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Dansby v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

April 28, 2017

IRA HUDSON DANSBY, APPELLANT
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW SMITH COUNTY, TEXAS (Tr.Ct.No. 001-82168-15)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          OPINION

          James T. Worthen Chief Justice.

         Ira Hudson Dansby appeals his conviction for driving while intoxicated. In ten issues, Appellant challenges the denial of his motion to suppress, the admission of certain evidence, whether the corpus delicti rule was satisfied, and the legal sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.

         Background

         Smith County Sheriff's Deputy Gerald Atchison, while on patrol, stopped at a convenience store. He noticed an unoccupied vehicle running in the parking lot. Atchison asked several people inside the store and the adjoining Whataburger restaurant whether the vehicle belonged to them. Appellant, who was inside Whataburger, admitted owning the vehicle. Atchison noticed that Appellant's eyes were red and watery, and he smelled of alcohol. He asked Appellant where he had been that night. Appellant said that he had been at the Half Moon Grill and Saloon, about a half block away. He said he had a few beers, went home, changed clothes, and returned to Whataburger for food.

          Deputy Atchison, believing that Appellant might be guilty of public intoxication, asked Deputy Fire Marshal Londoff[1] to administer a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. After this test was conducted, Atchison arrested Appellant for public intoxication. At that time, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Glen Davenport arrived at the scene. After Atchison related the facts to him, Davenport decided that the facts warranted an investigation for DWI. Because Davenport's shift was ending, Trooper Robert Hartman arrived and assumed the investigation. Hartman conducted standard field sobriety tests and arrested Appellant for DWI. A subsequent breath test conducted at the jail showed that Appellant's alcohol content was over the legal limit.

         Appellant was charged by information with DWI and pleaded "not guilty." After a bench trial, the trial court found Appellant guilty and assessed his punishment at confinement for 180 days, suspended for a term of twenty months, and a $300 fine. This appeal followed.

         Motion to Suppress

         In Appellant's first through fifth issues, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because (1) the police had no probable cause to arrest him for driving while intoxicated or public intoxication, (2) he was arrested without a warrant or valid warrant exception, and (3) his consent to the breath test was involuntary.

         Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review. Hubert v. State, 312 S.W.3d 554, 559 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010); Carmouche v. State, 10 S.W.3d 323, 327 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000). A trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to suppress is generally reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. 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 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). When deciding a motion to suppress evidence, a trial court is the exclusive trier of fact and judge of the witnesses' credibility. Maxwell v. State, 73 S.W.3d 278, 281 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). Accordingly, a trial court may choose to believe or disbelieve all or any part of a witness's testimony. See State v. Ross, 32 S.W.3d 853, 855 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).

         When a trial court does not make express findings of fact, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and assume the trial court made implicit findings of fact that support its ruling as long as those findings are supported by the record. Lujan v. State, 331 S.W.3d 768, 771 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). Therefore, the prevailing party is entitled to "the strongest legitimate view of the evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from that evidence." State v. Castleberry, 332 S.W.3d 460, 465 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). When all evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling, an appellate court is obligated to uphold the ruling on a motion to suppress if that ruling was supported by the record and was correct under any theory of law applicable to the case. See Ross, 32 S.W.3d at 856; Carmouche, 10 S.W.3d at 327; State v. Ballard, 987 S.W.2d 889, 891 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). Because the trial court in this case did not make express findings, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and assume it made implicit findings that support its ruling as long as the record supports those findings. See Lujan, 331 S.W.3d at 771.

         Warrantless Arrest Law

         The initial burden of proof on a motion to suppress evidence on the basis of a Fourth Amendment violation rests with the defendant. Torres v. State, 182 S.W.3d 899, 902 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005). The defendant meets this burden by demonstrating that the seizure occurred without a warrant. See id. Thereafter, the burden shifts to the state to prove the reasonableness of the warrantless seizure. See id. The state may satisfy this burden by showing that one of the statutory exceptions to the warrant requirement is met. Id. A police officer may arrest an individual without a warrant only if (1) there is probable cause with respect to that individual, and (2) the arrest falls within one of the exceptions specified in articles 14.01 through 14.04 of the code of criminal procedure. Stull v. State, 772 S.W.3d 449, 451 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989).

         Probable cause for a warrantless arrest exists if, at the moment the arrest is made, the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge, and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that the person arrested had committed or was committing an offense. Amador v. State, 275 S.W.3d 872, 878 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). The test for probable cause is an objective one, unrelated to the arresting officer's subjective beliefs, and requires a consideration of the totality of the circumstances facing the arresting officer. Id. A finding of probable cause requires more than bare suspicion, but less than would justify conviction. Id. An unarticulated hunch, a suspicion, or the good faith of the arresting officer is insufficient to support probable cause to justify a warrantless arrest. Torres, 182 S.W.3d at 902.

