When defending against Arizona criminal prosecutions, understanding the nuances of expert testimony can be a game-changer in shaping the outcome of a case. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently released a ruling that helps to explain the requirements for a witness in a criminal case to testify as an expert. These standards and requirements may help a skilled attorney exclude harmful evidence from being admitted against their client by a proposed expert.

Expert testimony involves the presentation of opinions or conclusions by individuals with specialized knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education in a particular field relevant to the case. Unlike lay witnesses who testify about facts within their personal knowledge, expert witnesses provide professional opinions to assist the court in understanding complex issues.

The recently decided opinion involved a case where the defendant appealed convictions for aggravated assault, and the victim testified as to the source of damage to a vehicle. On appeal, the defendant argues that this was expert testimony that was improperly admitted at trial. In the recently released opinion, the appellate court discussed the factors that define expert testimony versus lay testimony.

Recently, an Arizona criminal defendant challenged a trial court’s decision to deny his request for DNA evidence. The defendant was originally charged with burglary, and after he pled not guilty, his case went to trial. A jury found the defendant guilty of two burglaries, and the trial court sentenced him to 12 years in prison as a result. On appeal, the defendant argued that the DNA evidence he asked for could have led to a completely different outcome in the case, and it was unreasonable that the court denied his request. The higher court ultimately disagreed, siding with the State and affirming the defendant’s guilty convictions.

Burglary Offenses in Question

The State originally charged the defendant with committing five burglaries and one theft of five commercial establishments. Two of the establishments took place inside a restaurant and a coffee shop, and investigators found the defendant’s fingerprints at both locations. There was also video surveillance linking the defendant to the two establishments. The prosecution submitted this evidence at trial, and the jury found the defendant guilty of burglary in both the restaurant and coffee shop. Regarding the additional burglaries, where the investigative team found no fingerprints, the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Defendant’s Request for DNA Evidence

After trial, the defendant filed serval motions, including a request for DNA testing of the items that the perpetrator touched while burglarizing the restaurant and the coffee shop. According to the defendant, if this testing produced another individual’s DNA instead of his own, he likely would not have been convicted of either burglary, since the evidence showed the same person likely committed both offenses. When the trial court denied this motion, the defendant promptly appealed.

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Facing criminal charges can be a daunting experience, especially when evidence is obtained through search warrants. There are several difficulties associated with challenging search warrants in Arizona criminal cases. A recently decided appellate case sheds light on the complexities involved in suppressing evidence obtained through GPS tracking devices, and helps demonstrate the importance of a comprehensive defense strategy when defending against Arizona criminal charges.

The defendant in the recently decided case appealed his conviction for the sale or transportation of dangerous drugs and possession of paraphernalia. The case revolves around the use of an anticipatory search warrant obtained by detectives to place a GPS tracking device on the defendant’s vehicle, suspected of transporting narcotics. The warrant was based on information from a confidential informant about an older male, matching the description of the defendant who would be delivering narcotics to a specific address in Chino Valley.

The Challenge of Specificity

The defendant’s defense centered on challenging the validity of the search warrant, arguing that it lacked the necessary specificity and failed to establish probable cause. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires search warrants to particularly describe the places to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. The crucial question here is whether the warrant provided enough specific details to prevent mistaken searches and seizures.

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In a recent case on appeal from a Maricopa County superior court, the defendant asked that his conviction for discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure be reversed. Importantly, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that he intentionally shot a nightclub building on the night of the incident in question. Agreeing with the defendant’s argument, the court reversed and remanded the case, giving the defendant another chance before the trial court.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant got into an altercation one evening outside of a nightclub with another individual. He ended up trying to shoot the individual, but he missed and hit the actual nightclub instead. No one was injured, but the bullets hit a metal tripod inside the building as well as a block wall on the outside of the building.

The defendant was charged with discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure, aggravated assault, and endangerment. At trial, he argued that he was acting in self-defense, and the jury found him not guilty of aggravated assault and endangerment. The jury did, however, find him guilty of discharging a firearm at a nonresidential structure, and the defendant was sentenced accordingly.

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In a recent case before a court of appeals in Arizona, the defendant asked for a reversal of his guilty verdict based on unfair conduct from the prosecutor at trial. Originally, the defendant was found guilty of several crimes, including identity theft, forgery, and criminal possession of a forgery device. On appeal, the defendant took issue with part of the prosecuting attorney’s closing argument, in which he insinuated the defendant was guilty of activity that was not in the record. Looking at the case, the court of appeals disagreed and ultimately affirmed the defendant’s original verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer was on patrol one evening when he got a call about a suspicious-looking car in a parking lot. The officer went to investigate and came upon the defendant, who was alone and asleep in the driver’s seat. When the officer approached, the defendant quickly drove away, crashing the car in front of a nearby house.

The defendant took off on foot, arriving at a shed next to another house in the neighborhood. When the officers arrived, they found the defendant hiding in the shed with a slew of credit cards around him. After further investigation, the defendant was charged, and his case went to trial. He was found guilty of forgery, based in part on the fact that he had dozens of credit cards that were not under his name, as well as the fact that the credit card holders had reported fraudulent charges on those cards.

