This is Part Four of a five part series on analyzing traffic stops. In this series, I discuss four specific traffic laws commonly used by law enforcement officers in the Amarillo area to initiate traffic stops. As I mentioned in my April 28 post, the legality of traffic stops are analyzed under the two-prong test set out in Terry v. Ohio.
The topic of this post is § 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code entitled “Driving on Roadway Laned for Traffic.” § 545.060 provides in pertinent parts:
(a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic:
(1) shall drive as nearly as practical within a single lane; and
(2) may not move from the lane unless that movement can be made safely.
Section 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code creates one offense: moving out of a marked lane when it is not safe to do so. Hernandez v. State, 983 S.W.2d 867 (Tex.App. – Austin 1998, no writ history). See also Atkinson v. State, 848 S.W.2d 813, 815 (Tex.App – Houston [14th Dist.] 1993, writ ref’d.). The Court in Hernandez stated: “We believe the statutory language shows a legislative intent that a violation of section 545.060 occurs only when a vehicle fails to stay within its lane and such movement is not safe or is not made safely”. Hernandez, 983 S.W.2d at 871. See also Fowler v. State, 266 S.W. 3d 498 (Tex.App. – Fort Worth 2008, writ ref’d.) for a good discussion of cases involving Section 545.060 of the Texas Transportation Code.
Interpretation of this statute by the courts is well settled – as a result, I don’t see as many cases where the traffic stop is based on a violation of § 545.060.
As with other traffic stops, probable cause for a stop based on § 545.060 is determined by applying the two-prong test in Terry v. Ohio.
Again, these types of cases are challenged by filing a motion to suppress evidence and requiring the State to present evidence establishing that the officer had probable cause to stop the vehicle.