In 2011, Tracy Woods turned left off Lake Harbor Drive onto Old Canton Road in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Ridgeland Police Officer Ryan Ainsworth saw Woods veer out of his lane when making the left turn. Woods then made a sharp right into a gas station without signaling.
Ainsworth made a traffic stop, smelled alcohol and noticed Woods’ glassy eyes, and conducted field sobriety tests. Woods was convicted of DUI and failure to signal and sentenced to 48 hours. On appeal, he argued that the officer lacked probable cause for pulling him over. MCOA affirms.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996) that the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. Ainsworth testified he believed Woods had violated section 63-3-707 when he made a right turn—just after going through a major intersection—without signaling he was doing so.
Section 63-3-707 requires a driver turning right or left to give a continuous signal for a reasonable distance before turning in the event any other vehicle may be affected by such movement. Woods tries to argue he did not violate section 63-3-707 because Ainsworth never testified that any other driver was actually affected by Woods’s signal less turn.
We reject such a narrow interpretation of section 63-3-707’s signal requirement. Section 63-3-707 clearly requires a signal when other vehicles may be affected by a turn—even when no accident is likely to occur as the result of the driver’s failure to give a proper signal. So Ainsworth did not have to observe a near collision in order to have probable cause to believe Woods violated section 63-3-707.