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  • Brian Foley

Illegal arrests outside of officer's jurisdiction

So you've been pulled over by a Houston Police officer for a traffic offense and then he claimed you were intoxicated and arrested you. But wait, when the traffic violation occurred while you were in Humble and outside the city limits of Houston! Is this an illegal arrest and search? The Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal court in the State of Texas) Texas decided this point in State v. Kurtz 152 S.W. 3d 72 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001).

"The question in this appeal is whether an officer of the police department of a city has authority to stop a person for committing a traffic offense when the officer is in another city within the same county. We hold that the officer does not have such authority." Id.

In general peace officers have state wide authority to arrest under 14.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. But in 1995 the legislature enacted a provision which limited this authority related to traffic violations like speeding, or failure to maintain a single lane. "This act was very specific and clear in not giving police officers and marshals of cities, towns, and villages the authority to arrest without warrant for violations of the Rules of the Road that are committed in their presence or view when they are outside their jurisdictions." State v. Kurtz 152 S.W. 3d 72 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001).

"There is no room in Article 14.03(g) for [the Court of Criminal Appeals] to find any authority for [a city Police Officer] to arrest without warrant for a violation of the Rules of the Road when he was outside the city." State v. Kurtz 152 S.W. 3d 72 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001).

Sheriff's Deputies, Constables, and District Attorney Investigators can arrest outside of their jurisdiction, but not City Police Officers when it comes to traffic violations. If the officers in this case had articulated that they developed probable cause that a DWI was taking place before the red and blue overhead lights went on, perhaps the courts would have come out differently. This path would be unlikely because Police officers are unfamiliar with this as a strategy for a traffic stop.

The key here is that the detention started with a traffic stop. If a police officer sees a wrecked out car on the side of the road and never turns on his red and blue overhead flashing lights the courts may rule that no stop or detention has taken place and even a city police officer outside his jurisdiction might be able to speak with a citizen and then develop probable cause that other offenses have occurred like possession of marihuana or driving while intoxicated.

If you've been pulled over in the Houston or Montgomery County area call me today so I can find the path to taking back your life! 936-596-0407.


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