Case Results Important Criminal Defense Cases In Arizona
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Cases that Every Criminal Defense Lawyer Practicing in Arizona Should Know *

* For attorneys practicing in state criminal courts in Arizona. Most of the state court cases cited are not binding in federal court. We strive to keep these cases current and accurate. If you spot a case that has been overruled, incorrectly cited or the actual holding is contrary to the blurb, then you are encouraged to report the error at ( Readers are also encouraged to submit key cases that may have been omitted.

404(b) "Prior Bad Acts" (or more accurately "Other Acts") case law

State v. Terrazas, 189 Ariz. 580 (1997) 404(b) prior bad acts must be proven by clear and convincing evidence to be admissible.

State v. Ives, 187 Ariz. 102 (1996) holding that 404(b) evidence ("prior bad acts" evidence) is only admissible in those cases where the defendant has placed the particular 404(b) exception at issue. In other words, if the evidence is to prove the "identity" exception to 404(b) rule but the defense is not mistaken identity, then evidence is not admissible.

State v. Hughes, 189 Ariz. 62 (1997) great case analyzing the admissibility of numerous 404(b) acts and evidence in light of the Ives decision.

Confidential informant case law

Roviaro v. United States, 77 S.Ct. 623 (1957) – if the defense requests it , then the government must disclose any confidential informant who is a material witness to the crime charged; failure to disclose a confidential informant who is a material witness upon request will result in reversal.

Confrontation Clause

Crawford v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 1354 (2004) "testimonial" statements are not admissible at trial unless the declarant testifies and is subject to confrontation by the defendant.

Davis v. Washington, 126 S.Ct. 2266 (2006) clarifying what are "testimonial" statements for purposes of Crawford and the confrontation clause. Discussing calls to 911 and police interview of witnesses.

Corpus Delicti

State v. Nieves, 207 Ariz. 438 (App. 2004), holding that there was no independent evidence of the defendant's guilt apart from the defendant's statements to law enforcement to support admission into evidence at trial of defendant's "confession."

State v. Flores, 202 Ariz. 221 (App. 2002) holding that defendant's possession of two rocks of crack cocaine (narcotic drugs) was insufficient independent evidence that possessed narcotic drugs with the intent to sell to allow admission of his confession to possessing the drugs for sale under the corpus delicti rule.

State ex rel. McDougall (Plummer, Real Party in Interest), 188 Ariz. 147 (App. 1996) holding there was sufficient corpus delicti to admit the defendant's statements to law enforcement into evidence in DUI trial.

Dangerous Crimes Against Children

State v. Samano, 198 Ariz. 506 (App. 2000) – defendant who committed armed robbery and kidnapping while a child was present but the child was not the main focus of the crime could not be guilty of dangerous crime against children. Defendant must focus on or prey upon the child as a child to be guilty of dangerous crime against children.

State v. Sepahi, 206 Ariz. 321 (2003) – 14 year old defendant can be guilty of dangerous crime against children; may limit scope of Samano case above.

Dangerous Offenses – Deadly Weapons and Dangerous Instruments

State v. George, 206 Ariz. 436 (App. 2003) holding that gunshot wounds do not always constitute "serious physical injury" as defined in 13-105 and referenced in the definition of dangerous offenses in 13-604(P). This holding can limit what is defined as a "dangerous offense" requiring mandatory prison under 13-604 when carefully read with the definition of "dangerous instrument" in 13-105 for those cases where the use of a weapon other than a knife or gun is alleged to have been used.

Defenses to the charge

Accomplice Liability – Accomplice liability is the law that determines to what extent a defendant can be criminally accountable for the actions of other persons. State v. Phillips, 202 Ariz. 427 (2002) explains important limits on accomplice liability. See also Arizona Revised Statutes sections 13-301, 13-302, 13-303, 304, 13-305, and 13-306.

Accomplice Liability – State v. Cota, 191 Ariz. 380 (1998) holding that a buyer of marijuana cannot be held liable as an accomplice to sale of marijuana for a sale of marijuana to himself.

Insanity and diminished capacity – Clark v. Arizona, 126 S.Ct. 2709 (2006) – upholding Arizona's insanity statute and discussing the Mott case on diminished capacity.

Rule 11 and amnesia – State v. Ferguson, 26 Ariz.App. 285 (1976) explains the unusual trial issues that arise if a defendant cannot remember the events of the crime due to organic amnesia (as opposed to amnesia due to voluntary intoxication from drugs or alcohol).

