In a recent opinion from a Texas court, a defendant’s request to suppress incriminating evidence was denied. The defendant had been previously found guilty of murder, and part of the evidence used against him in court was gunshot residue (sometimes called GSR) found in his vehicle. The defendant tried to argue that the GSR was improperly used as evidence because the detective who found the GSR did not obtain a warrant, specifically stating that he was going to be searching for GSR in the vehicle. The court denied this argument, affirming the lower court’s judgment and denying the defendant’s appeal.
The Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a shooting occurred one morning in January 2018 outside of the victim’s apartment complex. The victim’s wife heard gunshots and found her husband dead outside of their apartment, but the shooter ran away before she was able to see him.
The defendant quickly became the main suspect in the police department’s investigation of the crime. Other apartment complex residents described the shooter and the shooter’s vehicle to detectives, which led investigators to the defendant himself. There was also testimonial evidence presented that the defendant and the victim had been arguing at work the day before the shooting, which gave detectives reason to believe the defendant had a motive to commit the crime. Other witnesses told police officers that before he lost consciousness, the victim had been uttering a name to people around him that sounded like the defendant’s first name.
A detective soon obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s vehicle. Upon searching the car, the detective and a crime scene investigator found GSR in various samples they had taken from the steering wheel. This evidence was used at the defendant’s trial and, along with the other testimonial evidence provided, was eventually used to find the defendant guilty of murder.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
On appeal, the defendant argued that the GSR was illegally obtained and that it should not have been admitted as evidence at trial. According to the defendant, the detective’s warrant did not say specifically that he could search for GSR. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution demands that search warrants describe the thing to be searched with “particularity,” and the warrant that allowed the detective to look inside his car did not meet this standard because it did not say anything specifically about GSR.
The court disagreed. It was true, said the court, that the warrant did not specifically include GSR as an item to be seized from the car. The warrant did, however, specifically list “firearms, firearm magazines or other ammunition storage devices, firearm cases or other accessories” and “ammunition either loose or in factory packaging.” This listing was specific enough for the detective to find GSR and use that GSR as evidence in court. Ammunition includes the powder that makes up GSR, thus the warrant included all of the information it needed in order for the detective to be able to obtain GSR from the defendant’s vehicle.
Because the court disagreed with the defendant, it affirmed the original conviction. The defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to time in prison.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Texas Based on Potentially Illegally Obtained Evidence?
If you believe that the violent crimes you face are based on evidence that the police obtained illegally, it is in your best interest to speak with a criminal defense attorney who can walk you through your possible defenses. At Guest & Gray, we stay on top of changes in the criminal legal landscape in Texas, and we are prepared to do whatever we can to make sure your voice is heard. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 972-654-4644. You can also reach out to us through our website, using our online form. We represent clients throughout Rockwall, Dallas and Collin Counties.