Texas Stamp


PD-0241-20 06/17/2020

“Whether the Court of Appeals erred by concluding that Appellant’s statement to Detective Hill was not obtained via a custodial interrogation without the benefit of any warnings when the statement was made after Appellant was ordered to involuntarily leave a residence by an overwhelming police presence and placed into the back of a police car?”

A large number of “High Risk Operations Unit” police officers and an armored vehicle executed a search warrant at the house where Wexler was staying. Over a loudspeaker, officers told everyone in the house to come out. Wexler complied and was escorted to the back of a police car. A detective told Wexler, “Hey, we have a search warrant. We’re going to find the drugs. Just tell me where they are.” She did. At trial, Wexler objected that this statement was the product of unwarned custodial interrogation. She questioned the detective on this issue and asked that the statement be suppressed. The trial court overruled the objection. She was convicted.

On appeal, Wexler reurged the issue. A majority of the court of appeals held that, while Wexler was subject to an investigative detention, she was not in custody and thus Miranda and Article 38.22 warnings were not required. It also held that the record did not show Wexler was aware of many of the facts she relied on to show custody (the street had been blocked off, the number of officers on scene, the presence of an armored vehicle). As the dissent saw it, officers implicitly threatened to forcibly seize Wexler if she did not voluntarily leave the house, focused on her as a suspect once she was outside, and placed her in the back of a police vehicle. It noted, “In an era where the ubiquity of recording devices makes the People increasingly aware that some alleged suspects are (inter alia) beaten, choked, and executed for markedly less, the majority’s conclusion that Appellant was free to simply walk away defies reason.”

Wexler argues that she was physically deprived of her freedom of action in a significant way and that officers created a situation that would have led her to believe her freedom of movement was significantly restricted. She takes issue with the majority’s account of what the record shows she knew. She points out that it was a police-dominated atmosphere and that, as the dissent observed, she only came out of the house because she was ordered to do so. She also contends that the detective made manifest to her that she was suspected of drug possession.  

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