Kenda Culpepper and Jeffrey W. Shell 2016-12-20 17:59:08
Since our last update, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the state’s motion for rehearing in State v. Villarreal,1 holding that mandatory blood draws were unconstitutional. However, since then, the court has clarified that exigency is still a relevant factor in DWI cases when based on a totality of the circumstances. During 2016, courts also expanded rulings on resisting arrest and arrest warrants. Cole v. State 2 In this case, Cole drove his pickup at 110 miles per hour and struck another vehicle at a busy intersection in Longview, causing an explosion that killed the other driver instantly. When the police arrested him, Cole refused to provide a blood sample after officers read him the statutory warning. His blood was drawn without a warrant, and testing revealed intoxicating levels of a controlled substance. The trial court denied Cole’s motions to suppress the blood-test results, but the court of appeals reversed. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the court of appeals and explained that a proper exigency analysis should focus on whether officers have a reasonable belief that obtaining a warrant is impractical based on circumstances and information known at the time of the search. The court reasoned that the time to complete the investigation and the lack of law enforcement personnel available at the time hindered the pursuit of a warrant. Thus, the court concluded that exigent circumstances justified the warrantless blood draw. Daniel James Weems v. The State of Texas 3 By contrast, the Court of Criminal Appeals determined in Weems that the totality of the circumstances in the specific case did not warrant a finding of exigency. After Weems drove himself and a friend back from a bar, his car went off the road, flipped over, and struck a utility pole. It took about 40 minutes for officers to locate Weems, who ran from the scene and hid. Weems was arrested and hospitalized based on his injuries. His blood was drawn without a warrant. The trial court denied a motion to suppress the blood-test results. The court of appeals reversed the conviction, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, ruling that alcohol dissipation alone did not support a finding of exigency. Finley v. State 4 The Court of Criminal Appeals clarified Texas law regarding resisting arrest in Finley by asserting that the act of pulling away from a peace officer may be sufficient to show that the defendant used force against the officer. In this case, Finley’s act of repeatedly failing to cooperate, tensing up, and pulling his arms away from arresting officers was sufficient to meet the elements of the offense. Utah v. Strieff 5 In Utah v. Strieff, which made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, a detective investigated an anonymous tip by conducting surveillance of a residence in Salt Lake City. Based on observing frequent visitors to the residence and his suspicion of drug dealing, the detective detained Strieff who had exited the residence. The detective then requested Strieff’s identification card. When dispatch reported an outstanding warrant, Strieff was arrested. A search incident to that arrest revealed evidence of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Strieff moved to suppress, arguing that the evidence was inadmissible because it was derived from an unlawful stop. The Supreme Court held that the evidence was admissible because, although the detention was unlawful, it was sufficiently attenuated by the pre-existing arrest warrant. Notes 1) 475 S.W.3d 784, 817 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015) (per curiam). 2) 490 S.W.3d 918 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). 3) Weems v. State, 493 S.W.3d 574 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). 4) 484 S.W.3d 926 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). 5) 136 S. Ct. 2056 (2016). KENDA CULPEPPER is the criminal district attorney for Rockwall County and is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. JEFFREY W. SHELL joined the Rockwall County District Attorney’s Office in 2007, where he is chief of the appellate division and a felony prosecutor of financial crimes and civil asset forfeitures.
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