Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week issued an opinion that guides Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo’s office and the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office on how to enforce fines for overweight commercial vehicles on roads with reduced weight limits.
Last August, Arredondo had sought an opinion to settle a dispute between his office and the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office over how to enforce offenses which fall under Section 621.102 of the Texas Transportation Code.
The guidance was sought because a large number of commercial vehicles use federal, state and county roadways in Burnet County each day — including vehicles from local rock quarries and large trucks carrying wind turbine parts, some of which exceed the maximum weight limits for area highways and roads.
Section 621.101 sets out the weight limits allowable on public highways in the state of Texas, but Section 621.102 then allows the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation to set lower maximum weight limits for certain state roads, including highways like Texas 29 and Texas 71, or farm-to-market roads like FM 1431 or FM 963 if safety issues require them.
While Section 621.506 of the code spells out a graduated fine schedule from $100 to $10,000 for violations of certain sections of the code, including those committed under Section 621.101, another section of the code — Section 621.057 — sets out a maximum fine of $200 in general for all violations which are not specifically stated in 621.506.
Arredondo said his office contended the code requires violations of Section 621.102 to carry a maximum fine of $200 since “the violation is not listed under the higher punishment range listed under section 621.506.”
However, Arredondo said the BCSO contends “section 621.102 only grants power to modify the gross weight limit and a violation of a lowered weight limit on a roadway is an offense of section 621.101” and should thus be subject to the graduated fine schedule which allows for harsher penalties.
In Opinion KP-0354, Paxton sided with Arredondo, stating a violation of a weight limit on a roadway that has been modified in accordance with Section 621.102 of the Texas Transportation Code is punishable under Section 621.507 and thus subject to a maximum fine of $200.
Paxton said the law indicates the Legislature “did not make that policy choice” to punish violations of Section 621.102 under the penalties listed in Section 621.506.
“Section 621.102 does not specify consequences for exceeding the maximum weights set by the executive director, and we must assume that section 621.506’s failure to include section 621.102 was intentional,” Paxton wrote.
“While section 621.101 of the Transportation Code specifies maximum weight limitations for vehicles operating over or on a public highway or certain ports-of-entry, section 621.102 authorizes the executive director of the Department of Transportation to set different limitations that do not exceed these maximums.
“Section 621.506 provides a graduated schedule of penalties for violating specified maximum weight statutes but does not include section 621.102. Because no statute specifies the penalty for violating section 621.102, operating a vehicle in excess of the maximum weight set by the executive director under that section is subject to the catch-all penalties in section 621.507,” Paxton added.
“Because no statute specifies the penalty for [violations]... operating a vehicle in excess of the maximum weight ... subject to the catch-all penalties...” — Ken Paxton Texas Attorney General