Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the County Court at Law No. 8 of Hidalgo County,
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Hinojosa.
LETICIA HINOJOSA Justice.
State appeals from the trial court's granting of a motion
to suppress filed by appellee, Wesley Wolfe Racliff Haworth.
In two issues, the State complains that the trial court's
granting of Haworth's motion to suppress constituted
error in that: (1) the trial judge presided and ruled despite
having become a witness as to evidentiary facts in dispute
and thus did not act as an impartial arbiter of the facts;
and (2) the ruling was based on matters not within the
evidentiary record. We reverse and remand.
an early morning hour, Van Slusser, a sergeant with the
University of Texas System Police Department, witnessed
Haworth's vehicle make a U-turn when the vehicle's
turn lane was allegedly controlled by a red light. Slusser
initiated a traffic stop, conducted field sobriety tests, and
arrested Haworth on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Haworth refused to provide a breath or blood specimen, and he
was later charged by criminal complaint with one count of
driving while intoxicated. See Tex. Penal Code Ann.
§ 49.04(a) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.).
moved to suppress, among other things, all evidence seized by
law enforcement officers or others in connection with his
detention and arrest. At the suppression hearing, the State
called Slusser to testify and a dash-cam video from
Slusser's police unit was introduced by Haworth and
admitted by the trial court. Haworth argued that Slusser
could not have seen the turn signal because his view was
obstructed by a tree, and he pointed to the dash-cam video as
evidence in support of his argument. The trial court set the
matter for hearing at a later date.
later hearing, the trial court stated:
This is the motion to suppress that was from UTPA where the
officer was parked in front of-one of the administrative
buildings and he noticed that Mr. Haworth was hanging a
u-turn there in front of the Dairy Queen.
I had a chance, not only to review the video, but I had a
chance to go out there and inspect the location myself. I do
that. And it seemed- I'm not going to use the word that I
want to use, but it seemed pretty "impossible" to
be able to see from where he was parked. And I know where he
was parked because there's only one way to come out from
the driving area to where he was witnessing that u-turn. And
it must be no less than from here to Ramon Garcia's
office, through trees.
So after reviewing that, and after taking into consideration
the testimony and the video of the officer your motion to
suppress at this [time] is granted.
trial court signed an order granting Haworth's motion to
suppress the following day. The State requested findings of
fact and conclusions of law. However, none were
filed. This appeal followed.