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Justo Armando Jiminez v. The State of Texas
Case Number: 01-18-00123-CR
Judge: Julie Countiss
Court: Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas
Plaintiff's Attorney: The Honorable Kim K Ogg
Daniel C. McCrory
Defendant's Attorney: Daucie Schindler - Assistant Public Defender
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On February 9, 2016, the trial court placed appellant on community
supervision, subject to certain conditions. On March 27, 2017, the State filed a
motion to adjudicate guilt, asserting that appellant had violated numerous
conditions of his community supervision, including the condition that he
“[c]ommit no offense against the laws of this or any other State of the United
States.” 2 See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 32.51.
3 See id.
At the hearing on the State’s motion to adjudicate guilt, appellant pleaded
“not true” to the allegations in the State’s motion.
Andrea Cruz, appellant’s ex-girlfriend, testified that, in November 2016, she
gave appellant permission to use her name and information to obtain a lease for an
apartment. They were no longer in a romantic relationship at the time. Appellant
asked Cruz for her help because they had a “close connection,” and he knew that
she did not “have any broken leases or [a] bad record.” However, according to
Cruz, she never agreed to assist him financially. Cruz provided appellant with her
full name, telephone number, date of birth, social security number, home address,
and driver’s license number (her “identifying information”). She did not have any
concerns with providing her identifying information to appellant because she
“trusted him” and viewed him as a “hardworking man,” who had “a good job” and
was “responsible with his bills.”
Several weeks after she provided her identifying information to appellant,
Cruz received a letter in the mail from Speedy Cash regarding an account for a
direct loan that was opened in her name. The loan was in the amount of $600.
Cruz further testified that she did not open, or authorize anyone to open, the
account. Upon request, Speedy Cash provided her with information associated
with the account, which included her name and address, the name of the bank that
received the $600 loan money, and appellant’s cellular telephone number. She
further testified that she did not have an account with the bank to which Speedy
Cash had transferred the loan money. Upon obtaining this information, Cruz filed
a report with the Galena Park Police Department (“GPPD”) “about the identity
fraud” and “loan that was taken out” at Speedy Cash in her name without her
Cruz later confronted appellant, who denied having any knowledge about the
account with Speedy Cash. However, he called her the following day and told her
that he “figured out” who “did the fraud.” Appellant told Cruz that a woman in the
management office of his apartment complex must have committed the fraud
because he had given her Cruz’s information when leasing his apartment. He also
told her that he discovered that this woman had “do[ne] this fraud to several other
people, including himself.”
GPPD Detective Monica Rollier testified that she was assigned to
investigate Cruz’s report of “a fraudulent use” of her “identifying information” in a
“Speedy Cash loan application” for $600. Rollier reviewed the loan application
with Cruz, who advised Rollier that the bank account, telephone number, and place
of employment listed on the application did not belong to her. Further, Cruz was
able to identify the telephone number and place of employment as being associated
with appellant—her ex-boyfriend.
Detective Rollier obtained the records of the bank account listed on the
Speedy Loan application by subpoena through the district attorney’s office and
ultimately determined that the account belonged to appellant. She further testified
that she called the number listed on the Speedy Cash loan application, but never
spoke with anyone. She could not recall if the voicemail greeting associated with
the telephone number identified it as belonging to appellant. However, Cruz
identified the telephone number as belonging to appellant.
Appellant testified that, in November 2016, Cruz was forced to move out of
her parents’ house. She asked appellant to borrow money to “get her own place.”
Although he did not loan her money, appellant helped her apply for a loan with
Speedy Cash. Appellant and Cruz applied for the loan online together, but
appellant testified that the purpose of the loan was to assist Cruz in paying for “her
car and her rent.” At the time, Cruz did not have a bank account, so appellant
agreed to have the loan money sent to his personal bank account. Upon receiving
the loan money, appellant withdrew the amount in cash and gave the cash to Cruz.
Appellant testified that he did not “sign onto the loan” with Cruz, but “allow[ed]
her to use [his] bank to send the money if she was approved for the loan.”
