The Austin American Statesman reported on their website that DWI charges against an Austin lawmaker had been dismissed after the trial court Judge granted the Defense Motion to Suppress.
Judge David Crain, known as one of the fairest judges, and recently took the bench at the 331st District Court in January, ruled that the APD officer did not have sufficient reasonable suspicion to pull over the legislator in a traffic stop that lead to the DWI investigation. The scenario seemed to be that the Legislator’s vehicle was observed by police to be weaving within its lane and then momentarily crossed into the bike lane. A traffic stop was then affected and the Austin Lawmaker was subsequently arrested for DWI.
If the fact situation above is correct, then Judge Crain certainly did the right thing by granting the motion, as the law is well settled in this area. First, it is not illegal to “weave” within your lane of travel. Traffic lanes are wider than automobiles. Traffic lanes are not intended to be the exact width of your car. Driving, in fact, is an act of controlled weaving. Second, if you leave your lane of travel and move into an adjacent lane, the Texas Transportation Code section 545.060 makes this unlawful only if the maneuver is unsafe. Changing lanes without signaling has been upheld numerous times on appeal in this State, and others, when there is no evidence presented that the maneuver almost created a collision or other injury. Accordingly, because the officer did not have “reasonable suspicion” to stop the lawmaker, the judge suppressed all evidence obtained following the illegal traffic stop. Reasonable Suspicion is defined as sufficient, articulable facts to suggest that a crime has been or is about to be committed. Reasonable Suspicion is the lowest burden of proof the state has to clear. It is one step below probable cause, which is the standard required to make an arrest. Most people are familiar with the burden proof required to find someone guilty of a criminal offense, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. With no evidence to prosecute the case, the County Attorney’s office dismissed the DWI charge. We have won a number of ALR hearings and DWI cases with the same or similar fact situations.
Relief for the lawmaker indeed, perhaps now that he has experienced a DWI prosecution he will be open to the proposed changes in the Texas Legislature in the 2011 legislative session that are calling for an end to the Drivers’ License surcharges and a reinstatement of deferred adjudication for first time DWI offenders.