Texas Family Code Section 52.02(A) Interpretation

In Comer v. State, 776 S.W.2d 191 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989), the Court reviewed the question: whether a written statement by a juvenile should be suppressed when section 52.02(a) had not been followed but the statement appeared to be admissible under section 51.09(b)(1). The facts were that three hours had elapsed from the time Comer was taken into custody until he was transported to a juvenile detention center. In the interval, Comer was taken to a justice of the peace where he received the appropriate Family Code admonishments. Comer made a full confession in writing before the justice of the peace. The Court held that the three-hour time-period was an unnecessary delay and that the written statement was inadmissible, notwithstanding section 51.09(b)(1). See Comer, 776 S.W.2d at 196. The Court noted that Title Three of the Family Code contained competing interests: to protect "the public from the unlawful acts of children while concomitantly insulating those children from the stigma of criminality and providing for their welfare and edification." Id. at 193. In the same vein, there is tension between section 52.02(a) and section 51.09(b)(1). The Court resolved the tension by requiring that the provisions of section 52.02(a) be followed before interrogation under section 51.09(b)(1) is permitted. "Where the officer deems it necessary to take the child into custody, section 52.02(a) . . . dictates what he must then do 'without unnecessary delay and without first taking the child anywhere else.'" Id. at 194. The Court reasoned that "Title 3 contemplates that once he has found cause to initially take the child into custody and makes the decision to refer him to the intake officer . . . a law enforcement officer relinquishes ultimate control over the investigative function of the case." Id. at 196. In other words, it was the legislature's intent that "the officer designated by the juvenile court make the initial decision whether to subject a child to custodial interrogation." Id. Because section 52.02(a)'s provisions were not followed, and the taint of illegality had not dissipated, we found a violation of article 38.23 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and remanded for a harm analysis. See id. at 196-97. Comer v. State, 776 S.W.2d 191 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989), interpreted section 52.02(a) to require both custody and interrogation, the Court of Appeals concluded that section 52.02(a) did not operate to exclude the officer's testimony concerning the appellant's statements.