Appellant testified that he and Cruz were still in a romantic relationship at
the time that she obtained the loan. However, shortly after that time, appellant
ended their relationship. He testified that Cruz was very upset about the breakup.
And a week after the breakup, he learned that there was a “a warrant out for [his]
arrest” relating to alleged identity theft in regard to the loan.
After the hearing, the trial court found “true” the State’s allegation that
appellant had violated the condition of his community supervision requiring him to
“NOT COMMIT ANY NEW LAW VIOLATION AGAINST THIS STATE OR
ANY OTHER STATE,” found him guilty, and assessed his punishment at
confinement for two years.
Standard of Review
Appellate review of an order adjudicating guilt is limited to determining
whether the trial court abused its discretion. TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art.
42A.108(b) (“The determination [to adjudicate guilt] . . . is reviewable in the same
manner as a [community-service] revocation hearing . . . in which the adjudication
of guilt was not deferred.”); Rickels v. State, 202 S.W.3d 759, 763 (Tex. Crim.
App. 2006). The trial court’s decision must be supported by a preponderance of
the evidence. Rickels, 202 S.W.3d at 763–64. The evidence meets this standard
when the greater weight of the credible evidence creates a reasonable belief that a
defendant has violated a condition of his community supervision. Id. at 764. We
examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s order. Garrett
v. State, 619 S.W.2d 172, 174 (Tex. Crim. App. 1981); Jones v. State, 787 S.W.2d
96, 97 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1990, pet. ref’d). As the sole trier of fact, a
trial court determines the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given to
their testimony. See Garrett, 619 S.W.2d at 174; Jones, 787 S.W.2d at 97.
Constitutionality of Texas Penal Code Section 32.51
In his first issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred in adjudicating his
guilt based on a finding that he violated Texas Penal Code section 32.51 of the
Texas Penal Code, entitled “Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying
Information,” because that statute “[t]rigger[s] First Amendment [p]rotections.”
See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 32.51.
We review the constitutionality of a criminal statute de novo as a question of
law. Ex parte Lo, 424 S.W.3d 10, 14 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). When presented
with a challenge to the constitutionality of a statute, we usually presume that the
statute is valid and the legislature has not acted unreasonably or arbitrarily. Id. at
14–15; Rodriguez v. State, 93 S.W.3d 60, 69 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). Therefore,
the party challenging the statute normally carries the burden to establish its
unconstitutionality. Ex parte Lo, 424 S.W.3d at 15. However, when a criminal
law restricts speech based upon content, the usual presumption of validity is
reversed, and the government must rebut the presumption that a content-based
restriction is invalid. Id.; Williams v. State, 499 S.W.3d 498, 500 (Tex. App.—
Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, pet. ref’d). A regulation is content-based if one must
consider the content of the speech to determine if the speaker violated the law.
Williams, 499 S.W.3d at 500 (citing Ex parte Lo, 424 S.W.3d at 15 n.12).
While a general facial challenge requires the challenger to show that the
statute is unconstitutional in all applications, under the First Amendment’s
“overbreadth” doctrine, a law may be unconstitutional on its face even if it might
have some legitimate applications. State v. Johnson, 475 S.W.3d 860, 864–65
(Tex. Crim. App. 2015); Williams, 499 S.W.3d at 500. However, the overbreadth
doctrine is used “sparingly and only as a last result.” Johnson, 475 S.W.3d at 865
(internal quotations omitted). The overbreadth of a statute must prohibit a
substantial amount of protected expression relative to the statute’s plainly
legitimate sweep. Ex parte Perry, 483 S.W.3d 884, 902 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016).
And the danger that the statute will be unconstitutionally applied must be
“realistic” and “not based on fanciful hypotheticals.” Williams, 499 S.W.3d at 500.
“Moreover, the overbreadth doctrine is concerned with preventing the chilling of
protected speech and that concern attenuates as the otherwise unprotected behavior
that it forbids the State to sanction moves from pure speech toward conduct.”
Johnson, 475 S.W.3d at 865 (internal quotations omitted). “Rarely, if ever, will an
overbreadth challenge succeed against a law or regulation that is not specifically
addressed to speech or to conduct that is necessarily associated with speech (such
as picketing or demonstrating).” Id.
