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OSPA Offers Practically Free Traffic-Stop Training for Rural Law Enforcement

Assistant State Prosecuting Attorney John R. Messinger will conduct a 4-hour presentation covering 4th Amendment issues with a focus on traffic stops. Read more...

CORTEZ, JOSE LUIS

PD-0228-17 05/03/2017

"Does the improved shoulder of a highway begin at the inside edge of the 'fog line,' the outside edge, or somewhere in between?"

A state trooper detained Cortez for what he believed to be two violations of Transportation Code section 545.058(a), which prohibits driving on the improved shoulder subject to enumerated exceptions. The stop led to Cortez's arrest for possession with intent to deliver. The trial court granted Cortez's motion to suppress because there was no evidence that his vehicle "pass[ed] outside the outermost edge of the fog line."

The court of appeals affirmed. Resorting to a dictionary definition of "boundary," it held that a vehicle does not enter the shoulder until it completely crosses the fog line.

The State argues that the shoulder begins where the roadway ends, i.e., the inside edge of the fog line. Instead of relying on the definition of a non-statutory term, the court of appeals should have looked to related definitions in the Transportation Code and the legislatively mandated Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Manual explains that the white line at issue "delineate[s] . . . [t]he right-hand edge of the roadway." If the roadway ends at the fog line, and the shoulder is, by definition, adjacent to the roadway, then the fog line must be part of the shoulder.

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