No more “verbal” warnings during traffic stops


A section of the Sandra Bland Act is in full effect now. 

Bland died in a Waller County jail cell after a traffic stop in 2015. The act requires all police departments to document all traffic stops, even if no citation is issued.

“We can no longer just issue what we call a verbal warning,” said Sgt. Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department.

Senate Bill 1849, known as the Sandra Bland Act, took effect New Year’s Day and is changing the way law enforcement handles traffic stops.

“Now it requires that we actually do a full citation, so we’re going to have to obtain all the information that we need on a traffic ticket,” said Sgt. Swanton.

That includes your name, address, phone number, height, weight, race, ethnicity, driver’s license information, where you work, and even your social security number.

“We can still write warnings, but they have to be written warnings, not the verbal warning,” said Sgt. Swanton.

A warning means it doesn’t go on your record, and you don’t have to pay a fine. But, it could also mean your chances of getting a ticket are higher.

“In the past, it could have been someone got 4 or 5 verbal warnings for doing the same thing, an officer wouldn’t have know that that person has previously been warned to not do whatever the violation was,” said Sgt. Swanton.

Waco resident Gabriela Ortiz has received about four verbal warnings in the past.

“I don’t know I feel like my time has come to get a ticket, so if I do get pulled over, that’ll feel like my time has come,” said Ortiz.

“I think it’s probably a good idea, because if there’s a written record that you’ve had quite a few warnings, it’s your time to get the ticket. But, if you’ve not had many warnings and have a good record, a written tickets isn’t going to hurt you, it might remind you to be on your best driving behavior,” said Waco resident Claudia McLatcher.

In 2016, DPS troopers made over 300,000 traffic stops in Central Texas, of those nearly 200,000 resulted in warnings, the rest in citations.

“It’s probably bad for the people who have gotten tickets or get pulled over, they can’t talk their way out of it anymore,” said Waco resident Yasmin Landaverde.

The Texas Attorney General’s office says Texas Law Enforcement Agencies will each determine their own policy in order to comply with the new statute.

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