Appellant argues that Texas Penal Code section 32.51 is an overbroad,
content-based restriction on speech and, thus, violates the First Amendment.
Specifically, appellant argues that section 32.51 “explicitly regulates
non-fraudulent expression based on content because it restricts the ‘obtaining,’
‘possession,’ or ‘use,’ i.e., the communication, of ‘identifying information.’”
However, he concedes that his claim is “foreclosed” by this Court’s precedent and
acknowledges that he is raising this issue “for purposes of preservation.” Indeed,
this Court has twice rejected the same arguments concerning Texas Penal Code
section 32.51. See Williams, 499 S.W.3d at 502; Horhn v. State, 481 S.W.3d 363
(Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2015, pet. ref’d). And the doctrine of stare decisis
creates a strong presumption that precedents should be followed to foster
“efficiency, fairness, and legitimacy.” Grapevine Excavation, Inc. v. Md. Lloyds,
35 S.W.3d 1, 5 (Tex. 2000). It has its greatest force in matters of statutory
interpretation because the Legislature can rectify a mistaken judicial interpretation,
and if it does not do so, there is little reason for courts to reconsider a prior
statutory construction. Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v. Mitchell, 276 S.W.3d 443, 447 (Tex.
2008). Consequently, we follow Horhn and Williams.
A. Texas Penal Code section 32.51
The first step in an overbreadth analysis is to construe the challenged statute.
Johnson, 475 S.W.3d at 871. Section 32.51 provides as follows:
(b) A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers or uses an item of:
(1) identifying information of another person without the other person’s consent;
(2) information concerning a deceased natural person, including a stillborn infant or fetus, that would be identifying information of that person were that person alive, if the item of information is obtained, possessed, transferred, or used without legal authorization; or (3) identifying information of a child younger than 18 years of age.
(b-1) For the purposes of Subsection (b), the actor is presumed to have the intent to harm or defraud another if the actor possesses:
(1) the identifying information of three or more other persons;
(2) information described by Subsection (b)(2) concerning three or more deceased persons; or
(3) information described by Subdivision (1) or (2) concerning three or more persons or deceased persons.
TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 32.51(b), (b-1). “Identifying information” is defined as
“information that alone or in conjunction with other information” that identifies a
person, including “name and date of birth,” “unique biometric data, including the
person’s fingerprint, voice print, or retina or iris image,” “unique electronic
identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account
number,” “telecommunication identifying information or access device,” and
“social security number or other government-issued identification number.” Id. at
§ 32.51(a)(1). And the Texas Penal Code defines “harm” as “anything reasonably
regarded as loss, disadvantage, or injury, including harm to another person in
whose welfare the person affected is interested.” Id. at § 1.07(a)(25).
B. Section 32.51(b) does not implicate the First Amendment and is not unconstitutional as decided in Horhn and Williams
In Horhn, this Court held that Texas Penal Code section 32.51(b) does not
implicate the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment.4 Horhn, 481 S.W.3d
at 376. We explored the difference between expressive conduct and
non-communicative conduct. Id. While expressive conduct implicates the First
Amendment, non-communicative conduct does not. Id. at 373. Here, we are
concerned with how the conduct prohibited in section 32.51(b) fits into this
The prohibited conduct can be divided into conduct intended to
communicate and conduct intended to harm or harass. Conduct intended to
communicate implicates the First Amendment protections if it is: (1) “inherently
expressive,” such as parades and works of visual or literary art or (2) it is not
4 The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. CONST., amend. I. It “generally protects the free communication and receipt of ideas, opinions, and information.” Scott v. State, 322 S.W.3d 662, 668 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010), abrogated on other grounds by Wilson v. State, 448 S.W.3d 418 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).
inherently expressive, but is intended to convey a “particularized message” and the
message would likely be understood by those who viewed it. Horhn, 481 S.W.3d
at 373 (citing Ex parte Thompson, 442 S.W.3d 325, 334 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014)).
“In other words, prohibited conduct implicates the First Amendment if the statute
proscribes conduct intended to communicate an understandable message.”
