Texting While Driving Law Texas

Texting While Driving in Texas | Texas’ New Traffic Law

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Texting While Driving Law TexasVirtually every state in America has a statewide law banning the use of cell phones or texting while driving. Until recently, Texas has had minimal restrictions on cell phone usage while driving. Such restrictions include:

  • drivers with learner’s permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving;
  • Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices;
  • school bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present; and
  • in school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.

However, after many failed efforts, Texas has finally passed a law banning the use of handheld devices in certain situations, namely texting. On June 6, 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 62, which makes using a portable wireless communication device (i.e. a cell phone) to read, write, or send an electronic message (i.e. a text) while operating a motor vehicle a misdemeanor offense.

Notice is Required to be Posted by DPS of the New Ban

The Texas Department of Transportation will be required to post signs on interstate and U.S. highways entering the state indicating that texting while driving is prohibited and carries a fine. Additionally, the new law requires that the driver’s license test cover knowledge about the effects of texting while driving or other actions that constitute distracted driving.

What is the Punishment for Texting While Driving in Texas?

Under the new law, the sole offense of “texting while driving” is not an arrestable offense. A driver’s first offense will be punishable by a fine between $25 and $99, and any subsequent offenses will carry a fine between $100 and $200. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles is not authorized to assign points to a driver’s license for a “texting while driving offense.”

However, if at trial for the offense it is shown that the defendant caused the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the offense will become a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. Additionally, if the conduct constituting the offense is also a violation of another law, the defendant may be prosecuted under either law, or both.

Possible Defenses to a Texting While Driving Charge:

A driver may have a defense to prosecution if the driver was:

  • not moving;
  • using a hands-free device, including voice-operated technology;
  • reporting illegal activity or summoning emergency help;
  • reading an electronic message that the person reasonably believed concerned an emergency;
  • relaying information to a dispatcher or digital network through a device affixed to the vehicle as part of the driver’s job;
  • activating functions to play music; or
  • using a GPS function.

Additionally, the law does not apply to drivers of authorized emergency or law enforcement vehicles acting in an official capacity or to drivers licensed by the Federal Communications Commission operating a radio frequency device other than a portable wireless communication device.
Furthermore, the law prohibits the search and seizure of a driver’s cell phone unless authorized by another law.

Concerns Regarding HB 62 (Texting While Driving Law)

Supporters of the law believe it will increase safety and reduce distracted driving incidents, while opponents see it as an overreach of the government into citizen’s lives. Some fear the law will allow law enforcement to gain more power to stop citizens by mistaking a person’s legal actions for texting. However, despite these reservations, this law takes effect on September 1, 2017, preempting local ordinances, and applies only to offenses committed on or after that date.

Links to the full text of the bill:

http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/pdf/HB00062F.pdf#navpanes=0
http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB62

Pay Red Light Camera Ticket Texas

Should I Pay My Red Light Camera Ticket?

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Pay Red Light Camera Ticket TexasAnytime someone gets a ticket in the mail from a red light camera, the same questions run through their mind. Do I really have to pay this ticket? Is that even me driving? How do they know whether that is me? What happens if I don’t pay this ticket? Why do we even have those cameras anyway? There are a ton of rumors out there and plenty of people ready to tell you that you do or don’t have to pay that ticket, but what is the actual answer? Section 707 of the Texas Transportation Code governs red-light traffic cameras but there are certain ordinances that counties adopt that add onto or affect the Code.

What are the penalties associated with red light camera tickets in Texas?

Red-light camera tickets are considered civil violations and are not considered a conviction.* §707.018. The Code provides that the civil penalty may not exceed $75 and the late payment penalty may not exceed $25. §707.007. If you fail to pay your ticket an arrest warrant will not be issued and it will not be recorded on your driving record. §707.011(c). Additionally, according to the City of Fort Worth’s Red-Light Camera Safety Program, these violations are not reported to your insurance companies or driver’s license bureau.

Let’s recap. If you fail to pay your red light camera ticket:

  • No conviction
  • No arrest warrant
  • Not on driving record
  • Not reported to insurance
  • Not reported to driver’s license bureau

So far so good. Looks like nothing will happen if you don’t pay the ticket.  But wait, there’s more.

