Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 186th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2014CR9248 Honorable Jefferson Moore, Judge
Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Marialyn Barnard, Justice
Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
December 9, 2015, a Bexar County jury returned a guilty
verdict against Appellant Pablo Alfaro-Jimenez on one
misdemeanor count of tampering with a government document, a
Social Security card. The trial court subsequently sentenced
Alfaro-Jimenez to one-year confinement in the Bexar County
Jail, suspended and probated for a period of two years, and a
$1, 500.00 fine. On appeal, Alfaro-Jimenez contends: (1) the
evidence is insufficient to support the jury's verdict;
(2) the trial court erred denying Alfaro-Jimenez's motion
to suppress; and (3) Texas Penal Code section 37.10, the
statute under which Alfaro-Jimenez was convicted, is
unconstitutionally vague. See Tex. Penal Code Ann.
§ 37.10 (West 2016).
and Procedural Background
10, 2014, San Antonio Police Officer Edward Rodriguez was
dispatched for a domestic disturbance. The complainant told
the officers that her ex-boyfriend, identified as Juan
Alberto Torres Landa, was beating on the door, kicking the
door, and threatening her. By the time officers arrived, the
ex-boyfriend was gone.
conducting an investigation, and ensuring the
complainant's safety, Officer Rodriguez was leaving the
premises when the ex-boyfriend approached Officer Rodriguez
and requested permission to tell his version of the incident.
In light of the violent allegations, the individual was
handcuffed for officer safety. While attempting to identify
the ex-boyfriend, Officer Rodriguez became suspicious that
the ex-boyfriend's identification, specifically the
Social Security card, was fraudulent.
Rodriguez contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
and determined the name and information provided did not
belong to the ex-boyfriend. The individual subsequently
identified himself as Pablo Alfaro-Jimenez and Officer
Rodriguez confirmed the identification through a fingerprint
comparison. Appellant Alfaro-Jimenez was arrested for
tampering with a government document.
returned a guilty verdict against Alfaro-Jimenez and the
trial court subsequently assessed punishment at one-year
confinement in the Bexar County Jail, suspended and probated
for a period of two years, and a $1, 500.00 fine. This appeal
to opening statement, and outside the presence of the jury,
the trial court heard testimony and arguments pertaining to
Alfaro-Jimenez's motion to suppress. Asserting the
officers possessed insufficient grounds to arrest
Alfaro-Jimenez, and that the search extended beyond
reasonable grounds, defense counsel sought to suppress both
the evidence and Alfaro-Jimenez's statements.
Standard of Review
appellate court reviews a trial court's ruling on a
motion to suppress using a bifurcated standard of review; we
"'afford almost total deference to a trial
court's determination of the historical facts that the
record supports.'" Montanez v. State, 195
S.W.3d 101, 106 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006) (quoting Guzman v.
State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 89 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997));
accord Turrubiate v. State, 399 S.W.3d 147,
150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). A reviewing court must
give almost total deference to the trial court's rulings
on (1) questions of historical fact, even if the trial
court's determination of those facts was not based on an
evaluation of credibility and demeanor, and (2)
application-of-law-to-fact questions that turn on an
evaluation of credibility and demeanor. But when
application-of-law-to-fact questions do not turn on the
credibility and demeanor of the witnesses, we review the
trial court's rulings on those questions de novo.
Wilson v. State, 442 S.W.3d 779, 783 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth 2014, pet. ref'd) (citations omitted); see also
Valtierra v. State, 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App.
2010); Swearingen v. State, 143 S.W.3d 808, 811
(Tex. Crim. App. 2004).
Arguments of the Parties
contends Officer Rodriguez exceeded his authority by
prolonging the detention beyond the scope of his
investigation and that he conducted an illegal search when he
retrieved Alfaro-Jimenez's wallet without his consent.
State counters that, based on a totality of the
circumstances, Officer Rodriguez's actions constituted a
reasonable investigative detention and, that during such
detention, Alfaro-Jimenez provided Officer Rodriguez consent
to procure Alfaro-Jimenez's identification from the
wallet located in his back pocket.
C. Interactions between Police Officers and
Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable
searches and seizures." State v. Weaver, 349
S.W.3d 521, 525 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011) (citing U.S. Const.
amend. IV). Importantly, however, the Fourth Amendment is not
invoked simply because an officer and a person converse.
See Weaver, 349 S.W.3d at 525. Our analysis,
therefore, begins with a determination of whether
Alfaro-Jimenez met his initial burden to produce some
evidence that the police conducted a search or seizure
without a warrant. See Ford v. State, 158 S.W.3d
488, 492 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005). Only after some evidence has
been presented does the burden shift to the State to
establish that the warrantless search was reasonable.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals addressed the interactions
between officers and private citizens in State v.
Garcia-Cantu; the court stated that "[e]ach
citizen-police encounter must be factually evaluated on its
own terms; there are no per se rules." State v.
Garcia-Cantu, 253 S.W.3d 236, 243 (Tex. Crim. App.
2008). "[T]here are three distinct types of interactions
between police and citizens: (1) consensual encounters, which
require no objective justification; (2) investigative
detentions, which require reasonable suspicion; and (3)
arrests, which require probable cause." State v.
Castleberry, 332 S.W.3d 460, 466 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011)
(footnotes omitted); accord Crain v. State, 315
S.W.3d 43, 49 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). "In assessing
whether a seizure is an investigative detention or an arrest,
we take an objective view of the officer's
actions-'judged from the perspective of a reasonable
officer at the scene, rather than with the advantage of
hindsight.'" State v. Adams, 454 S.W.3d 38,
44 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2014, no pet.) (quoting Rhodes
v. State, 945 S.W.2d 115, 118 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997)).
Handcuffing alone does not necessarily transform an
investigative detention into an arrest. See State v.
Sheppard, 271 S.W.3d 281, 283 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008)
("[A] person who has been handcuffed has been
'seized' and detained under the Fourth Amendment, but
he has not necessarily been 'arrested.'");
see also Rhodes, 945 S.W.2d at 118 (concluding there
is no bright-line test providing that mere handcuffing is
always equivalent of arrest). "[A]llowances must be made
for the fact that officers must often make quick decisions
under tense, uncertain and rapidly changing
circumstances." Rhodes, 945 S.W.2d at 118;
accord Hauer v. State, 466 S.W.3d 886, 891 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2015, no pet.).
establish reasonable suspicion, "an officer must be able
to articulate something more than an 'inchoate and
unparticularized suspicion or hunch.'" Foster v.
State, 326 S.W.3d 609, 613 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010)
(quoting United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 21
(1989)). The determination must be based on common-sense
judgments and rational inferences about human behavior.
Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 125 (2000);
see also Young v. State, 133 S.W.3d 839, 841 (Tex.
App.-El Paso 2004, no pet.). Police officers may rely on
their own experience and training when making this
determination. Young, 133 S.W.3d at 841. "The
issue is 'whether the police diligently pursued a means
of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their
suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to
detain the defendant.'" Kothe v. State, 152
S.W.3d 54, 64-65 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004) (quoting United
States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 685-86 (1985)).
search conducted with a person's voluntary consent does
not require a warrant. See Meekins v. State, 340
S.W.3d 454, 458 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011); Hutchins v.
State, 475 S.W.3d 496, 498 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2015, pet. ref'd). The State bears the burden to
prove the voluntariness of consent to search by clear and
convincing evidence. See Meekins, 340 S.W.3d at 459;
Montanez, 195 S.W.3d at 108. "A person's
consent to search can be communicated to law enforcement in a
variety of ways, including by words, ...