Georgia
DUI investigations usually begin with a routine traffic stop. At a minimum, in
order to stop you and your vehicle, the stopping officer needs to have
“reasonable and articulable suspicion” to believe a crime has, or is about to
be committed. An officer normally satisfies this requirement by observing a
traffic or equipment violation. However, if it is determined the officer did
NOT have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle; this could
result in the suppression of evidence and the ultimate dismissal of a DUI
charge.

Therefore,
it is crucial to examine the most common types of traffic violations that
result in a DUI investigation. This article serves to inform you of what type
of things police officers are looking for when stopping for improper turn.

The Offense

O.C.G.A.
§ 40-6-120 requires the driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an
intersection to do the following:

(1)
RIGHT TURN. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made
as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway;

(2) LEFT TURN.

(A) As
used in this paragraph, the term “extreme left-hand lane” means the
lane furthest to the left that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the
same direction as the turning vehicle. In the event of multiple lanes, the
second extreme left-hand lane shall be the lane to the right of the extreme
left-hand lane that is lawfully available to traffic moving in the same
direction as the turning vehicle. The third extreme left-hand lane shall be the
lane to the right of the second extreme left-hand lane and so forth.

(B) The
driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the
extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of
travel of the turning vehicle. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be
made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to exit the
intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available
to traffic moving in the same direction as the turning vehicle on the roadway
being entered.

(C) In
the event of multiple turn lanes, the driver of a vehicle turning left shall
exit the intersection in the same relative travel lane as the vehicle entered
the intersection. If the vehicle is in the second extreme left-hand lane
entering the intersection the vehicle shall exit the intersection in the second
extreme left-hand lane. Where there are multiple lanes of travel in the same
direction safe for travel, a vehicle shall not be permitted to make a lane
change once the intersection has been entered.

The
most common way to violate this law is when you make a “wide turn.” A wide turn
is when you start your turn in one lane and drift over into another lane while
executing or finishing your turn. This is a common maneuver you will see on the
road and a close look at the language of the law prohibits this conduct.

Interestingly,
in State v. Morgan, 260 Ga. App. 263,
581 S.E.2d 296 (2003), the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s
suppression of the traffic stop. Morgan was stopped for making a right hand
turn into the left lane of two eastbound lanes of Hwy 278, then immediately got
into a left turn lane to turn onto Hazelbrand Rd. approximately 100 yards from
where he entered Hwy 278; the turn was reasonable and the reasonable suspicion
for the stop was unreasonable. Because the spirit of our traffic laws is to
ensure safe and reasonable driving among motorists, the Court decided, given
the facts of Morgan and the
reasonableness of his driving, there was no reasonable and articulable
suspicion to stop his vehicle even though Morgan made a wide turn.

Challenging the Stop

Like
any traffic stop,  is important to
challenge the officer’s observations to determine whether the stopping officer
has reasonable and articulable suspicion necessary to stop your car. The most
successful way to accomplish this is to challenge the officer’s perception. Key
issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Distance between
    the officer and your vehicle
  • Angles of
    officer’s observation
  • Traffic
    conditions (no traffic makes an improper turn more reasonable and safe)
  • Lighting
  • The mechanics of
    the turn

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been
arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W.
Scott Smith at 404.581.0999
 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight
on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.