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Texting and driving – another excuse for a “pre-textual” traffic stop

Several states – including Texas – have recently enacted statutes banning texting while driving. While evidence suggests that these statutes have done little to reduce traffic accidents – probably because many people just can’t resist the urge to text while driving – these laws have given law enforcement another excuse to make traffic stops.

While most traffic stops are made with the goal of keeping roads safe, they are often used by law enforcement to investigate other offenses not related to driving. For example, if an officer has a hunch a car might be carrying illegal drugs, the law allows him to pull the car over for any traffic violation – like texting while driving – even if the traffic violation is just an excuse to stop the car and investigate the other offense. Many people do not realize that these “pre-textual” stops are legal. However, once the “pre-textual” traffic stop is made, law enforcement cannot detain a suspect indefinitely and they cannot conduct a search without probable cause that a specific offense has been committed. If law enforcement violate these rules, any evidence they find as a result will not be allowed in trial, and a case will often be dismissed. Because this area of the law can often be complicated, in choosing a criminal defense attorney, it is important that you choose an attorney well-versed in search and seizure law.

-Jose Ceja