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Pregnant Texas woman ticketed for HOV violation claims fetus should count as passenger

DALLAS — A pregnant Texas woman who was ticketed for driving in a high-occupancy vehicle lane in Dallas is fighting the citation, claiming that her unborn baby should count as a second person.

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Brandy Bottone, 32, of Plano, said the Supreme Court ruling last month that overturned Roe v. Wade meant that her fetus counted as a passenger as she drove in the HOV lane of Dallas’ Central Expressway on June 29, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The sheriff’s deputy who stopped Bottone at the checkpoint was unmoved by her claims and wrote her a $215 ticket for driving alone in the HOV lane, according to the newspaper.

By Texas law, in order to use HOV lanes, drivers must have at least one passenger in the vehicle, KXAS-TV reported.

Bottone, who was 34 weeks pregnant at the time of the checkpoint stop, said she was hurrying to pick up her son.

“I knew I couldn’t be a minute late, so I took the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane,” Bottone told the Morning News. “As I exited the HOV, there was a checkpoint at the end of the exit. I slammed on my brakes, and I was pulled over by police.”

Bottone then related the exchange between her and the deputy to the newspaper.

“An officer peeked in and asked, ‘Is there anybody else in the car?’

“I said, ‘Well, yes.’

“He asked, ‘Where?’

“I pointed to my stomach and said, ‘My baby girl is right here. She is a person.’

“He said, ‘Oh, no. It’s got to be two people outside of the body.’”

While the Texas penal code recognizes a fetus as a person, the Texas Transportation Code does not, according to The Washington Post.

Bottone continued to press her case to the officer.

“And then I said, ‘Well (I’m) not trying to throw a political mix here, but with everything going on (with Roe v. Wade), this counts as a baby,’” Bottone told KXAS.

Bottone told the Morning News that the first officer, who reportedly said, “I don’t want to deal with this,” waved her to a second officer who wrote up the citation.

“(The second officer) said, ‘If you fight it, it will most likely get dropped,’” Bottone told the newspaper.

“But they still gave me a ticket. So my $215 ticket was written to cause inconvenience?”

Bottone’s case could send Texas into “unchartered territory” after the June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Chad Ruback, a Dallas-based appellate attorney, told the Post.

“I find her argument creative, but I don’t believe based on the current itineration of Texas Transportation Code that her argument would likely succeed in front of an appellate court,” Ruback told the newspaper. “That being said, it’s entirely possible she could find a trial court judge who would award her for her creativity.

“This is a very unique situation in American jurisprudence.”

Meanwhile, Bottone said she would fight the ticket when she appears in court on July 20. Her daughter is due around that time, the Post reported.

“This has my blood boiling. How could this be fair? According to the new law, this is a life,” Bottone told the Morning News. “I know this may fall on deaf ears, but as a woman, this was shocking.”

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on Bottone’s claims, according to the newspaper. A representative for the Texas Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the Post reported.

“My impression is that I think (Bottone) would be happy if she got out of her traffic ticket,” Ruback told the newspaper. “Then again, these are unusual times we’re living in, that’s for sure.”



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