IN THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS

OF TEXAS




NO. 119-00

 

THOMAS WYMAN BADGETT, Appellant

v.


THE STATE OF TEXAS




ON APPELLANT'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW

FROM THE FOURTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS

HARRIS COUNTY


Johnson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Meyers, Price, Holland, and Holcomb, JJ., joined. Meyers, J., filed a concurring opinion. Keasler, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Keller, P.J., and Womack and Hervey, JJ., joined.



O P I N I O N



Following his involvement in an automobile collision, appellant Thomas Wyman Badgett was arrested for suspicion of DWI. He refused to give a blood sample voluntarily, so one was taken at a hospital, allegedly pursuant to 724.012(b) of the Texas Transportation Code, over his objection. Appellant filed a motion to suppress the blood sample, which the trial court denied. Appellant then entered a negotiated plea of "no contest" and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. Badgett v. State, 7 S.W.3d 645 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1999). We granted appellant's petition for discretionary review to determine whether "[t]he court of appeals erred in holding that 724.12(b)(2) and 724.013 of the Texas Transportation Code did not require law enforcement personnel to possess specific evidence that an intoxicated defendant was at fault in causing an accident before a blood specimen can be taken involuntarily, but that merely an accident involving an intoxicated driver is sufficient." We reverse and remand.

FACTS

Appellant was involved in an automobile collision in May of 1997. He was standing beside his vehicle when Officer Kerr arrived on the scene of the accident. Sergeant Traylor, the officer working the accident that night, handed Kerr appellant's license and told Kerr that appellant was one of the drivers in the accident, that he might be intoxicated, and that Kerr might want to perform a field sobriety test. After performing several field sobriety tests, Kerr believed that appellant might be intoxicated and placed him under arrest. Kerr testified that based on his experience, he also believed at the time of appellant's arrest that appellant could have been at fault for the accident because appellant was intoxicated. At the time Kerr left the scene with appellant, the accident reconstruction team had not yet determined that appellant was not at fault.

Appellant was taken to the Baytown Police Station, where he declined to give a blood sample. Kerr then took appellant to a local hospital, where a sample of appellant's blood was drawn over his objection.

After appellant was charged with DWI, he filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood test. The motion asserted that Kerr did not witness the accident, and therefore, could not have reasonably believed that the collision was caused by appellant's alleged offense of DWI. Appellant argued that, therefore, the provisions of 724.012(b)(2) of the Texas Transportation Code had been violated, and that this violation required the suppression his blood sample. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and appellant entered a negotiated no-contest plea.



COURT OF APPEALS

On appeal, appellant argued, inter alia, that Officer Kerr had neither appellant's permission to take the blood sample nor any basis to reasonably believe that the accident occurred as a result of appellant driving while intoxicated.

Section 724.012(b) provides that:

"[a] peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person's breath or blood if:

(1) the officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter 49, Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle or a watercraft;

(2) the person was the operator of a motor vehicle or a watercraft involved in an accident that the officer reasonably believes occurred as a result of the offense;

(3) at the time of the arrest the officer reasonably believes that a person has died or will die as a direct result of the accident; and

(4) the person refuses the officer's request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily."



(Emphasis added.)



Section 724.013 provides that: "[e]xcept as provided by Section 724.012(b), a specimen may not be taken if a person refuses to submit to the taking of a specimen designated by a peace officer."

The court of appeals held that the results of Kerr's field sobriety tests provided a reasonable belief that appellant had committed the offense of operating the vehicle while intoxicated. Badgett, 7 S.W.3d at 648-9. It then focused on whether the mere fact that appellant had been involved in an accident while driving while intoxicated was sufficient to establish a reasonable belief that the accident occurred as a result of the offense, or whether 724.012(b)(2) further required a showing that facts were known at the time of taking appellant's blood specimen that affirmatively indicated appellant was at fault in causing the accident. Id. at 649.

It noted that under certain circumstances, completion of an accident investigation and identification of the likely causative factors of the accident may not be possible in a time frame in which a defendant may reasonably be detained or a meaningful specimen be taken from him. Id. It also reasoned that because intoxication is widely known to impair a driver's ability to drive safely, the fact that an accident occurred in which a driver was intoxicated supports a reasonable inference that the intoxicated condition of the driver contributed to the accident. Id. Therefore, it held that 724.012(b)(2) could not reasonably be interpreted to impose an obligation on law enforcement personnel to possess specific evidence that an intoxicated defendant was at fault in causing the accident before a specimen may be taken involuntarily; instead, it authorized a specimen to be taken when an accident has occurred in which an intoxicated driver was involved. Id.

