Thursday, November 10, 2011

DWI Laws - Texas Dismisses Case Based on Illegal Stop

In State of Texas v. Kerwick, --- S.W.3d ----, 2011 WL 5247890 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth) Officer Jeffrey J. Bradford was dispatched to a bar on North Main Street in Fort Worth in response to a call about several people fighting in front of the bar. When Officer Bradford arrived at the bar, several people were standing outside in front of the bar. Officer Bradford made contact with the person he believed to be the person who had called the police. The person was the owner of a damaged vehicle. That person pointed to a vehicle parked on the street across from the bar and said, “There they are right there. There they are, there they are.” Officer Bradford walked over to the vehicle as it started moving northbound on the street and stopped the vehicle by yelling at the driver, ordering her to stop. Officer Bradford testified that he “believed that they—at that point they were involved in an offense.”

In affirming the granting of a motion to suppress, the appeals court wrote:

"In short, the record before us simply contains no facts to enable either the trial court or this court to objectively evaluate either Officer Bradford's belief that the person who said, “There they are right there. There they are, there they are,” was the person who had called the police or his belief that Appellee was “involved in an offense ... [—a]n assault, criminal mischief, or both.” No facts exist in the record to enable the trial court or this court to assess whether either of these beliefs by Officer Bradford were objectively reasonable. See Ford, 158 S.W.3d at 493. Without specific, articulable facts, a court has no means of assessing whether an officer's opinion is objectively reasonable. Id. Without specific, articuable facts, a detention cannot be subjected to the more detached, neutral scrutiny of a judge who must evaluate the reasonableness of a particular seizure in light of the particular circumstances. Id. And when such a stop is not based on objective criteria, the risk of arbitrary and abusive police practices exceeds tolerable limits. Id. Allowing a police officer's opinion to suffice in specific facts' stead eviscerates Terry's reasonable suspicion protection. Id."

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