In U.S. law, a pretext is the weak motive used to justify an action that
is actually strongly motivated by something else. For example, in wrongful
termination cases, a former employee may try to argue that the reason
given to terminate him was only a pretext used by a prejudiced employer
who disliked him anyway. Proving that the reasons for an action were “pretextual”
is very difficult, and when it comes to the conduct of police officers
out on the Texas roads, the law doesn’t really care what the officers’
subjective motivation may be for their conducts. Below is an explanation
of what this means for you and how you can avoid a pretextual stop.
Since things like
drunk driving or the possession of illegal drugs can be difficult to detect, police
officers are well-trained to look for any lawful reason to pull you over.
Law enforcement probably does not really care too much about something
as nit-picky as a burnt out taillight — the officers really just
want the chance to look for other signs ofdriver impairment or illegal activity. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have regularly upheld the ability of the
police to stop a vehicle for any legal reason regardless of the officers’
While the police usually cannot search your car without a warrant, the
U.S. Supreme Court has said that the Fourth Amendment is not violated
by Texas laws which allow an officer to issue an arrest even for fine-only
misdemeanors. The Texas Legislature has passed bills that would have limited this practice,
but ended up being vetoed by Governor Perry every time. All of this means
that an exchange like this is not too impossible:
Law Enforcement Officer: Sir, may I search your car?
Stopped Driver: No, not without a warrant.
Officer: Well, sir, you’re just going to have to wait until our
drug dog is done with another stop a few minutes from here.
Driver: I don’t have all day, officer.
Officer: Well, the other thing I can do is to arrest you for not wearing
your seatbelt and then search your car after it’s impounded.
Driver: All right, all right! Search the car so I can be on my way.
Of course, if there is nothing that could be used to against you in the
car, this isn’t as big of a problem, but you can still avoid the
hassle of pretextual stops by taking basic precautions. Here is a list
of some things to keep in mind to avoid giving the police an excuse to
pull you over:
- Regularly test headlights, taillights, turn lamps and brake lamps and seek
repairs if necessary
- Avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself with too much swerving,
controversial bumper stickers, excessive window tinting or loud music
- Obey basic traffic laws — don’t speed or drive too slowly,
come to a complete stop at stop signs, signal any lane changes and make
sure all passengers are wearing seatbelts.
If you or someone you know has been accused of
DWI or another criminal offense in Texas, contact the defense attorneys at
The Kyle Law Firm for a free consultation today./sso49