How an Apparent “Wide Right” Turn Can Lead to More Serious Legal Problems in Texas
January 13th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in Traffic Offenses
Traffic violations often lead to the pursuit of other criminal charges, such as DWI or possession of illegal drugs. That is why it is critical to challenge any potential problems with the traffic stop itself. If the traffic stop is illegal, that can affect the admissibility of any evidence found of other potential criminal activity.
Appeals Court Overrules Trial Judge, Holds Traffic Stop Legal in DUI Case
A recent case from right here in Houston, State v. Dodhiya, helps illustrate this point. This case began when a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper observed the defendant making a right turn on a public road. According to the trooper’s testimony before a trial court, he saw the defendant traveling on West Airport Road in Fort Bend, towards the intersection with Highway 6. At the intersection, the trooper said the defendant made a “wide right turn” into the middle, southbound lane of Highway 6.
Under Texas traffic laws, when making a right turn at an intersection, a driver is required to “make both the approach and the turn as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” In other words, from the trooper’s perspective, the defendant committed a traffic offense by turning into the middle lane rather than the right lane.
The trooper did not, however, immediately initiate a traffic stop. Instead, the trooper said he followed the defendant for about four minutes. During this time, the trooper said the defendant did not commit any further traffic offenses. Once the defendant turned off the highway and into a residential subdivision, the trooper finally decided to initiate a stop. In the course of this stop, the trooper discovered additional evidence that led to DUI charges against the defendant.
A trial judge decided the trooper lacked “reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct the traffic stop,” and on that basis ruled the DWI evidence arising from the stop inadmissible. Prosecutors appealed this decision. The Texas First District Court of Appeals agreed with the prosecutors that the trial judge ruled incorrectly and held the trooper acted properly under the circumstances.
As the appeals court explained, a law enforcement officer only needs a “reasonable basis for suspecting that a person has committed a traffic offense” to initiate a stop. It actually does not matter if the driver ultimately committed the traffic offense. As long as the officer reasonably believed a traffic violation may have occurred, the stop itself was legal, and any evidence gathered during the stop was admissible as evidence against the defendant on other criminal charges.
Speak with a Traffic Ticket Lawyer in Houston, Galveston or League City
You should always exercise care when driving, as police officers will seize any opportunity to make a stop. But if you are issued a ticket for a violation you did not commit, keep in mind you always have the right to challenge a traffic ticket in court. If you need legal advice or assistance from a qualified Houston traffic violations defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today. Call 281-280-0100.