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What Constitutes a Legal Stop in Houston?

One of the most common traffic violations we see in the Houston area is failing to legally stop at a stop sign or stoplight. According to Section 544.010 of the Texas Transportation Code, a legal stop requires the driver to “stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.” If there is no crosswalk, the driver must stop “at a clearly marked stop line,” or if there is no such line at a point “nearest the intersecting roadway” where the driver can clearly see any approaching traffic.

Stopping on the Crosswalk Line Leads to Drug Bust

In the case of a crosswalk or stop line, it is important that you stop completely before the line and not the actual stop sign. On many roads the sign is in front of the white line. But if you “inch over” the line, even just a little, a police officer can still issue you a citation.

And in some cases, this kind of traffic stop affords the officer an opportunity to investigate the possibility of other crimes, such as drunk driving or possession of illegal drugs. Consider this recent case from Amarillo. The defendant here stopped at an intersection, but according to a police officer at the scene, the “front tires of [the defendant]’s car encroached upon the stop line which resulted in the front end of the vehicle protruding into the crosswalk.”

This was enough to justify a traffic stop and citation. But when the officer approached the car, “he smelled a faint odor of marijuana,” and saw a “partially smoked marijuana cigarette” in the car’s ashtray near the defendant. The defendant eventually admitted that he had been using marijuana and was subsequently charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Following his conviction, the defendant appealed, arguing the traffic stop itself was illegal and that all evidence of his marijuana use should have been suppressed at trial. The appeals court disagreed. Even though the defendant was only “slightly” on the crosswalk line when he stopped at the intersection, the appeals court said it was still a traffic violation. This justified the officer’s decision to detain the defendant. It also meant the evidence of marijuana usage gathered by the officer during the stop was admissible in court.

Do You Want to Challenge Your Traffic Ticket in Galveston?

Obeying the rules of the road is important, because you never know when a police officer may be watching. But if you are cited for a violation and wish to contest it, you should speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who understands how to deal with police officers and the court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you are facing charges for misdemeanor crimes or others.