Happy Halloween, or Never say you’ve seen it all …

Christopher v. State (Unpublished Memo): What county has venue when an officer feels something as he pats a suspect down, but doesn’t conduct a strip search until he takes the suspect to a jail in a nearby county?  Answer: the county with the jail.

Christopher was pulled over 937 yards on the Smith side of the Smith/Cherokee county line.  He was pulled over because his car didn’t have a front license plate.  To make matters worse, Christopher didn’t have a driver’s license, and his passenger had an open alcoholic beverage.  The DPS Trooper patted them down for weapons.  The Trooper didn’t feel weapons, but did feel something he figured was contraband.  The Trooper then took the two to the Cherokee County Jail. A strip search of Christopher revealed several “Halloween bags” of cocaine in a place that it taint polite to mention.

Christopher appeals his Cherokee County convictions on grounds that Smith County had jurisdiction.  The statute on county-line crimes provides that: “An offense committed on the boundaries of two or more counties, or within four hundred yards thereof, may be prosecuted and punished in any one of such counties. . . .” Tex. Code Crime. PRC. Ann. art. 13.04 (Vernon 2005).  The Trooper had mistakenly believed that he was within that zone, and that’s why he took Christopher to Cherokee County.  But that doesn’t mean Christopher wins the venue issue.

The key question is whether it’s fair to say that Christopher possessed cocaine in Cherokee County, or the Trooper manufactured venue by taking him there.  First off, the Trooper had no obligation to conduct a strip search in the field.  Second off, Christopher’s back seat ride with the Trooper qualifies, in the words of the Tyler court as:

“voluntary under section 6.01(a) of the penal code in that it was not accidental. See Alford v. State, 866 S.W.2d 619, 623 (Tex. Crime. App. 1993); Brown v. State, 89 S.W.3d 630, 632-33 (Tex. Crime. App. 2002).

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Christopher resided in Cherokee County.  The venue challenge is denied conviction affirmed. 

By the way, Christopher’s challenge to the chain-of-custody of the cocaine goes nowhere.  If you want to accuse the cops of misplacing something, try something a little less conspicuous than Halloween bags.

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