Articles Posted in Search and Seizure

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In a unanimous decision coming from the Supreme Court of the United States, the Court held that a police officer’s pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect does not always qualify as an exigent or demanding circumstance that would otherwise justify a police officer’s warrantless entry into a home. This decision strengthens Fourth Amendment protections for individuals throughout the country by limiting, to a certain extent, the special circumstances that allow an officer to enter a home without a warrant.

The Facts of the Case

After a highway patrol officer observed loud music coming from a parked car, and the driver of the car honking the horn multiple times despite there being no other vehicles around, the officer decided to follow the vehicle once it began moving. After following the vehicle for several blocks, the officer turned on his overhead lights, but the driver of the vehicle failed to pull over. The driver turned into his driveway and pulled into his garage. The officer interrupted the closing garage door and asked the driver if he had noticed that the officer turned on his overhead lights. The driver replied that he had not, and was charged with two vehicle code misdemeanors.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress hundreds of pounds of marijuana found in his vehicle. Ultimately, the court found that the police officer unnecessarily and unjustifiably extended the duration of the traffic stop. Thus, the court held that the defendant was illegally seized and any evidence recovered as a result of the search could not be used at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a state trooper observed the defendant following another vehicle too closely on Interstate 40. The trooper initiated a traffic stop, obtaining the defendant’s information. The trooper then asked the defendant to exit his car and sit in the front seat of the patrol vehicle.

At this point, the trooper’s drug-detection dog, which was seated directly behind the defendant, began barking. In response, the defendant became nervous; however, he continued to answer the trooper’s routine questions. The trooper verified the information provided by the defendant and issued a traffic citation.

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In a recently decided case in an Arizona court, the court denied a defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence because of the defendant’s lack of legitimate expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. This case highlights the complicated nature of searches and seizures under the law and the importance of having an experienced criminal law attorney to assist in your defense.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an eight-month pregnant woman was driving in her car with her daughter when the driver of another vehicle ran her off the road as she attempted to merge into a new lane. The husband of the pregnant woman was driving directly behind his wife and witnessed the driver of the other vehicle cause his wife to almost hit a parked vehicle. As a result, the husband followed behind the other vehicle and yelled to the driver about running his wife off the road. The defendant, who was a passenger in the other car, fired a gun at the husband’s vehicle three times which caused a flat tire.

The husband and wife reported the incident to the police and reported the other car’s location after the pair followed the defendant. The defendant was dropped off at a community college while carrying two bags and dropped one of the bags in one of the lockers in a locker room. After checking the school’s surveillance video, a police officer searched the locker room. In a locker with mesh-like sides, the officer eventually found a similar-looking bag. The officer found the gun used in the shooting. The defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence found in the locker, arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated due to the warrantless search of the locker. The lower court denied the motion. Despite arguing that his actions were a form of self-defense and defense of others in the car, the defendant was found guilty.

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In the state of Arizona, criminal defendants can request that the court excludes from trial certain evidence obtained in violation of a defendant’s rights. If you have been charged with committing a crime in Arizona, you may file a motion to suppress physical evidence if you believe specific rights granted from either the United States Constitution, the state constitution, or a statute are violated. Filing a motion to suppress can serve as an essential tool for disputing charges as a defendant.

For example, if police officials obtain evidence in violation of a criminal defendant’s Miranda rights, successfully requesting suppression of any evidence prior to trial would bar the prosecution from using it against the defendant once the trial commences. Another example is if a police officer illegally arrests you without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

If this evidence turns out to be important for the prosecution’s case and if the motion to suppress is successfully granted by the court, the exclusion of certain evidence could lead to a dismissal of the charges against the defendant. For example, if you are able to suppress a gun in an Arizona weapons case, the prosecution cannot proceed without the evidence, meaning they will often drop the case against you.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug case, affirming the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress. As a result, the defendant’s eight-year prison sentence for disorderly conduct and possession of narcotics was affirmed. The case is an example of the court’s ability to resolve conflicting versions of events at a motion to suppress.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call from the complaining witness, reporting a disturbance at her home. The complaining witness happened to work at the police station and called the responding officer as he was on his way to the scene. The officer could hear knocking and what he identified as a ringing doorbell in the background. The complaining witness told police that the defendant was the one causing the disturbance.

When the officer arrived, he saw the defendant outside the home and arrested him for disorderly conduct. Incident to the defendant’s arrest, the officer searched the defendant, finding methamphetamine and a pipe. The defendant tried to explain that he was trying to alert the complaining witness of a potential emergency. The complaining witness’s sister-in-law arrived on the scene, corroborating the defendant’s version of events.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona assault case in which the defendant was also found in possession of methamphetamine. The appellate court’s opinion dealt with several issues, including the defendant’s claim that the officer illegally searched his vehicle without consent. However, because the court found the officer’s testimony more credible, it denied the defendant’s motion. The case illustrates the importance of credibility in criminal trials generally, as well as during a defendant’s testimony in a suppression hearing.

The Facts of the Case

According to the appellate opinion, a police officer pulled the defendant over for a traffic violation. During the stop, the officer asked the defendant for permission to search the car. According to the officer, the defendant agreed. The officer then found methamphetamine in a sunglasses case in a void underneath the steering column.

Although not relevant to this issue on appeal, the officer then asked the defendant to get out of the vehicle. Initially, the defendant complied, but then ran back into the car. As the officer reached into the door to grab the defendant, the defendant slammed the car door on the officer’s arm several times before the officer let go. The defendant then drove off.

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Possessory offenses, including Arizona gun crimes and drug offenses, often stem from an arrest where the contraband at issue is physically removed from the defendant or their property. While it may seem like there are no defenses when a police officer finds a gun or drugs on you, that is not the case.

A motion to suppress is one of the most common defenses to gun and drug crimes. In a motion to suppress, a defendant argues that the police activity that led to the discovery of the items violated their rights, under either the state or federal constitution. Motions to suppress are argued before a case goes to trial, in hopes of suppressing the evidence that the prosecution intends to use against the defendant. If a defendant succeeds in bringing a motion to suppress, the evidence cannot be admitted and, often, the prosecution has no choice but to withdraw the charges.

One of the more complex issues in search and seizure law involves whether a person has “standing” to bring a motion to suppress. Standing refers to a party’s legal ability to challenge another party’s actions. To litigate a motion to suppress, you must show that the police conducted a legally recognizable search of an area that you had both a subjective and objective expectation of privacy.

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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 month, a state appellate court issued an opinion requiring the court to determine whether the defendant’s Miranda rights were violated when the police took a statement from the defendant while he was not in custody. Ultimately, the court concluded that Arizona criminal law permitted the officers’ actions, and that the statement was properly admitted into evidence at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was a handyman who was working for a landlord. One day, the defendant and the landlord’s property manager were scheduled to meet up so that the defendant could give the property manager rent he had collected from tenants. During the meeting, which took place in a home, the defendant shot the property manager with a shotgun, killing him instantly.

Later that day, the defendant’s friend came over to the home, and the defendant showed his friend the body. The friend helped the defendant bury the body in the backyard. The defendant later sold two of the property manager’s rings to a jewelry store. The jewelry store owner later saw a picture of the victim wearing the rings, and provided them to detectives.

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