Walking down the wrong side of a street without a sidewalk could get you arrested.
That legal reality came up during the pre-trial hearing of U.S. Master Sgt. Christopher Grisham on Wednesday when Bell County prosecuting attorney Mark Danford argued that police had probable cause and reasonable suspicion to stop and arrest Grisham on March 16, including the fact he was walking on the wrong side of the road.
Grisham and his son, Chris, were reportedly taking a 10-mile hike to satisfy a Boy Scout requirement for an Eagle Scout badge. Temple police arrested Grisham when they saw him carrying an AR-15 rifle. Grisham said he had the weapon for protection against wild animals that had been seen in the rural-type area inside Temple city limits.
The Texas Transportation Code said a pedestrian is required to walk on any available sidewalk and, if there isn’t a sidewalk, a pedestrian should walk on the left side of the road or on the shoulder of the road facing oncoming traffic.
When crossing the road, pedestrians should cross at signal lights, controlled signals or on crosswalks. If there is no crosswalk marked, pedestrians must yield to vehicles, according to the Transportation Code.
Except for a speeding ticket, an individual found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor can receive a fine up to $500 but no jail time, according to the Texas Penal Code.
Cpl. Christopher Wilcox, Temple Police Department spokesman, said department records show that through July 31 of this year, one person has been cited, and in all of 2012, six citations were issued to people for walking on the wrong side of a roadway. In 2012, one person was charged with evading arrest after officers tried to stop and talk to him about walking on the wrong side of the road. He was arrested on the evading charge and was given a citation for walking on the wrong side of the road, Wilcox said.
Two people were arrested for walking on the wrong side in 2012, and all other offenders were only given a ticket and released at the scene, Wilcox said.
A police dash cam video from the incident with Grisham showed he and his son moving from the middle to the right side of the road. The video was shown during Wednesday’s hearing to Judge Neal Richardson and Officer Steven Ermis, who arrested Grisham because he reportedly resisted when Ermis attempted to take his AR-15 rifle away from him.
Neither the police report, complaint nor arrest affidavit written by Ermis after the arrest mentioned that Grisham was walking on the incorrect side of the road.
The prosecuting attorney, Danford, quoted several case laws at the hearing that he said proved Ermis had probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to arrest Grisham, including State vs. Patterson, a Texas appeals case that ruled the courts look at the totality of circumstances to determine if there is reasonable suspicion or probable cause for an arrest.
The U.S. Supreme Court case Terry vs. Ohio stated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures isn’t violated if a police officer stops a person on the street and searches the person without probable cause to arrest if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person committed, was committing or about to commit a crime. The officer must also believe the person may be armed and dangerous.
“Probable cause exists when the totality of the facts and circumstances presented to the magistrate support the conclusion that there is a fair probability or substantial chance that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found at the specified location,” the ruling stated.