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St. Paul Park officer pushes for legislation

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and St. Paul Park officer Robert Felix speak before the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee Feb. 16. (Submitted photo)

A St. Paul Park police officer who watched a five-time DWI offender go free due to a lack of clarity in state law is trying to get that law changed.

Officer Robert Felix told the Minnesota Senate Transportation committee Feb. 16 the case against the driver was dismissed because the judge said it was unclear whether Felix had the right to stop him for going directly into the far right lane while making a left turn.

"If I can quote what the judge said, the detail of the statute's wording leaves the reader confused at best as to the conduct it seeks to regulate," Felix told the committee. "All I'm requesting is that the current law be corrected so this doesn't happen again."

The traffic stop occurred in October of 2008. After stopping the car, Felix discovered that the driver was "extremely intoxicated," he said. A test showed his blood alcohol content was .22, which is almost triple the legal limit, and a check of his history showed it was the man's fifth DWI in nine years, Felix said.

"An habitual DWI offender, a felon, was let off due to vague wording of the statute," Felix said. "I feel he is not learning from his mistakes, and he's, in my opinion, going to keep doing what he does and he might end up killing somebody."

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, authored companion bills to clarify state statute to say that left turns should be made from the lane closest to the centerline, and into the lane closest to the centerline.

"My bill makes it very clear how a driver is to make a left turn," Sieben said.

The senate bill, S.F. 2314 passed the Senate Transportation Committee and will next be considered on the Senate floor. The house bill, H.F. 3072 passed through the House Transportation and Transit Policy Oversight Division on Thursday.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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