TN high court further refines line-crossing test for DUI stops

Driving around Chattanooga is not like riding around in a confined bumper car track. While such an environment might reduce the number of injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, there is no way to create the infrastructure needed to make it work.

Instead, we have pavement and lanes. Sometimes the lanes aren’t marked. Very often they are. As we noted in a post back in November, sometimes police use those lane markings to decide whether to stop drivers for possible suspicion of drunk driving.

That previous post was about how the state Supreme Court sided with a defendant charged with DUI in a dispute over evidence. The arresting officer alleged he witnessed the driver crossing the yellow line. But a dashboard camera video of events showed the driver’s wheels only touched the line. The high court said that the prosecution couldn’t use the video evidence.

But two more recent cases out of the high court reinforce the validity of some police stops that use lane lines as the gauge. Both cases involved drivers straying over the traffic lane markers. In one case, the driver apparently was clearly observed crossing the center yellow lines. In the second, the driver crossed over the fog line on the right side of the road.

In both cases, the defendants reportedly claimed their arrests violated their constitutional protections against unwarranted police seizure. But the justices rejected the arguments. They noted that state law makes it a violation to stray out of a lane, regardless of the side, unless there’s good reason. Acceptable reasons might be to avoid a road hazard or because a wind gust pushed the vehicle over.

Outside of that the court ruled that if an officer has a reasonable suspicion, he or she should be able to make a stop. That’s something of which to make note.

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