DIANE COOK OWENS v. THE STATE OF TEXAS

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Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas.

DIANE COOK OWENS, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

No. 05-10-00321-CR

Decided: March 24, 2011

Before Justices Morris, Francis, and Murphy

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Opinion By Justice Francis

Following the denial of her motion to suppress, Diane Cook Owens pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and was placed on community supervision for fifteen months and fined $800.   On appeal, she contends the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress because the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her.   We affirm.

Plano police officer Eddie Brown was the sole witness at the suppression hearing.   On August 18, 2009, Brown was working the night shift, patrolling an area in west Plano.   Shortly after midnight, Brown was waiting at the light at Parker and Independence Roads when a truck driver stopped and reported that a woman driving a red Cadillac “had just passed through the light, appeared to be intoxicated, was all over the road, failed to maintain a single lane and was just all over the road.”   Officer Brown did not obtain the person's contact information.   Officer Brown turned east on Parker Road and caught up with the vehicle, which was traveling in the center lane.   No other vehicles were on the road.   Officer Brown said he observed the vehicle's right tires cross over into the right lane on two separate occasions and then pull back into the center lane.

Brown also testified he had been a certified police officer for about a year and a half, had been trained in DWI investigations, and had investigated thirty-five to forty DWIs. He said weaving on the roadway is a sign of DWI. Also, he explained that the time-after midnight-was when “most people come from bars and drink around that time of night,” and there were “plenty of bars” in the area.   Given the report from the unidentified motorist, Brown's observations of weaving, the time of night, and the location, Brown was suspicious that Owens was intoxicated and stopped her.

In her sole issue, Owens contends the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop her because the officer relied on “limited facts supplied by an unidentified person which were not adequately corroborated by the officer.”

When reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the finding.  State v. Garcia-Cantu, 253 S.W.3d 236, 241 (Tex.Crim.App.2008).   We afford almost all deference to a trial court's determination of the historical facts that the record supports, especially when the implicit fact finding is based on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor.  Id. We review de novo the trial court's application of the law.  Id.

A law enforcement officer may stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes on less information than is constitutionally required for probable cause to arrest.  Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22 (1968);  Foster v. State, 326 S.W.3d 609, 613 (Tex.Crim.App.2010).   To stop or briefly detain an individual, an officer must be able to articulate something more than an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or ‘hunch.’ ”  Terry, 392 U.S. at 21;  Foster, 326 S.W.3d at 613.   Specifically, the police officer must have some minimal level of objective justification for making the stop, that is, when the officer can “point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.”  Terry, 392 U.S. at 21;  Foster, 326 S.W.3d at 613.   In making a reasonable suspicion determination, we disregard the subjective intent of the officer making the stop and consider solely, under the totality of circumstances, whether there was an objective basis for the stop.   See Ford v. State, 158 S.W.3d 488, 492-93 (Tex.Crim.App.2005).

A stop based on facts supplied by a citizen-eyewitness, which are adequately corroborated by the arrested officer, does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.  Brother v. State, 166 S.W.3d 255, 259 (Tex.Crim.App.2005).   Corroboration does not mean the officer must personally observe the conduct that causes him to reasonably suspect that a crime is being, has been, or is about to be committed.   Id. n.5 (citing Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 147 (1972);  Pipkin v. State, 114 S.W.3d 649, 654 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 2003, no pet.)).  “Rather, corroboration refers to whether the police officer, in light of the circumstances, confirms enough facts to reasonably conclude that the information given to him is reliable and a temporary detention is thus justified.”  Id. (citing Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 330-31 (1990);  Pipkin, 114 S.W.3d at 654)).   A tip deserves great weight if the informant puts himself in a position to be easily identified and held accountable for the intervention.   See Mitchell v. State, 187 S.W.3d 113, 117 (Tex.App.-Waco 2006, pet. ref'd);  Pipkin, 114 S.W.3d at 655;  State v. Sailo, 910 S.W.2d 184, 188 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 1995, pet. ref'd).

Here, the evidence shows a concerned citizen with no connection to law enforcement approached Officer Brown as he was sitting at a light at a Plano intersection to report that a woman driving a red Cadillac was driving “all over the road” and appeared to be intoxicated.   The citizen indicated the direction in which the Cadillac was traveling.   Although Officer Brown did not obtain the citizen's name, we conclude the tip was of greater reliability because the person presented himself to Officer Brown, and did so while driving a truck from which his identity could easily have been traced.   See Sailo, 910 S.W.2d at 188.

Officer Brown located the red Cadillac and, while following it, observed it weave into the adjacent traffic lane twice before returning to its own lane.   This weaving provided some corroboration of the citizen's report.   In addition to the citizen's report and his observation of weaving, Officer Brown testified the time of night (after midnight) and the location (where there were “plenty of bars”) gave him suspicion that appellant was intoxicated.   See Foster, 326 S.W.3d at 614 (considering time of night, location, and officer's training and experience as relevant factors in reasonable suspicion analysis).   Considering the totality of these circumstances, we conclude it was rational for Officer Brown to suspect that appellant may have been intoxicated.   Consequently, the trial court did not err in denying Owens's motion to suppress.

We affirm the trial court's judgment.

MOLLY FRANCIS JUSTICE

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