Minnesota Appeals court finds in favor of Minnetonka driver who turned left into wide right lane

The decision could have implications for driving laws in Minnesota.
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Driving left turn

When you're turning left onto a road that has two lanes, is it okay to turn into the lane furthest on the right?

That's the question that the Minnesota Court of Appeals handled this week, in the case of a 58-year-old Minnetonka man who was pulled over for going wide right on his left turn, and was later cited for drunken-driving.

But the appeals court found in favor of driver Kevin Birkland, who argued that police didn't have sufficient probable cause to pull him over simply for "turning left into the outermost lane of a four-lane roadway."

It comes after he was pulled over just after 10 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2018, at Christmas Lake Road and Highway 7 in Shorewood, with Birkland turning left and positioning his car in the far right lane of eastbound Hwy. 7 (see picture at top of page).

There are occasions at intersections where there are two left-turn lanes that requires drivers in the left-lane to take the innermost lane after turning, and the driver in the right-lane take the outermost lane after turning.

But Christmas Lake Road only has one left turn lane, and per Minnesota statute, in such a situation the only clear requirement of a driver is that they turn left, and that they are to the right of the centerline after turning.

The appeals court agreed with Birkland's argument that "the statute is unambiguous, and that a plain reading shows that the statute is silent on which lane the driver must enter after turning."

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It overturned an earlier district court ruling that stated turning into the outermost lane violates Minnesota road laws.

As a result, it rescinded the district court's decision to revoke Birkland's license for 90 days, which will be removed from his record, and he should recoup the fines he previously paid.

However, the decision could still be subject to a Supreme Court appeal.

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