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DUI Case Highlights from Paul Burglin San Francisco DUI Attorney - Alford v. State

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Community Care-Taking Exception
Alford v. State (2012) Unpublished Opinion Following Rehearing
Texas R. App. P. 47 (No. 05-10-009-CR)

In evaluating a “community care-taking" exception to the warrant requirement, the Texas courts consider four non-exclusive factors: (1) the nature and level of distress exhibited by the individual; (2) the location of the individual; (3) whether the individual was alone or had access to assistance independent of the officer; and (4) to what extent the individual, if not assisted, presented a danger to himself or others.

Here, defendant was merely observed “kind of turned sideways [with half her] body out [the car and] leaning over saying something to the driver." They were purportedly talking “kind of loud" but the officer said he could not tell if there was a disturbance. As the officer approached, the passenger switched places with the driver and began to drive away. The officer did not say he observed anything indicating distress. The vehicle was at a dead-end street next to an open Jack-in-the-Box restaurant. The defendant was with her sister and had access to the restaurant if she needed help. There was no indication she was in need of any help.

Thus, all four factors went for the defendant and no “community care-taking" exception existed. The State’s contention on appeal of a “consensual encounter" was deemed waived since it was not preserved at the trial court level. The trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress evidence.

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