An Arizona Superior Court judge has essentially erased the convictions of a North Carolina citizen. Reports say the defendant, who was arrested for allegedly transporting around 26 pounds of cocaine across state lines, was from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Throughout the case, there was apparently some disagreement about why the man was stopped in the first place, leading to a deeper investigation and the erasure of the 42-year-old man's convictions.
On one hand, evidence suggests the traffic stop arose due to a tip provided by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents. On the other hand, Arizona Department of Public Safety officers say it was a routine traffic stop for equipment and license plate violations. Reportedly, federal agents had equipped the defendant's car with an illegal GPS device while the car was in California. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court made it illegal for law enforcement personnel to use GPS tracking in their investigations without a warrant.
Despite the prosecutor's argument that the search was valid due to the use on a drug-sniffing dog, the judge struck down the conviction. The judge said the police officers who made the arrest would not have known the defendant was in the area without the warrantless GPS device. The defendant's attorney claims he has been suspicious about the illegal use of GPS data for some time and plans to review the evidence in his prior cases to see if they might also contain illegal elements.
Sometimes, it takes a careful review of the investigation to find chinks in the prosecution's armor, but this is what a good criminal defense attorney does to achieve the right outcome for his or her client. If you are facing an arrest for drug violations in North Carolina or elsewhere, you might benefit from this type of aggressive defense technique.
Source: UT San Diego, "Drug convictions overturned on GPS search issue" AP, Nov. 07, 2014