Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal, Concluding that Police Officer’s Identification Process was Accurate

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s appeal of his conviction for fleeing from law enforcement was denied. Originally, the defendant was convicted and sentenced after he allegedly ran on foot from a police officer that was pursuing him. On appeal, he argued that the officer’s process for identifying him as the person fleeing was insufficient and unreliable. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately affirmed his conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer was driving one day in March 2016 when a car ran a stop sign, entered his lane, and caused him to swerve in order to avoid crashing. According to the officer, at that moment, the officer “locked eyes” with the car’s driver, getting a full view of the driver’s face.

The officer then tried to initiate a traffic stop, but the car kept driving and a pursuit ensued. The driver ended up stopping at an apartment complex, where he and two other occupants got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. Again, the officer caught sight of the driver’s face. Minutes later, the officer identified the driver as the defendant in this case after he was shown a photograph with the defendant’s name on it. Pulling up an additional photograph of the defendant using his patrol unit computer, the officer again confirmed that the driver was the defendant.

At trial, the defendant was convicted of fleeing from law enforcement and sentenced to three years in prison.

The Decision

At trial, the defendant tried to include in his case the testimony from an additional detective who thought that photo identification should always involve a six-pack lineup of photos, not just a single photo. The state argued that this testimony should not be included at trial, and the trial court agreed, concluding that it would have been impossible in these circumstances for the officer to use a six-person lineup. Because the officer needed to urgently identify the driver, it was only reasonable for him to identify the driver using only one photograph as opposed to using a six-person photo lineup.

On appeal, the defendant made several arguments. One argument was that the trial unfairly kept the defendant from including testimony from this additional detective stating that identifying a defendant using a “six pack” of photographs is generally a better procedure than using a single picture. The higher court agreed that the trial court should have allowed the jury to hear this important testimony. The opinion of this additional detective was relevant in that it could have cast doubt on the reliability of the identification procedure that brought the defendant to trial in the first place.

It was also true, said the court, that the trial court’s decision to exclude this testimony did not have any real effect on the result of the trial. There was no evidence to show that the trial court’s error is what ultimately led to his guilty verdict, and the court believed that the error was not “so egregious” as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.

Because of this disagreement, the court ultimately affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Arizona?

If you have been charged with fleeing a police officer, you need an Arizona criminal defense attorney who is committed to making sure you know and understand your options moving forward. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we know that going through the criminal justice system can be anxiety-inducing, and we are committed to standing by you as we fight your charges together. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499.


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