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Criminal Law No. 1794-01, 4/23/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: The issue on this appeal is whether the appellant’s warrantless arrest was made while the appellant was in a “suspicious place” and therefore, authorized under Article 14.03(a)(1) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The appellant was charged with driving while intoxicated. Before trial, the appellant moved to suppress the blood specimen, asserting that it was obtained pursuant to an illegal arrest. After a pre-trial hearing, the trial court denied the motion and the appellant entered a plea of nolo contendere. The Third Court of Appeals held that the arrest was legal and that the blood specimen taken pursuant to that arrest was untainted. HOLDING: Affirmed. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 14.03(a)(1), which is the article at issue here, allows a lawful warrantless arrest when officers discover a person in a suspicious place and under circumstances which reasonably show an offense has been or is about to be committed. The appellant claims that in interpreting Art. 14.03(a)(1), the courts have not given meaning to “suspicious places.” That is a misconception. In Muniz v. State, 851 S.W.2d 238 (Tex. Crim. App.) cert. denied, 510 U.S. 837 (1993), this court interpreted Art. 14.03(a)(1) as the functional equivalent of probable cause. That interpretation, as stated, is overly broad. Although probable cause that the defendant committed the crime is one part of the test, it is not the complete test. However, this court did apply the correct analysis in that case. In Muniz, the appellant was found hiding in his brother’s closet. A closet is not per sea suspicious place. However, the facts showed that on the night the victim disappeared, the appellant had been seen near the scene of the murder following a woman who matched the victim’s description, he was seen wearing dirty, wet clothes and showing wounds from a struggle, and he asked a witness to deny having seen him. At this point, the appellant became a suspect in the murder. A highway patrolman went to the house of the appellant’s brother. The appellant’s brother told the patrolman that he would turn over the appellant if he were in the house. The appellant’s wife, who was also at the house, nodded towards the bedroom and the appellant was found hiding in the closet. This court concluded that the appellant was arrested in a suspicious place. In its analysis, this court first looked at all the facts and circumstances known to the police officer which would reasonably show that the defendant had committed a crime listed in Art. 14.03(a)(1). Next, this court looked at all the facts and circumstances in relation to a particular place to show that the defendant was in a suspicious place. In other words, this court used the totality of circumstances test to find first, probable cause that the defendant committed the crime and second, to find that the defendant was in a suspicious place. Many of the facts supported both conclusions. Then in Johnson v. State, 722 S.W.2d 417 (Tex. Crim. App. 1987), this court held that, since the appellant’s arrest at the felony crime scene within two hours of the offense was based upon probable cause, the arrest was authorized under Art. 14.03(a)(1). Again, this holding does not state the complete test, but this court applied the complete test. In this case, trooper Thompson arrived at the scene of the accident and was informed that the driver was taken to the hospital. This information would tend to make a hospital a suspicious place in which to seek the driver who was suspected of causing the accident. At the hospital, soon after the accident, the trooper observed that the appellant had slurred speech, red glassy eyes, a strong smell of alcohol and that many of the appellant’s answers were unintelligible. The appellant also admitted to drinking and driving. Those facts in relation to the hospital make the hospital a “suspicious place.” Those same facts also provided probable cause to believe that the appellant had been drinking and driving. The determination of whether a place is a “suspicious place” is a highly fact-specific analysis. Holland v. State, 788 S.W.2d 112 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1990, pet. ref’d). Review of the case law indicates that several different factors have been used to justify the determination of a place as suspicious. However, only one factor seems to be constant throughout the case law. The time frame between the crime and the apprehension of a suspect in a suspicious place is short. The court does not set any specific time limits, but points out that the time between the crime and the apprehension of the suspect in a suspicious place is an important factor. OPINION: Price, J.; Meyers, Womack, Johnson, Holcomb and Cochran, JJ., join. CONCURRENCE: Cochran, J.; Meyers and Johnson, JJ., join. “[W]hen police have probable cause to believe that person ‘X’ has committed a felony or breach of the peace and he is found in ‘Y’ location under ‘suspicious circumstances’ and there is no time to obtain a warrant because: 1) the person will not otherwise remain at ‘Y’ location; 2) the evidence of the crime will otherwise disappear; or 3) the person poses a continuing present threat to others, then police may arrest ‘X’ without a warrant. On the other hand, if there are no exigent circumstances that call for immediate action or detention by the police, article 14.03(a)(1) cannot be used to justify a warrantless arrest. “Until and unless the Legislature provides more precise language in article 14.03, I believe that this construction best adheres to the legitimate historical purpose and scope of the statute. This interpretation also complies with Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Finally, federal cases applying the ‘exigent circumstances’ doctrine provide an appropriate analytical framework for future fact scenarios under the statute.”

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