Recently had a strange suppression hearing for a possession case that is "pending."
The facts are: an individual exits a gas station parking lot at 3 am. The parking lot is a known location for narcotics deals, and because of numerous complaints from management police exercise heightened vigilance near the parking lot when on duty. An officer had just passed the gas station heading northbound in the outside lane (the lane nearest the shoulder/curb). The officer observes a vehicle exit the gas station parking lot in his side mirrors. Vehicle exits to the right. Instead of pulling directly behind the officer (which would be the closest available lane, closest to the curb), the driver completely bypasses the outside northbound lane and turns directly into the inside northbound lane. The officer then initiates a stop for a wide right turn, a violation of Tex. Transp. Code sec. 545.101(a)(see below).
At the hearing the Judge got hung up on the fact that a gas station parking lot is not an "intersection" as defined in the Transportation Code (see below), and therefore this crime cannot be committed when leaving a parking lot. Although he is technically correct, my gut says he is wrong. I've only found two cases that address a similar set of facts, but the courts don't discuss the "intersection" issue and seem to accept it at face value.
Judge has not ruled on the MTS yet- will do so after further argument in a few weeks.
1) Does a parking lot constitute an "intersection" for the purposes of this fact scenario?
2) If it doesn't, does anybody have any input/suggestions on how to get around this issue?
Sec. 545.101. Turning at Intersection
(a) To make a right turn at an intersection, an operator shall make both the approach and the turn as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
Sec. 541.303. INTERSECTION
(a) In this subtitle, "intersection" means the common area at the junction of two highways, other than the junction of an alley and a highway.
(b) The dimensions of an intersection include only the common area:
(1) within the connection of the lateral curb lines or, in the absence of curb lines, the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of intersecting highways that join at approximate right angles; or
(2) at the place where vehicles could collide if traveling on roadways of intersecting highways that join at any angle other than an approximate right angle.
(c) Each junction of each roadway of a highway that includes two roadways at least 30 feet apart with the roadway of an intersecting highway, including each roadway of an intersecting highway that includes two roadways at least 30 feet apart, is a separate intersection.)
Two thoughts - It is possible that the stop is valid even if the exact offense / violation upon which the officer based the stop is not the actual offense committed. It appears that the defendant may have committed two violations: (1) failed to drive in a single lane (he crossed the outside lane and continued into the other lane), or (2) failing to signal a lane change (he went "from" the right hand lane into the left hand lane). If there is a sidewalk across the gas station entrance, the defendant may have also failed to stop prior to crossing the sidewalk (I seem to recall that is a violation, but not certain). So - talk to your officer and see if any of these may apply. You may need to ask the court to allow additional testimony... my 2 cents.
Agree with Larry.
Also there is good case law to support Larry's opinion. As long as there was a valid reason for the stop, even though the officer was incorrect about the law, the stop is valid.
Arkansas v. Sullivan 532 US 769
Whren v. US 517 806
Ohio v. Robinette 519 US 33
Ohare v. State 27 S.W.3d 548 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000)
Crittenden v. State 899 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995
Garcia v. State 827 SS.W.2d 937 (Tex. Crim. App. 19920
The sidewalk violation mentioned above is 545.256 emerging from an alley, driveway, or building
Unpublished, but just down the road from us...
Wingard v. State, 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 6745 (Tex. App. – Houston, 2012).
The police also provided the following evidence that appellant had committed traffic violations justifying a stop: Deputy Male saw appellant make a "wide right" out of the Wal-Mart parking lot into a center lane of Navasota's main street. SeeTEX. TRANSP. CODE ANN. § 545.101(a) (West 2011) ("To make a right turn [*11] at an intersection, an operator shall make both the approach and the turn as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.").2 Then, both deputies saw appellant veer left onto the highway from the right lane of the feeder road without using his left-turn signal. See TEX. TRANSP. CODE ANN. § 545.104(a) ("An operator shall use the signal . . . to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position."). Viewing this evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's ruling and giving total deference to the trial court's credibility-based determinations, we conclude that the State met its burden of proving the reasonableness of the traffic stop—either for a drug-related or for a traffic-related infraction—and hold that any evidence resulting from that stop was admissible. We overrule appellant's first issue.
Thank you all for the help!
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