Will failure to pay your red light camera ticket affect your credit score?

Section 707.003(h) of the Code provides that information of failure to pay a red light ticket cannot be reported to a credit bureau. According to The Dallas Morning News, even the counties, such as Dallas, that had enacted their red-light camera contract before the Texas law went into place in 2007 can no longer report delinquent violations to credit bureaus. This apparently went into effect June 1st after TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax notified the city of Dallas that they would no longer honor the reports of unpaid tickets.

  • No credit bureau reporting

Could failure to pay your red light camera ticket affect your ability to register your vehicle?

There had to be a catch with these red light camera tickets. This is where they can get you. If a driver fails to pay their red-light camera penalty after it is sent to collections, that information may be sent to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and a scofflaw hold, or a vehicle registration hold, will be placed on the vehicle’s registration until all unpaid penalties have been paid. §502.010; §707.017. This does not mean that every county decides to go through the trouble of placing scofflaw holds. As for Fort Worth, according to Fort Worth’s violation information website scofflaw holds will be placed if violation fees remain unpaid. To the contrary, www.trashyourticket.com lists Tarrant County as one of the counties that does not place a hold on your registration. (This information is based on either news articles or reports from people with outstanding tickets). Additionally, since Dallas can no longer report to credit bureaus the plan is to start using registration holds to maintain their red-light camera safety program.

Bottom line: If you decide not to pay your red-light camera ticket it will not affect your credit score, it will not be reported to your insurance company or the driver’s license bureau, but it is quite possible that it could affect your ability to register (especially now that we register mostly online), but then again that might not even happen. Thus, there isn’t that much that cities can do to you if you fail to pay your ticket. Ultimately, it’s your choice if you want to take that risk, but now you have all of the facts in order to make that decision.

*Note that all of the information in this article is referring to tickets you receive in the mail after running a red light with a camera, not a ticket received from an officer.

Car Seat Laws in Texas Seat Belt Regulations

Car Seat and Seat Belt Laws in Texas: Sorting Out the Laws From the Guidelines

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Baby On Board: What Does Texas Law Say About Keeping Our Kids Safe in the Car?

Car Seat Laws in Texas Seat Belt RegulationsWe’ve all seen those yellow “Baby on Board” signs proudly displayed by new parents on the back windows of cars. In a perfect world, drivers would slow down and car accidents involving children would never be an issue. But we don’t live in a perfect world. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) reports that car accidents cause one in four unintentional injury deaths in children younger than 13. The IIHS explains that while most crash deaths occur among children traveling as passengers, proper restraint use dramatically reduces these fatalities.

Such statistics are a sobering reminder that we must do all we can do to ensure that our kids are safe while traveling in a car. So what can Texas families do to make our daily commutes safer for our children? What does Texas law say about keeping our kids safe in the car?

Car Seat Laws in Texas

The car seat law in Texas, meaning the rules for which you can be issued a Class C citation, are provided in the Transportation Code. Section 545.412(a) of the Texas Transportation Code states:

“A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nine inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.”

SUMMARY OF TEXAS CAR SEAT LAW:

  • 8 years – Children must remain in some sort of car seat or booster seat system until they are 8 years old;
  • 4’9″ Tall – If a child younger than 8 is taller than 4’9″, he or she may ride in a normal seat without a booster; and
  • Follow manufacturer instructions – It is a violation to use a safety seat improperly.

One of the important parts of the Texas car seat law is that seat must be properly installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. USA Today reports that nearly half of all car seats are installed improperly.  Many law enforcement agencies are trained to understand proper car seat installation. While it is unlikely that an officer will issue you a citation if you have a car seat that happens to be improperly installed, you should still make sure to get your car seat checked out for the safety of your child.

DEFENSE: It is a defense to prosecution that the individual is operating their vehicle during an emergency or for a law enforcement purpose.

PENALTY: Failure to comply with §545.412(a) may result in a fine ranging from $25 to $250, plus court fees.

