Editor’s note: Answer Line is taking a day off. Here’s a column she wrote July 27, 2013:
QUESTION: When you’re stopped by police or highway patrol, they check to see if you’re wanted. Would previous warning tickets show up on that check?
ANSWER: The answer to this question could vary from agency to agency.
For instance, troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety do have a method to check and see if drivers have previously received a warning from another trooper. Other agencies could choose to request that information manually, a spokesman said.
However, the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office and the Longview Police Department do not have a system in place to track warning tickets. Also, they said the systems they use to check people’s criminal histories and for warrants would not show warning tickets.
Q: Are citizen’s arrests legal? I pick up mail every weekday at the downtown post office. Without fail, there are drivers who are traveling east on Methvin in front of the post office who make a U-turn to get a parking spot. People backing out of their space (legally) barely avoid hitting the U-turner. Also, when they U-turn into a space, they do not park between the parking lines, but at an angle.
The person they park next to has to wait until the offender gets into his vehicle before they can get in their vehicles or back out. At one point, I was so frustrated with these U-turners I was going to make a “citizen’s arrest.”
A: Let’s start with a review. First, U-turns are illegal at the location because drivers have to turn across a double yellow line to enter on-road parking. (It would not be illegal, however, to cross a double yellow line to turn into or exit a private driveway, including business entrances and exits.)
Now, you asked about citizen’s arrests. I was surprised to learn they are legal, but only in certain instances. Here’s what state law says:
“A peace officer or any other person, may, without a warrant, arrest an offender when the offense is committed in his presence or within his view, if the offense is one classed as a felony or as an offense against the public peace.” So, turning into a parking spot illegally is not a felony, but is it an “offense against the public peace?”
I looked for a legal definition of that term and couldn’t find one. (Former) Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough told me that’s because it’s not defined in state law.
“Rather, whether conduct constitutes a breach of the peace is determined on a case-by-case basis by the courts,” he said. “Examples of ‘breach of the peace’ include DWI, public intoxication, dangerous driving coupled with swerving/speeding, fighting, theft and there are a few other examples. However, speeding (alone) or running a red light are not breaches of the peace, so I would assume making a U-turn wouldn’t be either.”
Q: My wife and I traveled to Dallas last weekend. We noticed that the lane stripes in Terrell and Dallas were black and white. Why?
A: What you saw is called contrast striping, and it is a “newer technology” the Texas Department of Transportation has been using for several years, according to Dallas area TxDOT spokeswoman Michelle Releford. The black is supposed to make the white stand out better.
“It works better on pavement that’s lighter in color,” she said. Because of that, it wouldn’t be used in areas where there are a lot of blacktop roads. However, she said it eventually will filter down to all TxDOT districts in high-traffic areas where visibility is an issue.
“It’s just to improve the visibility of the stripes,” she said.