State v. Brabson

Decision Date25 February 1998
Docket NumberNo. 1309-95,1309-95
Citation976 S.W.2d 182
PartiesThe STATE of Texas, Appellant, v. William Harold BRABSON, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Criminal Appeals

J. Stephen Cooper, Dallas, for appellee.

Michael J. Sandlin, Asst. Dist. Atty., Dallas, Matthew Paul, State's Atty., Austin, for State.

Before the court en banc.

OPINION ON APPELLEE'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW

McCORMICK, Presiding Judge, delivered the opinion of the Court in which KELLER, PRICE, HOLLAND and WOMACK, Judges, joined.

In this case, we must decide whether the Dallas County District Attorney is collaterally estopped from litigating at a motion to suppress hearing in a criminal prosecution the issue of probable cause for appellee's arrest when the Texas Department of Public Safety has received an adverse ruling on that issue in a prior administrative proceeding to revoke appellee's driver's license. We hold the Dallas County District Attorney is not collaterally estopped from litigating the issue of probable cause for appellee's arrest at the suppression hearing in the criminal prosecution.

Appellee was arrested for and eventually charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). The Texas Department of Public Safety sought to revoke appellee's driver's license at an administrative hearing pursuant to Article 6701l-5, Section 2(f), V.A.C.S. However, the administrative judge declined to revoke appellee's driver's license. The administrative judge also made a written finding that the police lacked probable cause to arrest appellee.

In the DWI criminal prosecution, appellee sought to have evidence suppressed which he claimed was seized as a result of an illegal arrest based upon a lack of probable cause. Appellee contended the Dallas County District Attorney was collaterally estopped from litigating the issue of probable cause for his arrest in the criminal prosecution because that issue had been decided adversely to the Texas Department of Public Safety in the administrative proceeding to revoke appellee's driver's license. The trial judge agreed and granted appellee's motion to suppress.

On the Dallas County District Attorney's direct appeal, the Court of Appeals, relying on Burrows v. Texas Dept. of Public Safety, 740 S.W.2d 19, 20-21 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1987, no pet.), reversed the trial court's ruling, and held that collateral estoppel does not arise from administrative proceedings and that no other valid theories supported the trial court's ruling on appellee's motion to suppress. See State v. Brabson, 899 S.W.2d 741, 745-49 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1995). We granted appellee's petition for discretionary review to examine the Court of Appeals' holding on the collateral estoppel issue (ground one) and the Court of Appeals' holding that no other valid theories supported the trial court's ruling on appellee's motion to suppress (grounds two and three). 1

This Court has adopted for criminal cases the federal common-law doctrine of "administrative collateral estoppel." 2 See United States v. Utah Construction and Mining Company, 384 U.S. 394, 419-23, 86 S.Ct. 1545, 1559-60, 16 L.Ed.2d 642 (1966); Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d 195, 199 (Tex.Cr.App.1986); Black's Law Dictionary 45 (6th ed.1990). This doctrine states:

"When an administrative agency is acting in a judicial capacity and resolves disputed issues of [ultimate] fact properly before it which the parties have had an adequate opportunity to litigate, the courts have not hesitated to apply res judicata to enforce repose." See Utah Construction and Mining Company, 86 S.Ct. at 1559-60; Tarver, 725 S.W.2d at 199 (Emphasis Supplied); see also Dedrick [v. State], 623 S.W.2d at 337 [(Tex.Cr.App.1981)] (McCormick, J., dissenting) (collateral estoppel means simply that when an issue of ultimate fact has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit). 3

The first question we address is whether the parties in the administrative proceeding and the criminal prosecution are the same. The party that sought to revoke appellee's driver's license in the administrative proceeding was the Texas Department of Public Safety. See Article 6701l-5, Section 2(f). The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Dallas County District Attorney are not the same parties. Therefore, collateral estoppel principles do not preclude the Dallas County District Attorney from litigating the issue of probable cause for appellee's arrest at the suppression hearing in the criminal prosecution. 4

