Validity of tickets issued on toll road questioned

HOUSTON You don't hear this very often. A law enforcement officer explaining a possible technicality that he believes could help ticketed drivers.

The number two lawman in Fort Bend County is questioning the law enforcement efforts of some deputy constables out here, asking whether they should be the ones giving tickets in the first place and whether those tickets are valid.

Portions of the West Park Tollway and the Fort Bend Tollway are patrolled, under contract, by Precinct 4 deputy constables. That's a problem, says the chief deputy of the sheriff's office.

"The contract was for the toll road which is wholly outside Precinct 4," explained Chief Deputy Craig Brady with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office. "So their appointments do not meet the criteria that the law requires. So those appointments are unlawful."

Chief Brady showed Eyewitness News a portion of the government code that he says spells out when those new deputies could be appointed. He notes a line stating "…when business...that originates in the constable's precinct." And Brady says, only then.

"If you don't the procedures and your appointment is unlawful, I think there's a real question as to whether you have any authority to do anything anywhere," Chief Brady said.

As a result, Chief Brady questions whether defense attorneys could question the validity and legality of the tickets those officers write out here.

He said, "I don't know if there's a remedy for that or not. It may be that those citations are invalid as well."

The county attorney tells us in his opinion the patrols were legally appointed. Troy Nehls, Constable for Precinct 4, says he has similar opinions from the attorney for the toll roads and the Texas Attorney Genera.

Chief Chad Norvell with the Fort Bend County Constable Precinct 4's Office said, "It's unfortunate he's raised that issue, which is baseless."

Nehls and his second in command, Chief Chad Norvell, say there has been no change in the law since deputy constables began patrolling this roadway three years ago that would make their enforcement unlawful.

"It's completely legal for our deputies to patrol anywhere in Fort Bend County," Chief Norvell said.

Chief Brady says this is not about jurisdiction. He says it's an issue where the law, in his opinion, states the officers cannot be appointed to do work outside their precinct.

Constable Nehls suggests this claim is motivated by politics. Chief Brady is running for sheriff of Fort Bend County in 2012. Nehls has formed an exploratory committee to look at entering that race as well.

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