Weekly Case Summaries: January 11, 2019

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

State v. Martinez

No. PD-0324-17                1/9/19

Issue:

Can the knowledge of supporting officers, not just the arresting officer, be used to establish probable cause for a warrantless arrest?

Holding:

Yes. The “collective knowledge” doctrine allows cumulative information by all involved officers to assess reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The State does not have to prove actual communication between officers to establish the collective knowledge doctrine. Cooperation between participating officers can be shown in other ways. Read opinion.

Concurrence (Yeary, J.):

The concurrence notes that this case could have been resolved through the circumstantial evidence approach discussed in the Court’s earlier opinion remanding this case, and that relying on the collective knowledge to establish probable cause in a second opinion was unnecessary. Read opinion.

Concurrence (Newell, J., joined by Keller, P.J., Hervey, and Richardson, J.J.):

“We should reconsider our holding in State v. Elias [339 S.W.3d 667, 676 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011)]. Instead of remanding when a reviewing court determines that existing findings are inadequate, we should remand for ‘essential’ findings only if there was some objection in the trial court regarding the inadequacy of the existing findings. If there wasn’t, we should fall back on our standard in State v. Ross [32 S.W.3d 853 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000)] and simply view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling. We already do that when the parties fail to request findings altogether. I see no reason we shouldn’t do so when they fail to draw the trial court’s attention to problems with the findings it enters.” (footnotes omitted) Read opinion.

Commentary:

After reading this opinion, you will know the collective knowledge doctrine is neither new nor controversial. The trial court’s suppression of the arrest—and the affirmances on direct appeal—border on the ridiculous. Nevertheless, practitioners now have a case that says that cooperating officers need not recount their entire basis for arrest to the officer who actually makes the arrest. This is important because of the difficulty in doing so when the officers are not in the same location. Police cannot tie up radio equipment for two or three minutes dictating a narrative of facts, and the nature of crimes is such that police often lack the time to pull out a cell phone and call in a narrative prior to arrest. Moreover, as long as the other cooperating officers can establish a lawful basis for arrest, the arresting officer is not required to testify. Many times, the arresting officer will know little more than “white male, blue Pontiac, northbound route 66.” The concurring opinions illustrate a dispute among the members of the Court about the appellate procedures involved in the case, not the merits. Judge Newell’s concurrence makes a good point—if you are taking a State’s appeal, make sure the trial judge’s findings of fact cover all necessary matters as soon as they are made. If they do not, file an objection pointing out any flaws and get the trial court to address the objections.

Texas Attorney General

Opinion KP-0233

1/8/19

Issue:

Must a county clerk whose office does not accept electronic documents for recording accept and record a printed copy of an electronic document?

Holding:

A county clerk must accept a paper document presented for recording if the document complies with the requirements of the particular statutory provision authorizing the recording of the document. To the extent a printed copy of an electronic document presented for recording by the county clerk concerns real or personal property, it must contain an original signature that meets the requirements of §12.00ll(b) of the Property Code to be recorded by a county clerk. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This opinion could come in handy if you need some dry reading over the weekend.

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