Williams, 499 S.W.3d at 501. Conversely, if conduct is intended to “harm or
harass, then the statute focuses on the non-communicative part of the interaction,
or the manner of communication, even if the conduct includes spoken words.” Id.
In Hornh, this Court held that section 32.51 criminalized conduct that was
“essentially non-communicative” and, therefore, did not criminalize protected
speech on its face. 481 S.W.3d at 375–76. Further, to the extent that section 32.51
could be applied to communicative conduct, we determined that “it is susceptible
of such application only when that communicative conduct . . . invades the
substantial privacy interest of another . . . in an essentially intolerable manner by
using his identifying information without his permission and with the intent to
defraud or harm him.” Id. (citing Scott, 322 S.W.3d at 669–70). This Court again
affirmed this holding in Williams. See 499 S.W.3d at 501–02. And it has been
followed by our sister court in Ex parte Harrington, 499 S.W.3d 142, 147 (Tex.
App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, pet. ref’d).
Appellant argues that we should overrule this Court’s precedent because the
statute is “clearly so broad, it criminalizes legitimate communication under the
guise of preventing fraud.” He asserts that the statute criminalizes obtaining,
possessing, transferring, or using information “that is not especially private,
including ‘name and date of birth.’” But the statute’s reach cannot be considered
without the limitations imposed by the requisite intent to “harm or defraud
another.” See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 32.51(b). And the Court of Criminal
Appeals has explained that the statute’s “plain language . . . demonstrates” that its
purpose is to “prevent identity theft.” Jones v. State, 396 S.W.3d 558, 562 (Tex.
Crim. App. 2013).
Appellant asserts that his argument is not foreclosed by the intent
requirement of “harm or defraud” because this Court has not specifically addressed
that the “sweeping breadth” of the term “harm” reaches “well beyond any
conceivable criminal act predicated on a falsehood.” The definition of “harm” in
the Texas Penal Code is “anything reasonably regarded as loss, disadvantage, or
injury, including harm to another person in whose welfare the person affected is
interested.” See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 1.07(a)(25). Taken out of context, the
word “disadvantage” could be susceptible to multiple and wide-ranging meanings.
But section 32.51 criminalizes actions taken with intent to harm or defraud. And
the statute, entitled “Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information,” is
located in the Texas Penal Code’s chapter addressing fraud. Therefore, taken in
context, the meaning of the word “harm” is “narrowed by the commonsense canon
of noscitur a scociis—which counsels that a word is given more precise content by
the neighboring words with which it is associated.” U.S. v. Williams, 553 U.S.
285, 294 (2008) (explaining that use of the term “promotes” in “a list that includes
‘solicits,’ ‘distributes,’ and ‘advertises,’ is most sensibly read to mean the act of
recommending purported child pornography to another person for his
acquisition”). The term “harm,” thus, is most sensibly read to prevent criminal
acts predicated on falsehood or fraud and does not embrace situations well beyond
that scope, as suggested by appellant.5 See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN.
§ 32.51(b); SMI Realty Mgmt. Corp. v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, 179
S.W.3d 619, 625 n.2 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet.
denied) (observing under maxim of noscitur a sociis, meaning of word may be
determined by reference to meaning of words associated with it).
Appellant’s position is not strengthened by the fact that “the intent to harm
or defraud another” is presumed if the defendant merely possesses “the identifying
information of three or more persons.” See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 32.51(b-1).
The Penal Code defines “possession” as “actual care, custody, or management.”
TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. § 1.07(a)(39). Black’s Law Dictionary similarly defines 5 For the same reasons, appellant’s argument that “this Court has elevated the stated purpose of the statute over its operation” is without merit.
possession in terms that suggest control of physical items, referring to it as “the
exercise of dominion over property.” Possession, BLACK’S LAW
DICTIONARY (10th ed. 2014). Because the usual definition of the term assumes
actual control or exercise of dominion over property, we construe possession in
this context to require physical control of, or exercise of dominion over,
identifying information in written or recorded form. See TEX. PENAL CODE
ANN. §§ 1.07(a)(39), 32.51; Maloney v. State, 294 S.W.3d 613, 626 (Tex. App.—
Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, pet. ref’d) (“If a statute can be construed in two different
ways, one of which sustains its validity, we apply the interpretation that sustains its
validity.”); Goldberg v. State, 95 S.W.3d 345, 373 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.]
