The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld an Aberdeen man's third drunken driving conviction in a decade, ruling that a police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull over the driver.
Attorneys for Robert C. Dahl, 61, argued that evidence in the case should have been suppressed. Dahl was stopped the night of May 14, 2010, after making a right turn from a parking east on to Sixth Avenue Southeast in Aberdeen. The officer noted that Dahl's turn was wide and that he partially crossed the dotted line separating the two eastbound lanes on Sixth Avenue.
Dahl argued that the officer's stop "was based on his mistaken belief that partially crossing into the left lane was prohibited by statute," according to the Supreme Court decision.
But during a court trial in Brown County, Judge Scott Myren ruled that Dahl clearly crossed the dotted line, so the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop him. The Supreme Court agreed.
"A review of the video evidence in this case supports the circuit court's conclusion that Dahl's vehicle 'clearly crossed over the line' while making a right-hand turn," the justices wrote in a 5-0 decision. "The turn appeared to be considerably wider than necessary under the circumstances and created the reasonable inference that the driver of the vehicle might be impaired."
State law does not explicitly prohibit a driver from crossing a road's dotted line when turning right, but that doesn't mean the officer erred when pulling Dahl over, the justices ruled.
Dahl was sentenced to two years in prison with a year suspended. The crime is a felony punishable by as much as two years in prison and a $4,000 fine.