Weekly Case Summaries: September 2, 2011

Court of Appeals

Patterson v. State - 4th COA

No. 04-10-00513-CR 8/24/11

Issue:

Is a deadly weapon finding permitted in a cruelty to non-livestock animal case?

Holding:

Yes. No law prevents it.
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Commentary:

This case does NOT decide whether a deadly weapon finding can apply to conduct targeting an animal other than a human being. The court of appeals dodges that issue by noting a procedural barrier. But, surely the defendant will raise this issue in a post-conviction writ, alleging that the enhancement was a legal impossibility. Perhaps it is time for a PDR. If a deadly weapon finding does apply, this was a good case to apply it. Nasty animal cruelty.

Chavis v. State - 8th COA

Nos. 08-09-00296-CR & 08-10-00025-CR 8/26/ 11 (unpublished)

Issue:

Did an officer violate state wiretapping law (Penal Code §16.02 and Code of Criminal Procedure art. 18.20) by browsing a suspect's computer files?

Holding:

No. Applying the interpretation of similar federal law informed the result. The shared files were not "in flight" at the time they were viewed.
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Commentary:

The rapidly evolving digital world of communications makes cases such as this very important. The lesson here is that tapping into a computer from a remote location to investigate the content of stored files is not the same as intercepting an electronic communication.

Tellez v. State - 9th COA

No.09-10-00513-CR 8/24/11 (unpublished)

Issue:

Did an officer have reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle based on his in-car computer reporting that a driver's insurance was "unconfirmed?"

Holding:

Yes. The officer's suspicion of no insurance was reasonable. The system was very accurate and provided other information that the insurance had expired.
Read Opinion

Commentary:

Finally, a straightforward and understandable explanation of how the statewide car liability insurance database may be used to initiate a traffic stop. As the court explains, this is really no different than relying on TCIC or NCIC information to come to a reasonable suspicion about a particular fact. Share this case with your law enforcement.

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