In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of drug possession was denied. Originally, the defendant was charged and convicted of transportation of dangerous drugs for sale when a police officer found 40 individually packaged bundles of methamphetamine in the defendant’s truck. On appeal, the defendant argued that the officer did not have a legal basis to initiate a traffic stop in the first place, thus the evidence was illegally obtained. The court disagreed, affirming the defendant’s conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, an officer was patrolling one evening when he noticed a pickup truck on the road that he identified as “lifted” – it had no rear fender splash guards, in violation of Arizona law. The officer was particularly familiar with this kind of pickup truck because it was his “dream” truck, so it was easy for him to recognize that something was awry. Pulling the truck over and initiating the traffic stop, the officer began speaking with the driver, the defendant in this case.
The officer and the defendant spoke for about ten minutes, and the officer noticed that the defendant seemed nervous. Based on the defendant’s behavior, the officer began to suspect criminal activity. He also noted that the defendant claimed he had not been to California in three years, but the officer knew from a records check that the defendant had been there just one month earlier. The officer asked if he could search the defendant’s car, and the defendant declined the search request but agreed that the officer’s dog could search the exterior of the vehicle. Upon this search, the officer immediately uncovered 50 pounds of methamphetamine in the truck.
The defendant was convicted of transportation of dangerous drugs for sale. His main argument on appeal was that the officer did not have enough reason to initiate the traffic stop, and thus that the incriminating evidence should have been suppressed. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately disagreed. It was reasonable, said the court, given the officer’s particular fondness with this kind of truck, that he would know the vehicle lacked the necessary fear render splash guards. An awareness of this violation was, said the court, enough reason for the officer to pull the defendant over.
The defendant also argued that the officer unnecessarily prolonged the traffic stop, which ultimately led to the officer finding the methamphetamine. Again, the court disagreed. Looking at footage from the officer’s body camera, the court concluded that the conversation between the officer and the defendant was consensual. The officer was not forcing the defendant to speak against his will, thus the defendant could have ended the conversation if he had wanted to do so. Thus, said the court, the traffic stop was reasonable in nature, and the drug evidence should not have been suppressed.
Disagreeing with both of the defendant’s arguments, the court denied the appeal and affirmed the defendant’s verdict.
Have You Been Charged with Drug Possession in Arizona?
If you have found yourself fighting drug charges in Arizona, call the Law Office of James E. Novak. We are committed to providing you with the best defense strategy possible, fighting for your future every step of the way. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 480-413-1499. You can also send us an online message to have your questions answered.