CODY WAYNE MONCRIEF v. THE STATE OF TEXAS

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Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas.

CODY WAYNE MONCRIEF, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

No. 05–11–01063–CR

Decided: June 26, 2012

Before Justices FitzGerald, Murphy, and Fillmore

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Opinion By Justice Fillmore

After the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence, Cody Wayne Moncrief pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.   The trial court assessed punishment at 120 days' confinement, suspended for one year, and a $500 fine.   In two issues, Moncrief contends the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the State failed to show Moncrief's driving was “unsafe,” thus justifying the traffic stop;  and the trial court erred in determining the State showed there was reasonable suspicion to stop Moncrief.   After reviewing the record, we resolve Moncrief's issues against him and affirm the trial court's judgment.

Background

Stewart Austin McCoy, an officer with the Wylie Police Department, testified he was on patrol about 1:20 a.m. when he saw Moncrief driving a Ford Mustang.   In addition to Moncrief, McCoy and two other cars were on the roadway.   McCoy noticed Moncrief because as McCoy was driving behind Moncrief, he saw Moncrief “veer[ ] off of the main roadway and hit the median.”   According to McCoy, Moncrief hit the median once and likely twice and then drifted into the center lane.   At least one-third of Moncrief's car was in the center lane.   As McCoy continued to follow Moncrief, he stopped at a traffic light.   When Moncrief began driving again, he again “veer[ed] or drift[ed]” to the right.   As Moncrief corrected back to the left into his lane of travel, he once again came “really close to the curb.”   It appeared to McCoy that Moncrief hit the median once more.   At that time, McCoy stopped Moncrief because in McCoy's opinion, Moncrief's driving was unsafe, and McCoy suspected Moncrief was intoxicated.   When Moncrief pulled over for the stop, he “hit the curb pretty hard on the right side” of the car and McCoy thought the car rolled up on the curb and then came to rest on the level road.

Analysis

We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review.  St. George v. State, 237 S.W.3d 720, 725 (Tex.Crim.App.2007).   The trial court is the sole trier of fact and judge of credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony.   Id. Therefore, we give almost total deference to the trial court's determination of historical facts, particularly when the trial court's findings are based on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor.  Id.;  Guzman v. State, 955 S.W.2d 85, 89 (Tex.Crim.App.1997).   We afford the same deference to mixed questions of law and fact if resolving those questions turns on an evaluation of credibility and demeanor.  Amador v. State, 221 S.W.3d 666, 673 (Tex.Crim.App.2007);  Guzman, 955 S.W.2d at 89.   We review de novo the application of legal principles to a specific set of facts, including the trial court's determination of reasonable suspicion.  State v. Garcia–Cantu, 253 S.W.3d 236, 241 (Tex.Crim.App.2008);  Guzman, 955 S.W.2d at 87.

A law enforcement officer is justified in detaining a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe the individual is violating the law.  Foster v. State, 326 S.W.3d 609, 613 (Tex.Crim.App.2010).  “Reasonable suspicion exists if the officer has specific, articulable facts that, when combined with rational inferences from those facts, would lead him to reasonably conclude that a particular person actually is, has been, or soon will be engaged in criminal activity.”  Castro v. State, 227 S.W.3d 737, 741 (Tex.Crim.App.2007).   The determination of whether an officer had reasonable suspicion is made by considering the totality of the circumstances.  Id. Because McCoy did not have a warrant when he stopped Moncrief, the burden was on the State to demonstrate the reasonableness of the stop.  Ford v. State, 158 S.W.3d 488, 492 (Tex.Crim.App.2005).

In two related issues, Moncrief contends the State failed to demonstrate that McCoy had reasonable suspicion to stop him because the State failed to show Moncrief was driving in an “unsafe” manner and because the trial court incorrectly relied on Foster in making its determination that McCoy had reasonable suspicion to stop Moncrief.   After reviewing the record, we disagree.

Here, unlike the cases cited by Moncrief and like the Foster case, McCoy did not stop Moncrief solely for failure to maintain a single lane.   Rather, McCoy testified he followed Moncrief for a mile or more.   During that time, he observed that Moncrief did not have the attention or motor skills to operate his car safely.   McCoy saw Moncrief hit the median at least once, and more likely three times, and drift into the middle lane two times.   It was 1:20 a.m., and there was traffic on the road.   After considering all of these circumstances, McCoy believed Moncrief's driving was unsafe, suspected Moncrief was intoxicated, and stopped Moncrief to investigate further.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, including specific, articulable facts provided in McCoy's testimony, and rational inferences from those facts, we conclude the trial court did not err by denying Moncrief's motion to suppress.   We resolve Moncrief's issues against him.

Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

S

Court of AppealsFifth District of Texas at DallasJUDGMENT

CODY WAYNE MONCRIEF, Appellant

No. 05–11–01063–CR V.

THE STATE OF TEXAS, AppelleeAppeal from the County Court at Law No. 5 of Collin County, Texas.  (Tr.Ct.No.005–80624–2011).

Opinion delivered by Justice Fillmore, Justices FitzGerald and Murphy participating.

Based on the Court's opinion of this date, the judgment of the trial court is AFFIRMED.

Judgment entered June 26, 2012.

/Robert M. Fillmore/

ROBERT M. FILLMORE

JUSTICE

ROBERT M. FILLMORE JUSTICE

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