Appeal from the County Criminal Court at Law No. 8 Harris
County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2019635
consists of Justices Keyes, Higley, and Landau.
BETH LANDAU, JUSTICE
Ramjattansingh appeals his conviction for Class A misdemeanor
driving while intoxicated. See Tex. Penal Code
§ 49.04. This Court first rendered a judgment of
acquittal on the charge and remanded for a new trial on the
lesser- included Class B misdemeanor offense. The State
appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals
reversed. The case is now on remand for
consideration of Ramjattansingh's issues not reached in
the Court's first opinion, whether the trial court erred
by (1) denying his requests for jury instructions on unlawful
arrests and custodial interrogation; (2) refusing to allow
his counsel to present jury argument on the unlawfulness of
the arrest; and (3) admitting an audio recording of the call
for emergency assistance from a tow truck driver who observed
Ramjattansingh driving erratically the night of his arrest.
spring 2015, at 9:32 p.m., tow truck driver Joshua Wilson
dialed 911 to report that he was following a "drunk
driver" who was "all over the road" and had
almost caused multiple accidents. Wilson described the
vehicle to the 911 operator and provided the license plate
number. Not long after Wilson made the call, he and the
driver he was following, Jason Ramjattansingh, pulled off the
road into a public parking lot. Wilson relayed their location
over the phone and agreed to stay in the parking lot with his
tow truck's lights flashing until the police arrived.
S. Delacruz of the Houston Police Department responded. Both
Wilson and Ramjattansingh were standing outside
Ramjattansingh's car when Officer Delacruz arrived.
Officer Delacruz spoke first with Wilson, who told him that
Ramjattansingh had been driving erratically and nearly hit
other vehicles. Officer Delacruz noticed that Ramjattansingh
was "swaying," "couldn't stand
straight," and seemed intoxicated. Officer Delacruz
handcuffed Ramjattansingh and secured him in the patrol car
at 9:48 p.m. as he awaited the arrival of a DWI unit.
A. Beaudion arrived around 10:05 p.m. to conduct the DWI
investigation. She took Ramjattansingh out of Officer
Delacruz's patrol car and removed his handcuffs.
Ramjattansingh smelled of alcohol, could not balance himself,
and had slurred speech. He admitted to Officer Beaudion that
he had "some shots of alcohol" and that he had
started drinking around 5:00 p.m.
of her investigation, Officer Beaudion administered three
field sobriety tests-the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
test, the one-leg stand test, and the walk-and-turn test.
Ramjattansingh could not complete the HGN test because he
could not hold his head still. And he showed signs of
intoxication during the other two tests-three of four clues
on the one-leg stand test and six of eight clues on the
walk-and-turn test. By 10:40 p.m., Officer Beaudion had
concluded that Ramjattansingh was "very
intoxicated." She gave him his statutory warning that he
was under arrest, arrested him, and took him to HPD's
intoxication center. There, at around 11:30 p.m.,
Ramjattansingh gave two breath samples, the results of which
showed alcohol concentrations of .235 and .220 per 210 liters
State charged Ramjattansingh with driving while intoxicated
and, in addition, alleged that his breath showed an alcohol
concentration of at least .15 "at the time of the
analysis and at or near the time of the commission of the
offense," thereby elevating the offense from a Class B
to a Class A misdemeanor. See Tex. Penal Code §
49.04(b), (d). Ramjattansingh's plea of "not
guilty" led to a jury trial.
filed a written motion to suppress "all evidence seized
as a result of [his] arrest . . . and the search of [his]
person, papers, and effects, as well as all statements,
either written or oral, made after arrest." The motion
alleged that the "arrest and search of [Ramjattansingh]
and the seizure of items, papers and effects from
[Ramjattansingh] was affected without valid warrant, or
probable cause, or reasonable suspicion, in violation of the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments" of the United States
argument on the suppression motion, Ramjattansingh urged that
the State's evidence stemmed from an illegal detention by
the tow truck driver, Wilson, and then an illegal arrest by
Officer Delacruz. Wilson unlawfully detained him until the
police arrived, and Officer Delacruz unlawfully arrested him
without probable cause by handcuffing him and placing him in
the patrol car. Or, Ramjattansingh argued in the alternative,
if Officer Delacruz was only detaining him, his detention
became an arrest when Officer Delacruz towed
Ramjattansingh's car, which Ramjattansingh alleged
occurred before Officer Beaudion arrived and conducted the
trial court denied the motion and later issued these relevant
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
Officer Delacruz spoke to the tow truck driver [Wilson] [who]
stopped [Ramjattansingh] . . . and explained to Officer
(i) he had been following [Ramjattansingh] when they were
(ii) [Ramjattansingh] was almost hitting vehicles;
(iii) [Wilson] had to pull [Ramjattansingh] off the road; and
(iv) after they stopped, [Wilson] approached [Ramjattansingh]
and observed signs that suggested [Ramjattansingh] was
Officer Delacruz observed that [Ramjattansingh] was standing
outside his vehicle, could not stand still, and was swaying.
