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JB Umphrey
JB Umphrey, Lawyer
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Experience:  Handling criminal and probation matters for over 14 years.
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Is cutting across merchants parking lots allowed?

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In Texas, is it against the law to drive across a merchant's parking lot for the sole purpose of avoiding a stop sign, red light, long line of cars in the normal street route, or just a short-cut to another road? That is, if a driver does not stop in the merchant's parking lot for some valid reason related to the merchant's business and is only using the parking lot as an accessway to another road when the city, state, or federal highway system has already provided a road for same (albeit longer, more tedious or time consuming to traverse), has that driver cutting across a mercant's private parking lot (reserved for customers) commit a crime or traffic violation? If so, what is the name of the crime, what class is it, and what are the penalties if convicted of same? What does the merchant need in order to prove that the driver did indeed drive across their lot for no other reason but to gain access to another road, e.g. a visual recording of the incident by parking lot cam or even handheld video by cell phone? The merchant does pay for the upkeep of that lot (e.g. asphalt repair, painting of parking lanes, outdoor lighting, etc.) and non-customers who do drive across it are responsible for some measure of depreciation to same.  But is the merchant's word good enough to get a police officer (etc.) to issue a ticket to the "offender" and would the merchant's word be presumed to trump the driver's possible claim they did not drive across that merchant's lot or did indeed have a valid business reason to drive there (e.g. to check the merchant's store hours on the front door, etc., even if they did not)?

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Fran-mod replied 1 year ago.
Hi, I'm a moderator for this topic. I've been working hard to find a professional to assist you right away, but sometimes finding the right professional can take a little longer than expected.

I wonder whether you're ok with continuing to wait for an answer. If you are, please let me know and I will continue my search. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question for you. Thank you!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


I am willing to wait for an answer, assuming it is an informed answer and not just a guess. This is not a time sensitive question but one for general reference going forward. Ergo, I can wait.


 


Have I stumped the pool? (smiles)


 


J.M.S.

Expert:  Fran-mod replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your patience. We will continue the search for a Professional for you.
Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
Welcome and thank you for your question!

What you've described is a violation of Texas law as spelled out at:

Sec. 545.423. CROSSING PROPERTY.

(a) An operator may not cross a sidewalk or drive through a driveway, parking lot, or business or residential entrance without stopping the vehicle.

(b) An operator may not cross or drive in or on a sidewalk, driveway, parking lot, or business or residential entrance at an intersection to turn right or left from one highway to another highway.

It's a civil offense. It's not a crime. Different jurisdictions assess different financial penalties. For example, in Guadalupe, it's $150. In Killeen, it's $177.10. Judges have discretion in setting their fine schedule. A cited driver can also be required to take a driving safety course.

The officer has to observe the violation to take action.

A private property owner, however, who has a "no trespassing" sign posted could sue the driver in civil court for trespassing.

If this is a frequent problem, the business owner can call the police department and ask that an officer be assigned to monitor the lot at random times and enforce the law. When drivers see enforcement happening, then they usually change their behavior.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. Thank you for your business!

~~ J.B.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Thank you for your answer! Point of clarification requested: Part (a) of Sec. 545.423 says one must stop the vehicle [to avoid an offense.] Does that mean stopping the vehicle's engine? Or could one just come to a complete halt momentarily then continue on without ever cutting the engine off or exiting the vehicle, and thereby in "stopping the vehicle," avoid an offense? Furthermore, in Part (b) it refers to crossing a property to get from one "highway" to another "highway." Is that to be interpreted literally, i.e. the roads of departure and arrival must both be "highways" (e.g. a state highway or federal highway), but if either road is a byway, city street, or private road, no offense has been committed? Or by "highway" does the law mean ANY road, paved or otherwise and regardless of which entity or individual owns the road?

Expert:  JB Umphrey replied 1 year ago.
One would have to stop their vehicle as if they are going into the building to conduct business.

Under the Texas Transportation Code:

Sec.(NNN) NNN-NNNN RESTRICTION ON USE OF HIGHWAY. (a) In this section:
(1) "Commission" means the Texas Transportation Commission.
(1-a) "Department" means the Texas Department of Transportation.
(2) "Highway" means a public highway that:
(A) is in the designated state highway system;
(B) is designated a controlled access facility; and
(C) has a minimum of three travel lanes, excluding access or frontage roads, in each direction of traffic that may be part of a single roadway or may be separate roadways that are constructed as an upper and lower deck.
(b) The commission by order may restrict, by class of vehicle, through traffic to two or more designated lanes of a highway. If the lanes to be restricted by the commission are located within a municipality, the commission shall consult with the municipality before adopting an order under this section. A municipality by ordinance may restrict, by class of vehicle, through traffic to two or more designated lanes of a highway in the municipality.
(c) An order or ordinance under Subsection (b) must allow a restricted vehicle to use any lane of the highway to pass another vehicle and to enter and exit the highway.
(d) Before adopting an ordinance, a municipality shall submit to the department a description of the proposed restriction. The municipality may not enforce the restrictions unless the department's executive director or the executive director's designee has approved the restrictions.
(e) Department approval under Subsection (d) must:
(1) be based on a traffic study performed by the department to evaluate the effect of the proposed restriction; and
(2) to the greatest extent practicable, ensure a systems approach to preclude the designation of inconsistent lane restrictions among adjacent municipalities.
(f) The department's executive director or the executive director's designee may suspend or rescind approval of any restrictions approved under Subsection (d) for one or more of the following reasons:
(1) a change in pavement conditions;
(2) a change in traffic conditions;
(3) a geometric change in roadway configuration;
(4) construction or maintenance activity; or
(5) emergency or incident management.
(g) The department shall erect and maintain official traffic control devices necessary to implement and enforce an order adopted or an ordinance adopted and approved under this section. A restriction approved under this section may not be enforced until the appropriate traffic control devices are in place.

Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 384, Sec. 1, eff. May 28, 1997. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1049, Sec. 9, eff. June 20, 2003.


Sec.(NNN) NNN-NNNN COUNTY RESTRICTION ON USE OF HIGHWAY. (a) In this section:
(1) "Department" means the Texas Department of Transportation.
(2) "Highway" means a public roadway that:
(A) is in the designated state highway system;
(B) is designated a controlled access facility; and
(C) has a minimum of three travel lanes, excluding access or frontage roads, in each direction of traffic.
(b) A county commissioners court by order may restrict, by class of vehicle, through traffic to two or more designated lanes of a highway located in the county and outside the jurisdiction of a municipality.
(c) An order under Subsection (b) must allow a restricted vehicle to use any lane of the highway to pass another vehicle and to enter and exit the highway.
(d) Before issuing an order under this section, the commissioners court shall submit to the department a description of the proposed restriction. The commissioners court may not enforce the restrictions unless:
(1) the department's executive director or the executive director's designee has approved the restrictions; and
(2) the appropriate traffic-control devices are in place.
(e) Department approval under Subsection (d) must to the greatest extent practicable ensure a systems approach to preclude the designation of inconsistent lane restrictions among adjacent counties or municipalities.
(f) The department's executive director or the executive director's designee may suspend or rescind approval under this section for one or more of the following reasons:
(1) a change in pavement conditions;
(2) a change in traffic conditions;
(3) a geometric change in roadway configuration;
(4) construction or maintenance activity; or
(5) emergency or incident management.
(g) The department shall erect and maintain official traffic-control devices necessary to implement and enforce an order issued and approved under this section.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 846, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2003.

I hope this helps to clarify your concerns on the definition of highway under Texas law.

~~ J.B.

JB Umphrey, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 20231
Experience: Handling criminal and probation matters for over 14 years.
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