Monday, April 9, 2018

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Davis (Decided April 9, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which, once again, stands for the proposition that just touching a fog or lane line is sufficient to justify a stop of a motor vehicle.

In Davis, Edina Police Officer Nicholas Pedersen observed a vehicle traveling south on Highway 100 north of the access lane that split into two lanes —leftward for East Interstate 394, and rightward for West Interstate 394. Officer Pedersen saw the vehicle make a left-hand signal, but then make a right-hand signal and exit Highway 100 onto an access lane leading to both East and West Interstate 394. Officer Pedersen followed the vehicle, which continued on the East-394 access lane travelling toward the cloverleaf turn. The access lane split once more: leftward for East-394 Minneapolis, rightward for the car-pool express lane.

After the vehicle traveled on the left side of this split, for East 394, the driver signaled left for about six seconds although no left-hand turn or lane change was possible. At the same time, the vehicle drifted to the right and its tires touched the fog line without crossing it. Continuing toward the cloverleaf turn, the vehicle signaled rightward and changed lanes to the right within a second. As the vehicle entered the cloverleaf turn, its tires again touched the right fog line. Officer Pedersen suspected traffic law violations, stopped the vehicle, and identified the driver as respondent Lynae Davis. Davis smelled of alcohol, performed poorly on field sobriety tests, and Officer Pedersen arrested her.

The District Court ruled that the stop of the vehicle was illegal.  The State appealed and the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the District Court stating:

"After briefing in this case, this court held in Kruse v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, that "the markings that establish lanes for traffic are not part of the lanes within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a), that driving onto such a marking is movement from a lane, and that such movement could constitute a violation of the statute." 906 N.W.2d 554, 560 (Minn. App. 2018)."

"In Kruse, the officer observed the driver's vehicle "move right and onto the fog line, but not over [it]," and then "move left and onto the center line, but not over [it]." 906 N.W.2d at 556. The time of day was 11:50 p.m. and the vehicle was on a county road with a center line. Id. Under those facts, we held that the officer had a reasonable suspicion of a traffic
violation under Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a). Id. at 560-61."

"At oral argument, the state argued that Kruse controls the result of this case. We agree. The facts here are nearly indistinguishable from the facts in Kruse. Officer Pedersen's observation that Davis's vehicle twice moved onto the fog line provided a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation under Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a). Because Officer Pedersen had an objective basis to suspect a violation of section 169.18, the stop of Davis's vehicle was lawful, and the district court erred in granting her suppression motion."

The problem with the court's ruling is that it misreads Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 7(a) which states:

"a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety."

So there is not an absolute prohibition from moving from the lane as long as such movement can be made safely.  Unless touching the fog line or lane line potentially endangered another vehicle, I do not see how touching a line justifies a stop.

Moral Of The Story:  You should color and drive between the lines!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.

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