Car Seat Guidelines in Texas

Some additional car seat tips are provided as safety guidelines or best practices, meaning that there is not a law on the books in Texas covering this.  However, these are good practices that are taught by doctors and child car safety experts:

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least two years old, or until they max out the weight or height limits per the manufacturer’s limits.
  • Children two to four years old may ride in a forward-facing seat according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Use a booster seat for children four to eight years old, according to the maximum height or weight limits provided by the manufacturer.
  • Most seat belts will fit a child that is 4’9″ tall (normally around 10 years old).  If your child is not 4’9″ tall, you should consider keeping them in a booster seat to ensure proper seatbelt fit.

Seat Belt Laws in Texas

Under Texas law, all passengers in a motor vehicle must wear a seatbelt.  There are a few exceptions, like for postman, paper delivery crews, or garbage men; but for the average driver and passenger on the Texas roads, you must wear a seat belt. Section 545.413(a) of the Texas Transportation Code covers seat belt laws in Texas.  The law states:

“a person commits an offense if the person, who at least 15 years of age, rides in a passenger vehicle while the vehicle is being operated and is occupying a seat that is equipped with a safety belt, and is not secured by a safety belt.”

Further, §545.413(b) states that:

“a person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle that is equipped with safety belts and allows a child, who is younger than 17 years old and not required to be in a safety seat system, to ride in the vehicle without requiring the child to be secured by a safety belt.”

Can a Teenager Ride in the Bed of a Pickup Truck? No. Under Texas law, no person under 18 years of age may ride unrestrained in the bed of a pickup truck.

PENALTY: A violation of the seat belt law in Texas can result in a fine of $25 to $200 depending on the situation.

For teenagers, who are legally permitted to ride in the front passenger seat, the Texas Department of Transportation advises that wearing a seat belt while sitting in the front seat improves survival of a car accident by 50%. To be effective seat belts must be used properly—lap belts need to fit snugly on the hips and shoulder belts should go over the shoulder and across the center of the chest. Texas law says that safety belts—designed for adult use only—are not adequate for children under 8.

Front Seat and Back Seat Passenger Laws in Texas

There is not a law in Texas regarding who may ride in the front seat.  The driver must follow the car seat and seat belt laws, but there is not a law prohibiting any person or child from riding in the front seat. However, according to the safety “guidelines,” anyone under age thirteen should be restrained in the back seat due to concerns with airbag impact.

Can I Leave My Kids Alone In the Car in Texas?

Yes, but only for 5 minutes.  In 2010, thirteen children in Texas were killed by vehicular heatstroke. As a result, the Texas legislature enacted laws dealing with the amount of time children can be left in a vehicle unattended. Under Texas Penal Code §22.10(a), “a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is (1) younger than seven years of age; and (2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.”

An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor. However, if the child is injured as a result of being left in the car, the crime can be increased to a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

For More Information About Car Safety in Texas:


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Texas DPS Drivers License Surcharges

Texas Drivers License Surcharge | Texas DPS Driver Responsibility Program

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Drivers License Surcharges Make Drivers Pay in Texas

Texas DPS Drivers License SurchargesCertain driving offenses in Texas can ensnare unwary drivers in a vicious cycle of fees, surcharges and license suspensions. The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Driver Responsibility Program imposes hefty surcharges on drivers who commit certain offenses or accumulate too many points on their driving records. Drivers who don’t pay these surcharges can end up with suspended drivers licenses. Notably, this TX surcharge is in addition to all other fines and reinstatement fees associated with the original violations.

Contact DPS Regarding Your Surcharge Account

For assistance with questions about your Surcharge account, you can contact Texas DPS Municipal Services Bureau (MSB) at:

1-800-688-6882

Program Specialists are available Monday – Thursday 8:00am-9:00pm, Friday 8:00am – 6:00pm and Saturday 8:00am – 12:00pm.

Which Offenses are Subject to the Texas DPS Surcharge?

There are two ways that drivers can incur a surcharge under the Texas program: through conviction of specific traffic offenses or through the accumulation of six points on their driving record. The convictions that can result in a Texas surcharge are driving while intoxicated (DWI); driving an uninsured vehicle; driving with an invalid license (one that has been suspended or revoked); and driving without a license (or with a license that has expired). In addition to drivers committing these offenses, drivers who incur six or more points on their driving records are assessed a surcharge every year they have six or more points on their records.

