New Service Rule Applicable to the State Prosecuting Attorney Per Misc. Docket No. 19-012
“The Thirteenth Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the officer who stopped Hardin’s vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her for failing to maintain a single lane by swerving into another lane, whether or not this movement could be done safely.”
At a pretrial suppression hearing, a police officer testified that he stopped Hardin’s vehicle for failing to maintain a single lane in violation of Tex. Transp. Code § 545.060(a). Section 545.060(a) states: “an operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic: (1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane; and (2) may not move from the lane unless that movement can be made safely.” The trial court granted Hardin’s motion, concluding that even though Hardin crossed over the center line without signaling a lane change, it was not unsafe because no other vehicles were around.
The court of appeals affirmed. It agreed with the trial court’s legal conclusion that Section 545.060(a) requires proof that the failure to maintain a single lane was also unsafe.
The State argues that the Court should adopt the plurality decision in Leming v. State. 493 S.W.3d 552 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016). There, a plurality stated that Section 545.060(a) requires a person to “drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane,” whether or not movement between lanes may be made safely. The State explains that (a)(1) should apply generally, without a safe-movement exception, to all driving within a lane that does not involve changing or entirely leaving the lane, and (a)(2)’s safety exception should apply only to lane changes or the act of leaving the lane entirely. If both subsections apply, the State cautions, then a driver may never move from a lane unless (1) it is impractical to stay in the lane for some reason and (2) movement from the lane can be made safely. The State contends that it makes no sense to require driving in a lane to rise to the level of impracticability as a prerequisite to changing a lanes. Further, a contrary reading of the statute would undermine the purpose of the law. A driver would be authorized to swerve between lanes as long as the driver “first ascertained that such a movement can be made safely.” And painted lanes, which are traffic signals, would become suggestive instead of mandatory.