Garcia v. Browning, 214 Ariz. 250 (2007) holding that changes made to the burden of proof in self defense and other justification defense were effective April 24, 2006 and would not apply retroactively to offenses committed prior to April 24, 2006. See 13-205 and 13-401 et seq.


Osborne v. Superior Court, 157 Ariz. 2 (App. 1988) – holding that Rule 15 does not require the defense to disclose impeachment transcript of state's witness in advance of witnesses testimony.

State v. Joe U. Smith, 140 Ariz. 355 (1984) describing the 4-part test to apply when determining whether it is appropriate to preclude a witness for late disclosure. Also discusses ethical caseloads for public defenders.

DUI, DWI and Aggravated Driving under the Influence

State v. Boyd, 201 Ariz. 27 (App. 2001) holding that involuntary intoxication may be a defense to the (A)(3) charge in DUI cases.

State ex rel. McDougall (Plummer, Real Party in Interest), 188 Ariz. 147 (App. 1996) holding there was sufficient corpus delicti to admit the defendant's statements to law enforcement into evidence in DUI trial.

State v. Fell, 203 Ariz. 186 (App. 2002) holding that justification (of necessity) under Title 13 doesn't apply to the title 28 offense of DUI.

Jones v. Flowers, 2006 WL 1082955 (2006) United States Supreme Court case discussing the sufficiency of notice by mail in a civil forfeiture proceeding. The due process holding may have implications for the notice requirements of driver's license suspensions in Aggravated DUI cases.

Montano v. Superior Court, 149 Ariz. 385 (1986) dismissal of DUI required where the police chose not to invoke the Ad Min Per Se Implied Consent law and seek scientific analysis of the defendant's blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

State v. Meshurle, 164 Ariz. 405 (App. 1990) state tried to invoke the Implied Consent statute (see Montano above) but could not. Dismissal required where the state failed to notify the defendant of his right to an independent test of his blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Kunzler v. Superior Court, 154 Ariz. 568 (1987) and State v. Juarez, 161 Ariz. 76 (1989) – DUI defendant may consult with an attorney by phone so long as it does not unreasonably delay the state's investigation; denial of that right may result in suppression of breath or blood results; burden on the state to show that a phone call would be disruptive of an ongoing investigation. Juarez shows the analysis in three different scenarios.

Evidence case law

See also 404(b) Prior Bad acts case law above

Prior inconsistent statements may not be admissible as substantive evidence – State v. Allred, 134 Ariz. 274 (1982); see also State v. Cruz, 128 Ariz. 538 (1981); but see State v. Sucharew, 205 Ariz. 16 (App. 2003)

State v. Gertz, 186 Ariz. 38 (App. 1996) holding that evidence of bias and motive of a witness is never collateral to the issues at trial. Bias and motive evidence is allowed in instances that impeachment evidence may not be allowed.

State v. Gibson, 202 Ariz. 321 (2002) – defense evidence pointing the finger at another possible culprit (so called "third party culpability" evidence) is not bound by any special rules of admissibility other than Rule 401, 402, and 403 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence.

State v. Prion, 203 Ariz. 157 (2002) – exclusion of "third party culpability" evidence required reversal. See Gibson above.

State v. Lee, 191 Ariz. 542 (1998) holding that drug courier profile evidence which may be relevant for 4th Amendment hearings is not admissible in the trial itself.

State v. Lujan, 192 Ariz. 448 (1998) holding that expert testimony was admissible to show that the alleged victim might be hypersensitive to touch and therefore may have misinterpreted defendant's appropriate touch. Expert was prepared to testify that the alleged victim may have been hypersensitive due to being a victim of a previous molestation. This evidence was admissible in spite of the rape shield statute. Denial of admittance of this expert testimony into evidence called for reversal.

Grand jury case law

Herrell v. Sargeant, 189 Ariz. 627 (1997) holding that the state's failure to present a fair and impartial presentation to the grand jury of the facts that related to the justification of crime prevention required that the case be sent back to the grand jury.

Trebus v. Davis, 189 Ariz. 62 (1997) holding conditions where the state must inform the grand jury that the defendant is requesting to testify to the grand jury. The state must also present exculpatory information sent by the defense in a letter to the prosecutor.

Jury Instructions

State v. Plew, 150 Ariz. 75 (1986) – holding that only the slightest evidence of justification need be present to require justification instruction.

