Can you get arrested in Texas for refusing to sign a ticket?

A McKinney city councilman's arrest during a traffic stop has raised questions about the rule of law and a police officer's discretion.

Councilman La’Shadion Shemwell claimed on Wednesday that he was racially profiled. After that interview, police released body cam video of the Tuesday afternoon traffic stop. They also released a short statement saying that Shemwell was ticketed for speeding and for not updating his driver’s license.

McKinney police say the councilman was arrested for not signing the ticket.

The body camera video released by McKinney police begins with the officer pulling over La'Shadion Shemwell and approaching the city councilman's car. Shemwell immediately began disputing the officer's claim that he was speeding in a 35 mile per hour zone.

The councilman continued to dispute the claim that he was speeding as the officers prepared to ticket him for the speeding charge and for not updating the address on his driver’s license.

The dispute goes on for a few minutes before this exchange:

Shemwell: “I'm going to talk to Chief Conley because you're out of line. First off, I wasn't speeding from the time that I turned around.

Officer: “Mr. Shemwell, I'm going to give you one more option.”

Shemwell: “One more option to what?”

Officer: “You have to sign this or I'm taking you to jail today. Okay?”

Shemwell: “Take me to jail for what?”

Officer: “For your refusal to sign this citation.”

Shemwell: “That's the law that I have to sign that, Mr. Wilkerson?”

Officer: “Yes.”

Shemwell was arrested after he refused to sign the citation. As he was being handcuffed, he told the officer “you are making a big mistake.”

In an interview with FOX 4 on Wednesday, Shemwell said he believed he was racially profiled. That was before police released the body camera video.

Defense attorney and reserve police officer, Pete Shulte, does not represent anyone in the case. He looked at the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

"The law is clear. The law says if somebody does not sign a ticket or promise to appear in court, they shall be taken before a magistrate which means arrested and taken to jail,” Shulte said. “If they don't sign it, there's no proof that they accepted or promised to appear in court. So it could limit the ability for the judge to issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest."

Schulte also points out police have very broad powers of arrest during traffic stops.

"When you get pulled over, there's only three offenses in the state of Texas where you have to be issued a citation or given an opportunity to sign a promise to appear. That is speeding, open container and texting,” Schulte said. “Anything else, you can get arrested for a dirty license plate, having an expired registration, anything. You can go directly to jail.

FOX 4 has reached out to Shemwell for additional comment after the release of the body cam but have not heard back. He referred any questions to his lawyer.

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