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Meane v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 29, 2017

LASHAWN EDWARD MEANE, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 183rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1464891

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Keyes and Massengale.

          OPINION

          Sherry Radack Chief Justice

         After Lawshawn Edward Meane's pretrial motion to suppress evidence was denied, he pleaded guilty to possession of between one and four grams of a controlled substance, and the trial court, pursuant to a plea agreement with the State, assessed his punishment at five years' confinement. In his sole issue on appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because the warrantless search of his person was not justified by an exception to the warrant requirement. We reverse and remand.

         BACKGROUND

         Officers Baker and Medina of the Houston Police Department saw a gold Chevrolet Tahoe run a red light at an intersection, so they conducted a traffic stop. Officer Flora arrived as the stop was occurring and assisted.

         Because of the dark windows on the Tahoe, Baker asked the occupants of the car to roll down the windows. As the officers approached the car, they smelled the odor of marihuana emanating from it.

         The officers immediately removed the occupants of the vehicle-appellant was seated in the front, right passenger seat-handcuffed them, and seated them on the curb. Two officers then searched the car, while the third officer watched over the handcuffed occupants.

         The officers recovered no marihuana or any other contraband from the car. The officers then turned to the handcuffed occupants of the car and searched them. Officer Flora found a small bag of marihuana and some pills in appellant's front, left pocket. The pills field-tested positive for heroin, and appellant was then arrested for possession of a controlled substance.

         DENIAL OF MOTION TO SUPPRESS

         In his sole issue on appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence removed from his pocket because the State failed to prove that the warrantless search "was justified by an exception to the warrant requirement." The State responds that (1) appellant waived his right to complain about the lack of an exception to the warrant requirement, and, even if preserved, (2) there was probable cause and exigent circumstances to support the warrantless search.

         Standard of Review and Applicable Principles of Law

         Appellate courts review the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review; we afford almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts, but we review de novo the trial court's application of search and seizure law to those facts. Valtierra v. State, 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010).

         The trial court is the sole trier of fact and judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. Id. If, as here, the trial court makes express findings of fact, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the ruling and determine whether the evidence support the fact findings. Id. We sustain the trial court's ruling if it ...


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