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In re S.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 31, 2017


         From the 289th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015JUV00891 Honorable Daphne Previti Austin, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Irene Rios, Justice


          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         The trial court adjudicated S.C., [1] a juvenile, delinquent for burglary of a habitation and placed him on probation for twelve months. On appeal, SC argues the trial court erred by not suppressing evidence of oral statements he made while he was in custody and evidence obtained from an illegal search of his home. Although we conclude S.C. was not in custody, we hold the search of his home was unreasonable. We therefore reverse the trial court's judgment and remand this case for further proceedings.


         On a Friday evening in 2015, San Antonio Police Department Officer Charles Kholleppel received a report of a burglary on the west wide of San Antonio. He spoke with a person who witnessed the burglary, and this witness personally knew the individuals who broke into the house. The witness identified them as S.C. and his brother, V.C., and told Officer Kholleppel where they lived. The stolen property included a video game console, $10, 000 in cash, and other "small items."

         Officer Kholleppel went to S.C.'s home and spoke with a woman who said she was S.C.'s mother.[2] She told Officer Kholleppel that S.C. was playing basketball down the street. Officer Kholleppel found S.C. and asked him several questions. S.C. told Officer Kholleppel he was fifteen years old and in the eighth grade. Officer Kholleppel and S.C. went back to the house, and Officer Kholleppel asked him about the burglary in the presence of his mother. During Officer Kholleppel's discussion with S.C. and his mother, two other SAPD officers arrived.

         Officer Kholleppel observed S.C. "jumping around, " "moving his hands around, " and being "fidgety, " and he therefore placed S.C. in handcuffs. He told S.C. he was "all over the place" and he was only being detained and not under arrest. Officer Hector Perez, one of the other officers who arrived, also told S.C. he was only being detained. Officer Kholleppel placed a handcuffed S.C. in the back of Officer Perez's patrol car and asked S.C.'s mother for consent to enter the house. S.C's mother expressly refused numerous times to allow the officers to go inside the house without a warrant. During their conversation with S.C. and his mother, the officers repeatedly stated the burglary victim would not press charges if all of the property were returned.

         Approximately eight minutes after being placed in the patrol car, and after S.C.'s mother refused multiple times to allow the officers in the house, Officer Perez approached his patrol car and asked S.C. whether S.C. "wanted to talk" to him and S.C. stated he did. Officer Perez told S.C. that if he did not return the stolen property and the property was found inside the house, his grandmother, who owned the house, could be arrested. S.C. then told Officer Kholleppel the stolen property was inside the house. According to Officer Kholleppel, SC agreed to show him where the stolen property was.

         Officer Perez removed S.C. from the patrol car and then removed the handcuffs. Officer Kholleppel followed S.C. into the house, and told his mother that S.C. was going to show him where the stolen property was to "save y'all a headache." S.C.'s mother did not further object at that time. Officer Kholleppel followed S.C. into his bedroom, where S.C. retrieved an Xbox, a video game, and DVDs, but not the $10, 000 in cash. S.C. remained at the house and was not further detained or arrested that evening. An SAPD detective later arrived at the house and took photos of and fingerprints from the items. Several other SAPD officers searched for V.C., who had allegedly absconded with the $10, 000 in cash.

         The State filed a petition alleging S.C. was a juvenile who had engaged in the delinquent conduct of burglary of a habitation. S.C. filed a motion to suppress, alleging the State obtained evidence in violation of state and federal law. S.C. argued he made oral statements during a custodial interrogation without having been taken before a magistrate and advised of his rights, and SAPD officers obtained evidence from an unreasonable warrantless search. At the suppression hearing, the trial court denied S.C.'s motion. S.C. then pled true to the delinquency allegation, and the trial court signed orders of adjudication and disposition. S.C. timely filed this appeal.

         Standard of Review

         When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a juvenile's motion to suppress, we employ the standard of review used in criminal cases. In re S.J., 977 S.W.2d 147, 151 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1998, no pet.). Under this standard, "we accord a trial court's resolution of questions of historical fact substantial deference if they are supported by the record." Id. "[W]e review the trial court's rulings on questions of law and its application of the law to the facts de novo, unless the ultimate resolution of the question turns on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         S.C.'s ...

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