Articles Posted in Weapon Crimes

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The Arizona Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for two cases, one of which involved an Arizona weapons offense. That case arose when police officers stopped the defendant when they noticed him riding his bicycle against traffic on a two-lane road. During the stop, police noticed a combat-style knife on his hip. When asked, the defendant admitted he was a felon, and the detectives arrested him. The court consolidated both of the defendant’s cases, and the defendant appealed, arguing that the court erred by denying his motion to suppress.

The defendant argues that police abused their discretion and improperly stopped him. He further contends that he was not violating a statute because he was not riding his bike on the roadway. Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement cannot engage in unreasonable searches and seizures. Moreover, the exclusionary rule prohibits the state from introducing evidence seized in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. Generally, investigative stops are permitted if the stop is substantiated by “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.”

In this case, the officers testified that they drove by the defendant when they noticed him riding on the gravel, talking on a cell phone, and steering the bike with one hand. They stopped him after they noticed oncoming traffic swerving to avoid the defendant. The court found that the detectives possessed the requisite reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant. The court reasoned that the police believed that the defendant was obstructing the highway and creating a public hazard.

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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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The Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA) is a federal law that requires a minimum sentence of 15 years’ incarceration for certain individuals. Specifically, ACCA imposes the minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a gun crime, who has three or more “violent felony” convictions. The United States Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in a recent case answering the question of whether a crime involving a defendant’s “reckless” conduct meets the definition of a violent felony. This case could have broad implications in many Arizona gun cases.

Originally passed in 1984, the ACCA has since been interpreted by many courts. One of the most common issues in ACCA cases is whether the defendant’s prior convictions fit within the definition of a “violent felony.” If so, the defendant will face the minimum 15-year sentence. The ACCA defines a violent felony as one that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case requiring the Justices to determine if a crime involving reckless – and not intentional – conduct can qualify as a violent felony under the ACCA.

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Recently, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a defendant’s sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The ACCA is a federal law that provides for enhanced sentencing for someone who is convicted of a crime involving the use or possession of a gun, if the defendant has prior convictions for “violent felonies.” In recent years, there has been significant litigation over what constitutes a violent felony. The case is important for Arizona defendants because the Court’s decision may significantly affect potential sentences for many defendants charged with Arizona gun crimes.

The case arose out of an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. According to that court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with possession of ammunition. The defendant was found guilty by a jury. At sentencing, the prosecution moved to sentence the defendant as a repeat offender under the ACCA. The prosecution claimed that the defendant had five prior violent felonies, including a 1982 conviction out of Texas for robbery. Although the defendant would typically only be eligible for a sentence of up to 10 years, because of his prior convictions, the court sentenced the defendant to 15 years.

After the U.S. Supreme Court declared part of the ACCA unconstitutional in 2015, the defendant appealed his sentence. The defendant claimed that under the post-2015 ACCA, several of his convictions no longer qualified as violent felonies. The court agreed, finding that two of the defendant’s convictions were no longer considered violent felonies. However, that still left the defendant with three violent felonies:  two Tennessee robberies and the Texas robbery. The defendant appealed, arguing that his Texas conviction for robbery should not have been considered a violent felony under the ACCA.

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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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The Double Jeopardy Clause, contained in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, states that no person can be “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Given that seemingly clear language, it would stand to reason that someone who was arrested for a crime in Arizona could only be charged by the State of Arizona or by the federal government, but not both. However, in a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, a majority of the Court reaffirmed an old exception to the Double Jeopardy clause allowing a defendant to be prosecuted for the same crime under both state and federal law.

In that case, the defendant was pulled over when a police officer noticed that his vehicle had a damaged headlight. The officer smelled marijuana inside the defendant’s car, searched it, and found a handgun. The defendant was ineligible to own the gun because he had previously suffered a conviction for second-degree robbery. The defendant pleaded guilty in state court. Subsequently, the federal authorities indicted him for the same offense.

The defendant moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the federal conviction exposed him to double jeopardy for the same offense. The defendant’s motion was denied, and he appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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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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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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In a recent Arizona gun crime decision, a man was indicted for two misdemeanors and three felonies after discharging a firearm. The victim was a cab driver who stopped the man and his friends to ask if any of them had called for a cab. A friend told the driver they only called Uber. The driver and the defendant spoke to each other. The victim drove away but came back and got out of his cab. The defendant pulled a gun out of his back pocket and fired at the cab before running off.

The defendant was indicted for aggravated assault, illegal discharge of a firearm, discharge of a firearm at a non-residential structure, criminal damage, and weapons misconduct. The defendant argued that the prosecution had presented false testimony and had not properly advised the grand jurors on self-defense. His motion was denied, and he followed up with a special action.

On appeal, he argued the lower court had made a mistake because the prosecution had not presented a fair and impartial case, and he was therefore denied a substantial procedural right.

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In a recent Arizona marijuana case, the defendant appealed after being convicted of selling marijuana and weapons misconduct. The case arose when two detectives had a confidential informant conduct a controlled buy. The detective searched the informant to make sure he didn’t have money, drugs, or paraphernalia. The detectives photographed a set of $20 bills to be used to purchase drugs and set up the informant with a recording device.

They followed the informant in cars to the target’s home. After going in, the informant returned to his car, accompanied by the target and a woman. The three went to the gas station, and the detectives followed. The target got out and went up to a white car that was parked at the gas station. He got inside and then went back to the informant’s car. They returned to the home, followed by the police. The informant dropped off the target and passenger. He met the detectives to be debriefed and searched. The detectives found a plastic baggie containing marijuana.

Meanwhile, a detective asked a patrol officer to follow the white car and stop it if there was any traffic violation. The patrol officer followed the car after it left the gas station and pulled him over for speeding. The patrol officer saw there was a handgun on the seat, and it was in a firing position. He asked the driver for the gun, which the driver gave him. He also smelled marijuana, and the driver admitted she had marijuana in a paper bag. She consented to a search. Inside, there were bags of marijuana and brownies and a set of $20 bills. She had a medical marijuana card, so the officer determined there was no basis to believe she’d broken a drug law. The officer photographed the money and drugs before letting her leave.

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