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Marcopoulos v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

April 3, 2018

ANDREAS MARCOPOULOS, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 248th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1440970

          Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Keyes, and Higley.

          OPINION

          Laura Carter Higley Justice

         Appellant, Andreas Marcopoulos, was charged by indictment with possession of less than one gram of cocaine.[1] Following a motion to suppress, Appellant pleaded guilty, and the trial court placed Appellant on deferred adjudication with community supervision for three years. On appeal, Appellant argued the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to suppress the admission of drugs found in a warrantless search of his truck. The State argued Appellant lacked standing to challenge the search. In an earlier opinion, we held that Appellant had standing to challenge the warrantless search of his vehicle.[2] We upheld the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress, applying the automobile exception to the requirement of obtaining a search warrant in one opinion.[3] The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed our judgment, holding that the search was not permissible under the automobile exception to a search warrant.[4] The court remanded the case back to this Court to review Appellant's remaining grounds for challenging the validity of the search of his truck.

         We reverse and remand.

         Background

         On September 10, 2014, Officer J. Oliver was performing surveillance on a bar in Houston, Texas known for narcotics sales. Officer Oliver observed Appellant drive up to the bar in a truck, enter the bar, and leave within three to five minutes. After Appellant left the bar, Officer Oliver followed him. He saw Appellant change lanes without signaling and asked for a uniformed officer to perform a traffic stop.

         Officer T. Villa was working that evening with Officer Rogers. They received Officer Oliver's request to stop Appellant. Officer Villa drove up behind Appellant while he was stopped in a left turn lane. Appellant did not signal his turn until after he began to turn. Officer Villa activated his emergency lights. Appellant immediately pulled into a gas station and parked.

         Officer Villa removed Appellant from the truck and "pretty much immediately" placed him under arrest. As Officer Villa took Appellant to the patrol car, Officer Rogers began to search Appellant's car. Officer Villa described this as an inventory of the car because the car was going to be impounded. He testified that the inventory was necessary because departmental procedure requires that all vehicles be impounded when the driver is arrested.

         Officer Villa searched Appellant, placed Appellant's belongings on the hood of the patrol car, and placed Appellant in the patrol car. He testified that he then helped Officer Rogers search Appellant's truck. Officer Rogers found two baggies containing cocaine in the truck. Officer Villa then returned to the patrol car, looked through Appellant's wallet, and found another baggie of cocaine.

         Before trial, Appellant filed a motion to suppress. Officers Oliver and Villa testified at the hearing on the motion. Officer Rogers was not present. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. The same day, Appellant pleaded guilty to the offense, subject to his right to appeal the denial of the motion.

         Motion to Suppress

         In four issues, Appellant argues the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from searching the truck.

         A. Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review. Turrubiate v. State, 399 S.W.3d 147, 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). We review the trial court's factual findings for abuse of discretion and review the trial court's application of the law to the facts de novo. Id. Almost total deference should be given to a trial court's determination of historical facts, especially those based on an evaluation of witness credibility or demeanor. Gonzales v. State, 369 S.W.3d 851, 854 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012). At a suppression hearing, the trial court is the sole and exclusive trier of fact and judge of the witnesses' credibility and may choose to believe or disbelieve all or any part of the witnesses' testimony. Maxwell v. State, 73 S.W.3d 278, 281 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002); State v. Ross, 32 S.W.3d 853, 855 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).

         When, as here, a trial judge does not make explicit findings of fact, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Walter v. State, 28 S.W.3d 538, 540 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000). We will defer to the trial court's fact findings and not disturb the findings on appeal unless the trial court abused its discretion in making a finding not supported by the record. See Cantu v. State, 817 S.W.2d 74, 77 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991).

         B. Error

         Appellant's four issues challenge (1) whether the search of his truck fit within the inventory-search exception to obtaining a search warrant, (2) whether the search could properly be characterized as an inventory-search, (3) whether the Houston Police Department's inventory search requirements ...


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