I had a DWI client who was initially stopped for making a U-Turn at an intersection in Austin where there was a posted “No Left Turn” sign. Never having seen this exact situation before, I decided to do a little research to find out whether the detention was valid.
Oddly, it turns out that the Texas Transportation Code is nearly silent in terms of laws regulating U-Turns in Texas. Finally I stumbled across something I thought might help in the Austin City Code.
Austin City Code, Title 12, Traffic Regulations, Chapter 12-1 Traffic Regulation and Administration, Section 12 – 1 – 30. That Austin City Code provision says:
§ 12-1-30 U-TURNS RESTRICTED.
The driver of a vehicle may not turn the vehicle to proceed in the opposite direction at:
(1) an intersection or median opening on a divided street where a posted traffic sign prohibits turning in the opposite direction; or
(2) a location where the turn is not prohibited, unless the turn can be made safely and without interfering with other traffic.
My argument therefore was that the statute specifically provided that a person may not U-Turn (1) if there’s a “No U-Turn” sign, or (2) if it can’t be done safely.
My client was fortunate that the officer testified at the ALR that there were no other traffic violations besides making a U-Turn where there was a “No Left Turn” sign, that there was not a “No U-Turn” sign, and that the maneuver wasn’t a danger to other traffic around him.
At the pretrial hearing on the Motion to Suppress, I led the officer through the prior testimony. The judge initially took the case under advisement, asked for briefs and re-argument, and eventually ruled in my client’s favor, granting the Motion to Suppress. All evidence gathered after the detention was “thrown out” (as they say on TV), and it left the State with literally no evidence against my client.
By the way, the State’s argument – and it makes for a pretty good one on a common sense level – is that a U-Turn is necessarily two left turns.
Finally, I should probably point out that this is not only a very specific situation that doesn’t come up very often, and that it only applies in Austin – or other Texas cities with similar Code provisions.