Meth-Toting Driver Gets Free Pass After Court Says Mesa Cops Went Too Far

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 The Arizona Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's key ruling in a methamphetamine-possession case against a local woman, concluding that the Mesa police "coerced" her into admitting she was carrying the drug.

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​In a unanimous ruling issued last Wednesday, the panel agreed with Maricopa County Superior Court Judge George Foster's earlier decision to suppress the woman's admission to the cops and also the evidence itself -- a baggie containing the meth.

 The facts:

In July 2009, the Mesa cops pulled over a driver whose car had a cracked windshield.

 Stop the presses! Meth equals trouble.

 

Chelsea Simon, then 23, was sitting in the front passenger seat. She told Officer Travis Gribble that she owned the car and intended to fix the windshield when she had the funds.

Another officer ran warrant checks on the three people inside the car (the backseat passenger had a warrant out for his arrest), as Gribble asked Simon if he could speak to her privately.

Gribble later admitted that he had no reason to be suspicious of Simon but decided to ask her if there was anything illegal inside her car. Simon asked the officer what he meant by "illegal," and he apparently gave her examples such as illegal drugs or weapons.

The officer then told Simon that "honesty goes a log way with me," noting that he could have a drug-sniffing dog come out and do its thing. (According to the appellate court, it's uncertain if the cop actually told Simon that the K-9 unit already was on its way.)

Simon later testified at a suppression hearing that she felt compelled to answer Officer Gribble's questions and believed his statement about "honesty" suggested he would be lenient if she came clean.

After 15 or 20 minutes of back-and-forth, the young woman finally told the cop that she had some meth in her purse, on the front seat of the car.

He seized the drug and placed Simon under arrest.

Months later, Simon's defense attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence on grounds that the cop didn't have "reasonable suspicion" to conduct his warrantless search of the car.

After an April 2010 hearing, county judge George Foster ruled that the stop of Simon's car and Officer Gribble's questioning about the illegal items had been okay.

But the judge concluded that the woman's statement to the cop had been involuntary -- and wouldn't be allowed to be presented as evidence at trial.

The judge then invoked one of our favorite legal concepts -- the "fruit of the poisonous tree" -- which holds that evidence (the "fruit") obtained illegally (the "poisonous tree") by police during a search, arrest, or interrogation is inadmissible in court.

In this instance, the "fruit" was that bag of crystal meth.

Judge Foster wrote that "the statement by the officer that he could summon a K-9 to sniff the vehicle in conjunction with the statement that honesty goes a long way was coercive...The statement implied that if the defendant confessed to possession of drugs that the officer would be lenient."

Writing for the three-person panel, appellate Judge Donn Kessler said it was "irrelevant what Gribble's actual intentions were in making the comment that honesty goes a long way with him. He implied a benefit to Simon in exhange for information, and Simon relied on that promise, so the statement was involuntary.

Two morals to this story:

One, stay away from methamphetamine.

And, two, if you happen to be carrying some when the cops stop you, don't lead them to it after they twist your arm (proverbially, natch) a little.

 

 


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12 comments
Kitsugab
Kitsugab

This to inform you of a person living and working in the United States illegally. The names that this person assumes are as follows: Gabriela Sanchez (her niece), Karla P. Durazo (her aunt), Patty Durazo (her sister),Julieta Sanchez (her aunt), Patty Sanchez (her sister/her niece) Rocio Sanchez (her sister), Mayra Viramontes (her cousin), Karen Durazo (her cousin),Kenya Durazo (hercousin), Karina Sanchez (her cousin).All of the names assumed by her can be substantiated through her facebook account which is under the name Gabby Sanchez.Her Employer is: Dr. Larry Stark   3201 W. Peoria Ave # A-100   Phoenix, AZ 85029Her assumed Social Security # is her Aunt's Soc. Sec. # 611-32-7757 (Karla P. Durazo) who actually lives in California.She drives a pathfinder with AZ lic. # AHT4587 Her address is: 2220 W. Mission Ln. #1095 (which is in Larry Starks name /  Phoenix, AZ 85017    co-signed for)  SRP Acct # 919-863-000    (which is in Larry Starks name)Her Phone # 602-628-3116   (which is in Larry Starks name)Family Assistance Administration Case # 00564738 (Gabriela Sanchez)Dental work provided under the name Patty Sanchez. And full medical (BCBS)is paid for by Larry StarkHer sons name is Carlos Flores-Sanchez and he graduated from Cortez High SchoolThis young woman makes it easier for other illegals to obtain medications includingnarcotics and evade citizenship tests through the Doctors office that she works in.Also supplying them with false identification and documentation. I am very concerned about the illegal activities (Document Fraud, Identity Theft, Conducting crimes in America) that she is involved in. Please address the above issues as soon as possible.

