Local News

June 9, 2009

Whitfield County man cheers state Supreme Court ruling

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the state’s left turn law is vague and unconstitutional. A Whitfield County man challenged the law after being arrested by a Dalton Police officer two years ago.

Todd Christopher McNair, who is black, said Monday he thought he was pulled over on the basis of racial profiling. He said he will talk to an attorney about a civil lawsuit alleging racial harassment.

“It feels good,” McNair said of the court’s decision. “I’m going to celebrate. I was already thinking of getting a civil suit going because I knew I was in the right and we have a good case. That officer was hateful.”

Police spokesman Bruce Frazier said the department has not seen a complaint of racial profiling and would investigate if such a complaint is made.

“At the time the stop was made it was under the pretense of the accepted interpretation of the law,” Frazier said. “Our officer believed this gentleman violated it and that’s why he was stopped. The state now says the law is vague but the accepted interpretation up to this point was that it was an improper left turn.”

McNair, 29, was arrested in June 2007 and charged with the improper left turn after turning onto eastbound U.S. Highway 41 from a parking area at the Best Western Inn on Chattanooga Road near I-75. He pulled into the outermost lane. A Dalton police officer in an unmarked car who stopped McNair said the law required McNair to turn into the innermost lane.

McNair was also charged with DUI and obstruction of an officer. He was found not guilty of those charges by a jury in March 2008 but was convicted of making the improper turn. McNair appealed the conviction.

McNair was on probation at the time of the arrest. His probation was revoked and he spent four months in jail. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections Web site, he was convicted of possession of cocaine in 2003 and served one year in prison. He was convicted of theft by receiving stolen property in 2000 and was sentenced to two years, 11 months and 14 days in prison.

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