Acting on a tip, Parker County Sheriff's Deputies arrested a local couple for drug possession and took away their small child.
The anonymous tipster claimed that a residence on Highway 51 was a drug house. Deputies found a baggie with 0.4 grams of methamphetamine in 25-year-old Chelsea Garcia's purse, and an additional baggie of 33 grams of methamphetamine in 33-year-old James Minshew's bedroom. Investigators arrested the adults on drug charges and Child Protective Services officers took custody of their child.
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said he was confident that there was enough evidence to convict both Ms. Garcia and Mr. Minshew.
Search and Seizure Issues in Drug Cases
Informer tips often provide the basis for a search and seizure in drug cases. In terms of legal validity, anonymous tips are on the bottom of the totem pole. Such information comes in last in pretty much every meaningful tip evaluation, such as:
Reliability: If the anonymous tipster is not willing to vouch for the information, or even giver his or her name, why should a Parker County judge assign additional weight to its credibility?
Motive: Sometimes, honestly concerned citizens voluntarily deliver information to law enforcement officers, and these people have nothing to gain. But more often, anonymous tipsters have an ax to grind.
Track Record: There is no way to know how many "useful tips" this person has provided in the past.
Recent and specific information (e.g. "I know 501 Main Street is a drug house because I saw people smoking meth there an hour ago") is about the only thing that can salvage anonymous tips.
Gaining access to the residence is usually not enough. Unless deputies had a warrant, and it appears they did not, they cannot take any contraband unless a search warrant exception applies. Typically, officers ask for consent to search. Many people do not know they have the right to say "no." Other times, officers claim they will detain the person until they get a warrant if the person refuses to consent. That threat may be a bluff, but it's a bluff the law generally allows.
The Link Between Criminal Law and Child Endangerment
If you were arrested for DWI, drug charges, or anything in that neighborhood, it's not unusual for CPS to file charges as well.
CPS investigations usually end well for parents, but it is a long road to get there. Authorities may eventually drop charges or recommend some kind of pretrial diversion. But until that time, there is an intrusive investigation, along with multiple court appearances, legal hoops to jump through (like classes to attend), and significant emotional distress.
Texas' child endangerment law is very broad. It applies if a parent or caregiver intentionally, recklessly, or negligently "exposes a child under the age of 15 to imminent risk of death, bodily harm or physical or mental impairment."
Significantly, that negligence must be criminal negligence, which is a higher standard than ordinary negligence.
Many drug cases have collateral consequences outside a criminal courtroom. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions.