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When turning left onto a roadway that has more than one lane in each direction, is it okay to turn into the outermost lane?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals decided Birkland v. Commissioner of Public Safety on February 18, 2020, and the court decided that law enforcement officers could not lawfully stop the driver for making a left-hand turn into the outermost lane of the roadway that he was entering. The driver, in that case, was pulled over by a law enforcement officer for making a left turn into the outermost lane of Highway 7 in Shorewood, which has two lanes in each direction. The driver was arrested and submitted to a breath test. After the breath test, the State revoked his driver’s license under the Minnesota Implied Consent laws.

The driver challenged the license revocation in district court requesting that his license revocation be rescinded. The district ruled that the arrest was proper, and therefore denied the driver’s challenge. That decision was appealed by the driver to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The main issue in the case at the Court of Appeals was whether or not Minnesota Statute § 169.19, subd. 1(b) requires a driver to turn into a specific lane when making a left turn. The court noted that the statute is specific while discussing where the driver must make the turn from, however, the statute is silent as to what lane the driver must enter after turning. The Court of Appeals ultimately held that the traffic stop, and the resulting arrest, were unlawful because the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the driver violated a traffic law.

The case could be further appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court if the Commissioner of Public Safety decides to file an appeal. The Minnesota Supreme Court could hear the case if it chooses, but is not required to do so. Check back here for further updates.

At Rinke Noonan, we have experienced criminal defense attorneys up-to-date on these revisions and all things criminal defense. Please contact us if you have any questions. We would be happy to assist you.