Rodriguez v. State

Decision Date07 April 2006
Docket NumberNo. 13-02-607-CR.,13-02-607-CR.
Citation191 S.W.3d 428
PartiesRafael Javier RODRIGUEZ, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Rolando Garza, McAllen, for appellant.

Theodore C. Hake, Asst. Crim. Dist. Atty., Amy Howell Alaniz, Asst. Dist. Atty., Edinburg, for appellee.

Before the court en banc.


Opinion by Justice YAÑEZ.

A jury found appellant, Rafael Javier Rodriguez, guilty of intoxication assault1 and sentenced him to six years of imprisonment and a $10,000.00 fine. By eleven issues, appellant challenges (1) the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction (issues one and two); (2) the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress on grounds (a) he was unlawfully arrested (issue three) and/or (b) he was unlawfully detained (issue four); (3) admission of the videotape in violation of articles 38.22 and 38.23 of the code of criminal procedure (issue five); (4) admission of his refusal to take a breath test at his residence on grounds that (a) his continued detention was unlawful (issue six) and (b) he was not given the statutory warnings required to take a breath sample if he was under arrest, and if he was not under arrest (as the State argues), the request for a breath sample was improper (issue seven); (5) the exclusion of two photographs from evidence (issue eight); and (6) the denial of his motion for new trial on grounds that (a) the State failed to disclose evidence favorable to his defense (issue nine), (b) the newly-discovered favorable evidence likely would have changed the outcome of the trial (issue ten), and (c) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to discover the favorable evidence (issue eleven). We affirm.

I. Background2

At approximately 9:30 p.m. on the evening of November 8, 2001, appellant, then a municipal judge in Elsa, Texas, was driving a van on FM 88 near his residence in Elsa. The van struck a motorcycle driven by Linda Perez. At trial, Officer Jaime Cano testified that he was the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the accident. Cano testified that when he arrived, he observed the motorcycle, missing its front wheel and driver, on the side of the road, approximately seventy-five feet from the van. Onlookers gathered at the scene reported that Perez was pinned underneath the van. EMS and fire department personnel removed Perez from under the van. Cano testified that Perez had suffered severe injuries and that she was airlifted from the scene for emergency treatment.

After one of the onlookers identified appellant as the driver of the van, Officer Cano approached appellant and asked him what had occurred. Appellant said he thought he had hit a dog. Cano directed appellant to sit in Cano's police car. Officer Ricardo De Hoyos arrived and directed Officer Flavio Garcia to transport appellant to the police station in order to conduct a field sobriety test on appellant. Garcia testified that he drove appellant to the police station in Cano's police car; he was unaware that a video camera inside the car recorded his conversation with appellant during the drive. De Hoyos testified that at the station, he conducted three field sobriety tests on appellant, which appellant passed. Elsa Police Chief, Primitive Rodriguez, testified that he observed only one of the field sobriety tests at the station and that appellant passed the test. Shortly thereafter, appellant was released and was driven home by a friend, the Honorable Espiridion ("Speedy") Jackson, a justice of the peace for Hidalgo County at that time.

Officer J.P. Rodriguez testified that at the time, he was the only Elsa police officer certified to conduct field sobriety tests. According to Officer Rodriguez, when he arrived at the police station, appellant had been released. After Officer Rodriguez advised the Chief that Officer De Hoyos was not certified to conduct field sobriety tests, the Chief ordered Officer Rodriguez to go to appellant's house to conduct another field sobriety test and obtain a blood or breath specimen from appellant. Officer Rodriguez testified that approximately an hour and forty minutes after the accident, he arrived at appellant's residence and performed three additional field sobriety tests, which appellant passed. Officer Rodriguez testified that he attempted to read appellant the required statutory warnings, but he was unable to do so because appellant kept interrupting. Officer Rodriguez testified that he requested that appellant provide either a breath or blood sample, but appellant refused.

II. Legal and Factual Sufficiency

In his first and second issues, appellant contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support his conviction.

A. Standard of Review

In a legal sufficiency review, we view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and then determine whether a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.3 This standard gives "full play to the responsibility of the trier of fact fairly to resolve conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts."4

We measure the legal sufficiency of the evidence against the elements of the offense as defined by a hypothetically correct jury charge for the case.5 "Such a charge would be one that accurately sets out the law, is authorized by the indictment, does not unnecessarily increase the State's burden of proof or unnecessarily restrict the State's theories of liability, and adequately describes the particular offense for which the defendant was tried."6

The jury, as the trier of fact, may use common sense and apply common knowledge, observation, and experience gained in ordinary affairs when giving effect to the inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence.7 As fact finder, the jury is the exclusive judge of the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be afforded their testimony.8 The jury is free to accept one version of the facts, reject another, or reject all or any of a witness's testimony.9

In a factual sufficiency review, we view all of the evidence in a neutral light, and we will set the verdict aside only if the evidence is so weak that the verdict is clearly wrong and manifestly unjust, or the contrary evidence is so strong that the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt could not have been met.10 We are not bound to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, and may consider the testimony of all the witnesses.11 Disagreeing with the fact finder's determination is appropriate only when the record clearly indicates that such a step is necessary to arrest the occurrence of a manifest injustice; otherwise, due deference must be accorded the fact finder's determinations, particularly those concerning the weight and credibility of the evidence.12

Here, appellant was convicted of intoxication assault. Thus, a hypothetically correct jury charge would ask the jury if (1) appellant (2) operated a motor vehicle (3) while intoxicated, and (4) by reason of that intoxication, (5) caused serious bodily injury to another.13

B. Analysis
1. Legal Sufficiency

In his first issue, appellant challenges the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. Specifically, he contends the evidence is legally insufficient to support the elements of either (1) intoxication or (2) causation (that the accident was caused by reason of that intoxication).14 The State contends the evidence is legally sufficient to support appellant's conviction.

Officer Cano testified that when he approached appellant at the scene of the accident and escorted him to his police car, he observed that appellant was staggering badly and smelled strongly of alcohol. According to Cano, appellant was staggering so badly that he had to hold on to Cano's shoulder to keep from falling down. He also testified that when he looked inside appellant's van, he observed an open twenty-four-ounce can of beer on the driver's side of the front console. He also observed three unopened cans of beer on the floorboard behind the driver's seat. Cano testified that he prepared an accident report based on all the information he obtained investigating the accident. According to the report, appellant was traveling southbound on FM 88, attempted to turn left, and failed to yield the right-of-way to the motorcycle, causing the accident.

Officer De Hoyos testified that when he first encountered appellant at the scene, appellant was sitting in Cano's police car and smelled strongly of alcohol. At the trial, De Hoyos initially testified that he did not request a breath sample from appellant at the station, but after being reminded of his grand jury testimony, he testified that he did ask appellant twice to submit to a breathalyzer test, but that appellant refused.

Officer Garcia testified that during the ride to the police station, appellant said that the motorcycle did not have its lights on and that he thought he had hit a dog. When they arrived at the station, appellant asked Garcia if he smelled like beer. Garcia testified that at the station, he observed the second round of sobriety tests administered to appellant and, in his opinion, appellant did not "pass" the tests because he was leaning on a filing cabinet. Garcia testified that, in his opinion, appellant did not have the normal use of his physical or mental faculties at the time the tests were administered.

Officer J.P. Rodriguez testified he did not encounter appellant at the scene because appellant had already been taken to the station. He did observe, however, that the interior of the van smelled strongly of alcohol, the open can of beer in the driver's front console, and...

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