August 8, 2012 - By Jeffrey Beltz
EXPERIENCED TRAFFIC TICKET LAWYER
EXPLAINING THE DIFFICULTY OF SPEEDING IN CONSTRUCTION ZONE TICKETS
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Traffic ticket courts across the State of Texas are becoming more difficult to work with on a variety of legal issues. However, if you have recently received a traffic ticket for “Speeding In a Construction Zone” be prepared for what you are about to face. The Texas Legislature has enacted laws that double fines and disallow courts to offer deferred adjudication for speeding in a construction zone with workers present. If you have been issued a traffic ticket in Carrollton or any other City in the Dallas Fort Worth area and would like to discuss your case with an experienced legal team of attorneys and paralegals, feel free to call our office at your convenience. In an effort to help educate attorneys and the public alike, we have written a short and informal brief of the issues related to speeding in a construction zone cases so that you may become more educated about the laws that apply and the special circumstances you face when defending traffic tickets of this type.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A CONSTRUCTION ZONE? The Texas Transportation Code Section 472.022 defines the actual term “construction zone” in the following manner:
“Construction or maintenance work zone” means a portion of a highway or street: (A) where highway construction or maintenance is being undertaken, other than mobile operations as defined by the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices; and (B) that is marked by signs: (i) indicating that it is a construction or maintenance work zone; (ii) indicating where the zone begins and ends; and (iii) stating: “Fines double when workers present.”
All of these elements must be met in order to prove a valid construction zone existed. Notice what is not required to be proven in order to establish a valid construction zone. The prosecution does not need to prove that the workers were in the line of sight of the driver. The prosecution only need prove that maintenance was being undertaken anywhere throughout the zone. For example, if you are pulled over for speeding in a construction zone and witness no workers in your area, that does not mean that you have not violated the law as written. Those workers need only be in the zone in any area whether near or far from the actual speeding violation. We have defeated speeding in construction zone violations only when it has been proven by a city manager that at the time of the offense, no workers were to be in the zone because it was after hours, or they were to report to another work area. Specifically, check the time of the ticket and call the city’s maintenance manager. Verify the work that was being done as well as the time the job was to start and finish. Also, take pictures of the signs in the beginning of the zone and at the end of the zone to see if they comply with the requirement of the law.
WHAT IS THE FINE FOR OFFENSE IN CONSTRUCTION OR MAINTENANCE WORK ZONE? (a) If an offense is committed in a construction or maintenance work zone when workers are present and any written notice to appear issued for the offense states on its face that workers were present when the offense was committed:
(1) the minimum fine applicable to the offense is twice the minimum fine that would be applicable to the offense if it were committed outside a construction or maintenance work zone; and
(2) the maximum fine applicable to the offense is twice the maximum fine that would be applicable to the offense if it were committed outside a construction or maintenance work zone.
A normal fine for traffic tickets involving speeding ranges from $0 – $200.00. This statute does not mean that it is mandatory to give a person a $400.00 fine. It only allows for the fine to be as high as $400.00. What we normally see is when a case can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a violation occurred within a work zone with workers present, the prosecutors are usually willing to drop the fine fairly low because they know that the violation is going to be reported as a conviction on the person’s driving record.
WHY CAN’T I KEEP A SPEEDING IN CONSTRUCTION ZONE TICKET OFF MY RECORD? The law only allows for a speeding in construction zone to be kept off a person’s record if workers were not present within the zone. The law that prosecutors are referring to is known as the “deferred adjudication” statute. This statute allows a court to keep a traffic ticket from going on a person’s permanent driving record if certain conditions are met be the defendant. Normally those conditions are to pay a fine and perhaps go to driver’s safety school. Many prosecutors and even judges don’t actually know where that statute is located. Some think it is in the Transportation Code. However, it is found in The Code of Criminal Procedure. The actual statute reads as follows:
- Art. 45.051. SUSPENSION OF SENTENCE AND DEFERRAL OF FINAL DISPOSITION. (a) On a plea of guilty or nolo contendere by a defendant or on a finding of guilt in a misdemeanor case punishable by fine only and payment of all court costs, the judge may defer further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt and place the defendant on probation for a period not to exceed 180 days. In issuing the order of deferral, the judge may impose a special expense fee on the defendant in an amount not to exceed the amount of the fine that could be imposed on the defendant as punishment for the offense. The special expense fee may be collected at any time before the date on which the period of probation ends. The judge may elect not to impose the special expense fee for good cause shown by the defendant. If the judge orders the collection of a special expense fee, the judge shall require that the amount of the special expense fee be credited toward the payment of the amount of the fine imposed by the judge. An order of deferral under this subsection terminates any liability under a bail bond or an appearance bond given for the charge.
As you may notice, there is no language in the body of the statute that disallows deferred adjudication for speeding in a construction zone with workers present. However, in subpart (f) of the same statute it reads as follows:
- (f) This article does not apply to: (1) an offense to which Section 542.404, Transportation Code, applies; or (2) a violation of a state law or local ordinance relating to motor vehicle control, other than a parking violation, committed by a person who:(A) holds a commercial driver’s license; or (B) held a commercial driver’s license when the offense was committed.
So the question then becomes what is Section 542.404 of the Transportation Code? This section outlines the fines for none other than an offense committed within a work zone with workers present. The same statue was discussed above with regard to the fines and has been copied verbatim for easy reference.
CONCLUSION ON SPEEDING IN CONSTRUCTION ZONE WITH WORKERS PRESENT TICKETS
If you have been issued a speeding ticket in a construction zone, you probably need to hire a lawyer to assist you. There are no guarantees to the outcome on a case like this, but the possibilities are substantially increased that your likelihood of keeping the citation off your record will occur. As traffic ticket lawyers, we have practiced and defended speeding in construction zone cases for many years. Our experienced staff can help educate you with regard to the laws and possibilities for a speeding in construction zone violation.