Texas law enforcement agencies can now obtain search warrants established on the prediction of potential future crime.
Back in 2010 Parker County Police officers arrested Michael Fred Wehrenberg and a few of his copartners after they have observed his house for almost 30 days as the part of an ongoing drug investigation.
The police decided to watch Wehrenberg’s house after they have received an information of a confidential nature from an informant. The informant told the police that Wehrenberg and his partners in crime were planning to cook crystal meth.
Further, the police requested a search warrant from a judge relying on the information they have received from the secret informant. However, the police have already searched Wehrenberg’s house and have found the following evidence: stripped lithium batteries, pseudoephedrine and other components often used to “cook” meth.
Immediately after getting the search warrant, police confiscated the evidence that they have discovered during the house search. Wehrenberg’s attorney tried to rule out the items found in his client’s house as evidence, but his request was not granted due to the federal “Independent Source doctrine”. According to this doctrine evidence that was acquired unlawfully can be used in court as long as it has been priorly introduced by a 3rd party.
Thus, after Wehrenberg’s guilty plea, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison on the counts of intent to produce crystal meth and possession of illegal substance.
The Second Court of Appeals cancelled the sentence of the court of first instance and stated that illegally obtained evidence should not have been used in the court. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the last resort for all criminal matters in Texas, upheld the trial court’s sentence.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals confirmed that “exclusionary rule” eliminates illegally obtained evidence from using as evidence in trial, yet federal precedent allows the evidence if it was first introduced by a 3rd party source. However, the court noted that the warrant could have been obtained prior to the search of the house.
CCA Judge Lawrence Meyers has also stated that from now on search warrants can be granted on predictions of commitment of crimes in the future.