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In Arizona criminal cases, the defendant can argue that the evidence seized was in violation of his statutory or constitutional rights, and should not be admitted in a trial against him. This is normally done through a motion to suppress evidence. These motions to suppress are very common in Arizona drug cases, as well as Arizona DUI cases.

Legal News GavelIn general, a court may grant a defendant’s motion to suppress when it finds that a police officer’s conduct in obtaining the evidence violated the defendant’s rights. However, under A.R.S. section 13-3925, the evidence will not be suppressed if the prosecution can establish that the officer’s actions were based on a “reasonable, good faith belief that the conduct was proper.” This is called the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The exclusionary rule is the general rule that precludes evidence from being admitted if it is seized in violation of a defendant’s constitutional or statutory rights. Thus, the good-faith exception acts to allow some evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible under the exclusionary rule. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

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In many Arizona criminal cases, the issue of witness credibility is key. This is because, by and large, most cases present two sides of the same story. Whichever side the judge or jury believes is generally the side that prevails at trial.

Legal News GavelWhether it be the testimony of a complaining witness, the arresting or investigating police officer, or the defendant himself, the importance of establishing that a witness is being truthful is crucial to the side calling that witness. On the flip side of the coin, the opposing side will often attempt to establish that an adverse witness is biased, untruthful, or somehow mistaken about their remembrance of the facts. This is most often done through cross-examination.

When a witness testified, he or she will first be asked questions by the party calling that witness. This is called the direct-examination of a witness. After that party concludes their questioning, the opposing side will then have an opportunity to ask questions of the witness through cross-examination. A skillful cross-examination can highlight problems with a witness’ testimony, casting doubt on that witness’ credibility.

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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 diagnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Being an issue of first impression, the court was required to fashion a rule to determine the admissibility of such diagnoses, ultimately concluding that the evidence should not be admissible.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was nine months pregnant when she shot her boyfriend, the father of her child, in the head, killing him. When asked by detectives, the defendant explained that her boyfriend was abusive and had woken her up by kicking her in the stomach. He also told her that he did not want the baby.

The state charged the defendant with first-degree murder. A few days later, she gave birth, and the state sought to terminate her parental rights. In that proceeding, several experts testified that the defendant suffered from PTSD; however, they noted that the defendant did not answer any questions about the shooting.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona marijuana case resulting from an arrest of a California citizen who was stopped in Arizona with marijuana. The case is the latest in a line of many cases dealing with the relatively new laws across the country legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The defendant, a California resident, was stopped by an officer with Arizona Public Safety for failing to have functioning headlights. When the officers stopped the defendant’s car, they reported a smell of marijuana coming from the car. As they peered inside the car, they saw a white pipe with black residue near the defendant.

The police officers removed the defendant, and he admitted that the pipe was his and also that he had medical-grade marijuana as well as THC wax in the vehicle. The officers then asked the defendant if he had an Arizona medical marijuana card. The defendant responded that he did not but that he did have a recommendation letter from a California doctor stating that he would “significantly benefit from the use of medical marijuana,” and the doctor “approved the use of cannabis as medicine.”

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Arizona issued an opinion in an Arizona assault case requiring the court to review its longstanding decision not to allow a defendant to claim both self-defense and misidentification under the theory that the two are mutually exclusive. Ultimately, the court determined that a defendant should be able to claim self-defense, even if he is also claiming that he was not the one involved in the alleged criminal activity.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was arrested on murder and aggravated assault charges after a fight at a house party resulted in two men being shot to death and another being seriously injured. It was undisputed that there were many other people at the party. While police were unable to locate the gun used in the shootings, they did located two bloodied knives on the victims. The knives were not tested for fingerprints or DNA.

The defendant did not testify at trial. His primary defense was that he was not the shooter. However, he also requested the judge to instruct the jury that, if he was determined to be the shooter, he was acting in self-defense. The court refused to give the self-defense instruction, explaining that since he claimed he was not the shooter, the defendant cannot also claim he acted in self-defense. The case was submitted to the jury, which returned a guilty verdict. The defendant appealed.

