The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

November 13, 2012

Basically legal to move through intersection on yellow light

Ask An Attorney

Special to the Herald-Banner

— My husband and I have a fight almost every time we get in the car about the red light law. When you are turning left at a light and waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass, is it legal to pull out into the intersection while waiting? And also, if you are in the intersection when the light turns yellow or red, but then turn after the last car passes, is that a legal violation? — J.F., Greenville

The answer to your first question is “yes,” it is legal to pull out into the intersection while waiting for oncoming traffic to pass if you have a green light. It is also legal to complete a turn you started during a green light if the light subsequently changes to yellow or red after you have entered the intersection.

Under Texas law, a steady yellow light means: “(1) movement authorized by a green signal is being terminated; or (2) a red signal is to be given.” Basically this means that a yellow light is legally treated as a “go” signal with an added warning element.  If the signal turns red before you enter the intersection, you have committed an offense.

The underlying reasoning for the answers above relates to the issue of which plane must be broken for an offense to occur. The Texas Transportation code states that a driver “facing only a steady red signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line...[or] before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.” As long as you have entered an intersection before the light turns red, you have not committed any offense.

The more important question is whether it is safer to stop or to enter the intersection with a yellow signal. This must be determined on a case-by-case basis.  For instance, if you stop suddenly at a yellow signal on a rainy day, you could cause the person behind you to slide into your vehicle. Your duty to avoid an accident is far more important than meeting the technical requirements of the law. You may also receive a valid ticket for causing a wreck if you make reckless decisions that might otherwise comply with the law.

I saw on the Texas Comptroller’s website that a former client is owed $1,200 by the state. He also owes me about $3,000 for work I did for him several years ago. Can I force him to sign over the money to me? — David, Greenville

Possibly.  It depends on whether you still have a right to sue him, which would in turn depend on what type of work you performed, whether there was a valid contract, and how long ago he should have paid you. You should also know that if you get him to “sign over” the money to you, the Comptroller will almost certainly not pay you the proceeds directly.

The Comptroller’s office had a long-standing policy of not making direct payments to “assignees, transferees or purchasers of unclaimed property.” The Comptroller’s office recently sought advice from the Texas Attorney General about this issue. The Attorney General’s office writes public opinions in response to legal questions from various state and local officials. In this case, the Attorney General responded to the Comptroller’s office and stated that the Texas Property Code prohibited the Comptroller “from paying assignees or any other type of purchaser of unclaimed property or unclaimed property rights.”

The Attorney General also stated that “assignee” would probably include “an individual who has purchased for value the unclaimed property of another.” The Attorney General pointed out that word “assignee” was not defined in the Property Code, and suggested that a court would likely apply the plain meaning of the word.

If you have a brief legal question on any topic, please forward it to

Daniel Ray is a Greenville, Texas attorney licensed in all Texas courts. His firm, Scott, Money, Ray & Thomas, PLLC, represents the City of Greenville, Hunt County, and many other public and private North Texas entities. His practice emphasis is civil litigation, wills and trusts and real estate.

This article is intended for entertainment and educational purposes as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this article you agree that you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author or publisher. The article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area.