State of Arizona Appeals Lower Court’s Suppression Order in Case that Highlights Issues with Officer’s Prolonged Traffic Stop

In a recent case before an Arizona court of appeals, the State challenged the lower court’s decision to suppress evidence of drugs that an officer found in a defendant’s vehicle. An officer originally pulled the defendant over for a traffic violation, and after a prolonged stop, the officer found drugs in the defendant’s vehicle. When the defendant filed a motion to suppress, the lower court granted it. On appeal, the higher court affirmed this ruling, siding with the defendant by affirming that the incriminating evidence was rightfully suppressed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, an officer noticed while on patrol that the defendant was following another car too closely as he drove by. The officer stopped the defendant and immediately began asking him questions about where he was headed. As he continued to ask questions, the officer asked the defendant to leave his vehicle and sit in the passenger seat of the patrol car.

The officer explained to the defendant that his job was to find individuals that were trafficking drugs. He also assured the defendant that he would only give him a warning for the traffic violation. The officer then asked the defendant if he had drugs in the car, and the defendant admitted he had marijuana in his vehicle.

The officer called in backup, and the team subsequently found cannabis-infused edibles and methamphetamine in the car. The State charged the defendant with transportation of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the incriminating evidence.

The Decision

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, ruling that the officer’s traffic stop was too long and that the officer had no reason to keep the defendant in the stop for such a prolonged period of time. He had no grounds to have the defendant move to the patrol vehicle, given that the defendant acted calm and polite throughout the entire interaction.

Because the officer could not reasonably suspect criminal activity, the lower court decided he unreasonably had the defendant’s car searched. On appeal, the higher court agreed. There was nothing about the defendant, said the court, that made him suspicious. The officer’s prolonged and intense traffic stop was unwarranted, and the lower court’s suppression of the evidence was therefore reasonable.

Siding with the defendant, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Do You Need Legal Representation in Arizona?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense after a traffic stop, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. We represent defendants facing a wide array of charges, and we believe that no matter the severity of the charge, every defendant deserves the highest quality of representation. If you are in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney, call us today for a free and confidential consultation at (480) 413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to tell us about your case and have an attorney reach back out to you as soon as possible.


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