Texas Stamp


PD-0287-19 06/05/2019

1. “Does Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.23(b), the ‘good faith’ exception, apply to warrants that do not have the magistrate’s name printed or typed under his signature?”

2. “In a motion to suppress evidence obtained with a warrant, does the defendant bear the burden of negating the ‘good faith’ exception?”

3. “Does Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 28.01, § 1(6), governing hearings on motions to suppress, allow a trial court to ignore a mode of evidence it made necessary?”

4. “The court of appeals should abate and remand to the trial court for findings and conclusions requested by the State.”

Arellano was arrested for driving while intoxicated. A search warrant issued for his blood. Arellano’s sole claim at the hearing on his motion to suppress was that the warrant was “facially invalid” because the magistrate’s signature did not “appear in clearly legible handwriting or in typewritten form with the magistrate’s signature.” See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 18.04(5). The State rested without putting on witnesses and argued that Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.23(b), the exclusionary exception for good-faith reliance on a warrant, excuses the signature-block problem. Arellano claimed that argument was premature without the officer’s testimony. The State countered that Arellano’s exhibit, which included the affidavit, showed probable cause and that there was no evidence the magistrate was not neutral. Arellano conceded that probable cause is ‘not the issue here’ and insisted that good-faith cannot be based on a warrant that fails Article 18.04’s requirements. The trial court requested briefing on that issue, to include “any relevant case law, anything else that you want to submit with regard to cases or argument with regard to that[,]” and then ended that discussion. The State’s brief included an affidavit from the officer and his offense report, both of which identify the magistrate.

The trial court granted Arellano’s motion. The State requested “essential findings,” including whether the trial court believed the officer and whether the identified magistrate was neutral and had issued the warrant based on probable cause. The trial court did not address these findings or conclusions. It held the good-faith exception inapplicable because the warrant was facially invalid. It added that the State offered no evidence at the hearing on the issue of the magistrate’s identity and that the officer’s post-hearing affidavit, had the trial court considered it, offered nothing relevant.

The court of appeals affirmed. It held the warrant was facially invalid and that Article 38.23(b) does not apply to facially invalid warrants. It thus deemed it unnecessary to consider the officer’s post-hearing affidavit but noted the trial court had discretion to decide the type of evidence it would consider, citing Ford v. State, 305 S.W.3d 530 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). As a result, the court of appeals did not address the State’s argument that the trial court’s findings were inadequate or not supported by the record based on that affidavit. The State makes four arguments. First, a warrant that is apparently based on probable cause and signed by a neutral magistrate is facially valid for the purposes of Article 38.23(b); inapplicability based on a hyper-technical defect would render the exception a nullity. Second, Arellano, as the movant, had the burden to negate the good-faith exception by, e.g., challenging the neutrality of the magistrate or the presence of probable cause. Arellano ignored one and conceded the other. Third, if the State had the burden to prove good-faith reliance, it should not be punished for doing so through an affidavit after the trial court cut the live hearing short and requested briefing. Fourth, if the case is remanded in light of these legal questions, the trial court will have to issue the findings requested by the State before the appeal can be resolved.

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