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Can I get arrested for speeding in Texas?

If you're like Rickey Bobby you may want to go fast. Well, you'll probably rack up a bunch of traffic tickets but you might not get arrested. In general you can get arrested for any criminal offense even class "C" tickets like Failing to signal at least 100 feet before an intersection. But, there have traditionally been two exceptions to this rule. As of September 1, 2017 there are three exceptions. So here is the list of offenses for which an officer cannot choose to arrest you. (Assuming you sign the ticket promising to appear at traffic court).

  1. Speeding

  2. Open Alcohol Container; and

  3. Texting and Driving (Added in 2017).

So that is the law, but you need to know how this is going to be applied in real life. First, if you are speeding going 80 miles per hour down Interstate 45 near The Woodlands, Texas and you are polite to the officer and sign the ticket promising to appear, you are going to in all likelihood be issued a citation or a warning and go about your day. If you are driving 120 miles per hour down the same stretch of road and have to weave in between vehicles to avoid them, you are again, NOT going to be arrested for speeding. But you probably ARE going to be arrested. The officer will call it reckless driving and the provision that prevents an arrest on speeding charges will no longer apply. The same thing could be said if you are texting and driving and nearly cause a collision. The officer could try to file the case as a reckless driving.


One thing to keep in mind if you ever get pulled over for an offense like speeding or texting and driving, or really any other offense, is that the officer is recording the entire interaction including audio of your responses to be used against you in court. Officers who are trained well will often ask you, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" This is asked so that you make an admission right away by saying something like, "Cause I was speeding." You have the right to remain silent and not make statements against yourself. Be polite but be mindful that everything you say can be used against you.


So why is it that these three offenses are exempt from arrest when things like running a stop sign or failing to maintain a single lane could lead to being booked into jail? The common knowledge in the legal profession on this point was always that these were the three offenses that the members of the legislature were most likely to commit and they wanted to make sure they didn't get arrested!

There is one other way you could wind up in jail when the only thing you've done is speed. Remember when I wrote you needed to sign the ticket promising to appear? Well the officer will have given you a copy of the ticket with a date that you have to appear in court and if you "fail to appear" then you could have a warrant put out for your arrest and wind up in jail all because of a speeding ticket.


Sec. 543.004.  NOTICE TO APPEAR REQUIRED:  CERTAIN OFFENSES.  (a)  An officer shall issue a written notice to appear if:
(1)  the offense charged is:
(A)  speeding;
(B)  the use of a wireless communication device under Section 545.4251; or
(C)  a violation of the open container law, Section 49.031, Penal Code; and
(2)  the person makes a written promise to appear in court as provided by Section 543.005.
(b)  If the person is a resident of or is operating a vehicle licensed in a state or country other than this state, Subsection (a) applies only as provided by Chapter 703.
(c)  The offenses specified by Subsection (a) are the only offenses for which issuance of a written notice to appear is mandatory.
Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.  Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 62, Sec. 17.07, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.
Amended by: 
Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 438 (H.B. 62), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

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