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How a Dispute Over Mud Flaps Led to a Truck Driver’s Felony Conviction

Although we commonly associate traffic violations with driving violations like speeding or failing to stop at a red light, an officer may also stop and cite you for any number of equipment problems with your vehicle. In general, it is a misdemeanor under Texas law to operate a vehicle that is “equipped in a manner prohibited” by state law. However, you can ask a judge to dismiss any such charge if you remedy the violation before appearing in court and paying an administrative fee of $10.

Defendant Receives 7 Years for Attempting to Evade Misdemeanor Ticket

Nobody likes getting a traffic ticket, regardless of the circumstances. But the best thing you can do is to stop when pulled over, deal with the ticketing officer in a professional manner, and make your case in court. Never try and pick a fight with the officer, even if you think they are being unfair or nit-picky1x  with respect to an equipment violation. And under no circumstances should you ever try and avoid a ticket by trying to flee the police.

Indeed, the consequences for “evading arrest” are far more severe than a misdemeanor traffic ticket. Here is a recent Texas case that illustrates just how severe. This case began with an attempted traffic stop in March 2016. A local sheriff’s deputy observed a truck driving down Texas Highway 16 South. The truck had four rear tires. Under Texas law, such trucks must have safety guards–i.e., mud flaps–suspended behind its rearmost wheels “within eight inches of the surface of the highway.”

Here, the deputy did not see the required mud flap on the driver’s side of the truck. He then activated his patrol lights, indicating the driver of the truck should pull over. The driver did not comply. Instead, he “sped away quickly,” according to the deputy. Shortly thereafter, the deputy and other officers located and arrested the defendant for evading arrest. He was later found guilty of this charge–a second-degree felony in Texas–and sentenced to 7 years in prison.

At trial, the driver argued the original traffic stop was unlawful because his vehicle had the requisite mud flaps. The trial judge rejected this claim. Later on appeal, the driver attempted to argue the mud flap rule itself did not even apply to his vehicle. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals declined to entertain this new point since it was not first brought to the trial judge’s attention.

Don’t Run Away–Call a Lawyer Instead

Frankly, the best time to address a potential misunderstanding over an equipment violation is with the officer at the scene. And if you still get a ticket, you should call a qualified Houston traffic violations lawyer to help you make your case in court. Running away is clearly not the answer, as the truck driver in the case above learned the hard way.

If you live in the Houston, Galveston, or League City areas and need assistance in fighting an unfair traffic citation, call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today, (281) 280-0100.