Canada v. State, 03-17-00091-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtDavid Puryear, Justice
Citation547 S.W.3d 4
Parties Quianna S. CANADA, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee
Docket NumberNO. 03-17-00091-CR,03-17-00091-CR
Decision Date17 August 2017

547 S.W.3d 4

Quianna S. CANADA, Appellant
The STATE of Texas, Appellee

NO. 03-17-00091-CR

Court of Appeals of Texas, Austin.

Filed: August 17, 2017

Ms. Tracy Snelson, Assistant City Attorney, 700 E. 7th Street, Austin, TX 78701, Mr. Chase Gomillion, City of Austin, 700 E. 7th Street, Austin, TX 78701, for Appellee.

Ms. Quianna S. Canada, 6604 Bourg Cove, Austin, TX 78744, for Appellant.

Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Goodwin


David Puryear, Justice

After responding to the scene of a car accident involving Quianna S. Canada and Walter Long, Officer Jose Rodriguez issued Canada a citation for failure to yield. See Tex. Transp. Code § 545.151 (listing requirements for vehicle approaching or entering intersection). Subsequently, a complaint was issued alleging that Canada "operate[d] a motor vehicle" at an intersection that "was controlled by an official traffic control device" and "enter[ed] said intersection and fail[ed] to yield the right of way to another vehicle lawfully within said intersection." After a jury trial in the municipal court, the jury found Canada guilty and assessed a fine of $200, and the court rendered its judgment in accordance with the jury’s verdict. Following that determination, Canada filed a motion for new trial. After considering the motion for new trial, the municipal court denied it, and subsequently, Canada appealed the municipal court’s judgment to the county court at law. See Tex. Gov't Code § 30.00014. After reviewing the briefing by Canada and the State, the county court at law affirmed the judgment of the municipal court. Canada appeals the county court at law’s judgment. See id. § 30.00027 (authorizing appeal to court of appeals). In her pro se brief filed with the county court at law, Canada urges that the municipal court erred by failing to grant her motion for new trial for the following reasons grouped into five issues on appeal: because there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict, because Officer Hector Miramontes was improperly allowed to testify as an expert witness, because the municipal court improperly excluded evidence, because the municipal court had improper ex parte communications with Officer Rodriguez, because the municipal court failed to allow Canada to cross-examine Officer Rodriguez regarding past complaints made against him, because there was juror misconduct during the trial proceedings, because the jury panel did not represent a fair cross-section of the population, and because the State made inappropriate jury arguments. We will affirm the judgment of the county court at law.


As an initial matter, we note that Canada filed a pro se brief with the county court at law.1 Although appellate courts "construe pro se pleadings and briefs liberally, a pro se litigant is still required to follow the same rules and laws as litigants represented by a licensed attorney."

547 S.W.3d 11

Williams v. State , No. 05-12-01015-CR, 2013 WL 4033640, at *2 (Tex. App.—Dallas Aug. 7, 2013, pet. ref'd) (mem. op., not designated for publication).

As discussed earlier, Canada appealed the municipal court’s judgment to the county court at law. In order to perfect an appeal from the judgment of a municipal court of record, the defendant must file a motion for new trial setting out "the points of error on which the appellant complains." Tex. Gov't Code § 30.00014(c).2 The reviewing court must decide the appeal "on the basis of the errors that are set forth in the appellant’s motion for new trial and that are presented in the clerk’s record and reporter’s record." Id. § 30.00014(b). Accordingly, "when appealing from a municipal court of record, to preserve an issue for consideration, a claim of error must be raised in the motion for new trial, and the record must reflect that the same claim was raised before the municipal court." Leverson v. State , Nos. 03-15-00090-00092-CR, 2016 WL 4628054, at *2 (Tex. App.—Austin Aug. 30, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication). Moreover, "[a]n appeal from the municipal court of record may not be by trial de novo." Tex. Gov't Code § 30.00014(b) ; see Swain v. State , 319 S.W.3d 878, 879 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.) (providing that reviewing court "may not retry the case"). Instead, the reviewing court "sits as an appellate court and considers arguments addressing any errors shown in the municipal court record." Nelson v. State , Nos. 12-10-00263-00266-CR, 2011 WL 2638738, at *1 (Tex. App.—Tyler June 30, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication).

