While law enforcement must have a valid reason to pull you over, there are countless traffic violations that could cause you to be stopped by police. Officers are constantly on patrol, and they typically are on the lookout for a reason to pull a driver over.
Patrolling for traffic violators is part of the job, but it is only one of the things that motivate these officers. The police know that while a traffic stop can initially be about a moving violation, it could also turn up evidence of other criminal activity.
Understanding your rights during a traffic stop as well as the common violations that could lead you to being pulled over is valuable. However, if you find yourself facing criminal charges after a Houston traffic stop, attorney Doug Murphy might be able to help.
Police Cannot Pull You Over Without a Reason
One reason why understanding the common causes of a traffic stop is that police do not have the unlimited right to pull you over. In fact, if the officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that you have violated a traffic rule or other law, they are barred from stopping your vehicle. The consequences could be steep if police pull you over illegally. Any evidence they collect cannot be used against you at trial. In many cases, an unlawful stop could lead to the dismissal of all criminal charges.
This legal doctrine is known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” While it can apply in criminal cases where your rights have been violated, the suppression of evidence will not occur automatically. Your attorney will have to file a motion to suppress to convince the court to exclude any illegally obtained evidence from trial.
Common Offenses for a Traffic Stop
Keep in mind that police can stop you for any traffic violation, no matter how inconsequential. While most officers give some leeway with vehicles a few miles over the speed limit, the reality is that the law does not require this leniency. All the police need to stop your car is reasonable suspicion that you are committing a traffic violation. Here are some of the most common examples:
Speeding violations likely make up the largest percentage of traffic stops in Houston and throughout Texas. In general, this offense is one that law enforcement officers hone in on.
Driving over the speed limit will not always guarantee that law enforcement will pull you over. The faster you go, the more likely police will take the time to initiate a traffic stop. You will also likely see more leeway on highways compared to residential streets.
Disobeying a Traffic Control Device
Running a stop sign or traffic light is another easy way to wind up with blue lights behind you. While these offenses occur far less often than speeding, the police are unlikely to let them slide. If you run a red light or roll through a stop sign with an officer nearby, you can expect to be pulled over.
Cell Phone Use
While the laws that regulate using a mobile phone behind the wheel vary from state to state, Texas takes a fairly aggressive approach. According to state law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while operating a cell phone.
Another situation that is fairly uncommon but typically results in a traffic stop involves a violation of the right of way. Motorists traveling the wrong way down a one-way street represent a significant safety threat for both motorists and pedestrians. An officer that sees you driving the wrong way is likely to pull you over as soon as it is safe to do so.
Texas traffic laws also require you to stay within your lane and drive with the flow of traffic. Not only would the failure to do so be considered an offense, but it is also a sign that something is wrong. If you are weaving across lanes without signaling or driving far below the posted speed limit, police could quickly suspect you are under the influence.
Following Too Closely
Another offense that gets some leeway is following too close. State law requires that you keep a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Some officers are less likely to initiate a traffic stop for following too closely, particularly in heavy traffic. That said, if you are traveling at high speed while following another driver closely, an officer could be more likely to pull you over.
Broken Tail Light
Not all traffic stops result from a moving violation. Every driver is required to maintain their vehicle in proper working order, and the police can pull you over if you have a broken tail light or another mechanical issue.
When Traffic Stops Escalate to DWI Arrests
Getting pulled over in Houston is often costly. The tickets for some offenses can run in the hundreds of dollars, and some charges could even carry steeper penalties. But if you have been drinking, a traffic stop could also open up an entire new world of problems for you.
Police are always on the lookout for evidence of drunk drivers. What's more, they are authorized to investigate the potential that you are driving under the influence even if they initially pulled you over for a different traffic offense. In fact, the police can use a traffic stop as a pretext to investigate you for other crimes. If they suspect you have been drinking, the police could charge you with DWI.
In a DWI trial, the initial traffic stop could also be used against you. Many traffic violations – from speeding to driving erratically – could be used against you as evidence of intoxication. While the evidence stacked up against you in a Houston DWI case can feel overwhelming, the right attorney could put you at ease.
Let a Board Certified Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Help
If a traffic stop has led to a DWI arrest in Houston, you have the right to fight back against these charges. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to discuss your case in detail.