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Judges interpret left turn traffic statute

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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.
 

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  • 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.

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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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