St. Mary's Law Journal
Within the State of Texas, there exist a great number of “peace officers” who are granted a wide range of power and authority. This includes the power to make warrantless arrests and searches pursuant to those arrests. Significant ambiguity exists regarding a peace officer’s jurisdiction. The confusion is largely due to imprecise statutory language and varying judicial interpretations.
Article 998 of Texas Revised Civil Statutes, for example, bestowed on city police officers the same powers, authority, and jurisdiction as city marshals. The statute, though, neglected to define the extent of that jurisdiction, or even what “jurisdiction” meant in that context. Article 999, which defined the duties and powers of city marshals, endowed city marshals with “like power, authority, and jurisdiction as the sheriff.” A cursory reading of these articles could lead to the understanding that a city police officer had countywide jurisdiction. In Angel v. State, the court considered the arrest jurisdiction of Tomball city police officers who observed a suspect operating what was later determined to be a stolen road paving machine outside the city limits of Tomball, but within Harris County. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that the interweaving of loosely worded statutes, specifically articles 998 and 999, evidences the legislature’s intent to expand the common law jurisdiction of city police officers to the entire county.
A city police officer’s territorial jurisdiction for arrest purposes is an issue unduly and unnecessarily complicated by the court’s tracing of ambiguous statutory provisions, and the potential for a similar result exists for other kinds of peace officers.
Gerald S. Reamey and J. Daniel Harkins, Warrantless Arrest Jurisdiction In Texas: An Analysis And A Proposal, 19 St. Mary’s L.J. 857 (1988).