         DWI Arrest

         In this case, after the suppression hearing, the trial court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Appellant's motion to suppress. In the order, the trial court did not explicitly name which parts of the motion it was granting and denying. Instead, the trial court named the evidence being suppressed. Based on our review of the grounds in Appellant's motion, the evidence suppressed by the trial court's order, and trial court's statements on the record, we conclude that the trial court implicitly denied the motion on the grounds that are the subject of Appellant's first through fifth issues.

         In his first issue, Appellant argues that the evidence does not show that Trooper Hartman had probable cause to arrest him for DWI because (1) the officers nor any other witness saw Appellant driving, (2) Hartman had no information regarding how long Appellant's truck had been at the scene, and (3) Hartman had no information regarding whether Appellant consumed alcohol after arriving at the scene. However, there is evidence in the record to support a finding of probable cause to arrest for DWI.

         A person commits DWI if he operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.04(a) (West Supp. 2016). "Intoxicated" is defined as "(A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or (B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more." Id. § 49.01(2) (West 2011).

         Trooper Hartman testified that prior to the DWI arrest, Appellant told him he had consumed a few beers and two shots of alcohol at the Half Moon. Hartman was also told that Appellant's vehicle was found running in the parking lot. The vehicle was registered to Appellant, and Appellant said he had been driving. No one approached Hartman to claim any connection with Appellant or the vehicle. Appellant said that after he left the Half Moon, he went to his house and returned to Whataburger. Hartman administered three standard field sobriety tests on Appellant and formed an opinion that he was intoxicated. Appellant showed signs of intoxication on all three tests.

         Based on the evidence of Appellant's intoxication, along with Appellant's statements that he consumed alcohol at the Half Moon and then drove home and back to Whataburger, the trial court could reasonably infer that Appellant was intoxicated when he drove the vehicle. Therefore, based on the evidence adduced and the reasonable inferences that can be made from it, the trial court could reasonably conclude the facts and circumstances within Trooper Hartman's knowledge were sufficient to warrant a belief that Appellant committed DWI. See Amador, 275 S.W.3d at 878. Accordingly, the record reasonably supports the trial court's implicit conclusion that the State carried its burden of proving that Hartman's warrantless arrest of Appellant was properly supported by probable cause to arrest for DWI. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.04(a); Torres, 182 S.W.3d at 902; Stull, 772 S.W.3d at 451.

         In his second issue, Appellant argues that his warrantless DWI arrest was unlawful because the offense was not committed in a peace officer's presence or view. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 14.01 (West 2005). However, the commission of an offense in an officer's presence or view is not the only exception to the warrant requirement. See Stull, 772 S.W.3d at 451. Under article 14.03, a peace officer may arrest, without a warrant, a person found in a suspicious place and under circumstances which reasonably show that he has been guilty of a breach of the peace. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 14.03(a) (West 2005).

         Driving while intoxicated is a breach of the peace. Gallups v. State, 151 S.W.3d 196, 201 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004). Few, if any, places are suspicious in and of themselves. Dyar v. State, 125 S.W.3d 460, 464-65 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). Rather, additional facts available to an officer plus reasonable inferences from those facts in relation to a particular place may arouse justifiable suspicion. Id. at 465. Any place may become suspicious when a person at that location and the accompanying circumstances raise a reasonable belief that the person has committed a crime and exigent circumstances call for immediate action or detention by police. Swain v. State, 181 S.W.3d 359, 366 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005).

         In this case, Appellant was found inside Whataburger. He showed signs of intoxication, and his vehicle was running in the parking lot. We have held that Trooper Hartman had probable cause to support a DWI arrest. Furthermore, exigent circumstances-the need to ascertain Appellant's alcohol concentration-existed to justify Appellant's immediate arrest. See Gallups, 151 S.W.3d at 202. We conclude that, under these circumstances, Whataburger meets the suspicious place requirement of article 14.03(a)(1). See Swain, 181 S.W.3d at 366.

         After giving almost total deference to the trial court's determination of the historical facts, and reviewing de novo the trial court's application of the law to facts not based on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor, we conclude that, given the totality of the circumstances, the State carried its burden to justify Appellant's warrantless arrest by Trooper Hartman. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 14.03(a); Neal, 256 S.W.3d at 281; Torres, 182 S.W.3d at 902. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's motion to suppress based on a lack of probable cause or warrant exception for Hartman's arrest of Appellant for DWI. We overrule Appellant's first and second issues.

         Public Intoxication Arrest

         In his third issue, Appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because Atchison had no probable cause to arrest him for public intoxication. He contends that the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing does not show that the facts known to Atchison at the time of the arrest warranted a reasonable belief that ...


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