Judges interpret left turn traffic statute

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Turning left from an intersection doesn’t mean you must drive into the lane closest to the center line, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The state’s intermediate appellate court interpreted Indiana Code 9-21-8-21 that was crafted two decades ago, finding that it isn’t specific about which lane right of the center line a person must turn into when turning left from an intersection.

That ruling came in Ken Gunn v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1102-CR-82.

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer observed Ken Gunn making a left turn in June 2010 onto a four-lane road with two lanes in each direction. In making that turn and entering the southbound lanes, Gunn didn’t turn into the lane closest to the center line but instead swung out into the other lane. Believing that turning left into a lane other than the one closest to the center line was a traffic infraction, the officer initiated a traffic stop.

The officer asked Gunn for his driver’s license and routinely asked if any guns were in the car, to which Gunn responded that he had one in a holster on his right hip and that he had a permit. The officer found the permit expired three weeks earlier and wasn’t renewed, and so he arrested the driver. The state charged Gunn with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. Gunn filed a motion to suppress the gun on grounds it was obtained as the result of an illegal traffic stop, but the Marion Superior Court denied that motion after a hearing.

On appeal, Gunn argued that any evidence obtained at the time should be suppressed because the traffic stop violated his Fourth Amendment and state constitutional rights. Specifically, Gunn contended the officer’s justification for the stop was invalid.

The appellate judges analyzed IC 9-21-8-21, which says a person making an intersection turn must “make the left turn so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered.”

“The statute does not specify which lane the driver must enter if there is more than one lane for traffic in that direction,” Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan wrote. “Rather, the only requirement is that the driver must enter a lane to the right of the center line.”

Despite the state’s argument that the turn must be made into the lane closest to the center line, the appellate judges disagreed with that reading of the statute’s clear language. If the Legislature had intended that, they could have specified as they did in a subsection focusing on right-hand turns. Even if the state’s reading would be more conducive to traffic safety, the court found no reason to require that based on the law.

The appellate court declined an invitation to hold that this was a situation where an officer’s good faith belief, later to be found incorrect, may be objectively reasonable at the time of the assessment and sufficient to justify an investigatory stop.

As a result, the appellate panel reversed the judgment, finding the trial court erred in denying Gunn’s motion to suppress the evidence.


  • Left Turn Laws
    My friend insists that in a situation where you come upon an intersection with a left turn only lane/arrow, when the left arrow and circular signal for straight through traffic are both green and the left turn traffic is turning onto a multi-lane roadway, it is lawful for the lane closest the left turn only lane to also make a left turn. I disagree with him in the fact that the left turn lane indicates that it is a left turn ONLY lane. This particular question applies to intersections where you may turn left after the green arrow is distinguished, but you still have a green circular light for through traffic, providing there is no oncoming traffic. Can you please verify this
  • Driving on a collission course.
    The officer was correct in his view that the driver of a passenger type vehicle(not a semi which needs more room in which to make a turn)should make his or her left turn into the closest possible lane to the center line as to avoid a possible conflict with other traffic and a question of who has more of a right of way when those other motorists that are making legal right hand turns from the opposite direction onto the same roadway collide with each other. Been to the mall lately? If driver's know exactly which lane they should be turning in and are then does'nt this increase better traffic flow? Oh but wait this leaves out those driver's who are still waiting to decide on a destination until they get there! We know that in todays environment of cell phones and driving and every other driving distraction you can think of this is a common occurance even without bad weather or reduced visibility. If the Indiana statute does not say this specifically enough for these judges then maybe it is time to re-write it. Too many driver's on the road these days drive like it is a competition or a free for all. Hence the spike in aggressive driving complaints, and new laws aimed to deal with aggressive and road rage type driving. Instead of passing new laws in an attempt to make the voters happy, how about assisting the police to enforce the ones we already have on the books? Or writing these laws in a way that anyone intelligent enough to have a driver's license could understand.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.