Weekly Case Summaries: March 24, 2016

Court of Criminal Appeals

Brodnex v. State

No. PD-1087-14                 3/23/16

Issue:

Does an officer have reasonable suspicion for a stop and investigative detention of a suspect based only on the time of day, the location of the suspect, and the officer’s belief that the suspect was a “known criminal”?

Holding:

No. Although time of day and level of criminal activity in an area are factors to be considered, they are not determinative. Also, there is no evidence in this case that the officer had any actual knowledge of the suspect’s criminal record or if he was being untruthful as to the extent of that record. Under these circumstances there was not enough for the officer to have reasonable suspicion to detain and search the suspect. Read.

Commentary:

Reasonable suspicion is a low threshold, but not quite this low. The Court is typically deferential to the officer on the street, but this officer perhaps could have talked with the suspect awhile longer before detaining him. By doing so, he might have discovered other suspicious facts to support a detention.

Ex parte Ross

No. WR,82-952-01            3/23/16

Issue:

Can a defendant obtain habeas relief based on Penal Code §3.03, that the Code does not authorize cumulative sentences for his crimes, when he knowingly agreed to a plea bargain that included a cumulative sentence?

Holding:

The court denied relief without a written opinion.

Concurrence (Alcala, J.):

No. The defendant knowingly and intelligently agreed to a plea that specifically included consecutive sentences for the charges. He cannot benefit from such a plea but then obtain habeas relief by claiming that such sentences are void under §3.03. Read.

Commentary:

This habeas applicant had many obstacles in his way: statutory violations are not cognizable in habeas; claims must be raised in the trial court or they are procedurally barred in habeas; and, in any event, he made a deal for stacked sentences in accordance with existing CCA precedent.

Texas Courts of Appeals

In re State of Texas (7th COA)

No. 07-16-00052-CR        3/16/16

Issue:

Does a county court-at-law judge have authority to grant deferred adjudication to a CDL driver for a traffic offense?

Holding (per curiam):

No. On appeal from a justice of the peace or municipal court, a county court-at-law judge cannot offer deferred adjudication to a CDL holder. Because Code of Criminal Procedure art. 42.111 states that “the court may defer further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt in the same manner as provided for the deferral of proceedings in justice or municipal court under Article 45.051 of this code,” the county court is limited in the same manner as municipal judges or justices of the peace and cannot offer deferred adjudication for a violation of traffic laws (other than parking violations) to persons who currently hold or held a commercial driver’s license at the time of the offense. Read.

Commentary:

A thorough and well-reasoned opinion that should put to bed, for now, any argument that a county court has authority to defer traffic cases that a justice or municipal court does not.

Office of the Attorney General

Letter from the Chair of the Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues

No. KP-0071       3/17/16

Question:

Is Senate Bill 1876 from the 84th Legislative Session, concerning the appointment of attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, mediators, and guardians, constitutional?

Answer:

Likely yes. The bill amends Government Code §37.004(a), outlining the process for appointing attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, mediators, and guardians and limits the exceptions under which a court may appoint someone not on the list. These changes likely do not violate of the separation of powers clause in the Texas Constitution and are not unconstitutionally vague. Read.

Commentary:

This statute is a robust move to force trial courts to spread the appointments of attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, and the like among a broader base of attorneys. In that sense, it is very similar to Fair Defense Act lists of counsel (if your county uses that system).

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.