Can I Be Arrested for Failing to Drive with My Headlights on at Night?

September 10th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Drunk Driving, DWI, Traffic Offenses

When you’re traveling on Houston-area highways and public streets, you need to be mindful not only of the rules of the road, but that your vehicle complies with all applicable equipment regulations. For example, when driving at night you need to keep your headlights on “when light is insufficient or atmospheric conditions are unfavorable so that a person or vehicle on the highway is not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead,” according to the Texas Transportation Code. So if a police officer sees you driving without your headlights, you can be pulled over and cited for a traffic violation.

Defendant Gets “Aggressive” During Traffic Stop, Ultimately Convicted of DWI

And in some cases, a traffic ticket may just be the start of your legal problems. Once an officer initiates a lawful stop for an observed traffic violation, any evidence discovered of another possible crime–such as DWI or drug possession may lead to criminal charges. In addition, an officer may arrest you if you fail to obey lawful orders arising from the underlying traffic violation.

Here is an example of what we’re talking about. In August 2018, a Texas appeals court upheld the DWI conviction and sentence of a defendant who was arrested after a police officer pulled him over for a traffic violation. The officer was actually part of a “DWI Enforcement Unit” that regularly patrolled areas near local bars. The officer observed the defendant driving without displaying his headlights and initiated a stop.

The officer later testified that based on his initial interactions with the defendant, he “suspected” the defendant was intoxicated. The officer asked the defendant to turn off and exit his vehicle. The defendant refused to comply, and in the officer’s words “was getting increasingly agitated.” This led the officer to call for backup. After additional officers arrived and attempted to secure the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant got “pretty upset,” in the officer’s words, which led to his arrest, not only for the original traffic violation of “driving without headlights at night,” but also failing to comply with a “lawful order” from police.

After the defendant’s arrest, the officer said he could “smell an odor of alcohol” on the defendant. The defendant refused to speak any further police and refused a request for a blood sample. Eventually, the police obtained a warrant to conduct a blood test, which revealed the defendant’s blood-alcohol content exceeded the legal limit.

At trial, and later on appeal, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence gathered during the traffic stop. But the courts rebuffed him. As the Court of Appeals explained, the officer had “reasonable suspicion to believe that [the defendant] violated the Transportation Code by driving without turning his headlights on.” That was sufficient grounds to initiate the initial traffic stop. And once the officer observed the defendant “acting aggressively” and refusing to follow orders, the officer was justified in further detaining the defendant “for the purpose of performing a driving-while-intoxicated investigation.”

Don’t Argue with the Police–Call a Houston Traffic Ticket Attorney Instead

If you are stopped and cited for a traffic violation in Galveston or League City, the worst thing you can do is act aggressively or openly defy the police. Remember, you have the right to remain silent. Even if you think the ticket is unjustified, you gain nothing by arguing with the officer. Instead, you should contact a qualified Houston traffic violations attorney to help you contest the ticket in court. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need assistance today at (281) 280-0100 .


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