Curtis v. State (2007)

In Curtis v. State, 238 S.W.3d 376 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007), a novice highway trooper and his field-training officer, who had years of experience and specialized training in detecting intoxicated drivers, saw Curtis's vehicle weaving in and out of its lane over a short distance late at night. The court of appeals held that the trial court had erred by denying Curtis's motion to suppress because the troopers did not have reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle for DWI. Id. The court of criminal appeals reversed, holding that the court of appeals improperly applied the standard of review by failing to consider the totality of the circumstances and rational inferences from the facts, both of which supported the trial court's conclusion that the troopers had reasonable suspicion to investigate Curtis for DWI. Id. at 381. The Courtof Criminal Appeals reaffirmed its previous holding that the "as consistent with innocent activity as with criminal activity" construct is not a viable test for determining reasonable suspicion. The Court noted that "there may be instances when a person's conduct viewed in a vacuum, appears purely innocent, yet when viewed in light of the totality of the circumstances, those actions give rise to reasonable suspicion." Id. at 380. According to the Court, the question, in determining reasonable suspicion to stop, is based on the totality of the circumstances, including the consideration of the officers' training and experience. Curtis, 238 S.W.3d at 379-80. In Curtis v. State, the Court of Criminal Appeals found sufficient evidence from which the trial court could have found reasonable suspicion for the stop. Curtis, 238 S.W.3d at 381. There, the first officer testified that he had received specialized training in detecting individuals driving while intoxicated, it was part of his training that a driver's weaving in and out of a lane was a possible indication that the driver was intoxicated, and appellant weaved at least three times out of his lane over a relatively short distance of a few hundred yards at one o'clock in the morning. Curtis, 238 S.W.3d at 380. The second officer testified that he had been a state trooper for over 23 years, he was "certified in different ways" to detect intoxicated drivers, he, like the arresting officer, was also trained to consider weaving as a possible sign of intoxicated driving, and appellant's vehicle had been "doing a considerable amount of weaving" in and out of his lane that night. Id. According to the Court, the trial court could have reasonably concluded, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop appellant for driving while intoxicated. Id. In so doing, the Court noted that the intermediate court erred by solely analyzing whether weaving, by itself, gave rise to a suspicion of intoxication without considering the other evidence presented. Id. at 379-81.