Officer Delacruz determined, based on a totality of the
circumstances, that [Ramjattansingh] could not safely operate
a motor vehicle.
Because a Houston Police Department officer that was
specially trained in DWI investigations was already on the
way, Officer Delacruz did not perform further investigation
but, instead, handcuffed [Ramjattansingh] and detained him in
Officer Delacruz's patrol car until the DWI officer
Among other things, Officer Delacruz detained
[Ramjattansingh] in his patrol car for [Ramjattansingh's]
own safety-to keep [Ramjattansingh] from falling down.
private citizen may arrest an individual that breaches the
peace in his presence. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 14.01(a)
[(providing that "peace officer or any other person,
may, without a warrant, arrest an offender when the offense
is committed in his presence or within his view, if the
offense is . . . an offense against the public peace")].
Here, [Wilson] had probable cause to believe that
[Ramjattansingh] committed the offense of reckless driving,
in a manner constituting the breach of the peace, in his
presence and view.
was authorized to arrest [Ramjattansingh] for reckless
Notwithstanding probable cause to arrest [Ramjattansingh] for
reckless driving, the first responding officer, Delacruz, had
reasonable suspicion to detain [Ramjattansingh] for suspicion
of reckless driving and driving while intoxicated-based on
the 911 call and dispatch information, his conversations with
the tow truck driver, and his personal observations of the
defendant, coupled with his own training and experience-until
the already-dispatched DWI investigation officer arrived and
conducted her investigation. . . .
Officer Delacruz's act of handcuffing [Ramjattansingh]
and placing [Ramjattansingh] in the back seat of his patrol
car to await Officer Beaudion did not elevate the detention
to an arrest. . . .
Reasonable suspicion to justify [Ramjattansingh's]
detention did not dissipate at any time before probable cause
existed to support his arrest.
[Ramjattansingh's] detention by Officer Delacruz, and
later arrest by Officer Beaudion, was reasonable and, thus,
did not violate the Fourth Amendment or its counterpart.
the State's case, Officers Delacruz and Beaudion
testified about the DWI investigation and the circumstances
of the arrest. Officer Delacruz contradicted himself about
towing Ramjattansingh's car. Officer Delacruz first
testified that the time recorded on the HPD form towing
slip-10:00 p.m.-was the time he began filling out paperwork,
not when Ramjattansingh's car was towed. Officer Delacruz
testified on cross-examination, however, that the car was
towed at 10:00 p.m., a time which he acknowledged was before
Officer Beaudion arrived and before he could authorize a tow
under HPD's policy for vehicle tows incident to arrest.
Officer Beaudion testified that Ramjattansingh's car was
in the parking lot when she arrived.
State also presented testimony from M. Skeleton, an HPD
employee who administered Ramjattansingh's breath test,
and C. Bishop, a technical supervisor for the Texas
Department of Public Safety Breath Alcohol Testing Program.
Bishop opined that an average person would have to drink
about 11 shots to produce a result of .220 on a breath test
and that someone with that alcohol concentration would have
lost the normal use of his physical and mental faculties. She
conceded, however, that she could not say what
Ramjattansingh's alcohol concentration was when he was
driving and that any attempt to do so would be speculative.
She testified that retrograde extrapolation-extrapolating
backward in time from breath test results to estimate an
alcohol concentration at an earlier point-is possible. But
the facts that must be known to make such an
extrapolation-the time of the traffic stop, the time of the
breath test and its results, the driver's last meal, what
he ate, and the time of his last alcoholic drink-were
also conceded that, given the limited facts available and how
the body processes alcohol, it was possible that
Ramjattansingh's alcohol concentration was below the
legal limit of .08 when he was driving. For example, if he
quickly drank several alcoholic beverages before getting
behind the wheel, his alcohol concentration could have been
below the legal limit ...