A simple traffic violation is often the first step towards a police officer arresting someone for a more serious crime, such as drug possession or DWI. That is why all Houston-area motorists need to be aware of the rules of the road. Even a seemingly innocent act may technically violate the Texas Transportation Code–and in turn, justify a police officer’s decision to stop, detain, and search you.
Defendant’s “Interference” with Traffic Supports Felony DWI Conviction
A recent Texas appeals court decision, Salgado v. State, offers a helpful illustration. This case originated with an August 2016 traffic stop. According to court records, the defendant “backed his vehicle out of a private driveway” and onto a public street. At the same time, a police officer was driving his official vehicle down that same public street and came to a “complete stop” in order to avoid colliding with the defendant.
The officer then initiated a traffic stop. The officer explained the defendant violated Section 545.415 of the Transportation Code, which states a person operating a motor vehicle “may not back the vehicle unless the movement can be made safely and without interference with other traffic.”
This traffic stop eventually led the officer to discover evidence of DWI. The defendant was charged with a third-degree felony DWI based on his prior convictions for the same offense. The trial court found the defendant guilty.
On appeal, the defendant argued the police officer’s initial traffic stop was unconstitutional because he did not violate Section 545.415. More precisely, the defendant argued “the way he backed up was not unsafe.” The defendant maintained he was not driving any “faster than necessary” when backing out of the driveway and he did not “hit the curb.”
But as the appeals court explained, whether the defendant backed up safely was not the issue. The “plain text” of Section 545.415 states it is a traffic violation to back up when doing so creates “interference with other traffic.” Here, the defendant did not dispute the arresting officer’s testimony–and supporting dashboard camera footage–that the officer was forced to stop in order to avoid hitting the defendant as he backed out. That is to say, the defendant backed up in such a way as to “interfere” with traffic.
The traffic stop was therefore legal, and any evidence of DWI gathered as a result of the stop was also admissible in court against the defendant.
Speak with a Houston Traffic Violations Defense Lawyer Today
Police often count on the fact they know the traffic laws better than the average motorist. For this reason, you should never try and “talk your way out of a ticket,” especially if the stop uncovers possible evidence of other criminal activity. Instead, your best course of action is to remain silent and contact an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who understands how to handle traffic violations.