- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Supreme Court says a judge was wrong to throw out evidence against a man who was stopped by police for failing to use his blinker before turning out of a small-town alley.

John Hirschkorn was pulled over by a McLean County sheriff’s deputy in August 2015 after exiting an alley in Turtle Lake around 2 a.m. Hirschkorn was told he failed to use his turn signal and was eventually arrested for drunken driving.

In ruling to suppress evidence from the stop, South Central District Judge John Grinsteiner noted that while drivers are generally obliged to signal before turning, a specific section in the law about exiting alleys does not require the use of blinkers.

The Supreme Court agreed with McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s appeal argument that the alley was maintained for public travel and qualified as a roadway, therefore trumping the part of the law regarding alleys.

“Because the deputy observed Hirschkorn fail to signal while exiting an alley qualifying as a roadway, Hirschkorn committed a traffic violation giving the deputy the reasonable suspicions necessary to justify the traffic stop,” the justices said in the ruling released Thursday.

Hirschkorn’s attorney, Lloyd Suhr, had argued that even though the public can drive on or through an alley, that does not make it a roadway. He said the public can drive on or through parking lots, but the state does not consider them to be roadways.

Suhr did not respond to email requests for comment.

Oddly enough, while the justices determined that the traffic stop was proper, they also said it would not have mattered if the deputy had incorrectly interpreted the law. They said the law allows police to make “reasonable mistakes.”

“We have little difficulty in concluding the deputy’s belief that the law requires drivers to signal prior to exiting alleys was objectively reasonable under these circumstances,” the justices wrote.

The justices cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that said police in North Carolina were OK to pull over a man who had one brake light out even though the law only required one brake light to be working.

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