The amounts of these TX surcharges can be substantial:

  • For a first-time DWI violation, drivers are subject to a $1000 a year surcharge for three years.
  • A second violation results in a $1,500 a year surcharge.
  • If the DWI offense includes a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or high, the license surcharge is $2,000 per year for three years.
  • Having no insurance can result in a $250 a year Texas DPS surcharge for three years.

Payment of Texas DPS Surcharges and the Texas Driver Responsibility Program

Texas surcharges must be paid within 105 days or DPS will suspend the driver’s license. The driver’s license will remain suspended until either the surcharges and related costs are paid in full or the driver establishes an installment agreement for payment of the surcharges. Drivers may pay the Texas surcharge online at www.txsurchargeonline.com, and they may also make arrangements to pay the surcharge through a monthly installment plan. Drivers should be aware though that missing a single payment under the installment plan can result in the suspension of their license. If the driver is unaware of the suspension and is caught driving, he or she could be convicted of driving without a valid license and be subject to another DPS surcharge for that violation.

To pay surcharges in Texas, visit the DPS surcharge website at: www.txsurchargeonline.com.

 

Relief from the Surcharges | TX DPS Indigence and Incentive Programs

There are two programs available to help Texans of limited means meet their obligations under the TX surcharge program: the Indigence Program and the Incentive Program.

  • Driver Responsibility Surcharge Indigence Program:

    Under the Driver Responsibility Surcharge Indigence Program, individuals living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level may be eligible to have the surcharges reduced to 10% of the total amount assessed, not to exceed $250.

  • The Surcharge Incentive Program:

    The Surcharge Incentive Program is available to eligible individuals with incomes above 125% of the federal poverty level but below 300% of the federal poverty level. Under the Texas Surcharge Incentive Program, the surcharge amount owed may be reduced by 50 percent.

Under both the Surcharge Indigence and Surcharge Incentive programs, if individuals are making surcharge payments and do not have an additional enforcement action on their driving records, they may regain their driving privileges if they have been lost. Individuals can apply for these two relief programs from the Texas surcharges online.

Additionally, drivers with suspended or revoked licenses as a result of their failure to pay surcharges may be eligible to apply for an occupational license for purposes of getting to work or school.

Unpopular Texas Drivers License Surcharge Program Unlikely To Be Repealed

Since the DPS program was enacted in 2003, it has received much criticism. More than 1.2 million Texas drivers have been stripped of their licenses under the program, unable or unwilling to pay the billions they owe the state in surcharges. The vast majority of these drivers are probably driving on their suspended licenses. The program is understandably unpopular in Texas, and various groups have called for its repeal. However, attempts to repeal or modify the program have been unsuccessful in the state legislature because the program is a significant source of revenue for the state. Legislation that would ease the penalties under the program passed the Texas Senate last year, but has not been made law.

Check Your Surcharge Online or Make a Texas Surcharge Payment at www.txsurchargeonline.com

If you are unsure whether you have a pending TX DPS surcharge or if you would like to pay your Texas DPS surcharge, you can do this online at www.txsurchargeonline.com. Surcharges in Texas are frustrating and sometimes confusing. If you need clarification on your TX surcharge, you should contact the Texas Department of Public Safety by phone or on their website at www txsurchargeonline com.

Texas front license plate law

License Plate Law in Texas | Front License Plate | Two Plate Rule

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One License Plate or Two: Does Your Car Need a Front License Plate In Texas?

Texas front license plate lawHow many license plates does your vehicle need in order to comply with Texas law? Do you need one or is there a two plate rule? Should you drill holes into the front bumper of your car to install a front license plate, or will you be alright with a rear plate only? If you are reading this article, perhaps you have exhaustively Google-searched license plate laws out of frustration. Find out what the Texas Transportation code says about license plates and what the implications are for you, the Texas motorist.