State v. Wall, 212 Ariz. 1 (2006) – holding that the defendant did not forfeit his right to a lesser-included offense instruction even though he argued an all or nothing defense to the jury.

Miscellaneous case law

State v. Gomez, 211 Ariz. 494 (2005) holding that allowing the jury to see the defendant shackled during the penalty phase of the death penalty trial was reversible error.

Jacobsen v. Anderson, 203 Ariz. 543 (App. 2002) holding that defendants who cannot afford an expert witness may be able to have the court pay for the expert.

State v. Johnson, 198 Ariz. 245 (App. 2000) holding that the state's amendment of the indictment during the trial was not technical rather it was substantive change that violated defendant constitutional right to have notice of the charges against him.

State v. Lautzenheimer, 180 Ariz. 7 (1994) holding that defendant has a right to an independent jury free from intimidation and undue pressure. Sending a jury out to deliberate on New Years Eve under these facts required reversal.

State v. Lopez, 156 Ariz. 573 (App. 1988) failure of the state to preserve evidence that the defense requested to be preserved may result in dismissal of the case.

Best v. District of Columbia, 54 S.Ct. 487 (1934) holding that court may grant a directed verdict for the defendant if the plaintiff fails to state a case against the defendant. This is a civil case, but the logic ought to apply in criminal context.

Missouri v. Sierbert, 124 S.Ct. 2601 (2004) holding that Miranda violations may require the suppression of later confession after the giving of Miranda warnings under certain circumstances.

Out of State Prior Felonies case law

State v. Song, 176 Ariz. 215 (1993) discussing fact that out of state prior felonies may not always count for enhancement purposes of being on probation or parole pursuant to 13-604.02. Defendant there waived the issue by raising it for the first time on appeal. See also State v. Weible, 142 Ariz. 113 (1984).

Plea agreements case law

State v. Donald, 198 Ariz. 406 (App. 2000) Rule 32 post-conviction relief holding that the court may order the state to re-open a plea offer where the defendant's attorney had not conveyed the offer prior to the offer's expiration. See also State ex rel. Thomas v. Rayes, 214 Ariz. 411 (2007) holding that Donald claim of ineffective assistance of counsel analysis can only happen on Rule 32 post-conviction relief petition – not prior to any guilty finding nor on direct appeal.

State v. Draper, 162 Ariz. 433 (1989) discussing the state's power and limits to state's power during plea negotiations.

State v. Wright, 103 Ariz. 52 (1968) – holding that once a plea agreement was withdrawn the defendant's statements to get the plea accepted by the court were not admissible against the defendant at trial.

Probation violation case law

Bearden v. Georgia, 103 S.Ct. 2064 (1983) – United States Supreme Court held that being poor should not be grounds to violate someone's probation so long as the probationer is making a good faith effort to pay what they can pay towards any financial terms of probation. See also State v. Davis, 159 Ariz. 562 (1989).

State v. Robinson, 142 Ariz. 296 (App. 1984) violating a defendant's probation for failure to pay without regard to his ability to pay violates the defendant's right to fundamental fairness under the 14th amendment.

Prop 200/ Simple Possession of Drugs case law

State v. Benak, 199 Ariz. 333 (App. 2001) holding that the state must specifically allege that a defendant is disqualified from Prop 200 protections because of a "violent" prior conviction and a basic allegation of historical prior felony conviction does not satisfy that the state's need to specially allege a violent prior.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Pool v. Superior Court, 139 Ariz. 98 (1984) – prosecutor's misconduct resulted in jeopardy attaching and the case being dismissed.

State v. Hughes, 193 Ariz. 72 (1998) – cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper conduct required reversal of conviction.

Resisting arrest

State v. Sorkhabi, 202 Ariz. 450 (App. 2002) – police officer is a "victim" in resisting arrest cases.

State v. Womack, 174 Ariz. 108 (App. 1992) – defendant's non-violent flight from police does not constitute resisting arrest.

Restitution of economic loss case law

State v. Contreras, 180 Ariz. 450 (App. 1994) holding that in adult cases the court retains jurisdiction over restitution matters for as long as the probation lasts. NOTE: There is different rule for cases in juvenile court because the juvenile cannot appeal until the restitution is settled.

State ex. rel. McDougall, 186 Ariz. 218 (App. 1996) holding that a defendant who is guilty of leaving the scene of an accident is not liable for restitution of economic loss to the extent that defendant's leaving the scene may have exacerbated the victim's loss.

