CoCA reverses suppression of evidence based on newly-discovered evidence rule

Jordan Treuter, Volume 50 Staff Member

JUSTICE KELLER DELIVERED THE UNANIMOUS OPINION OF THE COURT

The issue is whether the discovery of drugs on a suspect’s person after arrest on traffic warrants but before the search of a suspect’s vehicle creates a new basis for arrest that justifies a search of the vehicle as a search incident to arrest. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that it does when it meets the second exception of Arizona v. Gant.

In State v. Sanchez, an officer arrested Sanchez after discovering he had outstanding warrants. During his arrest, the officer found illegal drugs in a cigarette box on Sanchez’s body who continued to glance at his vehicle after the discovery. The officer then searched Sanchez’s car where she discovered a pouch containing a baggie of cocaine. The trial court granted Sanchez’s motion to suppress the drugs found in the vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed for the same reason: there was not a reasonable probability that the vehicle contained evidence relevant to the offense at the time of the original arrest.

The United States Supreme Court previously held in Gant that in certain cases the original arrest would supply reason for a subsequent search of the suspect’s car on another offense. However, in many cases, such a search would not be reasonable. Scalia set the test that such a search would be upheld “where it is reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in the vehicle.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the court of appeals, finding that newly-discovered information incident to a legal search may justify a search of a suspect’s car if (1) probable cause exists for the newly-discovered offense and (2) the search occurs close in time to the defendant’s formal arrest.

State v. Sanchez, No. PD-1037-16 (Tex. Crim. App. Sep. 27, 2017).