Texas Defendant in Firearm Case Loses Appeal in Case Arising Out of Traffic Violation

In a recent firearm case coming out of a Texas court, the defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the officer that found a firearm in his car did not have the right to pull him over in the first place. Because the officer illegally conducted the traffic stop, argued the defendant, the evidence found as a result of the traffic stop should have been suppressed. The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant, affirming the original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving one evening when an officer pulled him over at a major intersection. The officer informed the defendant that he made a wide right turn, swerving into an adjacent lane as a result of the turn. As the officer spoke to the defendant, he noticed the smell of marijuana and decided to conduct a search of the vehicle.

Upon looking inside the car, the officer found a firearm in the glove box. The officer gave the defendant Miranda warnings, and the defendant admitted that he knew he had the firearm in his glove box. The defendant explained to the officer that he was holding the firearm for a friend temporarily. The defendant was charged and convicted of possession of a firearm.

The Decision

Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the firearm, arguing that the arresting officer did not have the right to pull him over in the first place. In order to pull a driver over and conduct a traffic stop, the officer must reasonably suspect that a traffic violation took place. Here, said the defendant, the wide turn was not sufficient grounds for reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation. Thus, any evidence obtained after the traffic stop should be suppressed. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and the defendant appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, concluding that the officer did in fact have legal grounds to conduct the traffic stop. Other federal courts have held in the past, noted this court, that when an officer observes a driver making a wide right turn into the far lane of a multilane roadway, that officer has grounds to stop the vehicle based on a violation of traffic law. Because the officer in this case saw the defendant committing this specific traffic violation, the stop was valid and the subsequent search was legal.

Given the court’s conclusion, the defendant’s conviction and sentence were both affirmed.

Have You Been Charged with a Firearm Crime in the State of Texas?

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