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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

June 5, 2019

PHILLIP THADDEAUS TAYLOR, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

          Date Submitted: May 14, 2019

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law Harrison County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-0443

          Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Scott E. Stevens, Justice

         Phillip Thaddeaus Taylor moved to suppress the results of his blood test because his consent was not voluntary.[1] After his motion was denied, Taylor entered a plea of guilty to driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.15.[2] Under a plea bargain, Taylor was assessed 365 days' confinement in the county jail, which was suspended. He was placed on fifteen months' community supervision and fined $500.00.

         On appeal, Taylor asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion. Because we find that Taylor's consent was voluntary, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress for abuse of discretion. Crain v. State, 315 S.W.3d 43, 48 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). We give almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts that turn on credibility and demeanor. Brodnex v. State, 485 S.W.3d 432, 436 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016); Cochran v. State, 563 S.W.3d 374, 378 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2018, no pet.). We review mixed questions of law and fact that do not turn on credibility or demeanor de novo. Brodnex, 485 S.W.3d at 436; Cochran, 563 S.W.3d at 378. When the trial court makes explicit findings of fact, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to its ruling, and we determine whether the findings are supported by the evidence. Valtierra v. State, 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). We affirm the trial court's "decision if it is correct on any theory of law that finds support in the record." Cochran, 563 S.W.3d at 378 (citing Osbourn v. State, 92 S.W.3d 531, 538 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002)).

         Drawing blood pursuant to an investigation is a search and seizure, subject to the constraints of the Fourth Amendment. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 767 (1966). Subject to a few well-delineated exceptions, under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, a search conducted without a warrant issued with probable cause is considered per se unreasonable. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219 (1973). That said, voluntary consent to search is one of the well-established exceptions to the constitutional requirements of both a warrant and probable cause. Id.; Carmouche v. State, 10 S.W.3d 323, 331 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000). Consent to search must be voluntary based on a consideration of the totality of the circumstances. Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 40 (1996). "Under Texas law, the State must prove voluntary consent by clear and convincing evidence." State v. Weaver, 349 S.W.3d 521, 526 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). Consent "may be given orally or by action, or shown by circumstantial evidence." Valtierra, 310 S.W.3d at 448 (citations omitted). A voluntary decision must be "the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or deception." Joseph v. State, 309 S.W.3d 20, 25 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (quoting Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421 (1986)). "The validity of an alleged consent to search is a question of fact to be determined from the totality of the circumstances." Valtierra, 310 S.W.3d at 448 (citing Robinette, 519 U.S. at 40).

         II. The Trial Court's Findings of Fact

         At Taylor's request, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law on his motion to suppress.[3] The trial court found:

1. "Taylor was involved in an automobile wreck in Harrison County, Texas[, ] the 14th day of June 2015 . . . [and] struck a vacant automobile that was parked along the shoulder of Interstate 20 in the East bound lane near mile marker 616";
2. "Trooper Kirby Jarrell arrived on the scene to investigate the crash . . . [and] found [Taylor] alone outside of his vehicle";
3. "[Taylor] admitted to being the operator of his vehicle . . . [and] that he had consumed three to four beers";
4. "Jarrell did not place [Taylor] in restraints at any time during the course of investigation";
5. "[Taylor] did not appear in medical distress at any time";
6. "Emergency medical services personnel arrived at the scene after a time, and met with [Taylor] . . . [and Taylor] elected to be transported to a hospital in ...

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