In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his guilty conviction for one count of unlawful flight from a police officer. Originally, a police officer attempted to pull the defendant over for failing to stop at a stop sign. When the defendant’s car took off, the officer lost sight of the driver but eventually located the defendant through a photo identification process. The defendant was charged and convicted, and he promptly appealed.
The Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a police officer was patrolling in his car one evening when he saw a white truck roll through a stop sign. The officer activated his lights and tried to initiate a traffic stop. The truck, being driven by the defendant, at first pulled over onto the road’s shoulder but then quickly sped away. The officer began chasing the defendant by car, at one point observing the defendant through the truck’s lower driver’s side window.
A few minutes later, the truck stopped in front of a home and the driver left the vehicle. Again, the officer caught sight of the defendant in the headlights of his car. The defendant walked towards a fence by the home, and the officer lost sight of him.
The officer began an investigation, discovering that the police had received multiple other calls reporting incidents with a man of the same stature and appearance in the same area. When other deputies in the department showed the officer photos of the man from these previous incidents, he immediately recognized the person in the photographs as the driver of the truck.
The Court’s Decision
The defendant was charged with one count of flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle. At trial, the defendant argued that the officer’s method of identifying him was unfair; this argument was rejected, but the defendant brought it up again on appeal. According to the defendant, because the other deputies had shown the officer photos from previous incidents, the officer was more likely to believe that it was the defendant that had fled from him earlier. This process was unnecessarily suggestive, and the defendant asked the court to suppress the pre-trial identification.
The court looked at the circumstances surrounding the identification process. According to the court, an identification is reliable if the witness could accurately and clearly see what was happening at the time of the offense. Here, the officer had multiple opportunities to view the defendant – once through his truck window and again when the defendant was on foot. At trial, the officer testified that he got a “very good look” at the defendant, as well as that he was “completely confident” that the defendant was the vehicle’s driver.
The court concluded that the officer was able to clearly see what the defendant looked like and that his recounting of the events was reliable. Because of this conclusion, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Have You Been Criminally Charged After an Interaction with Police Officers in Arizona?
If you have interacted with a police officer and are now facing Arizona criminal charges, it is of the utmost importance that you speak with one of our attorneys at The Law Office of James E. Novak. We are experts in Arizona criminal defense law, and we can walk you through your options moving forward to find a solution that works for you. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 480-413-1499. You can also send us a message online to have your questions answered.