State v. Brabson, 05-93-01767-CR

Decision Date28 April 1995
Docket NumberNo. 05-93-01767-CR,05-93-01767-CR
Citation899 S.W.2d 741
PartiesThe STATE of Texas, Appellant v. William Harold BRABSON II, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

J. Stephen Cooper, Dallas, for appellant/plaintiff/petitioner.

Michael J. Sandlin, Asst. Dist. Atty., Dallas, for appellee/defendant/respondent.

Before OVARD, BARBER and DEVANY, JJ.

OPINION

DEVANY, Justice.

The State appeals the county criminal court's granting Brabson's motion to suppress. See TEX.CODE CRIM.PROC.ANN. art. 44.01 (Vernon Supp.1995). In four points of error, the State asserts that: (1) this Court has jurisdiction over the appeal; (2) the trial court erred in giving collateral estoppel effect to a justice court finding of no probable cause; and (3) the trial court erred in granting the motion to suppress if it was granted on any other ground asserted in Brabson's amended motion to suppress.

Brabson does not dispute this Court's jurisdiction and we conclude we have jurisdiction. Thus, to the extent the State's first point of error is an assertion of error, it is sustained.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Justice Court

A hearing was held in justice court regarding the suspension of Brabson's driver's license. See TEX.REV.CIV.STAT.ANN. art. 6701l-5, § 2(f) (Vernon 1995). Evidence was presented at the hearing. The justice court rendered judgment that Brabson's driver's license not be suspended. The justice court also rendered findings of fact. The findings of fact provided: (1) Brabson had a Texas driver's license; (2) Brabson was arrested on August 9, 1992; (3) Brabson was given the opportunity to give a blood sample; (4) Brabson refused to give a blood sample; and (5) the arresting officer did not have probable cause to arrest Brabson. The justice court's judgment and findings were not challenged through appeal.

B. County Criminal Court

The State instituted criminal proceeding against Brabson in county criminal court for driving while intoxicated. Brabson sought suppression of the evidence stemming from his seizure and arrest. In his amended motion to suppress, Brabson asserted the arresting officer's actions were not supported by probable cause, he was unlawfully detained (seized), he did not consent to seizure or search, and the justice court judgment barred relitigation of probable cause because of criminal collateral estoppel.

The county criminal court conducted a hearing on Brabson's amended motion to suppress. The hearing took place on two separate days. Officer Merle Baxley was the only witness at the hearing. Much of the argument of counsel centered on criminal collateral estoppel. However, Brabson's counsel made it clear that he was also challenging the legality of the arrest. Midway through the second day of the hearing, Brabson's counsel stated, "I'm arguing suppression based on the legality of the arrest and the true issue of illegality of the arrest is the issue." Just before the county criminal court ruled, the following exchange took place:

[BRABSON'S COUNSEL]: Again, I just think, and I think the Court has already picked up on it, the focus is the decision on the narrow issue of the legality of the arrest is what I think the issue is.

[THE COURT]: Well, now I've been reminded of the Groves case.

I think you've established your point here and I'm going to go ahead and grant your motion to suppress.

The county criminal court did not set forth the basis of its ruling in its order on the motion. The State did not request findings of fact and conclusions of law.

CRIMINAL COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL

In its second and third points of error, the State argues the county criminal court erred in granting the motion to suppress on the basis of criminal collateral estoppel. The State's position is that criminal collateral estoppel does not arise from the essentially administrative proceeding conducted in the justice court. The State also argues criminal collateral estoppel does not arise because probable cause is not an issue before a justice court in a license suspension proceeding. Brabson responds that the issue was litigated in justice court and the State was a party; therefore, criminal collateral estoppel does apply.

This Court has previously decided the question of whether criminal collateral estoppel can arise from an administrative, license suspension proceeding conducted in justice court. We concluded that res judicata and criminal collateral estoppel do not arise from such administrative proceedings. Burrows v. Texas Dept. of Public Safety, 740 S.W.2d 19, 20-21 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1987, no pet.).

Brabson asserts, in effect, that Burrows has been overruled by State v. Groves, 837 S.W.2d 103 (Tex.Crim.App.1992) and Elwell v. State, 872 S.W.2d 797 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1994, no pet.). We agree that Groves and Elwell are procedurally similar to the instant case. We also note that each held that criminal collateral estoppel did not apply to their cases because there was an insufficient record to show that there was in fact an earlier ruling on the subject issue. Groves, 837 S.W.2d at 106; Elwell, 872 S.W.2d at 799-800. However, neither of those cases expressly overruled Burrows or the rationale underlying Burrows. Thus, we conclude that Burrows is still valid, controlling authority. Therefore, criminal collateral estoppel could not have arisen from the proceedings in the justice court.

