In Texas, the use of radar by law enforcement is lightly regulated. If you are hoping to avoid being stopped for speeding, radar detector laws do permit drivers to use a police radar detector in many instances. However, you should be familiar with these rules, as well as your rights.
Do Sheriffs Have Radar Guns?
Texas permits sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to have radar guns. However, they cannot use any devices that photograph vehicles, license plates or drivers. Section 542.2035 of the Texas Transportation Code states that a municipal peace officer cannot make use of a hand-held laser speed enforcement device to collect evidence before initiating a traffic stop. This law has been interpreted to mean that photographs taken in conjunction with radar guns are not permitted.
Police Speed Gun Rules
In Texas, any law enforcement officer who uses a radar gun must be trained in its use. In addition, the radar gun must be using Doppler technology. It’s not the case that the police officer must show the radar gun to a driver to illustrate their speed. If an officer states that he clocked the driver’s speed on the radar device, that testimony is considered adequate in court.
Only Doppler technology is legally permitted for use in radar guns. According to Texas case law established in 2009 (Hall v. State), there was no evidence that LIDAR technology provides accurate information regarding a defendant's speed. In this particular case, the officer was found to have no probable cause for a traffic stop since the LIDAR gun was deemed insufficient to accurately measure speed.
A 2011 Texas case (Deramus v. State) set a precedent for police officers with reasonable suspicion that a driver is speeding pulling those drivers over without radar gun evidence. The court stated that it is not always possible for an officer to use a radar gun, and that it is not required for an officer to do so in order to confirm speed. The prosecutor in this case did not have to show that the defendant actually violated traffic law as long as the evidence proves that the officer believed the driver did so.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Texas?
It’s legal to use a radar detector in Texas, with some exceptions. In fact, if you’re driving a passenger vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, radar detectors are not permitted according to federal law. In addition, nonpassenger vehicles may not use this technology. You may not mount the detector on your windshield, windows or another location that obstructs your view while driving. If you are pulled over, it’s up to the discretion of the officer to decide if the detector is obstructing your view. Radar detectors are also not permitted on military bases per federal law.
There is a difference between radar detectors and radar jammers. The radar detector merely picks up the radar signals emitted from a police officer’s radar gun. These are legal in Texas provided the officer is trained in the use of the radar gun. Radar jammers, however, work by emitting a signal that blocks or otherwise interferes with the radar guns used by law enforcement. Not surprisingly, these devices are not permitted in Texas. In fact, the state legislature passed a law in 2011 to prohibit drivers from either using, attempting to use, installing, operating or attempting to operate a radar jammer in a vehicle. If you are caught using such a device, you can be charged with a class C misdemeanor.
- FindLaw: Texas Transportation Code - TRANSP § 542.2035. Limitation on Municipalities
- FindLaw: Texas Transportation Code - TRANSP § 644.101. Certification of Certain Peace Officers
- Texas Municipal Courts Education Center: Presenting Radar Evidence
- Barnett, Howard and Williams: Are Radar Detectors Illegal to Use in Texas?
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images