Weekly Case Summaries: July 10, 2015

Texas Courts of Appeals

Rodriguez v. State (1st COA)

No. 01-12-00970-CR        6/25/15

Issue:

Does a defendant have a reasonable expectation of privacy in blood-alcohol test results acquired in a hospital, through tests done solely for medical treatment?

Holding:

No. There is no reasonable expectation under the Fourth Amendment that the results of tests taken for the purpose of medical treatment could not be shared with the police. Additionally, the Texas Medical Practices Act and HIPAA do not protect blood-test results from a valid subpoena. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This opinion contains a very thorough discussion of the various legal arguments the defense uses to try to suppress evidence of medical blood draws in DWI cases. Add it to your DWI toolbox.

Daniel v. State (2nd COA)

No. 02-14-00246-CR        7/2/15

Issue:

What is the meaning of “as a result of” in Transportation Code §545.420(g), which prohibits racing on a highway?

Holding:

The language “as a result of” includes both actual and proximate cause, meaning the State is required to show the racing was a “but-for” and proximate cause of any bodily injury or death that occurred to raise the punishment from a Class B misdemeanor to a second or third-degree felony. Additionally, the Court found that the use of a vehicle in this case, racing and aggressively driving, was enough to qualify the car as a deadly weapon. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This defendant was racing, and the car he was racing against hit another car, killing one occupant and injuring the other. This case is useful because it shows that a racing defendant need not be the driver who actually kills or injures another to meet the requirements of the statute. The Court also rejects a claim that the other driver’s conviction for manslaughter barred the prosecution in this case. One witness described the race as “like Fast and Furious.”

Solomon v. State (14th COA)

No. 14-14-0134-CR           6/25/15

Issue:

Is it impermissibly suggestive for police to alter a suspect’s photo to remove distinguishing tattoos before a photo spread?

Holding:

No. The court found that removing facial tattoos from the defendant’s photo to create a better photo array was permissible and may even have been beneficial to him. Additionally, there is no distinction between digitally adding tattoos to other people’s photos and removing them from the defendant’s. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This was a well-constructed lineup procedure, but it looks like the defense did a good job of attacking it at trial. The videotape of the lineup procedure helped punch out one of the claims. Given the ever-increasing prevalence of facial tattoos, consider pushing this opinion out to local law-enforcement agencies as an example of how to conduct lineups of suspects with facial tattoos.

Texas Department of Public Safety

Many prosecutor offices have received a memo from the Texas Department of Public Safety dated June 30, 2015.  A copy is attached here.  The memo reports that the FBI has revised its population database on which it relied to offer calculating match statistics in criminal investigations.   The memo also advises that DPS has corrected any errors and has empirically demonstrated a minimal impact on calculations used to determine the significance of an association.  The memo concludes that the corrections have no impact on an inclusion or exclusion of a victim or a defendant in any result, but if requested in writing DPS will recalculate and report statistics in any case.

 

The Texas Forensic Science Commission has a formal meeting in August in which they will review this memo and discuss the issue, and we will report back to you then if there are any additional developments.  There is not a concern at this point that this recalculation would impact any past cases, but we will keep you informed if any additional issues come up.

TDCAA is pleased to offer these unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Attorney General. In addition to the basic summaries, each case will have a link to the full text opinion and will offer exclusive prosecutor commentary explaining how the case may impact you as a prosecutor. The case summaries are for the benefit of prosecutors, their staff members, and members of the law enforcement community. These summaries are NOT a source of legal advice for citizens. The commentaries expressed in these case summaries are not official statements by TDCAA and do not represent the opinions of TDCAA, its staff, or any member of the association. Please email comments, problems, or questions to Ashley.Martin@tdcaa.com.
Important memo for prosecutors from DPS