United States Supreme Court
No. 18-556 4/6/20
Does a police officer violate the Fourth Amendment by initiating an investigative traffic stop after running a vehicle’s license plate and learning that the registered owner has a revoked driver’s license?
Holding (Thomas, J., joined by Roberts, C.J., and, Breyer, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, JJ.):
No. When an officer has no reason to think someone other than the owner is driving the vehicle, an investigative traffic stop made after running a vehicle’s license plate and learning that the registered owner’s driver’s license has been revoked is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Read Opinion.
Concurring (Kagan, J., joined by Ginsburg, J.):
“I agree with the Court about the reasonableness of the officer’s inference that the owner, Glover, was driving while his license was revoked. And because Glover offered no rebuttal, there the matter stands. But that does not mean cases with more complete records will all wind up in the same place. A defendant like Glover may still be able to show that his case is different—that the ‘presence of additional facts’ and circumstances ‘dispel[s] reasonable suspicion.’ Which is to say that in more fully litigated cases, the license-revocation alert does not (as it did here) end the inquiry. It is but the first, though no doubt an important, step in assessing the reasonableness of the officer’s suspicion.” Read Opinion.
Dissenting (Sotomayor, J.):
“Vehicle stops interfere with freedom of movement, are inconvenient, and consume time. Worse still, they ‘may create substantial anxiety’ through an ‘unsettling show of authority.’ Before subjecting motorists to this type of investigation, the State must possess articulable facts and officer inferences to form suspicion. The State below left unexplained key components of the reasonable-suspicion inquiry. In an effort to uphold the conviction, the Court destroys Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that requires individualized suspicion. I respectfully dissent.” Read Opinion.
This decision is probably consistent with how a Texas appellate court would address this issue. Nevertheless, it is an excellent decision explaining just what does—and does not—constitute reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a much less demanding standard than probable cause, and there is a wealth of statements throughout the majority opinion. You should be able to use this decision in any case dealing with reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop, but the decision could be particularly helpful, not just with stops based upon revoked or suspended driver’s licenses, but also stops based upon a lack of liability insurance.
Texas Supreme Court
Should the Texas Supreme Court review a 3rd Court of Appeals ruling that prosecutors have the discretion to withhold, under the Texas Public Information Act, deferred prosecution agreements pursuant to the exception for cases that did not result in a conviction or deferred adjudication?
The Texas Supreme Court denied the Attorney General’s petition to review the 3rd Court’s decision. Read 3rd COA Case Summary.
As with all denials of petitions for review, the Texas Supreme Court did not express an opinion on this issue, but just summarily refused to review it. The decision of the Third Court of Appeals is a thorough, but straightforward application of statutory construction and the law enforcement exception in the Public Information Act. This should be helpful in dealing with public information requests involving deferred prosecution (pretrial intervention) agreements.
Court of Criminal Appeals
No. WR-89,477-01 4/8/20
Does the harm analysis applied to claims of illegal enhancements pursuant to Ex parte Parrott, 396 S.W.3d 531 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013) extend to enhancements that elevate an offense from a misdemeanor to a felony―also known as jurisdictional enhancements?
Holding (Yeary, J.):
Yes. The Court held that Ex parte Parrott applied and that the defendant failed to meet his burden to show that he was harmed by the invalid enhancement. The invalid prior conviction in Parrott raised only the punishment level of the offense from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. The Court concluded that crossing the divide between misdemeanor and felony subject-matter jurisdiction does not affect the applicability of Parrott’s harm analysis. Read Opinion.
Concurring (Walker, J., joined by Newell, J.):
“I believe the majority reaches the correct conclusion today. However, I believe the indictment was sufficient on its own to authorize the convicting court to sentence [the defendant] within the range of punishment for a second-degree felony, and there is no need to rely on Ex parte Parrott to reach said conclusion. Moreover, I disagree with the majority’s assertion that Parrott should apply to jurisdictional enhancements. Accordingly, I respectfully concur. Read Opinion.
This decision may have interest and application for post-conviction attorneys, but it should still be helpful when a minor mistake has been made in pleading an enhancement.
Texas Courts of Appeals
No. 04-19-00248 4/1/20
Is a Facility Incident Report a governmental record for the offense of tampering with a governmental record, Penal Code §37.10(a)(1)?
Yes. The defendant was acting in his official capacity as a detention officer when he completed the report about his altercation with an inmate, and the purpose of the report was to keep accurate and credible records at the detention center. Therefore, the report was an official governmental record. Read Opinion.
The analysis in this case is short, but it should still be a quite helpful addition to governmental record jurisprudence. Keep this decision close if you often prosecute these types of cases.