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State high court rules evidence obtained without warrant useable

When a resident of Texas is convicted of a crime at the lower court level it can be disheartening. Fortunately, on some occasions that person may be able to appeal an aspect of his or her criminal case to a higher court. Sometimes those appeals can lead to a reversal of the lower court decision. Recently a matter regarding the use of warrants in Texas that will likely be of interest to many was decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The case revolved around an alleged meth cooking ring. Despite not having a warrant, based on a confidential tip, law enforcement officers entered a home and took various materials used for cooking the drug. Those materials were allowed as evidence at trial under the “independent source doctrine” and the man accused in the case was sentenced to prison. A warrant for the premises was later secured.

The case was appealed to the Second Court of Appeals which overturned the ruling. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the lower court and determined that evidence seized in an illegal manner could be used at trial as long as it was confirmed by a third-party source.

Evidentiary matters are often contested at trial. When it works, this strategy can be an effective way to weaken the prosecution’s case. Unfortunately, in this case it did not work.

While the man imprisoned in this case is almost certainly displeased with the ruling, he is likely not the only person paying attention to the case. The ruling could impact the evidence that is presented in future criminal trials in the state of Texas as well.

Source: The Huffington Post, “In A Scene Straight Out Of 'Minority Report,' Police Are Now Getting Warrants Before Crimes Are Even Committed,” Chris Gentilviso, Dec. 19, 2013

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