Even assuming criminal collateral estoppel could have applied, the county criminal court erred in applying it, if it did. The evidence presented at the suppression hearing established that Brabson was seized without a warrant. Thus, the State had the burden of showing that the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that Brabson was driving while intoxicated. As will be shown below, Brabson failed to prove when and if he was arrested without a warrant. Thus, the burden of proof did not shift to the State to show that the officer had probable cause to arrest Brabson. As the justice court found only lack of probable cause to arrest and not lack of reasonable suspicion to seize, its finding was irrelevant to the county court proceedings. This is another reason why criminal collateral estoppel could not have arisen from the justice court proceeding.

Therefore, to the extent the county criminal court granted the motion to suppress on the basis of criminal collateral estoppel, it erred. We sustain the State's second and third points of error.

OTHER GROUNDS FOR GRANTING THE MOTION TO SUPPRESS

In the State's fourth and final point of error, it argues that the court erred in granting the motion to suppress "if it was granted on any of the other reasons that had been requested in the amended motion to suppress." While the State's point of error is stated narrowly, a review of the argument under it clearly shows the State is arguing that there were sufficient articulable facts to justify Brabson's seizure. Brabson stated in his amended motion to suppress that there was no basis for arrest, no search warrant, no probable cause for the search, no consent to the search, and no lawful temporary detention (seizure).

We have carefully reviewed the statement of facts from the suppression hearing. Notwithstanding that the county criminal court did not render findings and conclusions, the record indicates that the county criminal court granted the motion to suppress on the basis of criminal collateral estoppel. The county criminal court's final comment during the hearing makes this clear. Nonetheless, we cannot limit our review of the county criminal court's ruling to the ground upon which it relied. We must review the record to determine if there is any valid basis upon which to affirm the county criminal court's ruling. Nored v. State, 875 S.W.2d 392, 394 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1994, pet. ref'd); Johnson v. State, 864 S.W.2d 708, 713 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1993, pet. granted); see Lewis v. State, 664 S.W.2d 345, 347 (Tex.Crim.App.1984).

We interpret the State's fourth point of error as a challenge to any rationale for the trial court's ruling other than criminal collateral estoppel. Having disposed of the criminal collateral estoppel argument and based on the record before us, the only valid theories which might support the county criminal court's ruling are (1) illegal, warrantless seizure or (2) illegal, warrantless arrest.

A. Applicable Law
1. Standard of Review

" 'The trial court is the sole trier of facts at a hearing upon a motion [to suppress]' " and appellate courts are not at liberty to disturb any finding supported by the record. Flores v. State, 871 S.W.2d 714, 721 (Tex.Crim.App.1993), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 926, 115 S.Ct. 313, 130 L.Ed.2d 276 (1994). (quoting Fierro v. State, 706 S.W.2d 310, 316 (Tex.Crim.App.1986)). At a suppression hearing, the trial judge is the sole judge of the witnesses' credibility and the weight to be given their testimony. Flores, 871 S.W.2d at 721; Romero v. State, 800 S.W.2d 539, 543 (Tex.Crim.App.1990); Nored, 875 S.W.2d at 394; Segura v. State, 826 S.W.2d 178, 181 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1992, pet. ref'd). The trial judge may accept or reject any or all of a witnesses' testimony. Johnson v. State, 803 S.W.2d 272, 287 (Tex.Crim.App.1990), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1259, 111 S.Ct. 2914, 115 L.Ed.2d 1078 (1991), overruled on other grounds by Heitman v. State, 815 S.W.2d 681, 685 n. 6 (Tex.Crim.App.1991); Nored, 875 S.W.2d at 394. Generally, we do not engage in our own factual review. See Nored, 875 S.W.2d at 394. We decide only whether the trial judge improperly applied the law to the facts. Nored, 875 S.W.2d at 394; see Romero, 800 S.W.2d at 543. Absent an abuse of discretion, we do not disturb the trial court's findings. Maddox v. State, 682 S.W.2d 563, 564 (Tex.Crim.App.1985); Brown v. State, 830 S.W.2d 171, 173 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1992, pet. ref'd).

We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. See Daniels v. State, 718 S.W.2d 702, 704 (Tex.Crim.App.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 885, 107 S.Ct. 277,...

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