State v. Redus and Zermeno Nos. PD-0067-14 & PD-0069-14

Case Summary written by C.J. Baker, Staff Member.

Judge Cochran delivered the opinion of the unanimous Court.

In separate cases later consolidated for appeal, the trial judge suppressed blood evidence the prosecution acquired under the recently enacted provisions in Chapter 724 of the Texas Transportation Code. The new provisions allow for unconsented blood draws without a warrant but the trial judge held this was unconstitutional. The State sought appellate review but failed to properly certify that the appeal was (1) not taken to delay the trial, and (2) the suppressed evidence was of substantial importance to the case. Instead, the prosecutor simply recited article 44.01(a)(5) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which affords the State a right to appeal under on those two conditions. The court of appeals held the appeal was not proper because without a timely executed certification, the appeals court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

The issue before the Court of Criminal Appeals was not the constitutionality of the unconsented blood draw, but whether the lower court’s construction of the procedural rule was too “hypertechnical” and, as a result, led to an absurd consequence in the case. Essentially, the prosecutor argued that where the substance of the appellate certification was proper, the formal deficiency should be overlooked.

In light of the legislative history around article 44.01(a)(5) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which grants the State the right to appeal a pretrial ruling, the prosecutor’s certification is a necessary prerequisite to jurisdiction, not a formality. Prior to 1987, the State could not appeal pretrial rulings and there was concern that allowing it to do so would advantage the State because defendants must wait until the disposition of the case to appeal. The primary check on this potential imbalance of power is the limitation of appeals to cases where the pretrial ruling essentially destroys the State’s case. The prosecutor’s certification places the reputation and integrity of the prosecutor on the line in order to ensure that this check is not ignored. Therefore, the appeals courts lack jurisdiction where the prosecutor fails to make the required certification and refusing to hear the case is not an absurd consequence. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.