Articles Posted in Arizona Drug Charges

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 appellate opinion in an Arizona drug case, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction of one count of possession or use of dangerous drugs and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with the aggravating circumstance that he was on release from confinement and had historical prior felony convictions. In the appeal, the defendant argued that he was incorrectly charged, as the two prior felony convictions used to enhance his sentence did not qualify as historical prior felony convictions. The appeals court affirmed the lower court decision, finding that because the defendant did not argue that his prior convictions were too remote in time to qualify as historical prior felony convictions, the issue could only be reviewed for fundamental error. Subsequently, the appeals court ruled that defendant did not show that the superior court did not commit a fundamental, prejudicial error by sentencing him as a Category 3 offender.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was arrested and charged with possession or use of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defendant was on parole at the time and had at least three prior felony convictions, placing him in Category 3 as a repeat offender. His prior convictions were possession of a dangerous drug, a class 4 felony, committed on April 2, 2016, possession of drug paraphernalia, a class 6 felony, committed on November 20, 2013, and a class 6 felony, committed on December 26, 2013.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that his convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia, committed on November 20, 2013, and December 26, 2013, do not qualify as historical prior felony convictions because he committed those offenses more than five years before he committed the present offenses on June 2, 2019. In superior court, the defendant and defense counsel expressly stated that they acknowledged his parole status and his three prior felony convictions. The appeals court found that because the defendant did not argue to the superior court that his 2013 drug offenses were too remote in time to qualify as historical prior felony convictions, the appeals court could only review the decision for fundamental error. To prevail under fundamental error review, the defendant must establish both that fundamental error exists and that the error caused him prejudice. Fundamental error review goes to the foundation of the case, deprives the defendant of a right essential to his defense, or is of such magnitude that the defendant could not possibly have received a fair trial. The appeals court acknowledged that the improper use of a conviction as a historical prior felony conviction for enhancement purposes constitutes a fundamental error.

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In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant appealed her convictions and sentences for several drug-related crimes. On appeal, the defendant specifically argued that the prosecution failed to provide a sufficient foundation for some of the evidence presented against her at trial. After considering this argument, the court of appeals affirmed the defendant’s original convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a confidential informant reached out to the police and offered to set up a drug deal with a specific dealer he knew – that dealer later became the defendant in this case. When the police officers agreed to the set-up, the officers met up with the informant and observed as he reached out to the defendant to organize the logistics of the transaction. The officers then drove the informant to the previously agreed-upon location, which was a parking lot nearby.

The officers observed the drug deal take place, then picked up the informant and retrieved the drugs as well as the recording device that were both on his person. The officers then obtained a search warrant to retrieve the defendant’s private Facebook messages. After further investigations, the defendant was charged with the sale of a dangerous drug as well as participating in a criminal syndicate.

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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.

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.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case affirming the defendant’s conviction for selling methamphetamine. The case illustrates the lengths that law enforcement will go to when investigating drug crimes.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the Prescott Police Department was conducting a narcotics surveillance on a Roadway Inn. Evidently, police officers watched as an individual entered the defendant’s hotel room, stayed for less than five minutes, and then left. Police pulled the individual over for an insurance violation, searched their car, and found one gram of meth.

Shortly after this, the defendant left the hotel room. Police followed him, eventually pulling him over for driving with a revoked license. They then searched the defendant’s car, finding a glass pipe with a “burnt crystalline substance” inside. Based on this, police officers obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s hotel room, where they found 4.5 ounces of meth, a scale, and a ledger. Subsequent testing revealed that the substance was methamphetamine. The police officers also recovered the defendant’s cell phone, which contained messages from several people looking to buy drugs.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drug case involving the automobile exception to the search warrant requirement. According to the court’s opinion, an officer initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle with two passengers after noticing the vehicle swerve across the fog line of a highway in Arizona. During the traffic stop, the officer smelled marijuana, saw a marijuana dispensary bag, smelled air fresheners in the vehicle, and noticed a radar detector on the windshield. The officer used a plate reader to determine that the vehicle had driven into California earlier that day and had made a similar one-day trip to California a few months ago.

The officer determined that the driver was not impaired. As the officer was preparing paperwork to issue a warning, the officer asked the driver about their relationship to one another and where they were headed, to which the driver responded. After escorting the driver back to his car, the officer questioned the other passenger about their relationship to one another and where they were headed. The driver of the vehicle and the passenger of the vehicle gave different answers. The passenger then admitted to there being a small amount of marijuana in the dispensary bag. The officer issued the warning.

The officer then asked the driver about the bag, and the driver stated that there was no marijuana in the car. Neither passenger presented a medical marijuana card. The officer detained both passengers and found various drugs and instruments in the vehicle.

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.

A Review of 3 Uncommon Criminal Defenses Used for Drug Trafficking Charges

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals drug case, the court considered a defendant’s conviction for narcotic drug trafficking charges.  The defendant was sentenced to a presumptive five-year term of imprisonment and appealed the conviction.

The defense argued that (1) the drugs found in his car should have been suppressed, (2) improper profile testimony was admitted, and (3) the sanction imposed for a Batson violation wasn’t adequate.

Drug trafficking charges are multi-facet in nature, and challenges can take place on numerous fronts. In this article three types of challenges will be discussed:

How to Protect Your Rights in a Plea Bargain and Deferred Prosecution

If you have criminal charges, it is likely that you will be faced with the decision of whether or not to take your case to trial.  As an alternative to trial, you may be offered a plea deal.  In some cases the prosecution can offer participation in a deferred prosecution program if it is available for certain types of criminal charges.

Last year Maricopa County Superior Court reported that of 99.8 percent of terminated criminal cases, only 2.2 percent went to trial.

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) reported similar statistics in 2016.   The USSC reported 97.3 percent of criminal cases were resolved without trial, while only 2.7 percent went to trial.

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