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Legal News GavelIn 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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Legal News GavelIn a recent Arizona meth crime decision, the court considered whether using or possessing several deadly weapons while perpetrating a drug felony should be considered just one offense under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) section 13-3102(A)(8) and whether a defendant convicted of transporting methamphetamine for sale under A.R.S. § 13-3407(A)(7) should be able to get an early release.

The case arose when a highway patrol officer saw the defendant driving by with his windows down and then slowed while passing him. The policeman followed him and stopped him for hitting the brakes for no reason and twice swerving over the fog line.

The defendant and his passenger provided inconsistent statements, so the policeman asked for a drug canine unit. The dog alerted. The police found handguns, four pounds of meth, half a pound of heroin, and another case that held a bit of heroin and a used syringe. The defendant admitted he’d used heroin and gave a urine sample. A drug test showed metabolites of marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Arizona DUI decision, a defendant appealed his conviction for aggravated driving under the influence. The case arose just after midnight when the police arrested him for driving under the influence and performed an inventory search of his car. Inside his car, they found a pill bottle that contained Oxycodone. They took him to the police station, and he consented to a blood draw.

His blood alcohol level was .037, and he had 29 nanograms per milliliters of Oxycodone in his blood. At his time of arrest, his driving privileges were suspended. He was indicted for a count of aggravated DUI while impaired to the slightest degree, as well as aggravated DUI while Oxycodone or its metabolite was in his body and possession of Oxycodone. The last count was dismissed before trial.

At trial, the defendant presented evidence that he’d filled a prescription for immediate release Oxycodone shortly before, and the amount found in his blood fell within the therapeutic range. He also asked for an affirmative defense jury instruction based on A.R.S. § 28-1381(D). This law provided that someone using a drug as prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner wouldn’t be guilty of driving while drugged.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Arizona criminal case, a police officer answered a check vehicle call after police got reports of a white truck that was parked in a lane of traffic. The officer turned on his overhead lights and pulled up behind the truck. He came up to the driver’s window and tried to talk to the truck driver. He saw three young kids in the car, who seemed to be sleeping. The truck driver asked to see his identification twice. He told her he was a police officer and pointed at his badge and at the police car’s emergency lights.

The police officer believed that it was necessary to check on the kids, due to the totality of the circumstances. He asked her to unlock the doors to check the kids’ welfare and tried to open the doors. She drove up about 100 yards, ignoring his requests to stop, and went into a parking lot.

He followed and pulled his police car behind the truck to effectuate another stop. She backed the truck toward his patrol car. He pulled into a bank drive-through and headed in through the exit. The officer followed her and tried to contact her to ask her to stop the truck. Rather than comply, she drove the truck right at the officer. He pointed his gun at her, and she accelerated. He ran out of the way. She hit his car and drove back into traffic for 50-60 feet. He stopped again in a lane of traffic.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Arizona homicide case, the defendant appealed a conviction for negligent homicide. He argued that the lower court should have suppressed the blood alcohol content evidence, and he challenged whether the evidence was sufficient for a conviction.

The case arose in 2012 when the police responded to a single-vehicle crash caused by the defendant. The officer found the defendant in the car’s driver’s seat and a woman who was his passenger slumped in the passenger’s seat. The woman was dead. As the officer went with him to a police car for safety, he noticed that the defendant smelled like alcohol. He asked whether the defendant had been drinking alcohol, and he said no. No field sobriety tests were conducted.

He left the defendant and started directing vehicles and spoke to witnesses. The witnesses said that the defendant was going downhill when he seemed to make a lane change to pass a vehicle, but there was no vehicle to pass. He went over the double yellow line and collided with a culvert. There were no skid marks, but the car had damage on it. The officer was knowledgeable about accident reconstruction, and in his opinion, the damage showed an impact speed of less than 35 mph.

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