State v. Medina

Decision Date18 October 2017
Docket NumberNo. 04-16-00199-CR,04-16-00199-CR
Citation536 S.W.3d 528
Parties The STATE of Texas, Appellant v. Natalie Marie MEDINA, Appellee
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Carolyn Wentland, Attorney At Law, 115 E. Travis, Suite 724, San Antonio, TX 78205, for Appellant.

Jackson Lindsey, 5804 Babcock Rd., San Antonio, TX 78240, Lauren A. Scott, Assistant District Attorney, Paul Elizondo Tower, Third Floor, 101 W. Nueva, San Antonio, TX 78205, for Appellee.

Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice

Opinion by: Marialyn Barnard, Justice

Appellee Natalie Marie Medina's motion for rehearing is denied. This court's opinion and judgment dated August 9, 2017, are withdrawn, and this opinion is substituted. We substitute this opinion to remove the following statement, which appeared in the original opinion: "The parties agree the evidence established all elements of the offense except for a ‘sale.’ "

After a bench trial, the trial court found Medina guilty of the offense of selling alcohol to an intoxicated person. However, the trial court subsequently granted Medina's motion for new trial. The State then perfected this appeal, contending the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion for a new trial because the verdict is not contrary to the law and the evidence. We hold the trial court abused its discretion in granting Medina's motion, reverse the trial court's order, and render judgment reinstating the trial court's original guilty verdict and sentence.

BACKGROUND

The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission ("TABC") received a complaint regarding alleged violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code ("the Code") at a bar called Conroy's. As a result, TABC officers conducted an undercover operation at the bar.

Before entering the bar, the TABC officers saw an intoxicated woman with a group of friends sitting in the bar's patio area. Thereafter, two officers entered the bar in plain clothes to determine if any violations of the Code were being committed. Once inside, one of the undercover officers, Yuri Alvarez, saw the intoxicated woman from the patio approach and speak to Medina, who was a bartender at the bar. According to Officer Alvarez, Medina then mixed four alcoholic drinks and helped the intoxicated woman carry the drinks to the group sitting on the patio. The officer testified that shortly after Medina came back inside, the intoxicated woman returned to the bar and Medina handed her a receipt. The officer saw the intoxicated woman take the receipt, crumple it up, and throw it away. Believing Medina had committed an offense under the Code—selling alcohol to an intoxicated person—Officer Alvarez notified the "identification" members of the team, who then entered the bar to identify the two women and notify them of the alleged violation.

After identifying the women, an officer issued a criminal and administrative notice to Medina, advising her that a warrant would be issued after a charge was filed with the Bexar County District Attorney. Neither Medina nor the intoxicated woman were arrested at that time. The officers released the intoxicated woman to Medina, who took responsibility for taking the intoxicated woman home.

The State subsequently charged Medina with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person, a violation of section 101.63(a) of the Code. See TEX. ALCO. BEV. CODE ANN. § 101.63(a) (West 2007). Medina waived a jury trial and the case was tried to the bench. During closing arguments, the trial court questioned whether the State proved Medina "sold" alcohol. Ultimately, however, the trial court found Medina guilty and sentenced her to one day in jail and assessed a $100.00 fine.

Medina timely filed a motion for new trial in which she asserted the trial court applied an incorrect definition of "sale," and the State failed to produce evidence that a sale occurred under the proper definition. The trial court granted Medina's motion for new trial, and the State appealed.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, the State contends the trial court erred in granting Medina's motion for a new trial, arguing the verdict is not contrary to the law and the evidence, i.e., the evidence is legally sufficient to support the verdict. The dispute centers on whether the State established a "sale" under section 101.63(a) of the Code.

Standard of Review

A trial court has authority to grant a new trial on grounds listed in the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, including when the verdict is contrary to the law and the evidence. See TEX. R. APP. P. 21.3(h). An allegation that a verdict is against the law and the evidence is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Zalman , 400 S.W.3d 590, 594 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013) (citing Bogan v. State , 78 Tex.Crim. 86, 180 S.W. 247, 248 (1915) ); State v. Moreno , 297 S.W.3d 512, 520 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, pet. ref'd). A trial court's decision to grant a new trial is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Arizmendi , 519 S.W.3d 143, 148–49 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017) ; see Kelley v. State , 429 S.W.3d 865, 876 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014 pet. ref'd) (citing State v. Davenport , 866 S.W.2d 767, 770 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1993, no pet.) ). A motion for new trial challenging the legal sufficiency of the evidence presents a legal rather than a factual question. See State v. Fuller , 480 S.W.3d 812, 819–20 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2015, pet. ref'd) (quoting State v. Savage , 905 S.W.2d 272, 274 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1995), aff'd , 933 S.W.2d 497 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996) ); State v. Daniels , 761 S.W.2d 42, 45 (Tex. App.—Austin 1988, pet. ref'd). Thus, a trial court must apply the appellate legal sufficiency standard of review. Fuller , 480 S.W.3d at 819–20 ; Kelley , 429 S.W.3d at 876 ; Moreno , 297 S.W.3d at 520. Accordingly, when deciding whether to grant a new trial challenging the legal sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determines whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Fuller , 480 S.W.3d at 819–20 ; Kelley , 429 S.W.3d at 876 ; Moreno , 297 S.W.3d at 520. If any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion for new trial. Fuller , 480 S.W.3d at 819–20 ; Kelley , 429 S.W.3d at 876 ; Moreno , 297 S.W.3d at 520. As this court recognized in Davenport , once a defendant is convicted in a bench trial and files a motion for new trial challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court no longer acts as the trier of fact and is no longer free to weigh the evidence. 866 S.W.2d at 771 (quoting Daniels , 761 S.W.2d at 45 ). Rather, at that point, the trial court is obligated to view the evidence in the light most favorable to its prior guilty verdict. Id.

