TX14: Use of a spotlight on a boat was not a seizure

The use of a spotlight on a boat at night was not a seizure. Neale v. State, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 5008 (Tex. App. – Houston (14th Dist.) June 1, 2017):

In evaluating whether Vannoy’s use of her flashlight on this occasion constituted a detention, we look first to precedent from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has examined whether officers’ use of spotlights implicate the Fourth Amendment. In Garcia-Cantu, for example, the court distinguished the use of a patrol car spotlight from use of its flashing emergency lights. Garcia-Cantu, 253 S.W.3d at 245; see also Crain, 315 S.W.3d at 50. Considering numerous cases throughout the nation, the court noted that, while emergency lights are often involved in detention scenarios, spotlight use is often classified as necessary during police-citizen encounters; thus, its use will not necessarily convert a voluntary encounter into an investigative detention. Garcia-Cantu, 253 S.W.3d at 245; see also Crain, 315 S.W.3d at 50. Instead, courts must evaluate the specific facts of each situation, including the degree of authority displayed. Garcia-Cantu, 253 S.W.3d at 244. Intermediate appellate courts in this state similarly have rejected the mere use of overhead spotlights as triggering Fourth Amendment protections. Franks v. State, 241 S.W.3d 135, 142 (Tex. App.—Austin 2007, pet. ref’d) (“Use of the patrol car’s overhead lights in an area that appeared dark and unoccupied except for a single car does not necessarily constitute a detention.”); Martin v. State, 104 S.W.3d 298, 301 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2003, no pet.) (concluding that officer’s use of overhead lights did not necessarily cause encounter to become detention).

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