Under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officers are not permitted to perform a search of someone’s property without a warrant, reasonable suspicion, or probable cause that the search would reveal evidence of illegal activity. When a police officer performs a search without a warrant or probable cause, any evidence found in the search cannot be admitted in the prosecution of the defendant. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently rejected a defendant’s appeal that challenged the legitimacy of a search that yielded evidence of illegal drugs that led to his conviction.
According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant was a passenger in a car that was stopped for a traffic violation in 2018. Police noticed the defendant was wanted for outstanding warrants, and placed him under arrest for the warrants after confirming his identity. At the time of the stop, the defendant was holding a backpack between his legs. When arresting the defendant, the police asked him if he wanted to take the backpack with him, and he responded that it was not his backpack.
Police inventoried the backpack, and it was later searched. Police found illegal drugs and paraphernalia in the backpack and the defendant was charged with felony drug crimes as a result. Before trial, the defendant challenged the admission of the evidence found in the backpack, claiming that he never consented to the search and that there was not a warrant or probable cause that would justify the police to perform the search without the defendant’s consent. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, ruling that the defendant abandoned any claim to the backpack when he was asked if it belonged to him and that he did not have the right to challenge the search at a later time. As a result of this ruling, the case went to trial, and the defendant was convicted of the crimes he was charged with.