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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Passenger's Refusal to Consent of Search of Car Driven by Common-Law Spouse Upheld

Wayne Danish drives a car titled in his name. Shirley Copeland is a passenger. Sheriff's Deputy Jesse Garza, lacking a warrant and probable cause to search the vehicle, asks Danish for permission to search the car. Danish agrees, but Copeland strongly objects. Danish and Copeland both tell Garza that the two of them are common-law spouses. Relying on Danish's consent, Garza searches and finds drugs (I would hate to have been him once the two of them got back home.).
Copeland moves to suppress the drugs. The trial judge grants the motion. The State appeals.  Chief Justice Rogelio Vasquez, writing for a panel including Justices Dori Contreras Garza and Rose Vela, affirms.
The appeals court held that the statements of the couple were sufficient to evince their marriage notwithstanding that they had different last names- it appears that their marriage would in turn show that she had an ownership interest in the car (The prosecutor argued that their claim of marriage was less credible because Copeland didn't take Danish's last name?! Both of my ex-wives kept prior names and my current wife hyphenated half-heartedly and not always consistently.). The appellate court held that Copeland had standing to object to the search of her husband's car. It also held that Copeland's objection invalidated Danish's consent.
Hat tip to the Texas District and County Attorneys' Association for the case. They point out that the factual presumptions of this appeal are generally in favor of the defense.
It appears to me that the proof for the motion got only a lick and a promise. No investigation appears to have been done of the basis of their marriage claim. The State stipulated to lacking probable cause for the search.
State of Texas v. Shirley Copeland, No. 13-11-00701-CR (Tex. App.--Corpus Christi/Edinburg, Aug. 9, 2012, no pet. h.)

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