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State v. Hernandez

Supreme Court of Arizona

May 18, 2018

State of Arizona, Appellee,
v.
Anthony Lito Hernandez, Appellant,

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Cochise County The Honorable James L. Conlogue, Judge No. CR-201400529

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division Two VACATED

          Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Amy M. Thorson (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Section, Tucson, Attorneys for State of Arizona

          John William Lovell, John William Lovell Esq., Tucson; and David J. Euchner (argued), Pima County Public Defender's Office, Tucson, Attorneys for Anthony Lito Hernandez

          Timothy Sandefur, James Manley, Goldwater Institute, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Goldwater Institute and Professor Erik Luna

          Maricopa County Public Defender, Amy Kalman (argued), Deputy Public Defender, Phoenix; and Timothy J. Eckstein, Osborn Maledon PA, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice

          JUSTICE LOPEZ authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and JUSTICES BRUTINEL, TIMMER, BOLICK, and GOULD joined. JUSTICE BOLICK concurred.

          OPINION

          LOPEZ JUSTICE

         ¶1 We consider whether law enforcement officers violated a defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 2, section 8 of the Arizona Constitution when they followed the defendant's vehicle onto a private driveway to complete a traffic stop which began on a public road. We hold that the defendant's rights were not violated.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On the night of September 11, 2014, two Cochise County Sheriff's Deputies on patrol in Willcox began following a vehicle after observing it turn at several intersections in an apparent effort to elude the officers. While following the vehicle, the officers ran a license plate check, which indicated that the vehicle's insurance had been cancelled the previous month.

         ¶3 The officers turned on their emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop for the insurance cancellation and, seconds later, the vehicle drove onto the shoulder of the road, ran over a curb as it maneuvered onto a private driveway, and led officers along the length of the driveway and into the backyard area of a residence. The officers did not know if the vehicle's driver had a connection to the property, but one officer stated that he followed the vehicle "because that's where the vehicle took us when we attempted to stop it." One of the officers testified that he did not perceive any immediate danger to himself or the public, but the other officer testified that he thought it necessary to contact the driver because his actions posed a potential danger to the public.

         ¶4 The driver, Anthony Lito Hernandez, stopped the vehicle, opened the door, and began to step out. An officer told Hernandez to remain inside the vehicle. On approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled marijuana and ordered Hernandez to get out and place his hands behind his back. During a pat-down search, the officer found $2, 446 in cash and an empty plastic baggie. Inside the vehicle, the officers found a burned marijuana cigarette, a metal spoon with char marks on the bottom and "a burnt substance in it, " and a clear plastic baggie containing suspected methamphetamine. Hernandez told the officer he did not know the property owner, but the home was later determined to be occupied by his girlfriend.

         ¶5 Hernandez was indicted for possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and transporting methamphetamine for sale. After the trial court denied his motion to suppress the evidence seized from him ...


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