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Pate v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

April 11, 2017

MEGAN PATE, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from County Court at Law No. 2 Fort Bend County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 15-CCR-180333

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Brown and Lloyd.

          OPINION

          Russell Lloyd Justice.

         Appellant Megan Pate pleaded "no contest" to the misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated.[1] The trial court assessed her punishment at a $500 fine and 180 days in county jail, with deferred adjudication community supervision for eighteen months. The trial court certified appellant's right to appeal the judgment of conviction, permitting appellant to challenge the trial court's earlier denial of her motion to suppress. In one issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress because the arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigative stop because the stop was based solely upon an anonymous tip. We affirm.

         Background

         Based on information received from an anonymous caller, Officer E. Salazar conducted an investigative traffic stop and temporarily detained appellant. After performing various field sobriety tests, appellant was arrested and she was subsequently charged with DWI. Appellant filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of that stop in which she argued that Officer Salazar did not have reasonable suspicion to stop her vehicle.

         During the hearing on appellant's motion to suppress, Officer Salazar testified that he was dispatched to the "Whataburger on Nelson Way" after a caller reported a possible drunk driver at the scene. Salazar testified that the dispatcher had informed him that the caller had "explained that he was almost sideswiped and he approached the vehicle or drove up next to the vehicle and asked, you know, are you okay or something to that effect; and the person responded, well, I'm a little tipsy or intoxicated or something to that nature." Salazar further testified that he knew which vehicle to look for when he arrived at the restaurant because the dispatcher had also conveyed the caller's description of the vehicle.

         When Salazar arrived at the Whataburger, he saw the Jeep described by the caller stopped at the restaurant's pick-up window. The officer initiated an investigative stop as the Jeep was leaving the Whataburger parking lot. Officer Salazar initiated the investigative stop out of "[f]ear of [appellant's] vehicle striking somebody or, you know, just causing an accident, wrecking out."

         After her motion to suppress was denied, appellant pleaded "no contest" to the misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated and the trial court assessed her punishment at a $500 fine and 180 days in county jail, with deferred adjudication community supervision for eighteen months.

         This appeal followed.

         Motion to Suppress

         In her sole issue on appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress because Officer Salazar did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigative stop based on information obtained exclusively from an anonymous tip.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         We review a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence for an abuse of discretion. Shepherd v. State, 273 S.W.3d 681, 684 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008). We give almost total deference to a trial court's determination of historical facts, especially if those determinations turn on witness credibility or demeanor, and we review de novo the trial court's application of the law to facts not based on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Neal v. State, 256 S.W.3d 264, 281 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008). At a suppression hearing, the trial court is the sole and exclusive trier of fact and judge of the witnesses' credibility. Maxwell v. State, 73 S.W.3d 278, 281 (Tex. ...


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