Charged With Failure to Maintain Lane in Georgia
The driving laws in Georgia concerning failure to maintain lane (FTML) are strict and specific. You don’t need to be weaving through traffic across the road to be cited for this.
You may receive a ticket for something as minor as crossing the centerline of the road without checking that it is safe. Adam has seen many FTML tickets issued merely for “bumping” a lane marker or fog line.
Oftentimes, a failure to maintain lane traffic stop is used as the reason to stop you and begin investigating something else (like DUI, drug possession, etc). An officer’s claim that you failed to maintain your lane arguably gives them “reasonable articulable suspicion” to stop you, which is a constitutional Tier 2 encounter. You need an experienced traffic defense lawyer to convince the state that either: (1) the stop was bad; or (2) what was uncovered during the stop did not rise to probable cause for a citation or arrest.
Whatever the reason for the charge, the consequences are more than a simple fine. You could end up with a blemish on your criminal record, as well as points on your license that can lead to a suspension.
Before paying the fine, arrange a free consultation with the Law Office of Adam D. Brown so that you can see where you stand. You may be able to avoid the longer-term consequences.
OCGA § 40-6-48 – Georgia Code Title 40
Subsection (1) of OCGA § 40-6-48 states that:
“A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”
If an officer observes that you did not change lanes safely, you may end up with a ticket. That could mean something as apparently minor as touching the white or yellow lines without checking mirrors.
The key parts of the law that are often overlooked by officers involve: (1) “as nearly as practicable;” and (2) whether a driver determined it was safe to make the movement. Is it practicable to avoid roadkill in the roadway? Road debris? What about driving through a long turn? If it is safe and practicable to leave your lane, it should be legal under the statute.
When you are pulled over, if an officer smells alcohol or suspects that you were driving while impaired, there will be further investigations. There are many other indicators that officers look for, such as recent air freshener sprays, the smell of newly chewed gum, and what many officers inappropriately call “felony forests” (a rearview mirror with multiple hanging tree air fresheners). Being pulled over for FTML is often a pre-curser to these wider investigations.
Because there are areas of the law that are open to interpretation, it is important that you take legal advice before simply accepting the charge.
What is the penalty for failure to maintain lane in Georgia?
If you accept the ticket for failure to maintain lane, you will likely receive a fine and three points on your driver’s license.
However, while that may seem relatively minor, you will have a blemish on your criminal record and the points may lead to a license suspension that can have far-reaching effects. Your insurance premiums will also likely increase.
Also, as already mentioned, tickets for failure to maintain lane are often issued along with other criminal charges that carry their own punishments.
What is the fine for failure to maintain lane in Georgia?
There is a maximum fine of $1,000.00 plus court costs for failure to maintain lane. There is no mandatory minimum fine but base fines for failure to maintain lane routinely start around $250.00.
When is it acceptable to cross the center line on roads in Georgia?
Drivers must generally keep to the right-hand side of the road:
“Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway.”
However, Georgia’s OCGA § 40-6-40 makes provisions for exceptions in four sets of circumstances:
- When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;
- When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway, provided that any person so doing shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such a distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;
- Upon a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon; or
- Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.
So, on a road with one lane going in each direction, it is acceptable to briefly cross the center line to overtake another vehicle if it is safe to do so and there is no solid yellow or double yellow line to indicate a no-passing zone.
If you’re driving and a wild animal runs out in front of your vehicle, swerving out of the way to avoid a collision would also usually be acceptable, assuming you did not endanger the lives of other motorists.
On roads with two or more lanes going in each direction, you must use the leftmost lane for passing other vehicles. You should never cross the center line unless it is “reasonably practicable” and “safe.”
Contact the Law Office of Adam D. Brown Today
If you have been charged with any type of traffic violation in the Gwinnett County area of Georgia, our traffic lawyers can help. We have an impressive track record of helping clients get traffic tickets reduced or dismissed entirely.
Don’t attempt to deal with traffic offenses on your own. Contact us today at (404) 418-6395 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.