Do I need a Front License Plate in Texas? Yes. Texas law requires that every vehicle maintain a license plate in the front and rear of the vehicle.  The current fine for failing to display a front license plate in Texas is $200.00.

Do I need a Front License Plate in Texas? | An Error In the Texas Transportation Code Created a License Plate Loophole

Since 1934, Texas law has required that Texas motorists display a front and a rear license plate. In 2011, House Bill 2357 modified the statutory language making driving a vehicle without displaying a front and a rear license place both illegal and punishable by a fine. In January of 2012, Texas lawmakers revised the transportation code, once again, to include several new provisions. However, in the process of making revisions, the provision mandating a penalty for vehicles not in compliance with the “two plate rule” was accidentally stricken from the Texas Transportation Code. From January 2012 to September of 2013, law enforcement could not lawfully issue citations for failure to display a front license plate. Unfortunately, this brief period of time also created a lot of confusion around the “two plate rule” that reverberates to the present day.

Texas Lawmakers Amend the Code to Close the Loophole | Front License Plate Now Required in Texas

The two plate rule was originally created for the purpose of making identification of vehicles and their owners more efficient for automatic plate readers and law enforcement agencies. In 2012, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (“TTI”) issued a report, citing overall effectiveness of the two plate rule, unlike states that only required one rear license plate on a vehicle. TTI found that front license plates were (1) easier to read in the daylight; (2) helpful in toll billing; (3) aided law enforcement in tracking down violators of the transportation code by way of automatic plate readers; and (4) allowed Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process and screen vehicles more effectively and quickly. Thus, the front license plate requirement in Texas.

Aware of the inadvertent loophole created by omission of the penalty provision, lawmakers amended the transportation code in September of 2013 to mandate punishment for Texas motorists who do not display both the front and the rear license plates. Motorists who do not have a front license plate risk incurring a Class C misdemeanor charge, punishable by fine not to exceed $500.

Implications For the Texas Motorist | Texas Front License Plate Law | Penalty for Front License Plate Violation

Currently, the penalty for operating a vehicle without a front license plate is $200.00 – subject to change with subsequent legislation. However, there may be more to this than meets the eye. Generally speaking, when a vehicle is out of compliance with mandatory safety and administrative regulations (such as only having a rear license plate), by statute, Texas law enforcement has “probable cause” to conduct a traffic stop. At minimum, such a traffic stop could include pulling the vehicle over, running a check of the license plate, researching the driver’s license and registration of the motorist, and issuing a citation for violating the two plate rule.

In sum, a Texas motorist who drives without both plates risks being pulled over for a lawful traffic stop and fined at least $200.00 for a misdemeanor traffic offense.

References:

Fort Worth criminal attorneys in Texas

Who Has The Burden of Proof?

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Does the State or the Defense have the Burden of Proof?

Fort Worth criminal attorneys in TexasArias v. State – 14th Court of Appeals (Houston) 2011

Carlos Arias was observed speeding by a police officer and pulled over. Arias was unable to provide proof of financial responsibility (proof of insurance), when asked by the police officer. Arias went to trial in the municipal court of record and after the close of State’s case-in-chief, Arias claimed that there were statutory exceptions to the requirement to establish financial responsibility and that the State had not negated them.  He appealed his conviction to the County Criminal Court at Law.

Generally, when a penal statute includes an exception as part of the statute itself, the State must negate the existence of the exception in the indictment of the offense and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant or defendant’s conduct does not fall within the exception. Failing to negate an exception is the same as failing to allege an essential element of the offense and renders the indictment void. However, when an exception is in a separate section from the provision that states the offense, it is not essential for the State to negate the exception. This is different from an exception and called a defense, which must be raised by the defendant.

An “Exception” or a “Defense”

The key distinction is who has the burden of proof—an exception means the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt or the defendant should be acquitted; a defense means a defendant bears the initial burden to produce some evidence that supports the defensive theory. Once the defendant produces such evidence, the State then bears the ultimate burden of persuasion to disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt.  So, to be clear, the defense does not bear the “burden of proof,” but only a burden to produce some evidence of the defensive theory.  The burden then shifts to the state to disprove the defense.

