Can I Be Ticketed for a Traffic Violation as a Pedestrian?

February 10th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in Traffic Offenses

Not all traffic violations involve actions you make while driving a vehicle. Even if you are simply walking down a public street, an officer may stop and ticket you for violating certain traffic laws applicable to pedestrians. And if in the course of this “pedestrian stop,” an officer suspects you may be guilty of some other crime, you may find yourself in more serious trouble.

Man Found Walking Wrong Way on Street Ends Up in Prison for 7 Years Due to Firearm

A recent case from Amarillo, Labrado v. State, provides a cautionary example. A local police officer observed the defendant “walking in the roadway in the direction of traffic with his back to oncoming cars.” This is not only unsafe; it is actually a traffic violation under Texas law. Specifically, [Section 552.006] requires pedestrians to use a walkway when available; and if there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian must walk on the left side of the road or the “shoulder of the highway facing oncoming traffic.”

At this point, the officer initiated a traffic stop of the defendant. Initially, the officer only intended to give the defendant a warning and send him on his way. But she also questioned the defendant about his past criminal record. Instead of exercising his right to remain silent, the defendant responded to these questions.

This prompted the officer to ask for permission to conduct a warrantless search of the defendant. Again, rather than exercise his right to refuse, he gave consent and advised the officer that he had a “gun in his pocket.” This eventually led to the defendant’s arrest and indictment on charges of “possession of a firearm by a felon.”

At trial, the defendant argued the search was illegal and any evidence obtained from the stop–namely the gun–should be suppressed. The trial judge denied the motion. A jury later found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant renewed his objections to the legality of the search. Like the trial judge, however, the Texas Seventh District Court of Appeals rejected this argument. The appeals court noted the officer had “lawfully stopped” the defendant after witnessing a pedestrian traffic violation. The defendant then volunteered information regarding his criminal history and consented to a search. The defendant was not under arrest at the time and therefore did not need to be advised of his constitutional rights. In other words, the defendant “gave a voluntary, non-custodial statement” to the officer, which was admissible against him in court.

Speak with a Houston Traffic Violations Defense Lawyer Today

If you are stopped for a traffic violation, even as a pedestrian, you may have to produce identification. But you do not have to answer any questions about your past or criminal background. Many people think they will “get into more trouble” if they appear uncooperative. As the case above illustrates, however, a judge and jury will not go easy on you if you voluntarily admit to any criminal conduct during the course of a “routine” traffic stop.

And if you believe an officer has unfairly ticketed you for a traffic violation and need assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston, Galveston or League City, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.

 

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