Law Offices of Tim Powers
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules That Blood-Draw Search Warrant
In DWI Case Cannot Be Issued By Statutory County Court Judge Of Another County.
In Sanchez v. State of Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals recently upheld
the ruling of the First Court of Appeals that a Montgomery County, Texas
county court improperly issued a search warrant to be executed in Harris
County. The case involved a man who was involved in a single-car accident
in Harris County. The man told officers he had had a few beers and the
officers claimed that he exhibited several clues of intoxication during
field sobriety tests. The man was arrested and taken to "central
intox." There the man refused a breath test and the officers sought
a search warrant to compel a blood draw. For unknown reasons the search
warrant compelling the blood draw of the DWI suspect in Harris County
was signed by a statutory county court judge of neighboring Montgomery
The man moved to suppress the blood evidence based on this point but the
trial court denied his motion. The man subsequently pled guilty to DWI.
On appeal the First Court of Appeals agreed with the man that the search
warrant compelling his blood draw was invalid. The State of Texas then
appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas.
The issue turns on statutory interpretation and the Court of Criminal Appeals
noted that statutory county court judges are "magistrates" and
as magistrates their duty is "to preserve the peace within [their]
jurisdiction." The Court noted that the Texas Legislature has the
power under the Texas Constitution to establish the jurisdiction of statutory
county courts. The Court noted that no statute gives statutory county
courts authority to issue search warrants statewide. Further, the Court
noted that while there is no statute expressly forbidding a statutory
county court from issuing a search warrant in another county, the Legislature
has "consistently limited or elected not to expand the jurisdiction
of statutory county courts." Lastly, the Court noted that Article
1.23 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure lists the judicial positions
that have statewide authority throughout Texas and that this list omits
statutory county court judges.
Summarizing the Court stated: "Here, the record reflects that the
warrant executed in Harris County was signed by a statutory county court
judge from Montgomery County. The Montgomery County judge did not have
jurisdiction to issue a search warrant for an individual 'to be found
in Harris County' because such action reached beyond the Montgomery
County line. Therefore, the search warrant for Appellant's blood draw
The Court of Criminal Appeals went on to reject the State's argument
that the blood draw search warrant in this DWI case should be treated
as an arrest warrant. In doing so the Court of Criminal Appeals noted
the different interests protected by arrest warrants vs search warrants.
Specifically the Court noted that an arrest warrant is issued to seize
the person of an individual and that the statewide reach of an arrest
warrant is "based upon the assumption that a person is not likely
to stay in the geographical proximity of his alleged offense for an extended
time." On the other hand, a search warrant implicates a person's
privacy interests and is more intrusive than a mere arrest.
This is an interesting case but it is unlikely to have a great impact in
many Texas DWI cases. As the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals noted, there
is no indication in the record why a Montgomery County judge signed off
on the blood draw search warrant to be executed in Harris County. This
is an unusual scenario and in light of this ruling we expect it will become
much more unusual in DWI arrests for law enforcement to seek a search
warrant from a neighboring county.
If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced
criminal defense attorney for your Denton County criminal case or arrest
in Denton County, contact the Offices of Tim Powers today. There is no
charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899.
*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court
of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For
legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult