The Behan Law Group, P.L.L.C.

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945 N. Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

Pima County DUI defense lawyerIn a case that is sure to have a substantial impact on the way police handle misdemeanor encounters with individuals, in Lange v. California the Supreme Court rejected a categorical rule that enabled officers to enter a home without a warrant in “hot pursuit” of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect. In an opinion by Justice Kagan, the Court preserved the sanctity and privacy afforded to the home by ruling that the flight of a suspected misdemeanant itself does not justify warrantless entry into a home and that, barring exigent circumstances (i.e., imminent harms of violence, destruction of evidence, escape from the home), an officer must get a warrant.

The case started with Arthur Lange catching the attention of a California highway patrol officer by listening to loud music and repeatedly honking his horn as he drove his car. The officer tailed Lange and tried to conduct a traffic stop. Being just a few seconds away from home, Lange continued to his driveway and parked his car in the garage. The officer followed him in and prevented the garage door from closing by sticking his foot under it. Upon talking to Lange, the officer noticed signs of intoxication and put him through field sobriety tests, where he was eventually arrested for DUI.

Lange sought to have the evidence obtained from the unlawful entry thrown out, but the trial court rejected his argument, as did the California Court of Appeals, which held, “the warrantless entry did not violate the Constitution because the officer was in hot pursuit.” The US Supreme Court, which found warrantless entry into the home to be permissible under the Fourth Amendment for a fleeing felon, had not definitively answered if that applies to suspected misdemeanants as well.

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Arizona gun law attorneysThe Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable search and seizure, with subsequent court rulings declaring any warrantless search is unreasonable. Courts have established a handful of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Some of these exceptions allow police to enter private property if there is a compelling and immediate reason why they would need to intervene, and do not have time to obtain a search warrant from a judge. If police observe a murder about to happen inside a private home or business, for example, they would be allowed to respond immediately under this rule.

The “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment is unique from other exceptions because it does not require an immediate, urgent reason for police intervention. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cady v. Dombrowski (1973) that police were allowed to seize guns out of an impounded vehicle without a warrant based on a police claim that the guns were being removed to prevent them from being stolen. The court ruled that police should be able to perform duties that take care of the community, provided their actions are “totally divorced” from the investigation of a crime.

This decision meant that police could perform a warrantless search and/or seizure, without having probable cause—which is required for a warrant—as long as these actions are not connected to a criminal investigation. However, the Court emphasized in Cady the “constitutional difference between houses and cars.”

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Posted on in Legal

Pima County criminal defense lawyerWhen accused of a crime, everyone deserves a fair trial in court. That truth is embedded in the Constitution under the Sixth Amendment. But the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the integrity of those trials, leaving defendants at risk. With jury trials slowly beginning again in Pima County, it’s important to understand the ways COVID-19 can impact your right to due process.

The widespread use of face masks has emerged as one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, though it can have a troubling impact in trial proceedings. Each state has its own policy on wearing face masks in courthouses, and Arizona’s is relatively lenient. The Arizona Supreme Court mandated face masks for court employees, visitors and participants, but a judicial officer can let a testifying witness remove or pull down their mask while testifying—if it’s deemed necessary and appropriate physical distancing measures are followed.

When trial participants wear face masks, it can infringe on a defendant’s rights because obstructing someone’s face makes it impossible to assess their demeanor, which is one of the four key elements in the Confrontation Clause. The Confrontation Clause within the Sixth Amendment states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”

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