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State v. Gomez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

July 14, 2017

STATE OF TEXAS, Appellant,
v.
JOHN STEVEN GOMEZ, Appellee.

         On appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 of Victoria County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Longoria and Hinojosa.

          ORDER OF ABATEMENT

          PER CURIAM

         This case is presently before the Court on the State's motion to abate for supplemental findings of fact. For the reasons set forth below, we GRANT the motion and ABATE the case.

         A. Applicable Law

         Upon the timely request of the losing party in a motion to suppress, the trial court is required to "state its essential findings." State v. Elias, 339 S.W.3d 667, 674 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). "Essential findings" mean "findings of fact and conclusions of law adequate to provide an appellate court with a basis upon which to review the trial court's application of the law to the facts." Id. (citing State v. Cullen, 195 S.W.3d 696, 699 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006)). As relevant here, we must abate for supplemental findings when the findings that are made by the trial court "are so incomplete that an appellate court is unable to make a legal determination." State v. Saenz, 411 S.W.3d 488, 495 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013).

         B. Discussion

         This case arises from an encounter between appellee John Steven Gomez and Officer Justin Horne of the Victoria Police Department. The encounter began when Officer Horne noticed Gomez's vehicle in a parking lot early on New Year's Day and ended in Gomez's arrest for driving while intoxicated. The trial court granted Gomez's motion to suppress, and the State made a timely request for findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court issued extensive findings and conclusions, but the State argues that they are incomplete and fail to address several potentially case-dispositive factual matters relevant to whether Officer Horne's initial contact with Gomez constituted a seizure for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The State now seeks a remand for the trial court to answer the following questions:

1. Does the trial court believe or not believe the testimony of Officer Horne that when he pulled up to the Appellee's vehicle the officer did not turn on his overhead lights?
2. Does the trial court believe or not believe the parking lot where Officer Horne made contact with the Appellee was a public place?
3. Does the trial court believe Officer Horne told the Appellee or the Appellee's passenger that they were not free to leave prior to Officer Horne smelling alcohol on the Appellee? If so, what is the trial court's basis for believing that?
4. Does the trial court believe Officer Horne issued any orders to the Appellee or the Appellee's passenger prior to smelling alcohol on the Appellee? If so, what is the trial court's basis for believing that? Also, what orders does the trial court believe Officer Horne issued to the Appellee and/or to his passengers?
5. Does the trial court believe Officer Horne drew his weapon on the Appellee or the appellee's passenger at any time during the encounter between the officer and the Appellee? If so, what is the trial court's basis for believing that?
6. Does the trial court believe Officer Horne ordered the Appellee and/or the Appellee's passenger to exit their vehicle at any time prior to Officer Horne smelling alcohol on the Appellee? If so, what is ...

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