By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law
It’s important to understand the definition of words as they are used in statutory construction. One OOIDA member’s experience with a police officer shows us the officer may need some re-education on the matter, as well.
The main issue revolves around funeral processions and Title 40, Section 40-6-76(f) of the Georgia Statutes, which states:
(f) The operator of a vehicle not in a funeral procession shall not attempt to pass vehicles in a funeral procession on a two-lane highway.
Q. I recently received a citation in Georgia when I was approaching a funeral procession on a two-lane highway. The officer told me that I should have stopped and waited for the funeral procession to pass by me and issued me a citation.
I read the statute to say that I shouldn’t pass a funeral procession on a two-lane highway. I don’t believe that I need to stop and wait for it to go by me if I am approaching one and there is no requirement to yield the right of way. What’s the deal?
A. In our opinion the officer should not have issued you a citation. You did the right thing to get a copy of the statute that you have been accused of violating. When we look at the statute, we have to determine how to apply it. If the statute is not clear or we need further information, we need to search for definitions.
In searching for a definition of the word “pass” we don’t find it specifically defined in Title 40; however, if we look at Section 40-6-46(a) it conveys the idea of passing.
(a)The Department of Transportation and local authorities are authorized to determine those portions of any highway under their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or driving to the left side of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the roadway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones and, when such signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person, every driver of a vehicle shall obey the directions thereof. Such no-passing zones shall be clearly marked by a solid barrier line placed on the right-hand element of a combination stripe along the center or lane line or by a solid double yellow line.
If we look at another statute from the state of Texas in Section 545.001 it is a little clearer as to what is defined as “passing”:
DEFINITIONS. In this chapter: (1) “Pass” or “passing” used in reference to a vehicle means to overtake and proceed past another vehicle moving in the same direction as the passing vehicle or to attempt that maneuver.
If we use the common definition of “pass” or “passing” we are talking about overtaking or passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction and not in opposite directions.
Our opinion in your case is that it is only a violation of 40-6-76(f) if you are on a two-lane highway and moving in the same direction.
Q. So what do I do now?
A. If you have the time, we recommend that you ask for a court date and make the state prove their case against you. If you can’t personally appear, then hiring a lawyer would be advisable as well. LL
Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.