The Court of Appeals found that no Texas court has determined whether the State must negate the exceptions to the financial responsibility requirement as an element of the offense or whether the exceptions are defenses that must be raised by the defendant. The Court of Appeals looked to the statute in the Transportation Code and decided if exceptions or defenses are listed. To do this they decided whether they are a necessary part of the definition or a description of the offense.

The Court first looks to the main code of “Requirement of Financial Responsibility.” They then found in a separate subsection, “Exceptions to Financial Responsibility,” which Arias relies on. The code only states that a person commits an offense if the person operates a motor vehicle in violation of the “Requirement of Financial Responsibility” section, but the exceptions are not mentioned.

The court finds that because they are not mentioned in the offense, the exceptions are therefore not a necessary part of the definition or description of the offense. This means that these are not exceptions that the State must negate, but merely defenses that the defendant has the option to bring evidence in to prove. Additionally, the State is not generally required to negate as an element of the offense matters “peculiarly within the knowledge of the defendant.” Here, these exceptions are things such as the character of the car, such as older than 25 years old. The court holds that under most circumstances, the defendant would be more likely than the State to know whether one of the exceptions applies.

This can be absolutely crucial for building your defense. An exception can get you acquitted if the State doesn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas a defense is merely a chance to persuade the judge or jury. It appears that the key deciding factor is whether the “exceptions” are listed with the main code or are in a separate subsection.

Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys

When Should You Fight Traffic Offenses

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Keller Criminal Defense AttorneysIf you’re reading this, odds are that you’ve been ticketed for one or more traffic offenses at some point in your life.  Among the ticket-receiving public, misconceptions and misunderstandings abound regarding whether you should “fight” a ticket. Below is some advice from a former municipal prosecutor in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex…

1) It is unlikely that you can just “talk to a prosecutor” and get your ticket dismissed.
Two to three times a week, most courts hold conferences between the prosecutor and citizens who have violated traffic offenses. During these conferences, most people go to the prosecutor immediately to ask for a dismissal on their citation. I would venture to say that in a metropolitan area, a municipal prosecutor gets asked for a dismissal between 25-50 times per week. Starting your conversation off with a prosecutor by asking for a dismissal is the least effective approach for negotiating a favorable result. The concept of a dismissal is WIDELY misunderstood and the bottom line is that dismissals are rare.

2) Instead of demanding your dismissal, start by pointing out legitimate issues with your ticket.
There are legitimate issues with citations. Those issues can result in dismissals. But for every one legitimate issue, there are one-hundred ridiculous excuses. A municipal prosecutor has heard them all and there is a really good chance that the prosecutor has heard your specific excuse many, many times. Most of the time, people come go to court with an assumption about the law and they hang on to it with everything they are worth. Do some research before coming to court to determine whether you have a “legitimate issue” or just “another excuse”. Whether that means consulting with an attorney or jumping onto Google, come to court with a little research and you may actually put the prosecutor in a better mood.

3) Document your defense.
If you have documentation (especially on vehicle equipment issues, inspections, registrations, licenses, and insurance), bring it to court and have it ORGANIZED and ready for the prosecutor to look at. If there is some legitimate discrepancy between the status of your vehicle or license (on the date of the citation) and the citation you received you might actually get that all-elusive dismissal, but you had better have documentation to support your defense.

4) “Fine, I’ll take it to trial.”
It’s got a nice ring to it, but the reality of a trial is that most cases will come down to the officer’s testimony versus the defendant’s testimony. More than likely, the officer will testify that he’s been an officer for multiple years, been through training and education specifically for observing and enforcing traffic violations. He’ll also testify that he spends 90% of his 8-10 hour shift in and amongst traffic observing traffic and that he was focused solely on looking for your vehicle violating a traffic law. Meanwhile, you’ll testify (if you choose to testify) that you’re number one priority was not following the traffic laws (I dare you to say that it was), but that you were on the way to work, dropping kids off at school, going to the grocery store or had some other objective in mind. The bottom line with trial: The officer will testify that he observed you commit a traffic violation and you’ll testify you didn’t and the judge or jury will decide who they believe.

