Flat Tire Is No Reason to Stop a Driver

It was late at night and our client was heading east on a three lane divided highway in Austin, Texas. An Austin Police Officer traveling in the opposite direction spotted that client’s vehicle had a flat tire.  Smoke was coming from the wheel well.  Concerned and suspecting a prior collision, the Officer immediately turned around and followed the driver to investigate.  Traffic was light and the streets were illuminated.  The Officer followed and observed our client’s driving for a total of two blocks during which time there might have been one opportunity to turn off the road and seek assistance.  Instead, he saw the driver use her directional signal, proceed to the next intersection, and pull into an apartment complex. Our client parked in a designated space and had no trouble operating or stopping the vehicle safely.  The Officer later discovered this was client’s residence and she had made the decision to get home instead of pulling over on the side of the road to fix the tire.

At the hearing on our Motion to Suppress, the Officer agreed that stopping sooner to fix the flat would not have been wise and that it made sense for the driver to get home where there was ample space and time to fix the flat or replace the tire with a spare. At no time did Client come close to striking another vehicle or pedestrian.  The Officer agreed that this was NOT a community care taking investigation. The Officer testified that the vehicle was not driving on the rim and that the tire was still attached to the wheel.  Nonetheless, he believed the driver was intoxicated and after conducting Field Sobriety Tests arrested her for DWI. The lab report indicated client’s Blood Alcohol Concentration was 0.205 g/dl.

We showed that the driving was safe and within the speed limit. The Officer saw no driving offenses nor erratic driving. The court agreed that driving on a flat for two blocks without endangering others was not a Texas Transportation Code Violation and that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop.  The Motion to Suppress evidence in the case was granted and the case was dismissed.

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