Search and Seizure case law

State v. Livingston, 206 Ariz. 145 (App. 2003) holding that defendant's car brief crossing the fog line on the highway did not amount to a crime nor probable cause to pull defendant over.

State v. Palenkas, 188 Ariz. 201 (App. 1996) holding that it was a violation of due process for the prosecutor to argue to the jury that defendant's refusal to waive his 4th Amendment rights and consent to a search by police were somehow evidence of his guilt. Prosecutor also argued negative inference to the jury that defendant wanted to consult with an attorney.

State v. Canez, 202 Ariz. 133 (2002) held that defendant's wife did not "consent" to police entry into defendant's house by her passively allowing police to enter and not objecting to police entry.

State v. Altieri, 191 Ariz. 1 (1997) important case discussion of anonymous tips providing probable cause.

State v. Gomez, 198 Ariz. 61 (App. 2000) discussing whether a 911 call is traceable and it's effect on the reliability of a tip for a stop.

Rodriguez v. Arrellano, 194 Ariz. 211 (App. 1999) – state has the burden of proving that a warrantless search was done under an applicable exception to the warrant requirement.

Sentencing case law

Blakely v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 2531 holding that a court may not impose an aggravated sentence unless a jury (not the judge) finds that aggravating factors exist. Defendant may waive this trial right in a plea agreement just as a defendant may waive any other trial right.

State v. Dawson, 164 Ariz. 278 (1990) refusing to correct an illegally lenient sentence where the state failed to timely file a cross-appeal.

State v. Derello, 199 Ariz. 435 (App. 2001) holding that two prior felonies may only count as 1 historical prior felony under the "same occasion" test.

State v. Dominguez, 192 Ariz. 461 (App. 1998) holding that defendant charged with no historical priors but with multiple drug offenses on different days should be sentenced under 13-3419 not 13-702.02.

State v. Garza, 192 Ariz. 171 (1998) holding that the language of 13-708 does not create a presumption in favor of consecutive sentences. See also State v. Fillmore, 187 Ariz. 174 (App. 1996).

State v. Hauser, 209 Ariz. 539 (2005) holding that prior felonies that are too old to be "historical prior" felonies may enhance the penalty pursuant to 13-702.02 as long as the offense date for the 13-702.02 "prior" pre-dates the offense date for the new charge.

Parent v. McClennen, 206 Ariz. 473 (App. 2003) – jeopardy attached once the court accepted the plea agreement so the court could not allow the state to later allege prior felonies at sentencing that had not been alleged when the defendant pled to the court.

Severance case law

State v. Cruz, 137 Ariz. 541 (1983), discussing what constitutes "mutually exclusive defenses" which require severance of defendants.

State v. Ives, 187 Ariz. 102 (1996) holding that counts against defendant should have been severed where 404(b) act from one count was improperly admitted on another count.

"Victim's Bill of Rights" issues case law

State ex rel. Dean, 173 Ariz. 515 (App. 1992) holding that the defense can subpoena the alleged victim to testify at a pretrial suppression hearing notwithstanding the Victim's Bill of Rights.

Champlin v. Sargeant, 192 Ariz. 371 (1998) nothing in Victim's Bill of Rights supports the argument that victim's have a blanket right to be shielded from all contact with defendants or defense counsel until the trial.

A.H. Weiss v. Superior Court, 184 Ariz. 627 (App. 1996) alleged victim may not refuse to testify at a pretrial hearing.

State ex rel. Romley (Roper, Real Party in Interest), 172 Ariz. 232 (App. 1992) held that whenever the defendant's federal constitutional rights conflict with state Victim's Bill of Rights directly, then defendant's constitutional rights must prevail. The Supremacy Clause requires that defendant's federal constitutional rights trump a victim's state constitutional rights. D's request for V's medical records allowed.

Benton v. Superior Court, 182 Ariz. 466 (App. 1994) – holding that the Victim's Bill of rights does not prevent the government from obtaining the alleged victim's medical records.

State v. Stauffer, 203 Ariz. 551 (App. 2002) – defense may compel pretrial interview of a person claiming to be a victim of a 404(c) act who is not a listed victim in the current charge.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Nothing on these pages should be construed as giving legal advice. If you are a defendant charged with any felony (or a misdemeanor where the state is seeking jail) and you cannot afford an attorney, then you are entitled to appointment of an attorney to assist you for free or next to free. See Rule 6.1(a) of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. You should not try to represent yourself in any felony case (or misdemeanor case where the state is seeking jail.)

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