In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI stop, the defendant’s request for evidence to be suppressed was denied. The defendant was found guilty of drug possession. He appealed, arguing the police officer’s search of his vehicle was illegal. The appellate court denied the appeal because it found that there were no legal issues with the officer’s DUI stop and that he did, in fact, have probable cause to search the defendant’s vehicle. Because of what the officer found during the DUI stop, the defendant was charged with much more serious crimes, including possession of drugs for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a police officer in Arizona stopped a speeding vehicle driven by an acquaintance of the defendant. Once the officer stopped the car, he noticed the defendant sitting in the back seat with an alcohol container by his feet. The officer searched the vehicle and began a DUI investigation, all the while noticing that the defendant seemed “abnormally nervous.” Upon a thorough search, the officer discovered a 122-gram bag of methamphetamine in the glove box and a smaller bag in the console. He also found a glass pipe. Later, the defendant was charged with possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the drugs should be suppressed because the officer did not have permission to search his vehicle. He maintained that because the officer did not have probable cause to conduct the search, the incriminating evidence should not have been used at trial.
The court disagreed, finding instead that the officer had probable cause to search the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant said that during the trial, the officer changed his testimony so it seemed like he had glimpsed the alcoholic container with a substantial amount of liquid at the defendant’s feet. Previously, said the defendant, the officer had testified that the container was empty. If there was nothing actually in the container, according to the defendant, the officer did not have enough reason to search the car, and the conflicting testimonies were grounds to suppress the evidence.
The court concluded that regardless of how much alcohol was in the container, the officer had probable cause to search the defendant’s vehicle. Because other evidence at trial indicated there was alcohol in the container, the officer’s testimony about the container was unimportant. No matter which testimony was true, it was acceptable for the officer to search the car and for the court to use the incriminating evidence. Importantly, this decision reinforces the fact that if a defendant is stopped for a DUI, they can end up being charged with much more serious crimes if the officer discovers drugs or other illegal substances.
Have You Been Charged with Drug Possession Following a DUI Stop in Arizona?
If you or a loved one have been charged with drug possession after being stopped by a police officer for an Arizona driving under the influence offense, there could be legal defenses at your disposal. Attorney James E. Novak is ready and willing to help fight your case. As a reputable criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record and over 20 years of experience, Attorney Novak is dedicated to advocating on your behalf. For a free consultation, call the Law Office of James E. Novak at 480-413-1499.