No. A general misconception in our society is that an officer can only pull someone over if the speed is recorded on a radar gun. Many also believe an officer cannot pull them over unless they are going more than five miles over the speed limit. But this is simply not the case. An officer is able to pull over a driver through reasonable suspicion if the officer determines the driver is speeding even a few miles over the speed limit.

Pacing

One common way officers determine a driver’s speed is through pacing. Pacing, although approved by the Texas DPS, “is not taught by the Texas DPS, and the government did not physically produce the actual policy.” Police officers are trained “on the job” and pacing is not considered “an exact science.” Because pacing is not a policy-produced technique like radar technology, Courts usually determine the credibility of pacing through the officer’s testimony.

For example, in United States v. Archuleta, an officer pulled over a driver after pacing for only two seconds. Archuleta’s attorney argued that pacing did not give the officer reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop because it is not taught by the Texas DPS and “the government did not physically produce the actual policy which permits pacing in court.” But the officer’s six years of experience made him credible to the court when determining if he had a reasonable suspicion to stop the driver for a traffic violation.

Similarly, another court explained all that matters is whether an officer had an objectively reasonable basis for initiating the stop. The officer’s legal basis for making the stop does not diminish even if the police officer was mistaken as to whether the driver was actually speeding.

If the court determines an officer’s testimony is credible, the driver’s argument may be considered irrelevant because pacing is considered an acceptable method for determining if someone is speeding in Texas.

This police technique becomes very important when it comes to DWI cases. Officers are always on patrol for drivers who may have had one too many drinks. It is important for drivers to understand that officers can pull a car over just by driving close enough to determine their range of speed.

If you have been charged with a DWI, Possession of Marijuana, or Possession of a Controlled Substance and are concerned with how the police officer pulled you over, please call my office today at (817) 284-2262. If an officer pulled you over through pacing, don’t lose hope. Pacing is not considered an exact science, and the court must find the officer credible to uphold the stop as valid.

Question Presented:

When determining if a peace officer used good faith to pace a vehicle, what guidelines must the police officer follow for the court to find him credible?

Rule:

Under Texas law, pacing, although approved by the Texas Department of Safety (DPS), “is not taught by the Texas DPS, and the government did not physically produce the actual policy.” United States v. Archuleta, 463 F. App’x 412, 414 (5th Cir. 2012). Officers are trained “on the job” and pacing is not “an exact science.” Id. Courts usually determine the credibility of pacing through the officer’s testimony. Id., at 417. Although not a policy-produced technique, an officer has the ability to pull over a driver through reasonable suspicion if the officer determines the driver is speeding through pacing.

Analysis:

In Archuleta, an officer observed a driver on the opposite side of the road who was driving erratically. Id., at 414. The officer then paced the driver’s “speed from a distance of approximately 200 yards for two seconds, calculating that she was traveling at 58 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour speed zone.”  Id. The officer’s six years of experience made him credible to the court when determining if he had a reasonable suspicion to stop her for a traffic violation. Id., at 413. In a motion to suppress, Archuleta argued pacing did not give the officer reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop because it is not taught by Texas DPS and “the government did not physically produce the actual policy which permits pacing in court.” Id., at 414. However, the court “found the [defendants’ car] was in fact speeding by crediting the officer’s testimony over that of the defendants.” Id., at 417. Because the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the officer’s testimony was credible, Archuleta’s argument was irrelevant because pacing is considered an acceptable method for establishing reasonable suspicion. Id.

Similarly, in Castro, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a traffic stop when an officer determined a driver was speeding based on pacing. United States v. Castro, 166 F.3d 728 (5th Cir. 1999). Contrasting Archuleta, the officer in Castro paced the driver for several miles before initiating a traffic stop. Id., at 731. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals explains the discussion on pacing is focused on “the district court’s credibility with respect to the testimony of the officer.” Archuleta, 463 F. App’x at 417. Because pacing does not have specific guidelines and is not taught by the Texas Department of Safety, if the officer “had an objectively reasonable basis for initiating the stop, any factual mistake as to whether [the driver] was speeding does not diminish the trooper’s legal basis to make the stop.” Id., at 418.

Conclusion:

Because pacing is considered an approved technique to determine whether a driver is committing a traffic violation, if the officer who stops a suspect is seen as credible, the stop may be valid. When assessing the stop, your lawyer will want to look at the length of the pacing, was the officer’s vehicle maintaining the same distance from the paced vehicle during the pacing, and the officer’s experience regarding the pacing of vehicles.

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