Believe it or not, under Texas traffic laws, there are a wide variety of different traffic violations for which one may be potentially placed under arrest. The authority of a Texas officer to arrest a person for even a minor traffic violation (which is punishable by only a fine) has been upheld by the US Supreme Court. Currently, there are only three types of violations in Texas which cannot lead to one’s being arrested. The three violations for which one cannot be arrested are the following:
- A person cannot be arrested in Texas for a violation of the open container law, which prohibits the possession of an open container of a beverage containing alcohol in the “passenger area of a motor vehicle,” defined as the area designated for the driver and the passengers of a car to sit. This area does not include a glove compartment that is locked or any other such locked compartment. Nor does this include the trunk of the car or the section of the car behind the last upright seat.
- A person cannot be arrested in Texas for speeding.
- A person cannot be arrested in Texas for a violation of the ban on texting while driving.
However, there is one notable exception for the above violations, meaning that there is one way in which you can be arrested for even the above three offenses: that is, if you refuse to sign the citation issued to you by the officer. If you refuse to sign the citation, the officer can arrest you for the above three violations (as well as for any other Texas traffic violation).
Here are seven reasons for which an officer may place you under arrest for a Texas traffic violation:
- If you operate a vehicle in Texas with criminal negligence (that is, with the awareness that a substantial and unjustifiable risk will occur due to your actions), you may be placed under arrest.
- If you drive a vehicle in Texas while you are under the influence of alcohol, you may be placed under arrest.
- If you drive a vehicle in Texas while you are under the influence of drugs (whether prescription or non-prescription), you may be placed under arrest.
- If you drive recklessly in Texas and are charged with vehicular manslaughter as a result of that reckless driving, you may be placed under arrest.
- If you race on the highway in Texas and your racing results in manslaughter or severe bodily harm, you may be placed under arrest.
- If you are charged with any routine traffic violation (other than speeding) in Texas, even a minor one, you may be placed under arrest.
- If you fail to pay for a Texas traffic citation, you may be placed under arrest.
Please remember these overarching rules: if you refuse to sign a Texas traffic citation—ANY traffic citation (including a citation for speeding, open container, or texting while driving)—you may be placed under arrest. Also, any failure to comply with a Texas peace office may lead to your arrest.
Conversely, if the officer issues you a citation for a violation (for speeding, for example) and you sign it, then you will not be arrested for that particular violation, because by signing the citation, you are promising to appear in court for the violation, and the officer has no reason to detain you.
What to Do If You Are Arrested
If you are placed under arrest as a result of a Texas traffic violation, get in contact with a lawyer as soon as possible. There is always a possibility to challenge any traffic violation.
In order to keep yourself from getting arrested, learn about defensive driving in Texas by taking a defensive driving course online. Such a course will let you know of your rights and will help you learn driving practices that will keep you from violating traffic laws in the first place.