Weekly Case Summaries: July 25, 2014

Texas Courts of Appeals

Davila v. State

No. 01–12–01174–CR            7/22/14

Issues:

1)      When officers sent a confidential informant into a known drug house, then conducted a protective sweep of the house without a warrant when the confidential informant emerged and informed the officers that the drug dealers seemed “nervous and in a hurry to make a deal,” did exigent circumstances justify the warrantless, non-consensual entry of the house and detention of the suspects?

2)      When officers obtained a search warrant for the house shortly after the warrantless entry, based primarily on information obtained from the confidential informant prior to the entry, was the evidence seized pursuant to the warrant subject to suppression because of the taint of the warrantless entry and seizure of the suspects? 

Holding:

1)      No. The officers had only a suspicion, but not a reasonable belief, that the drugs would be destroyed, and there was no evidence to support any other theory of exigent circumstances.

2)      No. The information in the warrant established probable cause without relying on information obtained during the illegal entry of the house. Read the opinion.

Commentary:

This will be a useful read for prosecutors and police handling big drug cases. The affidavit provides a good example. Although the Court did not like the sweep, a little more work with the officers might get over the exigency hump. If not, then police may have to pay for the door. The only downside to the sweep is that the officers might stumble upon Jimmy Hoffa’s body…

Hernandez v. State

No. 06-14-00013-CR              7/23/14

Issue:

Should the defendant have been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea during the punishment hearing in his assault case based on “newly discovered evidence” that the victim had not actually suffered serious bodily injury?

Holding:

No. Whether a defendant may withdraw a guilty plea after a case has been taken under advisement is up to the discretion of the court. The disputed evidence in this case was found by the trial court to actually help prove the SBI claim, not dispute it, so there was no abuse of discretion in refusing the defendant’s request to withdraw his plea. Read the opinion.

Commentary:

Putting off formal sentencing or the start of a sentence always seems to result in an absconder or a spit hook. The State wins this time. But what if the defendant was not arrested and commits other crimes elsewhere? If some aspect of the case requires a plea bargain of this kind, consider putting recitations in the plea papers that the plea is entered “and taken under advisement by the Court” to solidify the State’s position when the defendant comes back with the idea that only a jury will truly understand his case.