5) If you really want a chance…
..hire an attorney. He or she will analyze your citation based on current law and the rules of evidence and procedure and not just based on what you heard from your neighbor’s friend’s ex boyfriend. Ultimately, you may decide that hiring an attorney would cost more than it is worth, but it you really want a fighting chance, you should hire an attorney.

Fort Worth DWI defense lawyers

Avoiding a Criminal Charge By Avoiding Obscure Traffic Offenses

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Obscure Texas Traffic Offenses | Fort Worth Criminal Attorneys

Fort Worth DWI defense lawyersMany of our criminal cases begin with traffic offenses. Something as simple as failing to signal for a lane change can quickly become a DWI investigation if the officer suspects the driver has been drinking. Often, during a traffic stop an officer will ask for consent to search the vehicle and then, depending on what might be in the car, the traffic stop turns into an arrest for possession of an illegal substance or contraband. (Tip: Never give consent to search. Ever.)

We put our heads together to think about some of the more obscure traffic violations about which drivers may not know. We have listed four of them below. The officers on the road know about them, so you should too.

Sec. 544.010(c) – Stopping before the crosswalk or white line. When you approach a streetlight or stop sign you must stop before the white line (or crosswalk line), regardless of where the stop sign or streetlight is positioned. Many times the actual stop sign will be a few yards in front of the line, just begging you to inch a little closer. Resist the urge to stop at the sign. There’s probably a traffic cop right around the corner just waiting for you to mess this one up. (If you are a person that remembers rhymes better…Stop at the line, not at the sign!)

Sec. 545.104(a) – Signal intent to start from a parked position. This is one that I’ll admit I did not know about. When you are parallel parked on a street and you wish to enter the roadway, you must signal your intent to do so. Put on your turn signal and then begin driving into the roadway. (Signal when parked, before you depart.)

Sec. 545.104(b) – Signal turn/lane change 100 feet prior to turn/lane change. We all know that we must signal when making a turn or changing lanes, but many folks do not know that it must be done 100 feet prior to the movement. If you must make a quick turn, any signal is better than none, but the rule says 100 feet. (Before you change lanes or turn on the street, you must signal for 100 feet.)

Sec. 547.322(f) – Separate lamp must be mounted to rear license plate and be visible from 50 feet. You cannot rely on your taillights to illuminate your license plate in Texas. Your license plate, like a special work of art hanging in the lobby of some fancy building, must have its own light so that everyone can clearly read your vanity plates proclaiming IMCOOL. Further, the license plate must be visible from 50 feet away. (When driving at night, do what’s right. Give your license plate a light.)

DWI Lane Change

Lane Ends, Merge Left | Reasonable Suspicion for DWI Stop

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DWI Lane ChangeBack in 2010, we posted about Mahaffey v. State, a case in which the CCA directed the 12 District Court of Appeals (Tyler) to determine whether a “lane merge” is a “turn” under the Texas Transportation Code, such that it requires a driver to signal.  If a “merge” does not require a turn signal (as the appellant failed to do in this case), then the police stop was improper (without reasonable suspicion) and the evidence of his DWI gained from the stop should have been suppressed.

The 12th Court took another look at the case and once again determined that a “merge” was a “turn” and thus required a turn signal.  Apparently, the 12th Court did not get the CCA’s hint the first time around.

In a 5-3 opinion with Judge Meyers concurring, the CCA reversed (again), holding:

We disagree with the State’s contention that the termination of a lane does not affect whether a driver changes lanes under the signal statute.  As a practical matter, “changing lanes” requires the existence of more than one lane: In order to change lanes from Lane A to Lane B, Lane A must exist.  Appellant did not change lanes.  The two lanes became one. …[N]o signal is required when two lanes become one.

Presiding Judge Keller dissented and was joined by Judges Price and Keasler.  She would hold that because Appellant’s lane ended, he had to change lanes, and that changing lanes requires a turn signal.

Well, it looks like logic prevailed in this one.  You cannot change lanes if there is only one lane in which to drive.  The majority got it right here.  No signal is required for a lane merge.  Remember that if a police officer tries to pull you over for failing to signal.