Beating a Traffic Ticket Using MUTCD – The Fog Line “Technicality”

Written by Gregory Monte.

This post will mark the 20th time I have written about the importance of the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in fighting traffic tickets.  As I have indicated on numerous occasions, the MUTCD is THE source for technicalities that help you beat the system.  While you won’t always be able to find one for every single ticket situation, if you do you are very likely will win in court.  Why?  Because the MUTCD has the force of law.  If a motor vehicle violation involves the MUTCD in any way and the state/municipality which issued you the ticket didn’t follow this manual properly, the judge will have to rule in your favor.

Check out the listing at the end of this post for specific examples of how to apply the MUTCD to various types of tickets.


The Fog Line Case

Which brings me to an Ohio court case which was decided earlier this year.  In this instance a police officer pulled over a motorist because of a “marked lanes violation.”

State v. Turner, 2019 Ohio 3950 – Ohio: Court of Appeals, 12th Appellate Dist. 2019

“Trooper Haggerty followed the sedan as it turned right onto Old State Route 74. He observed the sedan drift to the right, with the sedan’s two right tires touching the white fog line on the right side of the road. Trooper Haggerty briefly followed the sedan before activating his cruiser’s lights and initiating a traffic stop for a marked lanes violation.  On cross-examination, Trooper Haggerty clarified that the sedan’s right tires did not cross the fog line but merely touched the line.

Touched but did not cross …

According to Ohio’s motor vehicle code Section 4511.33:

“A vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic …”

So, if you touch (but don’t cross) the fog line, are you driving “entirely within a single lane” or have you violated Section 4511.33?


Turner Loses But The Fight Has Just Begun

Despite the fact that at least six other Ohio courts have ruled that driving on the fog line is not a violation of Section 4511.33, the majority in State v. Turner disagreed:

“… a number of appellate districts have determined that traveling on a centerline or fog line is not a violation of R.C. 4511.33 … We are not persuaded by the aforementioned cases.”

But if Turner lost, how can I possibly claim that there is a useful MUTCD technicality here?

Because one of the dissenting judges makes the MUTCD case for me (see below).  Until the Ohio Supreme Court finally settles this issue, this technicality has a decent chance of winning in court.  In fact, the last thing that the Supreme Court said related to this issue is as follows – State v. Mays, 119 Ohio St. 3d 406 – Ohio: Supreme Court 2008:

“In conclusion, a traffic stop is constitutionally valid when a law-enforcement officer witnesses a motorist drift over the lane markings in violation of R.C. 4511.33, even without further evidence of erratic or unsafe driving.”

Notice the phrase “drift over the lane markings.”  Clearly, the word “over” is not the same as “on.”


The Fog Line Technicality

One of the dissenting justices in Turner references MUTCD Section 3A.06:

“A solid line discourages or prohibits crossing …”

This MUTCD Standard specifically uses the word “crossing.”  As a result, this justice concludes that crossing means to go over a line, not merely to touch it:

“Because the MUTCD limits its instruction to crossing a solid white line, as opposed to touching or driving upon the line, the lane boundary created by the fog line begins to its immediate right. In other words, the entire fog line is within the lane of travel. Thus, it is only when one drives to the right of the fog line that one has failed to drive in marked lanes in violation of R.C. 4511.33(A).


For Further Research

If you get any type of traffic ticket and want to fight it, don’t forget to check the MUTCD as you plan your defense.  There are so many specifications that have to be complied with that you just might be able to find one that your state/locality failed to implement.  If so, you will most likely prevail in court.  Check out some of my posts listed below for specific ideas related to the MUTCD defense strategy.

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