Appeal from the County Criminal Court at Law No. 2 Harris
County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2110183
consists of Wise, Jewell, and Poissant
MARGARET "MEG" POISSANT JUSTICE
Diva Maria Babel pleaded "guilty" and was convicted
of driving while intoxicated. Before her plea, appellant moved
to suppress evidence on grounds that the trooper conducting
the traffic stop had no reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity. The trial court denied the requested relief, and
appellant now challenges that pretrial ruling. We affirm.
September 5, 2016, just before 8:00 p.m., Texas D.P.S.
Trooper A. Huayamave was on routine patrol on highway FM 529
in Harris County, Texas. The sky was clear, and traffic was
heavy. Huayamave testified that he believed visibility was
not less than 1, 000 feet. As shown by State's Exhibit 1,
the video from Huayamave's on-board dash camera,
almost all the other cars on the roadway had their head lamps
illuminated. The street lamps along the roadway were
illuminated. Businesses located on the roadway were
illuminated by private light poles. Although it was clear,
the sky was not brightly lit. The dash camera continuously
adjusted to the lighting conditions to accommodate for the
decreasing amount of light in the sky.
camera began recording around 7:56 p.m., as Huayamave turned
onto the roadway; appellant's car was visible in the
distance and her headlights were off. Huayamave passed
appellant on the roadway while traveling in the same
direction as appellant. The headlights and taillights of
appellant's car were not illuminated. After passing
appellant's vehicle, Huayamave drove ahead, then stopped
in the middle of the road in a turn lane. As pointed out on
direct examination, only one other car did not have its
headlamps illuminated, and passed Huayamave, while he was in
the middle lane. Huayamave testified that he may have missed
another car traveling past him without lights on because at
this point, he was focused on appellant's vehicle. While
stopped in the middle lane, Huayamave watched appellant's
car to see if she was going to activate her lights. Appellant
passed Huayamave's patrol vehicle and did not have her
p.m., Huayamave pulled behind Appellant's car and
activated his emergency lights. Appellant immediately began
to pull over. Once appellant came to a stop in an adjacent
parking lot, Huayamave began his investigation. At 7:58 p.m.,
Huayamave informed appellant that her front headlamps were
not illuminated. Appellant responded in confusion about
whether her headlamps were actually activated or not.
Appellant never indicated a belief that she was not required
to have her headlamps illuminated. Appellant asked Huayamave
"so they're, like, completely off?" Huayamave
indicated the possibility that the headlamps were
"burnt." Huayamave's investigation quickly
dispelled this possibility, though, when he reached into
appellant's vehicle and manually activated the
headlights. At 7:58, Huayamave asked appellant whether
she's "doing okay." At 7:59, Huayamave relayed
to appellant that he observed her "driving kind of
slowly, too." The sky had noticeably darkened since the
beginning of the video. Thereafter, the video shows Huayamave
administering a series of field sobriety tests and placing
appellant under arrest.
September 05, 2016, appellant was charged by information with
the misdemeanor offense of Class B driving while intoxicated.
On June 20, 2017, the State amended the information to
reflect a blood alcohol concentration level of at least .15,
increasing the offense level to a Class A misdemeanor.
Id. On June 23, 2017, the trial court held a hearing
on the appellant's motions to suppress. The trial court
denied appellant's motions to suppress at the end of that
hearing, and appellant pled guilty to the offense of Driving
While Intoxicated. Appellant was sentenced to three days in
Harris County Jail.
contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying
appellant's motion to suppress and motion to find
Sections 541.401(5) and 547.302(a)(1) of the Transportation
Motion to suppress
first issue, appellant contends that the trial court abused
its discretion in denying her motion to suppress, on the
grounds that Huayamave made a traffic stop for an offense
that was not being committed, namely an alleged traffic law
violation of driving without headlights at nighttime
(i.e., 30 minutes after sunset) or when visibility
is less than 1, 000 feet. According to appellant, sunset
occurred at 7:37 pm, thus, the earliest time that Huayamave
could have pulled appellant over under Section 547.302 of the
Texas Transportation Code is 8:07 p.m. Appellant contends
that the "arrest was made 7 minutes before the law
mandated that appellant turn on her headlights. The stop
certainly occurred earlier."
State concedes the entire thirty-minute time period had not
actually expired at the time Huayamave initiated the stop;
however, the State argues that Huayamave had a reasonable,
albeit mistaken, suspicion that appellant was committing the
crime of failing to display her lights.
Standard of review
reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress,
we apply an abuse of discretion standard: we overturn the
trial court's ruling only if it is outside the zone of
reasonable disagreement. Martinez v. State, 348
S.W.3d 919, 922 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). We use a bifurcated
standard of review. Ramirez- Tamayo v.
State, 537 S.W.3d 29, 35 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). When
the record supports the trial court's determination of
historical facts, as well as mixed questions of law and fact
that rely on credibility, we grant the trial court's
determinations almost total deference. State v.
Kerwick, 393 S.W.3d 270, 273 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). We
review de novo the trial court's application of
the law to the facts. Ramirez-Tamayo, 537 S.W.3d at
35. When, as in this case, the trial judge does not make
formal findings of fact, we uphold the trial court's
ruling on any theory of law applicable to the case and
presume the court made implicit findings in support of its
ruling, if the record supports those findings. Tutson v.
State, 530 S.W.3d 322, 326 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2017, no pet.).
the Fourth Amendment, an officer must have reasonable
suspicion to justify a warrantless detention that amounts to
less than a full custodial arrest. Kerwick, 393
S.W.3d at 273. An officer may make a traffic stop if the
reasonable-suspicion standard is satisfied. State v.
Cortez, 543 S.W.3d 198, 204 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018). An
officer has reasonable suspicion if the officer has specific,
articulable facts that, combined with rational inferences
from those facts, would lead the officer reasonably to
conclude that the person detained is, has been, or soon will
be engaged in criminal activity. Id. We review
reasonable suspicion by considering the totality of the
circumstances. Id. This examination is an objective
standard that disregards the subjective intent of the officer
and requires only some minimal level of justification for the
stop. Brodnex v. State, 485 S.W.3d 432, 437 (Tex.
Crim. App. 2016). An officer's reasonable mistake does
not render a traffic stop illegal. Heien v. ...