An interesting opinion was just released from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. For those of you that don’t know, this is the highest court in the State of Texas that rules on criminal matters. The case is State v. Zuniga. Zuniga was allegedly pulled over right in front of her own house for running a stop sign. We assume the officer saw a bottle of prescription medication in plain view and Zuniga was not able to show a valid prescription. In Texas, if the officer sees something in plain view that he believes is illegal, then he is going to be able to search the vehicle. While handcuffed in the back of the police car, Zuniga moved her hands to her side, reached into her crotch area, and pulled something out with her hands cupped. All this because supposedly, she knows the officer is watching her. Seems more than a little odd, doesn’t it? Next, she moves her hands toward her mouth, moves her head down, and apparently, the officer thinks she swallowed something. What is this Ms. Houdini?
The officer then took Zuniga to the hospital where x-rays were performed and her stomach was pumped. The hospital officials did not find any illegal substance nor a baggie that may have contained something. Of note, the State of Texas didn’t test the defendant’s blood for any illegal substance or had the lab perform an analyses the contents of Ms. Zuniga’s stomach.
Ms. Zuniga was indicted for the Texas felony charge of tampering with physical evidence. This offense is defined in the Texas Penal Code as: