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.
For example, a defendant who discards a bag of drugs in a public trash can as the police drive by on routine patrol will not likely have the standing to argue a motion to suppress. This is because the person voluntarily discarded the item into the trash, and most would agree that there is no expectation of privacy for items thrown into a public trash can.
If a defendant has standing, the next step is to show that the police violated the defendant’s rights. The law is clear that police need to have a reason to restrict someone’s freedom. Thus, without a valid reason, police cannot stop someone on the street and search through their pockets. Of course, it becomes a more nuanced question if the police are responding to a call, and the person stopped resembles the description. In this case, it is important to determine how closely the description matched the person subject to the search, and whether the description was detailed enough to give the officer a reasonable belief that they were indeed the person the police were looking for.
Search and seizure law is complex, and police are adept at telling their stories in a way the seems to immunize their actions. However, with the assistance of a dedicated criminal defense attorney, police can be cross-examined to expose weaknesses in their version of the events.
Are You Facing an Arizona Gun or Drug Offense?
If you were recently arrested for an Arizona gun crime or drug offense, reach out to Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a veteran Tempe criminal defense attorney with decades of experience handling even the most serious offenses. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help defend your freedom from the allegations you face, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.