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Date: 01-05-2018

Case Style:

Jocelynn Kroll Dechert v. The State of Texas

Fourth Court of Appeals San Antonio, Texas

Case Number: 04-16-00554-CR

Judge: Patricia O. Alvarez

Court: Fourth Court of Appeals San Antonio, Texas

Plaintiff's Attorney: John Hoover  
Lucy Wilke

Defendant's Attorney: Ray Bass
Ronald August Ortman

Description: At a pretrial hearing, Dechert urged a motion to suppress evidence seized from her pickup
truck and her BMW. The only witness who testified at the hearing was the arresting officer,
Officer Hunter Westbrook, and the following summarizes his testimony.
Officer Westbrook testified he was completing paperwork at the jail at 2:00 a.m., when
another officer called him and asked him to check on three people who were standing near an
automotive repair shop. The officer was concerned the people might be attempting to get into the
shop which was also used as an impound yard. When Officer Westbook arrived, Dechert was
digging in the bed of a pickup truck which was parked alongside a BMW. Officer Westbrook did
not activate his overhead lights or his spotlight.
Officer Westbrook approached Dechert who explained she was dropping off the BMW for
repair and would be driving the truck home. During their conversation, Officer Westbrook walked
between the two vehicles, shined his flashlight into the driver’s side window of the truck, and saw
a small plastic jewelry bag on the seat that contained a crystal-like substance which Officer
Westbrook suspected to be methamphetamine. Officer Westbrook then patted down Dechert for
weapons and detained her in handcuffs for officer safety purposes. Officer Westbrook testified
that when he has encountered methamphetamine in the past, he also has encountered weapons.
After re-confirming that Dechert owned the vehicles, Officer Westbrook asked Dechert if
he could search the truck. Dechert consented, and Officer Westbrook retrieved the baggie from
the seat. When Officer Westbrook showed Dechert the baggie, she stated it belonged to another
person who had driven the truck to the location. Officer Westbrook tested the substance in the
baggie and determined it was methamphetamine. Dechert was adamant that she did not possess
the methamphetamine and told Officer Westbrook he could search the BMW to prove the
methamphetamine did not belong to her. When Officer Westbrook searched the BMW, he found
04-16-00554-CR


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more methamphetamine in a purse which Dechert claimed she had been sharing with other people
that day. Dechert was then placed under arrest.
During Officer Westbrook’s testimony, a videotape of the interaction at the scene was
played for the trial court. At the conclusion of Officer Westbrook’s testimony, the trial court denied Dechert’s motion.1 After a two-day trial, a jury convicted Dechert of possession of
methamphetamine in a drug-free zone. The jury assessed punishment at ten years’ imprisonment
but recommended the sentence be suspended and that Dechert be placed on ten years’ community
supervision. The trial court imposed sentence in accordance with the jury’s recommendation.
Dechert appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW We review a trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of
review. State v. Rodriguez, 521 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017). If the trial court does not
make express findings of fact, “findings that support the trial court’s ruling are implied if the
evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the ruling, supports those findings.” Turrubiate v.
State, 399 S.W.3d 147, 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). “Almost total deference is given to the trial
court’s implied findings, especially those based on an evaluation of witness credibility and
demeanor.” Id. We then review the legal significance of the facts or the trial court’s application
of the law to the facts de novo. Rodriguez, 521 S.W.3d at 8; Turrubiate, 399 S.W.3d at 150. When
the parties do not consensually relitigate the motion to suppress during trial, we consider only the
evidence presented to the trial court at the time it ruled on the motion to suppress. Black v. State,
362 S.W.3d 626, 635 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012); Perez v. State, 495 S.W.3d 374, 387 (Tex. App.—
Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.).
1 On the morning trial was set to begin, Dechert urged a second motion to suppress regarding medical records which the trial court also denied.
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CONSENT TO SEARCH PICKUP TRUCK In her first issue, Dechert contends her consent to search her pickup truck was limited in
scope to confirming her ownership and did not extend to Officer Westbrook seizing the baggie
from the seat of the truck. The State responds that Dechert supports her argument by narrowly
focusing on one of Officer Westbrook’s responses to a question during the trial. Because the
motion to suppress was not relitigated at trial, the State asserts this court should only consider the
testimony presented at the pretrial suppression hearing. We agree that the motion to suppress was
not relitigated at trial; therefore, we only consider the evidence presented to the trial court at the
pretrial hearing. Black, 362 S.W.3d at 635; Perez, 495 S.W.3d at 387.
The State has the burden to prove the voluntariness of a consent to search by clear and
convincing evidence. Meekins v. State, 340 S.W.3d 454, 459 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). In
determining the voluntariness of a person’s consent, we consider the totality of the circumstances
from the point of view of the objectively reasonable person. Id. Similarly, we measure the scope
of consent under an objective reasonableness standard by considering what a reasonable person
would have understood by the exchange between the officer and the suspect. Id.
At the pretrial hearing, Officer Westbrook testified as follows:
Q. Okay. So Deputy Westbrook — or Officer Westbrook, after you observed the baggy in the seat, what happened next?

