Texas Stamp

 

 

GARCIA, JOEL

PD-0344-17 09/13/2017

1. “The court of appeals erred by applying a de novo standard of review to the trial court’s granting of Appellee’s motion to suppress evidence, failing to give ‘almost total deference’ to the trial court’s findings of fact to support its conclusion that no exigent circumstances existed.”

2. “The court of appeals erred by considering evidence that did not become known to law enforcement until after the warrantless taking of Appellee’s blood.”

Garcia was involved in a fatal accident, and police suspected he was intoxicated by alcohol. Garcia was going to be taken to the hospital. Officer Rodriguez was going to get a search warrant because Garcia refused to consent to a blood draw. Officer Rodriguez warned Officer Torres, who would be accompanying Garcia, to contact him if the hospital was going to administer an IV. In his experience, an IV may compromise BAC results. A nurse was prepared to administer an IV but stopped. Officer Torres saw the IV near Garcia. Officer Lom, an off-duty officer working security at the hospital who was assigned to the DWI task force, saw the IV and, believing its use was imminent, called Rodriguez. Rodriguez had not finished preparing the warrant, but they decided that Garcia’s blood should be drawn immediately. The trial court granted Garcia’s motion to suppress.

The State appealed, claiming exigent circumstances justified the draw. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling. It determined that this case is similar to Cole v. State, 490 S.W.3d 918 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016), as opposed to Weems v. State, 493 S.W.3d 574 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). “Garcia’s accident resulted in three deaths, several cars afire, and the necessity of numerous officers on the scene.” Further, because Garcia’s intoxication may have been due, in part, to cocaine, as evidenced by its metabolite, its elimination rate was unknown. Finally, an IV with saline or other medications would impede the ability to determine the rate of dissipation.

Garcia contends that the court of appeals failed to defer to the trial court’s reasons for rejecting the exigency argument. The trial court found the officers’ imminency belief about the IV not credible and concluded that there was no evidence that a sample would be compromised by an IV. Garcia also complains that the court of appeals used evidence unknown at the time of the draw to support the exigency determination—there was no evidence that cocaine might have been an intoxicant until after his blood was tested.

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