Court Discusses a Texas Defendant’s Rights Under the Confrontation Clause

When a person is accused of a crime, he or she has the constitutional right to confront any witnesses relied upon by the prosecution. If the prosecution is permitted to rely upon testimony from witnesses the defendant has not had a chance to cross-examine, it may constitute a violation of the defendant’s rights and any conviction based on that testimony may be unjust. In a recent case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the court ruled that a defendant’s right to confront witnesses was violated by testimony from a police officer regarding information about a drug transaction involving the defendant that was provided by a confidential informant. If you are charged with drug trafficking or any other crime it is critical to retain a seasoned Texas drug crime defense attorney to assist you in presenting a vigilant defense.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested following an investigation regarding methamphetamine trafficking. Specifically, the police received a confidential tip that a drug transaction was going to take place in a parking lot. A surveillance team monitored the lot and observed the defendant pull up next to another person in a different vehicle, after which the two vehicles drove off together. An officer observed the drivers of the two vehicles meeting briefly, then driving off separately. The police began following the defendant, and after he committed a traffic violation, attempted to stop him.

It is alleged that the defendant sped up and drove away, temporarily evading arrest. The police searched the area and found a gun and a bag of methamphetamines on the side of the road. The defendant was charged with possession of methamphetamines with the intent to distribute. During the trial, the arresting officer testified that he did not actually see a drug deal happen between the defendant and the other driver. The officer then stated, however, that after the alleged drug transaction he called his confidential source, who confirmed that the transaction occurred. The defendant was convicted. He appealed, arguing in part that the officer’s testimony regarding his confidential source violated his rights pursuant to the Confrontation Clause.

The Confrontation Clause

Criminal defendants have a right under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution to confront any witnesses against them. Thus, statements from witnesses not present at trial may only be admitted if the witness is unavailable and the defendant had a chance to cross-examine the witness. The court noted that an officer cannot testify at trial regarding statements made by a confidential witness during an investigation if those statements incriminate the defendant. In other words, if an officer’s testimony leads to the conclusion that an out of court witness stated that the defendant was guilty of the offense alleged, it triggers the protections of the Confrontation Clause.

Here, the court noted that the officer’s testimony referred to statements made by an out of court witness that specifically linked the defendant to the crime, and was therefore inadmissible hearsay. As such, the court vacated the defendant’s convictions and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Criminal defendants have a right to cross-examine anyone who acts as a witness against them, and statements from non-testifying witnesses are inadmissible hearsay. If you are charged with drug trafficking or any other drug crime it is essential to meet with an experienced Texas drug crime defense attorney regarding your case and what evidence the prosecution is entitled to use against you.  Rick Davis is an assertive criminal defense attorney who will zealously pursue a successful outcome in consideration of the facts of your case. Mr. Davis can be reached through the online form or at (979) 779-4357 to set up a confidential and free consultation.

Contact Information