Case Summaries

Each week, TDCAA staff members summarize the most important cases from Texas and federal criminal courts and provide insightful commentary on how those cases could impact the criminal justice system as well as a link to the opinions. Find a library of previous Weekly Case Summaries here.


March 31, 2023

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Ruffins v. State

No. PD-0862-20                03/29/23


Does a defendant’s acceptance of a jury instruction implicate judicial estoppel, barring the defendant from arguing on appeal that the instruction was improper?


Yes. The court held that the defendant’s present claim is “inconsistent” with his “prior conduct.” The defendant stated that he was “good” with the instruction given, and because he was satisfied with the instruction at the time, he cannot now claim that it was improper. Read opinion.

Concurrence (Yeary, J.):

“Appellant did not request the faulty instruction in the first instance. At most he failed to properly object to the erroneous instruction, and that is an insufficient basis to justify estoppel.” Read concurrence.


Notably, the CCA rejected the notion that estoppel would not apply if the defendant did not instigate the error. Stated alternatively, even if the defendant does not cause the error (such as by requesting a jury instruction with specific, but wrong, verbiage), the defendant will be estopped from complaining about the error in post-conviction proceedings if the record shows that the defendant was aware of the error and affirmatively acquiesced or agreed to it. This is a sensible approach that focuses on the defendant’s conduct relative to the known error, rather than the origin of the error. 

Ex Parte Lozoya

No. WR-92,475-01                          03/29/23


Does acceptance of a benefit need to occur for estoppel by contract to apply in a criminal case?


No. The court held that for estoppel by contract to apply, no acceptance of benefits is necessary. The doctrine turns on whether a party took a position inconsistent with essential facts recited in the contract to the prejudice of another. The court also concluded that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to revoke the defendant’s community supervision after the lawful supervisory period expired. Read opinion.

Dissent (Yeary, J.):

“The Court grants post-conviction habeas corpus relief in this case, holding that [the defendant] is not estopped from seeking that relief and that the convicting court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his community supervision. I would deny relief on the more basic proposition that Applicant’s claim is simply not cognizable in post-conviction habeas corpus proceedings to begin with. Therefore, I respectfully dissent.” Read dissent.


In this opinion, the CCA distinguishes three types of estoppel: (1) estoppel by contract, (2) estoppel by acceptance of benefits under a contract, and (3) estoppel by judgment.

The first type—estoppel by contract—does not require a defendant to have accepted a benefit and instead applies when “a party [takes] a position inconsistent with essential facts recited in the contract to the prejudice of another.” This doctrine will most commonly apply in plea-bargain cases where the defendant challenges the terms of the plea agreement and, thus, “takes a position inconsistent with the terms of the plea bargain to the prejudice of the State.”

The second type—estoppel by acceptance of benefits under a contract—is “closely related but distinct” from estoppel by contract and, as its label suggests, turns on the acceptance of a benefit from the contract. This doctrine will most often apply in plea-bargain cases where the defendant has received a benefit from the plea agreement, e.g., a reduction to a lesser-included offense, but later seeks to challenge some aspect of that agreement, e.g., that the conviction is void because the offense was not a true, legally valid lesser-included offense.

The third type—estoppel by judgment—applies when the defendant has “accept[ed] benefits of a judgment, decree, or judicial order” and operates to bar the defendant from later “deny[ing] the validity or propriety thereof, or any part thereof, on any grounds[.]” This doctrine is similar in effect to estoppel by acceptance of benefits under a contract in that it requires the defendant to accept a benefit, but since it does not require the existence of a “contract,” it will apply outside of the plea-bargain context (like in the above case, Ruffins).

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 Stephanie Huser.