Lawmakers passed a new law in Texas that many people believe will help resolve a problem where the police have detained pedestrians and charged them with Class C misdemeanor crimes. Prior to HB 1277, it would be illegal for you to walk on a road in Texas, unless no sidewalk was available at the time. The new Texas law has added allowances to protect pedestrian safety and deter police from arresting people for violation of the state’s transportation code.
You may have read about a case that occurred in 2021 where police arrested an 18-year-old male for walking on the road when a sidewalk was available. The teenager had been heading home from work at the time. Due to snow and ice accumulation (which is rare in Texas), the available sidewalk was impassable, so the young man had stepped onto the road where it was safer.
The teen’s arrest compelled legislators to sponsor HB 1277
Concerns followed the young man’s arrest. Many people believed that police were targeting him because of his race. Social justice advocates later stated that the police officer’s body camera proved that the available sidewalks were impassable when the incident occurred.
Lawmakers who reviewed the case decided to initiate HB 1277, which incorporated additional language to extend pedestrian allowances to step into a roadway. Under the new law, it is not only lawful to walk on a road if no sidewalk is available, but also when an existing sidewalk has an obstruction or is unsafe for foot traffic.
Texas laws exist to protect you, not place you at risk for injury
The sponsors of HB 1277 determined that the existing law regarding pedestrians using roads to walk if sidewalks are unavailable did not fully protect the safety of the general population. With changes in climate in recent years, Texas has been experiencing freezing temperatures, as well as snow and ice accumulation.
Those who sponsored the bill believe the additional language improves safety and makes it less likely that police will arrest and charge people with Class C misdemeanor crimes when they walk on the road during a winter storm or any time a sidewalk is impassable. If you often travel on foot in Texas, you will want to review HB 1277 so that you understand when you can or cannot walk on roads throughout the state.
What to do if police arrest you for a state transportation code violation
There are criminal defense options available for anyone arrested and charged with a crime. If you believe that police took you into custody under false pretenses or did not follow proper protocol during the arrest, you may exercise your rights to request a dismissal of your case. You also have a right to photograph the scene or record events on video if a police officer has detained you, which would include photographing a sidewalk if police arrest you for walking on a road in Texas.