the material or that he was unable to obtain the requested discovery on his own. The case illustrates the importance of understanding the legal framework that governs discovery requests and how to effectively request desired discovery.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving through a border checkpoint when he was stopped by border patrol agents. A drug-sniffing dog alerted to the defendant’s car, and an agent directed the defendant to pull into an area for secondary screening. Upon searching the vehicle, agents found marijuana and methamphetamine. The defendant was eventually charged with possession of marijuana and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Before trial, the defendant requested “all search and seizure raw data” from the border checkpoint where he was stopped. The defendant argued that the information was relevant to determine whether the primary purpose of the checkpoint was for immigration enforcement or drug detection and enforcement. The court denied his request, and the defendant was ultimately convicted.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona retail theft case requiring the court to determine if the defendant’s pre- and post-arrest statements to police should have been suppressed at trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police officer’s interaction with the defendant before his arrest did not constitute “custodial interrogation,” and thus neither of the defendant’s statements were suppressible.

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call that a man wearing a black and orange backpack walked into a convenience store and took beer on two separate occasions on the same day. Shortly after the second alleged theft, police officers stopped the defendant, who was carrying two 24-packs of beer, one on each shoulder. When asked where he got the beer and how he paid for it, the defendant responded that he got it from a store up the street and that a “higher power” paid for it.

The officer handcuffed the defendant, read him his Miranda rights, and then asked several follow-up questions. The defendant admitted to stealing the beer. The officer then searched the defendant’s backpack, and found additional beer. Finally, the store employees who witnessed the theft were transported to the defendant’s location, and they positively identified him as the person who entered the store and stole the beer.

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Police officers make assumptions about their environment all the time. In fact, rarely is a police officer’s behavior based on something that they know to be the case. Police officers may assume, for example, that someone who called 911 reporting a crime was accurate in their description of the perpetrator. Arizona criminal law allows for police officers to make some assumptions; however, there are limits to a police officer’s discretion.

In a recent case in front of the United States Supreme Court, the Court was tasked with determining whether a police officer can reasonably assume that the driver of a vehicle is also the vehicle’s registered owner. The case came to the Court by way of a traffic ticket that was issued by Kansas police officers.

Evidently, while on a regular patrol, a police officer ran a registration check on the defendant’s pickup truck. The check revealed that the registered owner of the truck had a suspended license. Assuming that the driver of the pickup was the registered owner (who had a suspended license), the police officer initiated a traffic stop. During the stop, the officer confirmed that the driver of the truck was indeed the truck’s registered owner, and he had a suspended license. The officer issued the defendant a citation for being a habitual violator of state traffic laws.

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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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When someone is charged with an Arizona crime, they have the ability to file a motion to suppress, challenging the admission of evidence that the prosecution plans to introduce at trial. In essence, a motion to suppress argues that certain evidence obtained by police was done so in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Most often, motions to suppress are litigated in Arizona drug cases or cases in which there was a weapon recovered. However, a motion to suppress can be argued any time that evidence is illegally seized or when a statement is illegal taken.

One important aspect of a motion to suppress is the concept of standing. Standing refers to the defendant’s ability to argue a motion to suppress. In order to bring a motion to suppress, the defendant must have standing. Standing is a complex legal concept, but at its most basic it requires a defendant to have a subjective expectation of privacy in the place searched. In addition, that sincerely held expectation of privacy must be one that is recognized by society as reasonable. For example, a defendant who tosses a gun into a trash can as police drive by may not have standing to bring a motion to suppress. This is because the defendant abandoned the gun, eliminating any expectation of privacy that he may have otherwise had.

If the court grants a motion to suppress, the challenged evidence cannot be admitted at trial. In many cases, this results in the prosecution withdrawing the case because there is no longer sufficient evidence to prove the case. However, there are cases in which a successful motion does not end the case. For example, a motion to suppress may preclude only some of the evidence from admission.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona gun case requiring the court to determine if the lower court should have granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. The case contains an informative discussion on police officers’ ability to stop a motorist. Specifically, the case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the police had a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged in criminal activity when they stopped his car. Finding that such a suspicion existed, the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress.

According to the court’s opinion, detectives responded to a sexually explicit ad on backpages.com, a website known to the detectives as one that frequently contained ads for prostitution. Through text messages, the detectives set up a meeting with two women. The detectives waited at the pre-arranged meeting place. They saw the defendant driving a car into the apartment complex and drop off two women. Police stopped the women, and detectives determined the vehicle was registered to the defendant, who was on supervised release for a robbery.

The detectives stopped the defendant’s car and approached. Ultimately, a handgun was recovered from the front seat, by where the defendant was sitting. The defendant was arrested and charged accordingly. Before trial, he filed a motion to suppress the gun, arguing that it was recovered as the result of an illegal stop. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

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