‘Vagueness’ of MN’s right-turn law doesn’t save man from DUI conviction

Not surprisingly, Minnesota law tells you exactly how to make a right-hand turn at a state intersection.

It reads:

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, 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.

When necessary to accommodate vehicle configuration, a driver is permitted to make a right turn into the farthest lane of a roadway with two or more lanes in the same direction in order to make a U-turn at a reduced conflict intersection, if it is safe to do so.

Is that at all vague to you? The Minnesota Court of Appeals thought so, so last year it overturned a drunk driving conviction of a man who almost hit a car parked on the other side of the road.

A Worthington police officer saw Tyler Morse make that turn at 2 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2012 and so he pulled Morse over and noticed watery eyes and the smell of alcohol.

The Court of Appeals threw the conviction out because the right-turn statute is vague (it said) and because it is, there was no justifiable reason to pull Morse over.

Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court didn’t buy the argument, overturning the lower court and reinstating Morse’s conviction, which resulted only in probation in the first place.

Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug, writing for the court, said no one had raised the constitutionality of the right-turn statute, nor was it raised on the appeal.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the deference given to officers regarding inferences and deductions made based on their training, we have no difficulty in concluding that the district court correctly determined that the stop of Morse’s vehicle was valid because it was supported by a reasonable, articulable suspicion,” he said.

Bottom line to the rest of us: Stay in your lane when making a right turn.