Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ruiz v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

July 3, 2019

LAURO EDUARDO RUIZ, Appellee
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS

          ON APPELLEE'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM THE FOURTH COURT OF APPEALS BEXAR COUNTY

          OPINION

          Keel, J.

         This case is about the application of our statutory exclusionary rule to private individuals.

         Appellee was charged with attempted production of sexual performance by a child for pictures found on his cell phone. Tex. Penal Code §§ 15.01, 43.25. The trial court granted his motion to suppress the pictures. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's order. State v. Ruiz, 535 S.W.3d 590 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2017). We granted Appellee's petition for discretionary review to consider whether the court of appeals misapplied the standard of review and failed to indulge every presumption in favor of the trial court's ruling. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

         Facts

         Appellee was a substitute teacher at a private high school. Students reported that he was using his cell phone to take pictures up the skirts of female students. The dean and vice principal summoned Appellee to the office and questioned him about the allegations. He became nervous and began fidgeting with his phone. Concerned that he might delete incriminating information from his phone, the dean asked Appellee to place the phone on the desk, and he did.

         When Principal Gilbert Saenz joined the meeting, Appellee admitted that he "had a problem." Saenz scrolled through the photos on Appellee's phone and saw images of the legs of girls who were dressed in the school uniform. Saenz allowed Appellee to retrieve some information from his phone and then placed the phone in an envelope and turned it over to the police. Police obtained a series of search warrants for the phone and found incriminating images taken from underneath students' skirts.

         Appellee moved to suppress the evidence from his phone because Saenz did not have either his consent or a warrant to search the phone. Appellee argued that Saenz's warrantless search of the phone violated the Fourth Amendment and that the evidence should be suppressed under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.23. The trial court agreed and suppressed the evidence as fruit of the poisonous tree because the affidavits supporting the warrants included information that Saenz obtained when he searched the phone without a warrant and without any exception to the warrant requirement. The State appealed.

         Court of Appeals

         The court of appeals held that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the actions of private individuals who are not acting as government agents. Ruiz, 535 S.W.3d at 594. It considered whether Appellee met his burden to prove that Saenz otherwise violated the law in obtaining the evidence. Id. The court noted that Appellee's motion to suppress did not allege that Saenz violated the law, the trial court did not make a finding related to the violation of any laws, and "the record does not support that Saenz violated any state or federal law that would require suppression in this case." Id. at 597. Concluding that Appellee did not meet his burden of proving that Saenz violated the law in searching and seizing the phone, the court of appeals reversed the trial court's order. Id. at 598.

         Standard of Review

         We review a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review. Valtierra v. State, 310 S.W.3d 442, 447 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). We give almost total deference to the trial court's findings of fact and review de novo the application of the law to the facts. Id. We view the record in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and uphold the ruling if it is supported by the record and is correct under any theory of the law applicable to the case. Id. at 447-48.

         Analysis

         Appellee argues that the evidence in this case must be suppressed because a police officer in Saenz's shoes could not have legally searched Appellee's phone. He relies on Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.23 and Miles v. State, 241 S.W.3d 28 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). He claims that the effect of Miles is to apply "the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement - and the exceptions to that requirement - to the conduct of private persons." (quoting Pitonyak v. State, 253 S.W.3d 834, 850 (Tex. App.- Austin 2008, pet. ref'd)). We reject his argument because (1) the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the actions of private individuals, (2) reading Article 38.23 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.