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In a recent case before an appeals court in Arizona, the defendant asked for a reconsideration of his guilty conviction for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Originally, the defendant was convicted after he and an accomplice robbed a local jewelry store. His case went to trial, and a jury found him guilty. When the defendant appealed, the higher court had to decide whether the evidence supported the verdict, given the defendant’s argument that some of the DNA should have undergone independent testing and was thus unreliable. Ultimately, the higher court denied the defendant’s appeal, and his original verdict was affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant and his accomplice arrived at a jewelry store on the day in question and held the owner at gunpoint. A passerby came into the store, and when that passerby started to pull out his phone to call the police, the defendant fought him to the ground. Eventually, the defendant and his accomplice both fled the scene, and investigators arrived quickly after they left.

While fleeing, the defendant had left behind a shirt and a hat from the fight with the passerby. Using DNA evidence, the investigators linked the shirt to the defendant, who was in their criminal database. Eventually, the defendant was charged, and his case went to trial. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged.

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A common theme in Arizona domestic violence prosecutions involves the changing stories and testimonies of alleged domestic violence victims as a case progresses toward prosecution and conviction. Often, complaining victims may exaggerate or fabricate evidence of domestic violence in response to a domestic altercation, or to offset allegations of violence against themselves when law enforcement is called to the scene of a domestic dispute. Although domestic violence is never an acceptable response to a relationship or familial dispute, unfounded allegations of domestic violence sometimes result in severe, life-altering consequences to the alleged perpetrator, and sometimes also the alleged victim as well. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently affirmed a defendant’s aggravated assault conviction for a domestic violence crime, despite the victim’s attempt to recant her initial complaint to the police from the day of the alleged incident.

The defendant in the recently decided appeal was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly strangled and assaulted the mother of his children during an argument between the parties. Although the visual evidence of strangulation was limited, the police and prosecutors were inclined to prosecute the charges based on the victim’s initial reporting to the police. As the case approached trial, however, the victim’s story changed, and she testified at trial that she was, in fact, not strangled by the defendant, insinuating that her initial report to the police was an emotional response to a personal argument between the parties. The victim’s trial testimony was not persuasive to the jury in their case, and the defendant was convicted of the charges. The defendant was then sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the statements made by the victim to the investigator should not have been admitted at trial, as they were hearsay. Furthermore, the defendant argued that the evidence at trial was not sufficient to support his conviction. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding that the victim’s statements were admissible at trial specifically because they were inconsistent with her testimony at trial. Additionally, the appellate court gave great deference to the trial judge’s determination that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. As a result of the appellate rulings, the defendant will be required to serve his prison sentence.

In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his guilty conviction for one count of unlawful flight from a police officer. Originally, a police officer attempted to pull the defendant over for failing to stop at a stop sign. When the defendant’s car took off, the officer lost sight of the driver but eventually located the defendant through a photo identification process. The defendant was charged and convicted, and he promptly appealed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer was patrolling in his car one evening when he saw a white truck roll through a stop sign. The officer activated his lights and tried to initiate a traffic stop. The truck, being driven by the defendant, at first pulled over onto the road’s shoulder but then quickly sped away. The officer began chasing the defendant by car, at one point observing the defendant through the truck’s lower driver’s side window.

A few minutes later, the truck stopped in front of a home and the driver left the vehicle. Again, the officer caught sight of the defendant in the headlights of his car. The defendant walked towards a fence by the home, and the officer lost sight of him.

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In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for disorderly conduct. Originally, the defendant was charged after he pulled out a knife in the presence of police officers. Once he was found guilty, the defendant appealed, but the court determined that his arguments on appeal fell short. Thus the defendant’s guilty conviction was sustained.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, police officers pulled the defendant over one evening when he was driving a motorcycle with a suspended license plate. After discovering that the defendant was also carrying a revoked driver’s license, the officers called a tow truck to impound the motorcycle.

At that point, a tow truck driver arrived at the scene. He immediately observed the defendant pull out a knife and flip it open. The tow truck driver backed up, afraid that the defendant would use the knife against him. Once the officers realized what was happening, they drew their own weapons and told the defendant to drop the knife. Immediately, the defendant let the knife go.

A jury convicted the defendant of aggravated assault against a police officer and disorderly conduct.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s appeal of his conviction for fleeing from law enforcement was denied. Originally, the defendant was convicted and sentenced after he allegedly ran on foot from a police officer that was pursuing him. On appeal, he argued that the officer’s process for identifying him as the person fleeing was insufficient and unreliable. The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately affirmed his conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer was driving one day in March 2016 when a car ran a stop sign, entered his lane, and caused him to swerve in order to avoid crashing. According to the officer, at that moment, the officer “locked eyes” with the car’s driver, getting a full view of the driver’s face.

The officer then tried to initiate a traffic stop, but the car kept driving and a pursuit ensued. The driver ended up stopping at an apartment complex, where he and two other occupants got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. Again, the officer caught sight of the driver’s face. Minutes later, the officer identified the driver as the defendant in this case after he was shown a photograph with the defendant’s name on it. Pulling up an additional photograph of the defendant using his patrol unit computer, the officer again confirmed that the driver was the defendant.

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