CRS 42-4-902 is the Colorado law that prohibits making U-turns when it is unsafe to do so or in violation of a “No U-turn” sign. Illegal U-turns are punished as class A traffic infractions, which carry a civil fine and 3 DMV points. Judges may not order jail, but people who ignore the ticket will have their driver’s license suspended.
Below our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. What are illegal U-turns in Colorado?
- 2. What is the sentence for violating CRS 42-4-902?
- 3. How do I fight unlawful U-turn charges?
- 4. What if I ignore the ticket?
- 5. Are unlawful U-turns probable cause for a DUI arrest?
- 6. What if the illegal U-turn caused an accident?
CRS 42-4-902 prohibits a driver of any vehicle making a U-turn when either:
- There is a sign that says or indicates “No U-turns”, or
- Making the U-turn would be unsafe, such as if other drivers on the road cannot see the car making the U-turn from the turn lane. (An example is making the U-turn before the crest of a hill so that approaching traffic from the opposite direction would not see the turning car in time to avoid interfering with or endangering other traffic.)1
Illegal U-turns are class A traffic infractions. There is no possibility of jail (unlike for traffic misdemeanors). Rather, courts impose the following penalty assessment:
- Fines from $15 to $100,
- A small surcharge, and
- Three (3) DMV points
Motorists can also expect their auto insurance premiums to go up since making an unsafe U-turn is a moving violation.
Getting three DMV points alone should not cause the license to be suspended. But the DMV will impose a suspension if the driver racks up too many more DMV points for violating traffic regulations. For example, people at least 21 years old who get 12 points in 12 consecutive months face automatic suspension. But doing traffic school can possibly erase some points.2
Note that commercial driver’s license holders are held to a special standard. They will have their CLD suspended for 60 days if they commit two “serious” traffic offenses in a commercial vehicle in a 3-year period. “Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes” counts as a serious violation.3
The available evidence determines which defense tactics would work best when contesting CRS 42-4-902 charges. But in general, four possible defense arguments are:
- A genuine emergency justified making the unsafe or unlawful U-turn. An example could be dodging debris or eluding a dangerous driver.
- The police officer was mistaken and cited the wrong driver.
- The U-turn was not unsafe, and the police officer was wrong.
- The defendant was falsely accused of violating the rules of the road by someone who wanted to get the defendant into trouble.
Common evidence in these cases includes state highway traffic surveillance video and eyewitnesses.
People who skip out on their traffic tickets for illegal U-turns do not have to fear getting a bench warrant since the matter is civil, not criminal. However, there are consequences for failing to appear in court or not paying the fine under Colorado state law.
Firstly, the judge will enter a default judgment and send the case to collections. Secondly, the DMV will suspend the license until the fine is paid. The DMV generally gives license-holders a 30-day warning before suspending driving privileges.4
Also see our article on driving with a suspended license / driving under restraint (CRS 42-2-138).
No, but an unlawful U-turn can lead to a DUI or DWAI arrest.5 Once the traffic officer pulls over the motorist to issue a ticket, the officer will look for signs of DUI. Examples include the smell of marijuana or alcohol, slurred speech, and red/glassy eyes.
If these signs exist, the officer will ask the driver to submit to a preliminary breath test and field sobriety tests. Then depending on how these results turn out, the peace officer may then have enough probable cause to arrest the driver for driving under the influence.
People injured by a car accident caused by another driver’s illegal U-turn can sue that driver for negligence per se. This “cause of action” has four elements plaintiffs are required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence if the case goes to trial:
- The defendant (at-fault driver) committed a traffic violation (such as CRS 42-4-902);
- The reason for the traffic law is to protect people like the plaintiff (others sharing the roadway);
- The defendant’s illegal actions hurt the plaintiff; and
- This harm resulted in money damages.
Most automobile collision cases never reach trial. Instead, the plaintiff’s Colorado personal injury law firm agrees to a settlement with the defendant’s car insurance company.
The job of the plaintiff’s personal injury attorney is to pursue the largest compensatory damages award available to pay for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings, medical bills, and property damage.6
Our Denver criminal defense lawyers serve clients throughout the state, such as Colorado Springs, Aurora, and Golden.
Cited in California? See our article on unlawful U-turns at controlled intersections (CVC 22100.5) and unlawful U-turns in business districts (CVS 22102).
Cited in Nevada? See our article on unlawful U-turns (NRS 484B.403).
- Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-902 CRS.
- CRS 42-2-127.
- 49 C.F.R. 383.51.
- See CRS 42-4-1709 under the provision of this section.
- Other reasons for traffic stops that may lead to DUI arrests include when the driver of a vehicle is making illegal right turns or left turns, exceeding the speed limit, running a stop sign, not yielding right-of-way at crosswalks or to oncoming traffic, making an unsafe right-hand turn, not using turn signals, stopping at a green light, running a red light, not wearing seat belts, sleeping in a parking lot with the car running, disobeying traffic signals, traffic lights and traffic control devices. Learn more in the Colorado driver handbook.
- See Lyons v. Nasby, 770 P.2d 1250 (1989).