I was waiting in Travis County Court #7 this morning to talk to the judge about a post conviction occupational driver’s license. Meanwhile, a pretrial motion to suppress had already started.
From what I could gather, the officer had seen a car pulled off on the side of the road. The defense attorney was doing a good job pointing out through cross examination that no traffic violations had been witnessed.
Apparently, the State was attempting to justify the initial detention through the ‘community caretaking’ exception. Community caretaking is shorthand for the legal concept in Texas that the police can legally detain you ‘for your own good’. Of course, since it’s only litigated in the criminal context, that means they ended up arresting you for one thing or another, so how much good it ended up doing you is questionable at best.
So the officer had pulled over ‘to investigate,’ I suppose, but I had missed that part of the testimony, when this little gem came up:
- Defense attorney: Was there anything unsafe about stopping in that neighborhood?
- Officer: Well, any area in Austin can be unsafe.
- Defense attorney: Do you consider that to be a high crime area?
- Officer: All areas in Austin can be ‘high crime’.
Exactly! There’s no place in Austin, in Texas, or really in the world that an officer can’t characterize as “could be a high crime neighborhood’.
So, when an arresting officer testifies that “part of the reason I detained him was to investigate due to it being a high crime area,’ appellate courts need to stop pretending that adds any logical or legal basis for a stop or a detention. Is this really how low we want our standards to sink?
Like most of the affronts to our constitution, no one cares about this sort of erosion of civil rights… until they are arrested for DWI…