Articles Posted in Arizona Drug Charges

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.

U.S. Supreme Court excuses unlawful police stop due to suspect’s outstanding arrest warrant: How to protect your rights if you have a warrant

The aftershocks still linger following U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s eruptive and indignant dissent in this case:

 “The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong…”  

– Justice Sonia Sotomayor, US Supreme Court

The incident began with an unlawful police stop of a man leaving a private residence.

The suspect was arrested after the police officer learned the suspect had an outstanding warrant.

Illegal drugs were found in the suspect’s possession, after the officer searched him.

The search was conducted incidental to the arrest, as a result of the outstanding warrant for a traffic violation.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided that even though the stop was unlawful, it was not flagrant.

So they allowed the drug evidence to be admitted and used against the suspect to prosecute the illegal drug possession charges.

In this article we outline the case, the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and how it impacts your 4th Amendment rights, especially if you have an outstanding warrant for arrest.  Continue reading

Arizona Supreme Court Limits Use of Entrapment Defense in Cocaine Case

Is this too difficult to imagine?

You’ve just been released from prison. You are struggling to become a productive member of society.

You’re looking for job, and trying to get your life on back on track.

So far, no employer has been willing to hire you, due to your criminal record.

You’ve sold nearly everything you own, including your car to pay outstanding debts, and to try and make ends meet.

Day after day you wait for the bus to take you to town so you can continue your job search.

Then one day, you are approached by a man while waiting for your bus. The man asks you if you will purchase $20.00 of crack cocaine.  He offers to pay you $10.00 to do the deal.

You hesitate, and think that selling drugs again was the last thing you ever intended to do.

Weary, desperate, and hungry, you err in judgement and agree.

The man takes you to buy the drugs from an acquaintance.  You buy the cocaine for him.   You give him the cocaine, and he pays you.

Following the exchange of drugs and money, the man immediately arrests you.

You now face returning to prison, and serving 8 to 10 more years for selling illegal drugs while on parole.

The man who approached you at the bus stop was an undercover police officer.  You were clearly entrapped.

But you will not have a chance to gain an acquittal based on the entrapment defense, without doing this one very important thing…

That is, if you wish to challenge the charges by utilizing the entrapment defense, you must admit to the substantial elements of the crime.

In simple terms, you will need to admit that you committed the criminal act for which you were charged.

You are confused by this.  It goes against everything you understood about your 5th Amendment rights and protections against self-incrimination.  So you do not admit to the crime.

But the fact is, it doesn’t matter how much police deception or inducement was involved.  Unless you are prepared to formally admit to the substantial elements of the crime, either in testimony or stipulation, the entrapment defense will not apply.

You are convicted and sentenced to return to prison to serve 9 more years.  Your freedom was short lived.

Not only is this scenario imaginable, but the the high court of Arizona recently heard a case with similar circumstances. This statutory requirement was affirmed in that case.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that the entrapment defense afforded under A.R.S. 13-206, is reserved for cases in which the defendant admits to the substantial elements of the crime.

In this article we examine the often misunderstood entrapment defense, and include the following featured topics:

  1. Overview of recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling in a cocaine case;
  2. 7 questions and answers regarding application of the entrapment defense;
  3. The requirements of making a valid entrapment claim in Arizona;
  4. The burden of proof for entrapment;
  5. Arizona entrapment law A.R.S.  12 – 206;
  6. 10 other drug crimes defenses besides entrapment;
  7. Criminal defense for drug charges in Phoenix AZ

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Your Guide to Understanding Risks and Consequences of Fentanyl-laced Heroin

Imagine the lethal game of “Russian Roulette”, but with different rules of chance.

Let’s say the chambers in a revolver with 6 rounds are all loaded with bullets, with the exception of only one chamber.

As if the risks weren’t enough in the traditional game.  They just increased drastically.

Now it means there is an only one in six chance you will survive the game, instead of a 5 in six chance of survival.

That leaves the player with less than 17% chance of survival, and an 83% chance of fatality.

Those are near the same odds of fatality when a person uses heroin laced with the super opiate known as Fentanyl.

Officials in Arizona as well as other parts of the country are on high alert as it leaves a path of fatalities and grieving families to mourn the loss of loved ones.

The Centers for Disease Control collected data that concluded that over the last 15 years, overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit opioid overdose deaths surged, and that this spike was largely driven by heroin.

In this article we will discuss the following topics intended to raise awareness and to provide general resource information.  Topics include:

  • Fentanyl & Signs of Fentanyl Overdose
  • Fentanyl Laced – Heroin – A Lethal Mix
  • Fentanyl – Laced Heroin Law Enforcement Seizures, and Trends
  • Narcotic Laws and Penalties including Fentanyl –Laced Heroin in Arizona
  • Good Samaritan Laws: Proposed Legislation
  • How to Detect Heroin Laced Fentanyl
  • Arizona Criminal Defense for Narcotic Drug Crimes

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