Arizona Defendant Unsuccessfully Argues Against Unfair Identification Method on Appeal

In a recent weapons case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant argued on appeal that the pretrial identification used in his case was both suggestive and unreliable. According to the defendant, the identification should have been conducted in a more objective manner, and his convictions for misconduct involving weapons should be overturned on these grounds. The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant and ultimately affirmed the original convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was walking with a woman one evening when he allegedly began firing shots into traffic on the road. A driver, who happened to be close to the scene at the time, observed the defendant firing into traffic. He immediately pulled over at a convenience store and called 911, giving the operator a general description of the defendant and of what he had seen.

Police officers arrived at the scene minutes later and intercepted the defendant as well as the woman. The driver who had witnessed the event then went to the station, upon a request from officers. He saw the defendant and said immediately, “absolutely, without a doubt, that’s the guy that was shooting the gun.”

Officers arrested the defendant, who had given the police several false names when originally asked. He was ultimately identified by his fingerprints. Investigators found bullet casings at the scene of the crime and also found a swab of gunshot residue on the defendant’s hand.

The Decision

The defendant was indicted for one count of unlawful discharge of a firearm, one count of misconduct involving weapons, and one count of refusing to provide his name when lawfully detained. On appeal, the defendant argued that the witness’s pretrial identification was inherently suggestive and unreliable. The manner in which officers obtained the identification from the witness created an unnecessary bias against the defendant, and he argued that the identification should have been suppressed at trial.

The court looked at the identification method in question. The defendant was the only suspect that the officers showed to the witness, and one-man show-ups are, in fact, inherently suggestive. On the other hand, said the court, when the officers showed the witness the defendant’s photo, they were in the middle of an active search for a shooter that had just fired directly into traffic. Because this was an emergency situation and because an image of the suspect would still be fresh in the witness’s mind, it was reasonable to use this method in hopes of getting the witness to properly identify the suspect.

Given these facts, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.

Are You Facing a Weapons Charge in the State of Arizona?

If you or a loved one has been charged with unlawful use of a firearm, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. We offer you the representation you need when receiving a guilty verdict isn’t an option. For your free and confidential consultation, call us today at 480-413-1499.


Contact Information