Monday, March 21, 2011

DUI Appeal - Texas DWI Failure to Signal Lane Change

In Brown v. State of Texas, Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2011 WL 915087 (Tex.App.-Beaumont) the defendant was stopped after entering a right-hand turn only lane, and then changing his mind and re-entering a through lane without signaling. On appeal, the issue was whether the failure to signal the movement was illegal. The Texas vehicle code states that “[a]n operator shall use the signal authorized by Section 545.106 to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position.” Brown argued that no signal was required when he moved from the right-turn-only lane back to the left lane on his side of the road. Brown relied on Mahaffey v. State, 316 S.W.3d 633 (Tex.Crim.App.2010) and Trahan v. State, 16 S.W.3d 146 (Tex. App .-Beaumont 2000, no pet.). In Trahan, the driver failed to signal his exit from the freeway. The Court concluded there was no evidence that Trahan ‘ “turned” ‘ or changed lanes in order to exit the freeway, and there was no basis for the traffic stop. In Mahaffey, two lanes on Mahaffey's side of the road merged into a single lane. A sign on the road said ‘ “Lane Ends-Merge Left[.]” ‘The officer stopped Mahaffey for failing to signal when he merged into the single lane. Id. The Court found there was no “turn” and Mahaffey was “simply following the ‘direct course’ of the road and of the traffic on that winding road.”

The appeals court herein found that the stop was proper, and the failure to use a signal was illegal. "Without a signal, Brown then crossed the solid white line between the two lanes and made a lane change from the right-turn-only lane back into the left lane." Hence, the movement constituted a 'change of lanes' that in the court's opinion required use of a turn signal.

Although this defendant lost, the case itself contained helpful precedent for defense counsel.

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