ANALYSIS

When interpreting a statute, we look to the literal text of the statute for its meaning, and we ordinarily give effect to that plain meaning, unless application of the statute's plain language would lead to absurd consequences that the Legislature could not possibly have intended, or if the plain language is ambiguous. Boykin v. State, 818 S.W.2d 782, 785 (Tex. Crim. App.1991).

In order for the involuntary taking of a blood specimen to be authorized, 724.012(b), by its plain language, sets out three specific requirements: (1) there was a life-threatening accident; (2) the defendant was arrested for an intoxication offense under Chapter 49; and (3) the arresting officer "reasonably believed[d]" that the accident occurred as a result of the offense. The court of appeals held that "because intoxication is widely known to impair a driver's ability to drive safely, the fact that an accident has occurred in which a driver was intoxicated supports a reasonable inference that the intoxicated condition of the driver contributed to the accident." Id. at 649. Under this rationale, the first two factors, in and of themselves, automatically establish the third factor that the officer "reasonably believe" that the accident occurred as a result of the offense. This reasoning effectively nullifies the third factor. That is, by allowing the officer's reasonable belief to flow automatically from the other requirements of the statute, the court of appeals' rationale effectively voids the requirement that the officer "reasonably believe" that the accident occurred as a result of the offense, as it will always be established by the other two factors. This is contrary to one of the cardinal rules of statutory construction: statutes are to be construed, if at all possible, so as to give effect to all of its parts, and so that no part is to be construed as void or redundant. See 2A Sutherland Stat. Const. 46:06 (6th ed. 2000), and cases cited therein; 73 Am. Jur. 2d Statutes 250 (1974 & Supp. 2000), and cases cited therein; 67 Tex. Jur. 3d Statutes 124 (1989), and cases cited therein; see also Tex. Gov't. Code 311.021(2) ("In enacting a statute, it is presumed that. . .the entire statute is intended to be effective").

By making the "reasonable belief" requirement separate from the requirements that there be a life-threatening accident and that there be an arrest for an intoxication offense, the plain language of the statute indicates that the officer's "reasonable belief" that the accident occurred as the result of the offense must be based on something more than the mere fact of the accident and the officer's arrest of the defendant for an intoxication offense. Therefore, we hold that such a belief must be based upon specific and articulable facts of causation. Cf. Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 374, 113 S. Ct. 2130, 2136, 124 L. Ed.2d 334 (1993) ("reasonable suspicion" based upon "specific and articulable facts") (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed.2d 889 (1968)); U.S. v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 226-9, 105 S. Ct. 675, 679-80, 83 L. Ed.2d 604 (1985) (same) (citing Terry, supra, and Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 99 S. Ct. 1391, 59 L. Ed.2d 660 (1979)). Articulable belief can result from any number of factors, including but not limited to, witness interviews, conclusions drawn from experience in combination with observation of the accident scene, (1) or determinations made by an accident reconstruction team. Requiring this standard of belief gives effect to all parts of the statute and does not overburden the police; the above factors constitute a basic part of everyday investigative techniques used by law enforcement.

We recognize the time strictures on obtaining a reliable measurement of blood-alcohol level and believe, based on other legislation dealing with intoxicated drivers, that the legislature also recognizes them. The legislature could have chosen to authorize the involuntary drawing of blood if there has been a life-threatening accident and one or more of the drivers is arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Instead, it chose to require, in addition, a reasonable belief that the accident occurred as a result of the suspected intoxication offense. We are not free to negate the statute's plain language because of our concern over time limits. (2)

Finally, we note that our interpretation of 724.0129(b) does not lead to an absurd result that the legislature could not possibly have intended. There is nothing absurd in requiring more than the bare occurrence of an accident and an intoxication-offense arrest before the state is allowed to make an seizure as intrusive as the involuntary drawing of blood.

Appellant's ground for review is sustained. The judgment of the court of appeals is reversed, and the cause is remanded to that court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Johnson, J.





En Banc



Date Delivered: April 11, 2001



Publish

1. For example, if the officer observes that the intoxicated driver was rear-ended at a stoplight, experience would indicate that the accident was not caused by the intoxicated driver. However, if the scene indicates that the intoxicated driver's car pulled into an intersection from a side street, which had a stop sign, onto a major street, which did not, and struck the other vehicle broadside, experience would produce a reasonable belief that the accident was caused by the intoxicated driver. Other scenarios will be less clear-cut, but will still permit articulable conclusions based on experience as to the cause of the collision.

2. We also note the problematic standard set out in 724.012(b)(3), which provides that "at the time of the arrest the officer reasonably believes that a person has died or will die as a direct result of the accident." (Emphasis added.) The latter requirement seems rather unworkable, since reasonable belief that a person will die is speculative at best, even for those with medical training. A more workable standard might be a reasonable belief that a person may die. In any case, the issue of this standard is not before us today and, in any event, is a subject best left to the legislature.