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Deviation from designated lane justified traffic stop

State v. Curtis D. Christianson, 2015AP24400-CR, District 3, 11/1/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

An officer observed Christianson deviate from his lane of traffic “numerous” times by going over the center line and fog line; some of the deviations occurred while he was driving through a construction zone that had orange barrels blocking access to the left lane. (¶¶3-5). Those observations gave the officer probable cause to stop Christianson for a traffic law violation.

¶10     …[Officer] Gunderson had probable cause to believe Christianson violated Wis. Stat. § 346.13(3). That statute states, in relevant part, “when lanes have been marked or posted for traffic moving in a particular direction or at designated speeds, the operator of a vehicle shall drive in the lane designated.” The court found that Christianson did not drive in his designated lane when he deviated from the lane multiple times prior to and after entering the construction zone. Those findings are supported by Gunderson’s testimony, the video recording, and Christianson’s own concession he drove over the fog line. …. These findings indicate Christianson more than possibly committed a violation of § 346.13(3). ….

¶11     Christianson asserts that interpreting Wis. Stat. § 346.13(3) as being violated anytime a vehicle deviates from a designated lane leads to absurd results because it ignores “the practical realities of driving in Wisconsin” by turning necessary evasions of animals and, as he claims here, construction equipment into traffic violations. This argument ignores the facts of this case. Gunderson testified, without contradiction, that the construction barrels did not infringe upon the open lane so as to reroute traffic. Christianson also does not account for the deviations outside of the construction zone. As a result, Christianson’s statutory interpretation argument must fail. ….

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