In a recent Arizona appellate case, the defendant appealed his conviction for the sale of methamphetamine, a class 2 felony under A.R.S. section 13-3407(A)(2), as well as possession of drug paraphernalia, a class 6 felony, and endangerment, a class 6 felony.
He argued that there was not enough evidence to convict him on the meth sale charge. Specifically, the police hadn’t found meth on him or inside his car, and his fingerprints weren’t found on plastic bags containing meth. The prosecution hadn’t presented any evidence showing that he possessed meth for sale. Ordinarily, this is evidence like cash, a scale, or a ledger.
The appellate court disagreed, explaining that the prosecution had presented quite a bit of evidence that he did possess meth and drug paraphernalia. The defendant had not stopped during a traffic stop, causing detectives to pursue him until he crashed. After crashing, he got out of the car and fled from the officers. One chased by foot, and the other chased by car. They witnessed him throw an object away like a baseball.
They arrested him, drove him to the police station, and searched the place where the object had been thrown. They found plastic bags of meth on the roof of a house, and these weighed 38 grams. The officer also testified that people don’t stash drugs on the roof and that he’d previously chased suspects who had thrown drugs away on a roof. The court also noted that even though the defendant’s fingerprints weren’t found on the plastic bags that contained the drugs, getting a fingerprint from a bag is difficult due to the size and thickness of the bag and the nature of what was inside.
The appellate court found that based on the evidence given, a reasonable jury could determine he’d possessed both drugs and paraphernalia, even though the bags were located on a roof and even though there weren’t fingerprints. It also found there was substantial evidence that the defendant possessed the drugs for sale. A narcotics unit supervisor had testified about selling drugs at trial. He’d testified that finding items such as a ledger or scales didn’t make it more likely it was a drug sale case compared to cases in which only meth was found.
A detective had testified that extra baggies, such as what the defendant had, were an indication that drugs were being possessed for sale. Often, users also sold meth. Another detective testified that the largest bag of meth that was found weighed 28 grams, which was an amount equivalent to three eight balls, which is a common amount for sale.
The appellate court explained that even though some of the circumstances that typically do support a conviction for possessing meth for sale weren’t here in this case, there was still substantial evidence presented that he had possessed these drugs for sale.
The defendant also argued the prosecution hadn’t presented enough evidence of endangering another person. He argued that even though the prosecution presented evidence related to how he drove and the circumstances, the evidence was not enough to show someone else was actually present and subject to the risk of being killed or hurt. The appellate court disagreed, pointing to evidence that the defendant had sped away instead of yielding to the traffic stop and had passed a motorist on the right where there was no lane, and a car had to stop in order to avoid being hit. A jury could conclude he’d put motorists and others present at risk of death or physical injury. The conviction was affirmed.
If you are charged with any type of drug crime, contact criminal defense attorney James Novak at (480) 413-1499 in Tempe, Arizona.
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