After the reviewing court considers the appeal, a defendant may seek further appellate review with a court of appeals if "the fine assessed against the defendant exceeds $100 and the judgment is affirmed by the [reviewing] court" or if "the sole issue is the constitutionality of the statute or ordinance on which a conviction is based." Tex. Gov't Code § 30.00027(a). However, unlike more traditional appeals, "the record and briefs on appeal in the [reviewing] court constitute the record and briefs on appeal to the court of appeals unless the rules of the court of criminal appeals provide otherwise." Id. § 30.00027(b). Accordingly, the briefs before the reviewing court are "the operative brief[s] before" a court of appeals, see Roberts v. State , 49 S.W.3d 89, 90 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2001, pet. ref'd) ; see also O'Reilly v. State , 501 S.W.3d 722, 724 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2016, no pet.) (noting that defendant "raised three issues in his appeal to the county criminal court of appeals to which he is limited here on appeal"); Sanchez v. State , 137 S.W.3d 860, 861 n.2 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2004, pet. dism'd) (explaining that discussion of appellate point "refer[red] to the issue raised in the brief filed by appellant in the county criminal court"), and a court of appeals may not "consider the briefs filed by the parties" with the court of appeals, see Brooks v. State , 226 S.W.3d 607, 609 n.3 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2007, no pet.) ; see also

547 S.W.3d 12

Avni v. State , No. 14-16-00445-CR, 2016 WL 7108398, at *2 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 6, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication) (stating that "[t]he court of appeals will not consider briefs in a municipal appeal other than those filed in the county court"); Huy H. Le v. State , No. 14-14-00747-CR, 2015 WL 3524294, at *1 n.2 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] June 4, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication) (same). The Government Code does not fully address how a court of appeals should review an appeal from a judgment by a municipal court of record so as to account for the fact that there has been an intervening appellate determination by a reviewing court. However, the limitations imposed on the record and the briefing are strong indicators that the legislature intended for the review by a court of appeals to be a second appellate review independent of the determinations made by the first reviewing court, limited to the same challenges presented to the first reviewing court regarding the municipal court’s judgment. Cf. Garrett v. State , 424 S.W.3d 624, 628 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2013, pet. ref'd) (determining that court of appeals "review[s] the same two issues raised in the briefs submitted to the county criminal court at law").

In this case, Canada contends that the municipal court erred by denying her motion for new trial. A trial court’s denial of a motion for new trial is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Charles v. State , 146 S.W.3d 204, 208 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004), superseded by rule on other grounds as stated in State v. Herndon , 215 S.W.3d 901, 905 n.5 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007) ; see also Davis v. State , 329 S.W.3d 798, 803 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (noting that appellate courts review evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion). Under that standard, a trial court’s ruling will only be deemed an abuse of discretion if it is so clearly wrong as to lie outside "the zone of reasonable disagreement," Lopez v. State , 86 S.W.3d 228, 230 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002), or is "arbitrary or unreasonable," State v. Mechler , 153 S.W.3d 435, 439 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005). Moreover, "[a]n appellate court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling, considering only those arguments before the court at the time of the ruling." Ocon v. State , 284 S.W.3d 880, 884 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009).


Sufficiency of the Evidence and Officer Miramontes’s Testimony

In her first issue on appeal, Canada argues that the evidence presented at trial was legally insufficient to support the jury’s verdict in this case and that Officer Miramontes was improperly allowed to testify as an expert witness.3 The county court at law determined that there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury and that Canada failed to preserve her complaints pertaining to Officer Miramontes’s testimony.

When challenging the sufficiency of the evidence in her brief, Canada asserts that she "entered the intersection lawfully" by keeping "a proper lookout," that Long was obligated to but failed "to keep a

547 S.W.3d...

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