Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
On appeal from the 347th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.
Before Chief Justice Valdez, Justices Benavides and Longoria
NORA L. LONGORIA Justice
This is an interlocutory appeal in a case involving a mandatory blood draw. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 724.012(b)(3)(B) (West 2011). The trial court granted a motion to suppress filed by appellee, David Villarreal, the defendant who is charged in the underlying case with driving while intoxicated ("DWI"). See U.S. Const, amend. IV; Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.04 (West Supp. 2012). The State now appeals the court's ruling by one issue. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 44.01(a)(5) (West Supp. 2012) (authorizing interlocutory appeal of order granting motion to suppress); State ex rel. Lykos v. Fine, 330 S.W.3d 904, 915 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011) ("In Texas, the standard for determining jurisdiction [of an appellate court] is not whether the appeal is precluded by law, but whether the appeal is authorized by law."). For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion to suppress.
The relevant facts are not in dispute. The police arrested appellee for DWI. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.04. At that time, the police ascertained that appellee had three prior DWI convictions. After appellee refused to participate in a field sobriety test, the police transported him to a hospital for a blood test to determine his blood-alcohol content. Appellee refused to consent to the blood test. The police did not have a warrant for it, and the State concedes that there were no exigent circumstances. The test showed appellee was over the legal limit. See id. § 49.01 (2)(B) (West 2011). Appellee was subsequently charged with third-degree felony DWI. See id. § 49.09(b)(2) (West 2011).
Appellee filed a motion to suppress. See U.S. Const, amend. IV; Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 28.01, § 1(6) (West 2006). The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion, which it granted, and on the State's timely request, see State v. Cullen, 195 S.W.3d 696, 699 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006), the court entered the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The court finds that the parties stipulated that "Mr. Villarreal was stopped and arrested for DWI on March 31, 2012. At that time, he was taken and blood was drawn without his consent and without a warrant. There is a blood test showing a .16 grams of alcohol per hundred milliliters of blood. There was no consent, no warrant." (RR vol. 1, p. 3).
2. The court finds that the Defendant narrowed the focus of his motion, and represented as the sole basis of such motion, his claim that "taking a blood draw without a warrant [is] a violation of the 4th Amendment" (RR vol. 1, pp. 3-4), such that he abandoned any claim that the Defendant was illegally arrested for DWI.
3. The Court finds credible Officer Gary Williams' testimony that, after he arrested the Defendant for Driving While Intoxicated, the Defendant refused Officer Williams' request for a blood sample. (RR vol. 2, pp. 7-8).
4. The Court finds credible Officer Williams' testimony that the Defendant appeared to be intoxicated based on his red watery eyes, slurred speech, and swaying back and forth. (RR vol. 2, p. 5).
5. The Court finds credible Officer Williams' testimony that, based on a review of the Defendant's criminal history suggesting reliable information from a credible source that the Defendant had three prior DWI convictions, he then took the Defendant to a hospital and collected a blood sample from him. (RR vol. 2, pp. 8-9).
6. The Court finds credible Officer Williams' testimony that he could have gotten a warrant for the blood draw and there were no exigent circumstances that would have prevented him from getting a warrant. (RR vol. 2, pp. 9-10).
7. The Court finds that the Defendant conceded at the suppression hearing that the arresting officer did nothing wrong in connection with the arrest and blood draw, except to the extent of Defendant's constitutional challenge to the mandatory blood draw statute. (RR vol. 2, p. 22).
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The Court concludes that the Defendant's blood was illegally obtained without a warrant and in the absence of a recognized exception to the warrant requirement, and that the statutory blood draw was invalid and unconstitutional without exigent circumstances to support the absence of a warrant.
In one issue, the State contends that the trial court erred in granting appellee's motion to suppress because the police officer's compliance with the "repeat offender" provision of the "mandatory blood draw law, " Section 724.012(b)(3)(B) of the Texas Transportation Code, precluded the involuntary, warrantless blood draw in this case from violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. S ...