Weekly Case Summaries: October 27, 2017

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Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

State v. Elrod

Nos. PD-0704-16 to -0706-16      10/25/17

Issue:

Can a search warrant be supported on a tip from a named informant of unknown reliability?

Holding:

Yes. A supporting affidavit that specifies a named informant as the source of information is sufficient to support probable cause when the tip contains enough particularized facts to suggest direct knowledge on the informant’s part. The determination does not rely on a presumption of reliability, but on the extent and detail of the informant’s statement. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This is a unanimous decision that really should not have been necessary. It has long been the law in Texas that a named informant, even a criminal one, can provide probable cause for a search warrant. It is only necessary that the information is sufficiently detailed and that the affidavit reveals the informant’s direct knowledge. The court’s decision addresses each of the problems that the trial court had with the affidavit. Excellent job by the State in prevailing in this State’s appeal.

Texas Courts of Appeals

Saldivar v. State

No. 14-16-00888-CR        10/19/17

Issue:

Does a judgment that is void due to a sentence outside the statutory punishment range require a guilty plea to be set aside?

Holding:

No. When a judgment following a guilty plea is successfully challenged, the appropriate remedy is specific performance of the plea. If specific performance is not possible, the appropriate remedy is withdrawal of the plea so that both parties return to their original positions. A mutual mistake of law regarding the applicable range of punishment means that the plea cannot be enforced as the parties originally intended and must be set aside. When all parties understood and agreed to the correct range of punishment but the court failed to impose a mandatory fine, the plea can be enforced as intended by holding a new hearing on punishment only. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This is an interesting decision because the court distinguishes the recent decision of Thomas v. State, 516 S.W.3d 498 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017), instead of following it, as suggested by both parties in this case. The court extensively analyzed Thomas and found that this defendant could indeed receive specific performance with a new punishment hearing in which the mandatory fine could be assessed. A withdrawal of the guilty plea is not necessary because the defendant was correctly admonished as to the mandatory fine being part of the range of punishment. It is possible that the Court of Criminal Appeals will review this decision because Thomas is so recent, but it could still hold up.

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].