Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

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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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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona homicide case discussing the admissibility of the defendant’s statement. Ultimately, the court allowed the admission of the defendant’s inculpatory statement, although it was made after he invoked his right to an attorney, because the defendant “reinitiated communication” with law enforcement.

According to the court’s opinion, an inmate was allegedly attacked by the defendant and several others while in prison. The inmate died as a result of his injuries, and the state brought murder charges against the defendant. After the incident, the criminal investigations unit (CIU) tried to speak with the defendant, who invoked the right to an attorney.

The next morning, members of the prison’s special security unit (SSU) tried to talk with the defendant, who again refused to speak about the incident. However, as the SSU members were leaving, the defendant stated that he would talk to one specific member of the SSU. The defendant explained that he had “game-changing information” for this individual. The SSU arranged to have the requested member of SSU meet with the defendant, and the defendant admitted he was involved in the incident, but claimed he was not the killer.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona child pornography case discussing whether the lower court correctly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress. The defendant’s motion sought suppression of the illicit images as well as information that officers obtained through a subpoena sent to his internet service provider (ISP). Ultimately, the court concluded that such information could only be obtained with a warrant, however, because officers were acting in good-faith at the time they gathered the information, the evidence in the defendant’s case was not suppressible.

According to the court’s opinion, undercover detectives working in a child pornography sting placed an ad in an online forum, asking those interested in child pornography and incest to join a messaging group. Several users responded to the advertisement, including a user by the name of “tabooin520.” Within days of being added to the group, tabooin520 posted images portraying child pornography. Detectives sent a private message thanking the user for posting the photos, and the user responded with additional pornographic pictures of children.

Arizona detectives were working with federal investigators on this particular sting, and asked investigators to serve a subpoena on the messaging application, seeking the user’s IP address. With this information, detectives determined the defendant’s internet service provider. Detectives then issued a subpoena seeking the physical address associated with the IP address.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona burglary case discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress the cell-site location data (CSLD) that the prosecution used to tie the defendant to a co-defendant, who was alleged to have committed several burglaries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the CSLD was not seized in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights and affirmed her conviction.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were investigating a string of burglaries. After receiving a tip that the co-defendant was going to commit another burglary, police officers obtained a warrant to search the co-defendant’s truck, home, and warehouse. When police stopped the co-defendant’s truck, the defendant was in the passenger seat. The defendant was in possession of several stolen pieces of jewelry.

In a single trial, the prosecution tried both defendants together. To tie the defendant to the burglaries, the prosecution obtained cellular site location data from the defendant’s cell phone. This data showed that the defendant was within a few miles of at least seven of the homes that were burglarized by the co-defendant. Neither the defendant nor her co-defendant moved to suppress the CSLD at trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the defendant was convicted on all counts. The defendant appealed the admission of the CSLD.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion that may have broad implications for Arizona criminal defendants. The case involved a defendant who was charged with engaging in sexual conduct with a minor after police saw inappropriate text messages on his cellular phone. The case required the court to decide whether police officers had the legal authority to search the defendant’s cell phone after he was arrested for violating his probation.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was placed on probation for a felony offense in 2014. In December of that year, a woman contacted the police explaining her concern that the defendant was engaging in an inappropriate relationship with her 13-year-old daughter. A few weeks later, police arrested the defendant for violating several terms of his probation.

After the defendant was arrested, a probation officer went through the defendant’s cell phone on the way to the police station. The officer saw several texts between the defendant and the 13-year-old girl. Police obtained a search warrant and discovered incriminating text messages and pictures on the defendant’s phone.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona gun possession case where the defendant was arrested for shoplifting and, upon a search of his backpack, police discovered a firearm. The case presents an interesting and informative discussion regarding when police have probable cause to determine that someone has committed the crime of shoplifting.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant entered a store wearing a backpack. He placed the backpack into a shopping cart and began walking around the store. The store’s video surveillance system shows the defendant selecting a variety of items and putting them into his cart. He also places a number of those items back onto the shelf. At some point, the defendant took a pair of sunglasses off the rack, removed the tag, and placed them atop his head.

The video also showed the defendant select an energy drink and a package of condoms and place them atop his backpack, which was still lying inside the cart. At some point, the defendant walks behind some displays out of frame of the surveillance camera. When he gets back in the frame, the energy drink and box of condoms are no longer visible. The store security guard, who believed that the defendant placed the items in his backpack, called the police. The defendant was stopped at the point-of-sale, before he had paid for the items or left the store. Police arrested the defendant for shoplifting and searched his backpack, where they found an energy drink, a box of condoms, narcotics, and a gun.

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As this blog has discussed on numerous occasions, police officers must generally have a warrant to conduct a search. However, there are some exceptions to the warrant requirement allowing police officers to conduct a search without a warrant. One exception to the warrant requirement deserves more attention than it gets is the inventory-search exception.

In certain situations, police officers are required to conduct an inventory search of a motorist’s vehicle. Most often this is when the vehicle is going to be towed; however, an inventory search is also required when a motorist asks officers to leave their vehicle locked and legally parked. The stated rationale behind requiring officers conduct an inventory search is to ensure that the motorist’s belongings are properly logged before separating the owner from their vehicle. This way, police protect themselves from accusations that property went missing after they seized a car.

Practically speaking, an inventory search may occur anytime someone is pulled over by police and then arrested. This may be due to an Arizona DUI charge, an outstanding warrant, or some other reason that may have nothing to do with the vehicle. However, when police arrest a driver for whatever reason, the police must determine what to do with the vehicle. If there is no other responsible adult in the car, the vehicle will often be towed. In some cases, police may allow a motorist to leave the vehicle in a legal parking spot.

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