On appeal, "we apply the same standard of review to the trial court's grant of a motion for new trial based on the sufficiency of the evidence as we do to appellate review of challenges to the legal sufficiency of the evidence." McCall v. State , 113 S.W.3d 479, 480 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, no pet.) ; see Fuller , 480 S.W.3d at 819–20 ; Moreno , 297 S.W.3d at 520. Thus, we will conduct the same review conducted by the trial court when it made its original determination to grant Medina's new trial. See Fuller , 480 S.W.3d at 819–20 ; Moreno , 297 S.W.3d at 520 ; McCall , 113 S.W.3d at 480. In other words, we will review all the evidence in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found, beyond a reasonable doubt that Medina committed the offense. See Brooks v. State , 323 S.W.3d 893, 912 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (citing Jackson v. Virginia , 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) ); Hartsfield v. State , 305 S.W.3d 859, 863 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2010, pet. ref'd) (citing Clayton v. State , 235 S.W.3d 772, 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007) ). We remain mindful that we give deference to the responsibility of the fact finder "to fairly resolve conflicts in testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts." Hooper v. State , 214 S.W.3d 9, 13 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007) (citing Jackson , 443 U.S. at 318–19, 99 S.Ct. 2781 ); see Rabb v. State , 434 S.W.3d 613, 617 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014) (holding fact finders are permitted to draw reasonable inferences if supported by evidence).

Application
1. What is a "sale" under Section 101.63(a) ?

Before we can determine whether the trial court erred in granting Medina's motion, i.e., whether the evidence is legally insufficient to establish a sale, we must first ascertain what constitutes a "sale" within the context of section 101.63(a). See TEX. ALCO. BEV. CODE ANN. § 101.63(a).

Under the Code, a person commits an offense if the person (1) with criminal negligence, (2) sells an alcoholic beverage, (3) to an intoxicated person. Id. (emphasis added). When interpreting statutory language, courts focus on the intent of the legislature. Clinton v. State , 354 S.W.3d 795, 800 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). To determine legislative intent, we first look to the "literal text" because it provides "the best means to determine ‘the fair objective meaning of that text at the time of its enactment.’ " Id. (quoting Boykin v. State , 818 S.W.2d 782, 785 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991) ). We begin by attempting to interpret the statute based on the plain meaning of the words used. Olivas v. State , 203 S.W.3d 341, 345 (Tex. Crim. App. 2006). The term "sale" or "sells" is not defined in the Code, so we turn to "the common, ordinary meaning of the word." Id. ; see Clinton , 354 S.W.3d at 800. Courts may consult standard dictionaries in determining the fair, objective meaning of undefined statutory terms. Clinto...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 cases
  • CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective, LLC v. Tex. Alcoholic Beverage Comm'n
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
    • January 22, 2021
    ...be interpreted in accordance with its ordinary, everyday meaning. (Pl.'s Resp., Dkt. 23, at 2) (citing State v. Medina , 536 S.W.3d 528, 533 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2017, pet. ref'd) ) (noting, when interpreting a term used but not defined in the Code that the "common, ordinary meaning of th......
  • State v. Romero-Perez, 03-18-00122-CR
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 2020
    ...rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Medina, 536 S.W.3d 528, 532 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2017, pet. ref'd); see Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979); Braughton v. State, 569 S.W.3d 592, 607-08 (Tex. Crim. ......
  • State v. Koenig
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • February 17, 2021
    ...to the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Zalman, 400 S.W.3d 590, 594 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013); State v. Medina, 536 S.W.3d 528, 531 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2017, pet. ref'd). When a jury returns a guilty verdict and the trial court grants a defendant's motion for new trial based upon insuf......
  • Cisneros v. State
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • August 4, 2023
    ... ... the legal sufficiency of the evidence presents a legal rather ... than a factual question, and the trial court must apply the ... same legal test appellate courts use when reviewing ... challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal ... See State v. Medina , 536 S.W.3d 528, 532 (Tex. App.- ... San Antonio 2017, pet. ref'd). If the essential elements ... of the offense could be found beyond a reasonable doubt, then ... the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the ... motion for new trial. State v, Fuller, 480 ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT