The short answer is, “not always.” We need to look at the relevant statutes and one important case from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Tennessee Code Sections 55-8-142 and 55-8-143 govern the use of turn signals while driving. The law states that turn signals must be used at intersections, when turning onto a road, or when changing lanes in the event any other traffic may be affected by this movement. Under the law, then, if no other vehicles could possibly be affected by your turn (for example, there is no traffic directly around your vehicle), then a turn signal is not required. If that is the case, failure to use a turn signal is not a justifiable reason for you to be pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

In the case of State v. Gonzales (Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, 2000), Gonzales was stopped by police for failure to use a turn signal and subsequently convicted for simple possession of cocaine. Gonzales testified that there was no traffic directly around his vehicle when he was turning. The officer admitted that he himself was not affected by the turn. The Appeals court found that the stop was not valid and the conviction was reversed.

Obviously, the best practice is to always use a turn signal to avoid the possibility of a traffic stop. However, under Tennessee law and case history, you are not required to do so if no other traffic may be affected by your movement.

As with any traffic stop, the preliminary issue is whether your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure have been violated. If so, any evidence found as a result of that violation must be disregarded. Because the issue is very fact specific, you should consult a criminal defense attorney to protect your best interests. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges due to a traffic stop, McFarland Law Office would be happy to examine every aspect of your particular circumstances to determine if the stop was in violation of your Constitutional rights. Located in Clarksville, Montgomery County, we are available for a free consultation to review your legal issue and explain your possible defenses. We can be reached at (931) 919-4376.

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