Articles Posted in Arizona Criminal Defense

Recently, an Arizona court denied a defendant’s appeal in a murder case involving the defendant’s former roommate. The defendant asked the court to consider the written confession that the State introduced at trial inadmissible; he claimed he did not write the confession voluntarily and, therefore, the prosecution should not have been able to use it. Looking at the facts of the case, the court eventually disagreed with the defendant and kept his conviction in place.

Facts of the Case

Officers found the dead body of a man in his apartment after a call from the man’s brother in November 2018. When the police officers went to check in on the man, they immediately noticed an odor upon entering his apartment building. They pushed open the door and found the man dead on the ground – it appeared as if he had been dead for at least several days.

The officers investigated and noticed that there had been several fraudulent charges coming out of the victim’s bank account. They linked these charges to the victim’s roommate, who became the defendant in this case. After further investigation, they arrested the defendant and charged him with the murder. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty as charged.

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In a recent case coming out of the Supreme Court of Arizona, the defendant asked the court to reconsider his conviction for resisting arrest. According to the defendant, the trial court improperly instructed the jury regarding the law that applied to his case, and the verdict should be reversed because of the trial court’s error. Ultimately finding no error, the higher court affirmed the decision, and the defendant’s conviction remained in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, state troopers were on the lookout for a stolen vehicle one evening when they noticed the defendant loading items into the car they were looking for. The officers approached the defendant to arrest him, and he started running. A physical altercation ensued, but the officers were eventually able to arrest the defendant and take him to the station.

The defendant was charged with resisting arrest. He pled not guilty, his case went to trial, and the jury unanimously found him guilty.

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In a recent case before the Arizona Court of Appeals, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that a police officer’s canine search of her vehicle was unwarranted. Originally, the defendant was charged, convicted, and sentenced for possession of a narcotic drug for sale. On appeal, she argued that the evidence of the drugs should have been suppressed at trial because the officer did not have a legal basis for having his canine search her car. The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a state trooper stopped the defendant and her friend because they had been following other cars too closely on the road one evening. The officer pulled the car over, asked the defendant and her friend a few questions, and requested that each individual hand over their identification. Neither the defendant nor her friend had a valid driver’s license.

The officer asked the pair if his dog could sniff around the car, and they both consented to the sniff. At that point, the dog alerted near the passenger door, and a search of the car revealed 275.6 grams of heroin under the defendant’s seat. A second search of the car revealed an additional 272.2 grams of heroin.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court in a kidnapping case, the defendant’s original conviction was sustained. The defendant argued that even though he had committed burglary and aggravated assault on the day in question, his crimes did not fit within the definition of “kidnapping.” The court disagreed, denying his appeal and affirming his convictions and sentences based on the kidnapping crime.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant stole a variety of weapons from another man, supposedly to use as collateral for a debt he owed. A few days after stealing the weapons, the defendant went back to the apartment where the man lived and broke into his residence. He found the man and the man’s daughter, then proceeded to threaten them with a baseball bat and a sword.

The man’s daughter barricaded herself, along with her boyfriend, in her bedroom. The pair immediately called 911, reporting the burglary and asking police to come as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the defendant used the bat to break a hole in the door, trapping both individuals in the bedroom. When police officers arrived, they arrested the defendant and his accomplice as they tried to run away. They also found a dagger and several other weapons in the defendant’s car.

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In a recent opinion written by an Arizona appellate court, a defendant appealed a lower court’s denial of his to suppress the physical evidence found in his backpack after a murder. The appellate court affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress, finding that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment protections were not violated since the backpack search was a routine inventory search and that the evidence would have been inevitably found because of a warrant filed by police.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was found with a bloody knife, a store receipt, and a cell phone, which linked him to the murder of a store worker who was attacked in the store’s parking lot after refusing to hand over his car keys. The defendant argued that he acted out of self-defense at a bus station, but the DNA on the bloody knife and on the defendant’s clothes belonged to the store worker and no disturbance was reported at a bus station that night. Surveillance video showed the defendant getting out of the stolen vehicle to enter a store about an hour after the store worker was killed.

Recently, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an opinion in an Arizona robbery and felony-murder case. In its opinion, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to preclude an identification made by a witness.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant and four other individuals robbed an armored truck as two security guards attempted to refill an ATM. One of the individuals fired a rifle at the security guards, and a security guard fired a gunshot back. The shot fired by the security guard was fatal.

The defendant’s DNA was found on a rifle left near the scene of the crime, in addition to the deceased individual’s cell phone being found at the scene of the crime. The call records from the cell phone revealed that the defendant and the deceased had been in communication on multiple occasions and that the defendant had traveled to and from the location of the crime on the day of the incident. The State was authorized to conduct a wiretap on the phones of the suspects, leading to the defendant being arrested.

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Over the past decade, more states are coming to realize the detrimental—and unfair—effects that result when applying existing laws. For example, laws imposing mandatory minimum punishments, the system’s failure to account for mental health issues (including addiction), and harsh collateral consequences that come along with a conviction have all started to get a second look. Recently, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed several bills into law bringing Arizona in line with the many other states that are making significant efforts to adjust what many consider to be a broken criminal justice system.

Specifically, HB 2318 and 2319 address the state’s harsh sentencing system and the impact of a conviction for a non-violent drug crime.

HB 2318

House Bill 2318 deals with first-time offenders who may otherwise receive a disproportionately high sentence. The Bill deals with a situation where a person is convicted of one or more felony offenses that were either consolidated for trial or do not count as “historical prior felony convictions.” Under the old law, a person with two or more offenses was considered a repeat offender, meaning they faced significantly higher penalties. However, for arrests taking place after March 24, 2021, consolidated felony cases will be considered a “single offense” for sentencing purposes.

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When is Your Consent to a DUI Breath or Chemical Test Considered Involuntary, under the State's Implied Consent Law? 

Truck-DUI-Implied-Consent-Criminal-Defense-Attorney-Mesa-AZ-21-150x150A DUI breathalyzer or chemical test is considered a protected search under the 4thAmendment of the U.S. Constitution. This means that police need a warrant with probable cause to conduct a DUI breath, blood or urine test, even under Arizona’s Implied Consent law.

There are a few exceptions to the warrant rule, one of which is voluntarily consent.  If the driver expressly consents to a breath or chemical test, the officer is not required to have a warrant.

Arizona courts have held that if a person was coerced by the officer to take the DUI test then their consent is not voluntary (State of Arizona v. Valenzuela, 2016).  An involuntary consent does not relieve police of the requirement of obtaining a warrant.

Arizona Supreme Court clarifies standards for determining if a fundamental and prejudicial error occurred at trial.

Drug-Courier-Proling-Laws-Criminal-Defense-Attorney-Mesa-AZ-150x150The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that when the prosecution uses drug courier profiling evidence mainly as a way to prove guilt, it violates a person’s constitutional right to a fair trial.

While police can use drug courier profiling evidence to establish reasonable suspicion for purposes of stopping someone to investigate a crime, this evidence cannot be used at trial largely to prove they are guilty.

This is because by doing so, the defendant is essentially prosecuted for the conduct of others, rather than that of the defendant.

Arizona lawmakers recently passed House Bill 2007 (HB2007), adding an aggravating circumstance to the list of 26 that were previously enumerated in the statute.  The law became effective August 3, 2018.

The newest aggravating circumstance is triggered when a defendant “uses a mask or other disguise to obscure the defendant’s face to avoid detection” during a crime.

To be clear, the new aggravating circumstance doesn’t criminalize wearing a disguise.  Rather, it allows for an increased punishment for those who are convicted of committing a crime, while wearing a mask or disguise.

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