In addition, assuming the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Dallas County District Attorney are the same parties called the "State," we would still have to decide whether the issue of probable cause for appellee's arrest was "properly before" the administrative agency and whether the "State" had an "adequate opportunity" to litigate the issue. See Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d at 199; 4 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise, Section 21:2 (2d ed.1983) (the Utah Construction and Mining Company "administrative collateral estoppel" test was "carefully crafted" with each detail having significance). The law applicable to appellee's case, Article 6701l-5, Section 2(f), 5 authorized the administrative judge to make only three findings: (1) whether probable cause existed that such person was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, (2) whether the person was placed under arrest by the officer and was offered an opportunity to give a specimen under the provisions of the Act, and (3) whether such person refused to give a specimen upon the request of the officer. See State v. Groves, 837 S.W.2d 103, 105 (Tex.Cr.App.1992).

Article 6701l-5, Section 2(f), does not authorize the administrative judge to make findings on the issue of probable cause for an arrest nor does it put the "State" on notice that this issue may be litigated at the administrative hearing. This is important for collateral estoppel purposes because the question of whether probable cause existed that appellee operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated is a different question from whether probable cause existed for his arrest. Cf. Neaves v. State, 767 S.W.2d 784, 786-87 (Tex.Cr.App.1989) (whether probable cause to believe the defendant had been driving while intoxicated existed at the time the police requested a blood or breath specimen from the defendant is not an issue of ultimate fact in the defendant's prosecution for driving while intoxicated). Resolution of the former question does not necessarily resolve the latter question. Cf. id. The ultimate issues to be resolved in the administrative proceeding and in the motion to suppress hearing in the criminal prosecution are not the same.

Therefore, it cannot be said the issue of probable cause for appellee's arrest was "properly before" the administrative judge or that the "State" had an "adequate opportunity" to litigate that issue at the administrative proceeding. See Ex parte Tarver, 725 S.W.2d at 199; Utah Construction & Mining Co., 384 U.S. at 417-21, 86 S.Ct. at 1558-59 (findings by administrative agency have no finality if they are not relevant to dispute over which the administrative agency has jurisdiction). Based on the foregoing, the administrative judge's finding of no probable cause for appellee's arrest does not preclude the "State" from litigating that issue in the criminal proceeding.

Our decision in this case makes sense when one also considers the underlying purpose of an exclusionary rule. An exclusionary rule excludes evidence at a defendant's criminal trial if the government obtains that evidence in violation of the defendant's constitutional and statutory rights. See Article 38.23(a), V.A.C.C.P., (providing that no evidence obtained "by an officer or other person in violation of" the law shall be admitted in evidence against the accused on the trial of any criminal case ); see also United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 904-13, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 3411-15, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984); Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431, 441-43, 104 S.Ct. 2501, 2508, 81 L.Ed.2d 377 (1984). The "core" rationale of an exclusionary rule is to deter the police from illegally seizing evidence by making that evidence inadmissible at the defendant's criminal trial. See Nix, 467 U.S. at 441-43, 104 S.Ct. at 2508.

An exclusionary rule does not apply to exclude evidence at an administrative proceeding to revoke a person's driver's license primarily because the "local law enforcement official is already 'punished' by the exclusion of the evidence in the state criminal trial." See United States v. Janis, 428 U.S. 433, 447-49, 96 S.Ct. 3021, 3029, 3027-35, 49 L.Ed.2d 1046 (1976). Since an exclusionary rule does not apply to an administrative proceeding to revoke a person's driver's license, then there was no need for the administrative judge to make findings on the legality of appellee's arrest. 6

Finally, it has been suggested our decision in this case is inconsistent with this Court's opinions in Tarver, Groves and Neaves, the latter two cases having been decided under the law applicable to appellee's case--Article 6701l-5, Section 2(f). However, Groves and Neaves did not require this Court to decide whether collateral estoppel principles precluded the "State" from litigating at a criminal proceeding an ultimate fact issue that was decided adversely to the "State" in the prior administrative proceeding to revoke a person's driver's license. See Groves, 837 S.W.2d at 106 (nothing in the record indicated the issue of probable cause to arrest the defendant was previously litigated in the administrative proceeding); Neaves, 767 S.W.2d at 786-87 (since whether probable cause to believe the defendant had been driving while intoxicated existed at the time the police requested a breath or blood specimen from...

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