Texas Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of Drug Charges

The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect defendants from unreasonable searches and seizures of themselves, their homes, and their property. Evidence gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used against a defendant at trial. Thus, defendants who can prove that the evidence used against them was collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment may be entitled to the dismissal of the charges against them.

The Texas Court of Appeals recently heard an appeal by the State of Texas that challenged the suppression of evidence obtained against a defendant who had been accused of possession of drugs. The defendant in the recently decided case was driving a vehicle when he was recognized by a law enforcement officer as a known criminal offender. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the officer began to follow the defendant and witnessed him commit a traffic violation as he pulled into a gas station. The officer pulled behind the defendant and signaled him to stop, at which point the defendant exited his vehicle and behaved suspiciously. The officer engaged with the defendant and notified him that he was stopped for a minor traffic violation. The officer asked the defendant for consent to search his person and vehicle, which the defendant initially gave.

After another officer arrived on the scene, the defendant revoked the consent to search his vehicle and made statements suggesting that the officers were going to get a canine unit to search his car. As a result of the defendant’s statements, the officers called a canine unit, which took 38 minutes to arrive. The canine unit alerted the officers to the presence of marijuana in the car, which was ultimately found after a search was performed. As a result of the drugs being found, the defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Before trial, the defendant challenged the admission of the drugs, arguing that the seizure was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The trial court agreed with the defendant, finding that the duration of the traffic stop was extended unreasonably after the traffic violation was resolved and that the 38-minute wait for a canine unit to arrive was unconstitutional. As a result of the trial judge’s ruling, the charges against the defendant were to be dismissed. However, the State appealed the ruling to the Texas Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the court disagreed with the logic of the trial court. The court found that the officer had reasonable suspicion that there was other criminal activity occurring before the traffic stop was over, based on the defendant’s behavior and statements to the officer during the initial stop. As a result of that reasonable suspicion, the officer was justified in extending the stop to include reasonable further investigation. The Court of Appeals found that the 38-minute wait for a canine unit to arrive was reasonable and that the evidence should have been admitted at his trial. As a result of the appellate ruling, the defendant will face trial on the charges against him.

Have You Been Charged with a Texas Drug Crime?

If you or someone you know has been charged with a Texas drug offense, the qualified criminal defense attorneys at Guest and Gray can help you fight the charges. Our skilled Dallas criminal defense lawyers have experience challenging the admission of evidence that the state plans to use against our clients. Often, we can get charges dismissed without a trial. If a trial is needed and prosecutors refuse to make an acceptable plea offer, we will confidently take your case to trial to seek an acquittal of all charges against you. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact our offices at 972-564-4644 and schedule a free consultation today.

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