LISTENING IS KEY...AND GAMBLE
I took the relatively scenic drive north from Houston to Crockett, Texas in Houston County, Texas, color changing leaves and one stop light towns and all.
I was asked by a fellow lawyer to conduct the examinations and argument in a motion to suppress into what was clearly a race based traffic stop that resulted in felony charges of tampering with a government document.
Mexican client was driving down a two lane highway in a pickup truck with aftermarket tail lights. Local Trooper was driving in the opposite direction when he claims he sees that wire was obstructing client's license plate. Trooper pulls my client over, who is driving between two trucks, each towing trailers without license plates (Trooper doesn't pull them over, obviously).
Trooper immediately takes client out of the truck and asks him a barrage of questions. Client gives a false name in tattered English and cannot provide a license. Insurance does have his name on it. Trooper tells client to stand near the back of his truck on the driver's side and immediately searches the cabin of the truck. I am talking about everywhere: seats, under seats, behind seats, map pockets, and glove compartments. Trooper testifies he is conducting this search for his own safety. Trooper then cuffs client and leaves him in the same spot before going to the passenger sides of the truck to continue his warrantless and search. Finally, Trooper finds pay stubs for several different people. Trooper then calls client's employer and dutifully brings the social security card my client used to get his job several years ago.
This cop was your typical trooper/former trooper near the end of retirement. He was smart, but he was too smart for his own good. He spoke too much for his own good. On direct by the state, he babbled and babbled and babbled. I had to come up with a strategy. Do I try and control this seasoned cop in this rural courthouse? Or do I risk letting him get himself into trouble by speaking too much? Well, I did a little bit of both.
My opening question poked fun at him for thinking my client may have been a terrorist. After pissing him off, I sort of let him go because he was now hell-bent on beating me. He was so focused on talking and his elaborate story that when I asked him in a leading manner if my client was under arrest when he was cuffed, he just said "yes, he was absolutely under arrest."
A moment later, he asked to correct something he said, and there was no way in hell I'd let him do that. I simply confirmed that he continued to search the truck after my client was placed under arrest, and that during the continuation of the search is when he found the evidence that caused my client to be charged with a serious deportable felony.
The Honorable Judge up there did the right thing and granted my motion to suppress, not on the stop, but based on the search, which I take greater pride in. It sure was a breath of fresh air to see a district attorney not make frivolous arguments based solely on her desire to make quota or one up his cohort in the office.
All in all, it was a good way to end a week. I hope I can get the hat-trick. Keep the opportunities coming.