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Wygal v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

July 11, 2017

LAVOSHAE WYGAL, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the County Criminal Court at Law No. 10 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1980566

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Higley, and Lloyd.

          OPINION

          Evelyn V. Keyes Justice

         A jury convicted appellant, Lavoshae Wygal, of the Class B misdemeanor offense of failure to identify, [1] and the trial court assessed her punishment at six days' confinement in the Harris County Jail. In one issue, appellant contends that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that she gave a false name and birthdate to police officers and that the officers lawfully detained her.

         We affirm.

         Background

         On August 28, 2014, Houston Police Department ("HPD") Officer D. Morse attempted to execute an arrest warrant at a house in southeast Houston. When Officer Morse stopped at the house, a vehicle driven by the subject of the arrest warrant, a man named Darryl Ross, quickly reversed backwards into the driveway, and Ross jumped out of the car and "took off running" behind the house. Officer Morse attempted to follow Ross, but there were three pit bulls chained up in the backyard, and they prevented him from going further into the yard. Officer Morse did not see where Ross went.

         At this point, appellant, who lived in the house, walked out of the back door and asked what was happening. Officer Morse explained that a felony suspect "had just bailed out of a car and ran to [appellant's] backyard, " and that was why he had come into her driveway. Officer Morse mentioned Ross's name, and appellant stated that she did not know the name and that he had not run into her house. When Officer Morse asked appellant if she knew who owned the car Ross had been driving, she said that it was her car. She gave no explanation for why a man she did not know was driving her car.

         Because Officer Morse did not know where Ross had gone, he detained appellant and placed her, without handcuffs, in the backseat of his patrol car. Officer Morse testified that he did this for her safety because he did not want to put her in a dangerous situation, and he also did this for his safety because he did not know appellant and he did not know if appellant was related to Ross. Officer Morse waited about an hour and a half for backup officers to arrive to create a perimeter and bring a canine unit, and while he was waiting he occasionally spoke with appellant. He repeatedly explained that he was looking for a suspect, and appellant repeatedly stated that she did not know the suspect. Officer Morse testified that he asked appellant for her name, and she responded by saying, "Shay Marie." Officer Morse also asked her for her birthdate, and she told him that her birthdate was February 18, 1994. Officer Morse later learned that this information was incorrect and that appellant's correct date of birth was November 20, 1992.[2] Officer Morse asked appellant for identification, such as her driver's license, but she did not provide him with any.

         Officer M. Glover testified that, around 10:30 a.m. on August 28, 2014, he had been assigned to execute an arrest warrant for Ross at a particular address. When the State asked Officer Glover who lived at this address, Glover responded:

To my knowledge that at the time we knew that the suspect [Ross] lived there, we believe with a girlfriend, but we weren't exactly sure who the homeowner was at the time. We just knew that the suspect lived there, and we had information about a blue car that he was known to drive and that car ended up being in the drive.

         After Officer Morse radioed that Ross had abandoned the car he had been driving, Officer Glover, who was driving down a nearby street, saw Ross run in his direction and then back towards the house once he saw Glover's patrol car. Officer Glover believed that Ross might have gone into the house, so he requested backup to set up a perimeter around the house.

         A canine unit tracked Ross's scent back to the house, [3] and that was where Officer Glover met appellant, who was then detained in a patrol car. At that point, Officer Glover did not know who appellant was or who she was relative to Ross. Officer Glover searched the house to look for Ross, and he found appellant's school identification card, which listed her name as "Lavoshae Wygal." Appellant never told Officer Glover her date of birth. Officer Glover testified that he did not speak much with appellant at the scene, but, based on conversations that occurred at the scene, the officers believed that Ross was appellant's boyfriend.

         Officer O. Pardo also arrived at the scene after he heard on the radio that a foot chase was occurring. Appellant was placed in the backseat of Officer Pardo's patrol car, and Officer Pardo asked her for her name and date of birth. She responded that her name was "Shay Marie" and that her birthdate was February 18, 1994. Officer Pardo performed a computer search using this information, which yielded no results. Officer Pardo asked appellant again for her information, but appellant was upset and did not cooperate. He later received appellant's school identification card from another officer, and, when he used that information, his computer pulled up appellant's driver's license, which showed her correct identifying information.

         Appellant testified on her own behalf. She stated that she was a full-time university student, and on August 28, 2014, she was awakened "very early" by patrol lights shining through her bedroom window. She heard her dogs barking in the backyard, and she peeked out the back door to see what was going on. Officer Morse grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the house. Appellant asked him what was going on, but he did not say anything to her and just put her in the back of his patrol car. She testified that she sat in the back of Officer Morse's patrol car for at least two hours and he never told her why she was being detained.

         Appellant stated that around fifteen police officers arrived on the scene, and Officer Glover took her out of Officer Morse's patrol car and placed her in handcuffs without any explanation. Appellant then waited in the back of the patrol car, handcuffed, for another two hours without anyone explaining why she was being detained. She testified that no one spoke to her about a felony arrest warrant or a man named Darryl Ross, and she stated that she did not know a Darryl Ross, that he was not her boyfriend, and that he did not live at her address. Appellant testified that the officers brought ...


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