Effective assistance of counsel

Floyd v. State (Unpublished Memo): There was no factual basis to support a Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 38.23(a) jury instruction, thus a failure to request the instruction cannot amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.

Floyd believes that there was no basis for the traffic stop that resulted in a search that turned up cocaine.  The traffic stop was over an unlit license plate.  Those things are supposed to be lit so that the plate can be read from fifty feet away.  The officer and her dash cam say Floyd’s plate wasn’t properly lit.  Floyd’s attorney cross-examined them on this point, but didn’t produce any conflicting testimony.  And there’s the rub.

Under Art. 38.23(a), a defendant is entitled to an instruction to the jury that they can disregard evidence if there was a fact question over whether it was obtained improperly (e.g., unlit plate = proper stop, or lit plate = traffic stop without probable cause) and the jury resolves that fact question against the State.

But here, there was no “unlit or lit” fact question.  There was only the officer’s testimony.  Cross-examination questions, however pointedly worded and emphatically stated, do not raise a fact issue.

With no fact issue, no basis for the jury instruction.  No basis for the jury instruction, no error by the attorney in “failing” to request it.

Side note: the Tyler court could have taken the easy way out and relied on the Strickland presumptions.  Instead, they grabbed the issue head-on and said that the trial counsel’s work was actually effective.

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