I have a suppression issue with a defendant coming to a stop at a red traffic light, then turns on her left turn signal. After a few seconds she then switches to the right turn signal, then proceeds to turn right. I was wondering if anyone knows if I can say she violated 545.104 for not "signaling continuously for not less than the last 100 feet of movement before the turn" or if the fact that she came to a complete stop at the red light negates the 100 ft rule. Thanks!Another prosecutor from Brazos County chimed in to assure our protagonist that "you're 100% good" on such an interpretation. So, suggesting you'll turn left with your turn signal, changing your mind, then signaling and turning right is a criminal act, according to this myopic and uncharitable view.
The first prosecutor mentioned a couple of supposed case cites to support this position, but when Grits looked them up, neither seemed on point.
This law requiring drivers to signal 100 feet in front of a turn is a near-constant source of shenanigans by cops on the roadside. It's one of the more common "pretext stop" offenses - when officers are using a traffic stop as a phony excuse to stop and search drivers.
There's no driver out there who has never violated this law, in part because it's frequently an impractical and wrongheaded suggestion to follow. E.g., if there's a business entrance or alley within 100 feet of the turn you're taking, it can be confusing to others to use the turn signal prematurely. And anyway, how good are you at estimating exactly 100 feet?
Moreover, who hasn't changed their mind about their destination, signalling one way then realizing some prior obligation meant you needed to go the other? (Considering the question, there's a stop sign a few blocks from my home - where one direction goes downtown and the other to my daughter's place - where Grits probably does that several times per month!) The driver wasn't accused of turning from the wrong lane, so the turn, if signaled, would have been legal from that spot.
A law that everyone routinely violates because of its arbitrariness and impracticality becomes a path for the government to bypass 4th Amendment protections. Police can simply follow anyone they choose for a few minutes and wait for a signal less than 100 feet before a turn. Then they get a supposedly legal if objectively dubious basis to conduct a roadside search.
This is the sort of behavior by cops and prosecutors which erodes public trust of law enforcement by treating the law as a tool to violate people's rights rather than an agreed set of rules clearly designed to protect them and keep everyone safe on the road.