Fleeing to private property can't prevent police search, Arizona Supreme Court says

Fleeing to private property can't prevent police search, Arizona Supreme Court says

Law and order

Waiting until you’re on your own property before pulling over for police won’t save you from having you or your vehicle legally searched.

In a unanimous ruling Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected arguments that Cochise County deputies acted illegally when they searched a vehicle that had gone into the driveway of someone’s girlfriend.

The justices said even if Anthony L. Hernandez had been invited onto the Willcox property — giving him the same right of privacy had it been his own yard — his failure to stop when the deputies first asked him to pull over meant he effectively invited them onto the property.

“No citizens has a legal right to ignore or defy an officer’s attempt to conduct a lawful traffic stop on a public road,” Justice John Lopez wrote for the court.

Lopez acknowledged that the deputies were initially trying to pull Hernandez over after running a check of his license plate and finding that his legally mandated liability insurance had expired a month earlier. That is only a civil violation.

But the justice also said that knowingly failing to comply with a traffic stop is a crime. In this case, Lopez said, Hernandez did not immediately pull over. Instead, he went over a curb to the driveway of his girlfriend’s house.

The deputies said they smelled marijuana. After taking Hernandez into custody they discovered marijuana, methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.

He was convicted after Cochise County Superior Court Judge James Conologue rejected his bid to have the search declared illegal.

Under normal circumstances, the judge said, someone on such property would have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” meaning officers normally would need a warrant.

But Lopez said it’s not that simple.

The Constitution does not provide ... positing that a driver may decline to stop on a public road and retreat onto private property, which provides a Fourth Amendment sanctuary from the law,” Lopez wrote.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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