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Mark Olberding Oct. 7, 2009

One of the common reasons law enforcement gives when they pull a person over in an OWI case is that the person was “weaving within their lane” and “they changed lanes without signaling” Usually this is sufficient to give law enforcement probable cause to stop a car and it goes downhill from there. STATE OF IOWA v. KYLE GAVIN TROGE, gives us some hope that staying in your lane and not using a turn signal does not give law enforcement a reason to pull you over.

The arresting officer testified Kyle’s pickup drifted four or five distinct times. The vehicle did not

cross either the center line or the fog line at any time. The arresting officer described the drifting which he observed as slow and gradual. While on a four lane street, Kyle’s pickup moved from the left lane to the right lane and Kyle did not signal the lane change until the pickup was halfway into the right lane.

The Court of Appeals first noted that when there are two or more lanes going in the same direction, a turn signal is not required when changing lanes. It then noted that Kyle’s changing lanes was done “in a safe and unremarkable manner, without any indication that the driver did not ascertain that it was safe to make a lane change.”

Finally, the Court noted that despite what law enforcement testified about Kyle’s driving. “The

videotape (from the police car) does not support the assertion that the pickup drifted four or five distinct times. The Troge vehicle never crossed the center lines or shoulder lines, and the videotape does not reveal any violations of the rules of the road. The videotape shows the truck changed lanes in a safe and unremarkable manner. The vehicle proceeded through several controlled intersections, moved into a right-turn-only lane, and executed a right turn at a controlled intersection without incident. The videotape reveals no weaving or erratic driving. We do not believe an objective person watching the videotape for the first time would have a reasonable suspicion that the driver of the pickup was under the influence.”

Since there was no reason to stop Kyle’s pickup, nothing from the traffic stop or the breathalyser results is admissible.

This does not mean that law enforcement can never use failure to use a turn signal when changing lanes as a reason stop a vehicle. In another case decided the same day, the first sentence is “A Waukee police officer stopped a vehicle…after (the driver) failed to use his turn signal while changing lanes.” There is no other discussion about this, so we have no way of knowing why this was not an issue.

The Kyle Troge case is remarkable because Kyle showed no real evidence of being under the

influence of alcohol despite failing the breathalyser test. Most people would not be able to do

that. But, this does mean that if the reason given for the stop is a “changing lanes” or “weaving within their lane” you need to view the videotape from the police car to see if the alleged bad driving is really that bad.