2002, pet. ref’d) (explaining State cannot criminalize thoughts). This construction
comports with the general purpose of the Texas Penal Code, which is to deal with
actually or potentially harmful conduct. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 1.02.
Appellant provides the following examples of conduct that would be
unconstitutionally prohibited: a journalist possessing a politician’s name and
birthdate “while researching and writing a column exposing that the politician had
violated the law and criticizing that politician for their illegal actions” or a
“voter . . . forward[ing] [a] candidate’s name and date of birth with a message
suggesting the recipient not vote for the candidate.” But the statute does not
criminalize the use of identifying information in political news articles or
possession of identifying information of a politician by a voter in researching
political candidates. Jones, 396 S.W.3d at 562 (explaining statute’s “plain
language . . . demonstrates” its purpose is to “prevent identity theft”). As
explained above, these examples do not meet the intent requirement of the statute,
which is to harm or defraud another. See id; see also Williams, 499 S.W.3d at
501–02; Horhn, 481 S.W.3d at 375–76.
This Court previously rejected essentially the same hypotheticals in
Williams, where the defendant argued that the statute “unconstitutionally
criminalizes the use of identifying information in political attacks and for leverage
in negotiation.” 499 S.W.3d at 501 (rejecting following examples provided by
defendant to argue section 32.51 criminalizes protected conduct: “releasing a birth
certificate to prove a candidate’s ineligibility for office; using voter registration
records to prove an opponent voted in the other party’s primary; providing criminal
or bankruptcy records to the news media; and using a person’s criminal record for
concessions in a divorce proceeding”). Similarly, in Horhn, this Court rejected the
defendant’s argument that the statute criminalized “‘routine and innocuous
activities’ such as employers performing background checks on potential
employees or journalists investigating corrupt practices that affect the public at
large” because “these types of actions do not fall within the purview” of the
requisite intent to harm or defraud in section 32.51(b). 481 S.W.3d at 375.
Appellant has presented no compelling reason to overrule our prior
precedent on this issue. Since Texas Penal Code section 32.51(b) does not
implicate the First Amendment, the statute is also not overly broad because it does
not reach a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech. Horhn, 481
S.W.3d at 376. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court did not err in adjudicating
appellant’s guilt on this ground.
We overrule appellant’s first issue.
Modification of Judgment
In his second issue, appellant argues that the trial court’s judgment should be
reformed to reflect that appellant pleaded “NOT TRUE” instead of “TRUE” to the
allegations in the State’s motion to adjudicate. The State concedes that the trial
court’s judgment does not accurately comport with the record in regard to
“An appellate court has the power to correct and reform a trial court
judgment ‘to make the record speak the truth when it has the necessary data and
information to do so, or make any appropriate order as the law and nature of the
case may require.’” Nolan v. State, 39 S.W.3d 697, 698 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st
Dist.] 2001, no pet.) (quoting Asberry v. State, 813 S.W.2d 526, 529 (Tex. App.—
Dallas 1991, pet ref’d)). It is clear from the record that appellant pleaded “not
true” to all of the alleged community-supervision violations asserted in the State’s
motion to adjudicate his guilt. We conclude that the portion of the judgment
reflecting that appellant pleaded “true” to these allegations does not accurately
comport with the record and should be corrected. See, e.g., id.
Accordingly, we modify the trial court’s judgment to state that appellant
pleaded “NOT TRUE” to the alleged violations of his community supervision
asserted in the State’s motion to adjudicate his guilt. TEX. R. APP. P. 43.2(b); see,
e.g., Rodriguez-Sanchez v. State, 01-17-00344-CR, 2018 WL 1189106, at *6 (Tex.
App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Mar. 8, 2018, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for
publication) (reforming judgment to reflect defendant pleaded not true to
allegations in State’s motion to adjudicate).
We sustain appellant’s second issue.
Outcome: We affirm the judgment of the trial court as modified.