A. Once I observed what I thought to be an illegal contraband, I asked Ms. Dechert if that was her vehicle. She said yes. And I asked her if she’d allow me to check inside the vehicle and do a search. And she said yes. I then asked again, to make sure that she was giving me permission to enter her vehicle. And she said yes.

In denying the motion to suppress, the trial court implicitly found Dechert consented to the search
of her truck, and Officer Westbrook’s testimony is clear and convincing evidence supporting that
finding. Furthermore, as previously noted, the videotape of the interaction was also played for the
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trial court, and the trial court stated on the record that he heard Dechert consent to the search of the pickup truck on the videotape.2 Because the evidence does not establish Dechert limited the
scope of her consent, Dechert’s first issue is overruled. CONSENT TO SEARCH BMW In her second issue, Dechert contends her consent to search the BMW was invalidated
because Officer Westbrook failed to give Dechert Miranda warnings after retrieving the baggie
containing methamphetamine from her pickup truck.
At the suppression hearing, Officer Westbrook testified that after he tested and determined
the baggie from the truck contained methamphetamine, Dechert claimed the baggie belonged to
another person who was driving the truck. With regard to Dechert’s consent to search the BMW,
Officer Westbook testified as follows:
Q. Okay. And at some point after that, was consent given again relating to the BMW?

A. Yes, sir. She was adamant that she did not possess the methamphetamine, and said that I could check her blue BMW to prove that the meth wasn’t hers, and it was actually the person’s who was driving the red truck. So she gave me permission to check the blue BMW to prove that there wasn’t any meth in there.

Although Dechert contends her consent was invalidated because she was not given
Miranda warnings, the case law establishes that a suspect may give valid consent even when the
suspect is in custody and has not been given Miranda warnings. See Rayford v. State, 125 S.W.3d
521, 528 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003) (“Contrary to appellant’s claims, we know of no authority that
requires informing a suspect of his rights under Miranda before obtaining a consent to search, and
appellant points to none.”); see also Haden v. State, No. 06–16–00141–CR, 2017 WL 2178897, at
*6 (Tex. App.—Texarkana May 18, 2017, pet. ref’d) (mem. op., not designated for publication)
2 We have also reviewed the videotape. Although the audio is not the best quality, we agree Dechert’s consent to the search of the truck can be heard.
04-16-00554-CR


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(“Brownlee’s request to search the contents of the cell phone did not constitute an interrogation in
a Miranda context, and Haden’s consent to allow the search of that cell phone was not an
incriminating statement. Accordingly, there was no violation of Haden’s constitutional rights and,
thus, the trial court did not err when it allowed into evidence the contents of Haden’s cell phone.”);
Savedra v. State, No. 13–15–00089–CR, 2015 WL 6375876, at *5 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi
Oct. 22, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication) (“There is no authority that
requires a suspect be read his Miranda rights before consenting to a search.”); Davis v. State, No.
14–07–00616–CR, 2008 WL 5059104, at *4 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 2, 2008, no
pet.) (mem. op., not designated for publication) (“On appeal, appellant complains that he was never
given Miranda warnings or similar statutory warnings before being asked to consent to the search.
However, we know of no authority that requires a suspect be informed of his Miranda rights before
obtaining a consent to search.”); Marks v. State, Nos. 05–07–00458–CR & 05–07–00459–CR,
2008 WL 2058226, at *3 (Tex. App.—Dallas May 15, 2008, pet. ref’d) (not designated for
publication) (“We are unaware of any authority, and appellant fails to point us to any, that requires
the police to inform a suspect of his Miranda rights before obtaining a consent to search.”); Smith
v. State, No. 01-07-00590-CR, 2008 WL 340485, at *6 n.7 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Feb.
7, 2008, pet. ref’d) (mem. op., not designated for publication) (“In regard to appellant’s complaints
that the officers did not provide him Miranda warnings before obtaining his consent, we know of
no authority that requires informing a suspect of his rights under Miranda before obtaining a
consent to search.”) (internal quotation omitted).
Accordingly, we overrule Dechert’s second issue.

Outcome: The trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

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