Weekly Case Summaries: October 13, 2017

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In the wake of Harvey’s devastating impact on our state, the Board of the Texas District and County Attorneys Foundation has started a relief fund to assist those prosecutor office staff members who have suffered losses. 100 percent of your donation to the fund will go directly to those who have suffered hurricane and flood damage. The campaign runs until October 31, so please help out! Please click here to help those in our profession who need your help! And if you have suffered loss and are seeking assistance, click here to download the application form. If you have any questions, call Rob Kepple at 512/474-2436.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Elrod v. State

No. 06-17-00081-CR         10/4/17

Issue:

Does a defendant’s statement to an officer during a traffic stop that there is an open container inside the vehicle amount to probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle?

Holding:

Yes. Under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement a warrantless search may be conducted when an officer has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and contraband is located in the vehicle. Probable cause exists when an officer has “reasonable trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a reasonable belief that an offense has been or is being committed.” In this case, the officer smelled alcohol emanating from the vehicle and the defendant admitted there was “probably [an open container] in a trash bag” inside the vehicle. These facts constitute probable cause for the officer to conduct a warrantless search. Read opinion.

Commentary:

The defendant argued that his admission that there might be an open container in the vehicle did not mean that he was admitting that there was an open container of alcohol. The court had little difficulty rejecting that claim. In context, the defendant and the officer were clearly talking about alcohol. To top it off, while the officer searched for the open container, the defendant admitted that there was marijuana in the vehicle, and that gave the officer probable cause to search for that as well. The officer found the marijuana, and that was the basis for the defendant’s conviction.

Texas Attorney General Opinions

Request RQ-0184-KP

Question:

If a county attorney properly has a private practice law office in addition to the county office, is there a legal requirement as to how much time the attorney must spend in the county office versus his private practice law office? Read request.

Announcements

TDCAA is now shipping its 2017 code books. For more information or to place an order, visit http://www.tdcaa.com/publications.

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 [email protected].