Concerned Citizen 

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

I am stupified that the judge actually upheld the rights of a citizen over the lies of a cop.   This happens countless times every day all around the country.   The cop will coerce you into thinking that if you're honest it will go much smoother for you.  Smoother for the cop and you go to jail.  Another example of.... never speak to the cops.     Never volunteer any information.  They'll use it against you if they have no other suspects and you'll end up being convicted of something you know nothing about.  Don't let anyone tell you that's not true.   This kind of case with the coerced admission of guilt and possession was never allowed to get that far in the past.  Cops do not protect you, they protect the corporate state and it's property.    A violation of a law is only when you do something to another person that violates their being as a free man or causes anything to harm that free man.   Running a stop sign is not a violation of any law, it's a violation of the commercial code and exists in order to collect taxes in the form of fines.    Unless your actions can harm another person then it's not breaking a law.   Everything else is a commercial code violation.    The United States is a corporation.

Mistalee
Mistalee

"She told Officer Travis Gribble that she owned the car and intended to fix the windshield when she had the funds."

Is the officer related to Dale Gribble?  Because this whole thing is Dale's speed.

Mistalee
Mistalee

So, Mr. Rubin, why is the word "coerced" in quotes? Is that because the court decision employed the term in some uncommon or unusual manner, or is it to indicate irony?

Truth is, the piggie didn't "coerce" her, he coerced her. The term does not need to be in quotation marks. He convinced her that he would perform an illegal search whether she liked it or not and her only chance of avoiding prison was to come clean.

He had NO probable cause. This is not even being disputed. So where does this piggie get off stopping this woman on a bullshit pretext like a cracked windshield and then sweating her for twenty minutes? Do you condone this? Would you like the piggies to pull you over for a cracked taillight lens or a burnt-out turn signal bulb or loud exhaust or some other similarly hinky bullshit and detain you for twenty minutes while they lean on you hard to let them perform an unwarranted search for some controlled substance that they have NO reason to suspect is in your possession? Isn't that an abuse of power?

Dark Man
Dark Man

Ok, so White people are suspected of carrying the dangerous substance known as METH. This is the "reasonable suspicion" cops have of White folks. While the MCSO's "reasonable suspicion" of Hispanics, is that you must be an illegal alien.

Maybe White people are now starting to get the drift on what it feels llke to be "racially profiled" by the cops.

bigriggs
bigriggs

This stupid meth head should be behind bars...

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Interesting, but not surprising. For some reason it seems some of our police officers of today just don't get the concept of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In this case the officer was fishing and he used a purported search as the bait to get the information from the suspect. Bad policing, actually.

If I were stopped and a cop says, "tell me what's in the car or I get our K9 or a search warrant", I would call a taxi and tell the cop to be gentle with my car as I video tape whatever they are doing with it... but then I don't travel with contraband and it's legal for me to have a weapon in my car in Arizona.

I hope that this case has become fodder for training on reasonable search and seizure at the MPD training facility. Maybe they've been learning from MCSO, huh?

I would have expected more from MPD...

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Walter, you're trying to argue mala prohibita as opposed to mala en se. I don't buy your argument regarding a violation of commercial code. Traffic laws are established as mala prohibita as a subset of Revised Statutes, aka law. Not commercial code, which is another matter completely. While the United States SHOULD be run as a business, which it is in practice, it's not a corporation by definition, and you're well aware of that. Also, fines are not taxes, as such, rather they are simply punitive as a parent might be with a teenager who displays poor behavior. The parent withholds 50% of the weekly allowance normally given to the teenager, thus making it punitive, not taxation.

As a retired professional law enforcement officer I can tell you that cops routinely protect Joe Average citizen, as well as the government entity for whom they work. I'm not sure where you found or how you contrived the mishmash you've written.

Cybercy
Cybercy

Why?  What did she do but possess a "controlled substance"?

Rurubean
Rurubean

Typically I agree with what Tommy has to say, but I'm going to go with Walter on this one. Stupid fines....

bigriggs
bigriggs

Why?? Because she is a stupid meth user.

Mistalee
Mistalee

Well, she was stupid enough not to tell the cop to piss off, that's for sure. But being stupid doesn't mean you forfeit your basic rights. 

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