Johnson v. State – Defendant Was Detained And Entitled to Fourth Amendment Protections

The officer’s actions in using a loud authoritative voice to speak with the defendant, asking “what’s going on,” and demanding identification, manifested a detention that implicated Fourth Amendment protections. Johnson v. State, No. PD-0209-12 (Tex.Crim.App. Dec 11, 2013).

On review of the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that led to his marijuana conviction, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the officer did not detain the defendant.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the State of Texas, held that under the totality of the circumstances, as properly reviewed de novo, a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave.

The officer shined a high-beam spotlight onto a the defendant, who was sitting in a parked vehicle, and parked the police car in such a way as to at least partially block the vehicle such that the defendant would have had to “maneuver” around the police car to drive away. The officer also used a “loud authoritative voice” in speaking with the defendant, asking “what’s going on,” and demanded identification. Given these facts, under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant was “detained” for fourth amendment purposes.

The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to consider the trial court’s determination that officer had reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant, and to decide whether that detention was valid.

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