Appellate court decisions do not get much MSM coverage. As a public service I will try and break down recent Texas appellate court cases for the non attorney. (This process is made much easier by TCDLA SDR report).
I’m often hard on appellate courts for making decisions I disagree with. However, I want to start this section with some great appellate decisions.
Green v. State, 2008 WL 1822393 (Tex.App.-Waco Apr 23, 2008)
Facts- Cop searches defendants car for weapons. Cop has no warrant or probable cause. Cop sights ubiquitous officer safety (OS) justification. Cop let defendant re enter car, after Cop had removed defendant from car.
Holding- Search is illegal. OS is a legitimate reason to search for weapons. However, there has to a real concern for OS. Cop wouldn’t have let defendant get back in a car if Cop thought defendant had a weapon in car.
I say- “Officer safety” is appearing in more and more police reports. Word has spread of among law enforcement that claiming OS will justify almost any search for weapons (drugs). I’m glad to see the court recognizing that OS is being abused to search for dope.
Korell v. State, 2008 WL 1827446 (Tex.App.-Austin Apr 24, 2008)
Facts- Defendant went along with Friend to a buy meth. Defendant helped Friend contact meth dealer. Defendant knew Friend was buying meth, and knew met was present at meth dealer’s house. Defendant doesn’t touch or buy any meth. Defendant is charged with possession of meth.
Holding-Knowing and/or helping with a drug deal does not make one guilty of possession. The right charge would have been delivery. Being guilty of delivery does not make one guilty of possession.
I say- It’s great to see the court reject a drug conviction. It is not too much to require the state charge the right crime. Besides, we already have thousands of meth people in jail already. Way to go Austin!
King v. State, 2008 WL 1744026 (Tex.App.-Amarillo Apr 16, 2008)
Facts- Defendant had $30,000 in trunk. Police arrest Defendant for money laundering because he has a lot of cash. There is NO evidence that the money was proceeds from illegal activity.
Holding-Convinction overturned. Without any evidence of illegal activity there can not be any money laundering.
I say- Another great ruling! Because of the War on Drugs many police treat large sums of cash as contraband. It is great to see the court recognize that transporting money, even a lot of money, does not make one a criminal.
Orand v. State, 2008 WL 1700149 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth Apr 10, 2008)
Facts- Defendant is indicted for Indecency. ELEVEN years later, Defendant learns of charges and turns himself in.
Holding- Defendants speedy trial rights were violated.
I say- Old cases are hard to prosecute. Indecency charges are hard to defend. In this case the court recognized that it is impossible to have a fair trial on such a charge after more than a decade has passed since indictment.
Padilla v. State, 2008 WL 1746729 (Tex.App.-Eastland Apr 17, 2008)
Holding- Miniature statute of baby Jesus was found to be a “deadly weapon.”
I say- I have nothing to add.
These are decisions Texans can feel good about (except maybe the last one). Texas courts have made the criminal justice system better by getting rid of bad convictions. Decisions like these keep us all safe by protecting the innocent and holding the government to a higher standard. Well done.