granted discretionary review to construe provisions of the
rules of the road, chapter 46.61 RCW, to determine when a
driver may travel continuously in the left lane of a
multilane roadway without thereby committing a traffic
State construes RCW 46.61.100 to provide that driving
continuously in the left lane is a traffic infraction except
in four circumstances, all transient, identified in RCW
46.61.100(2). Additionally, even when one of the four
circumstances exist, the State construes the rules as making
it an infraction to travel in the left lane if it will impede
the flow of traffic. Steven Thibert argues that traveling
continuously in the left lane is a traffic infraction
only when it impedes the flow of traffic.
State's construction of relevant, unambiguous provisions
of chapter 46.61 RCW is correct. Since Mr. Thibert was
stopped lawfully for traveling continuously in the left lane,
his marijuana DUI conviction following a stipulated facts
trial is affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Justin Gerry was on routine patrol one morning in July 2013
on westbound Interstate 82 in Benton County. He observed a
silver Chevrolet Impala in the left lane pass a vehicle in
the right lane, traveling faster than the posted 70 miles per
hour speed limit. The Impala continued to travel in the left
lane long after passing the vehicle in the right lane, even
though no other vehicles were traveling in the unobstructed
right lane. The deputy initiated a traffic stop not for the
car's speed, but for a violation of RCW 46.61.100(2),
captioned "Keep right except when passing, etc."
approaching the vehicle, which was being driven by Mr.
Thibert, Deputy Gerry smelled the odor of fresh marijuana.
What looked like a smoking device was hanging from Mr.
Thibert's neck. Mr. Thibert told the deputy he was a
medical marijuana patient and used the smoking device to
smoke marijuana oil. Deputy Gerry noted that Mr. Thibert had
difficulty finishing his sentences and that he "would
sometimes stop speaking and just giggle." Clerk's
Papers (CP) at 34.
Thibert agreed to perform field sobriety tests. Based on Mr.
Thibert's performance, Deputy Gerry concluded he was
under the influence of marijuana and could not safely operate
a motor vehicle. He placed Mr. Thibert under arrest and
transported him to the hospital for a blood draw.
was present in Mr. Thibert's blood at 55 nanograms. He
was charged with driving a motor vehicle while under the
influence of marijuana.
Thibert moved on multiple grounds to suppress evidence
obtained as a result of the traffic stop and events that
followed. The district court denied the motion. It found
among other facts that Mr. Thibert's "remaining in
the left lane, when one could lawfully and safely return to
the right lane[, ] is an infraction and provided Deputy Gerry
[probable cause] to stop." CP at 42. The parties agreed
to submit the case to the court for a determination of guilt
on stipulated facts. The district court found Mr. Thibert
Thibert appealed to the Benton County Superior Court, which
affirmed the judgment, dismissed the appeal, and remanded the
matter to the district court for sentencing.
Thibert then sought discretionary review from this court.
Discretionary review was granted by our commissioner on the
issue of whether Mr. Thibert was stopped unlawfully because
the fact that he drove in the left lane, without impeding
traffic, did not establish reasonable suspicion for the stop.
See Comm'r's Ruling, No. 33341-8-III
(Wash.Ct.App. Apr. 12, 2017) at 1-2 & n.l.
reasonable articulable suspicion of a traffic infraction,
like a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity,
will support a warrantless traffic stop under article I,
section 7 of the Washington Constitution. State v.
Arreola, 176 Wn.2d 284, 292-93, 290 P.3d 983 (2012). At
issue is whether RCW 46.61.100(2), on which Deputy Gerry
relied in stopping Mr. Thibert, creates a traffic infraction.
Mr. Thibert's argument proceeds from the theory that RCW
46.61.100 has one subsection, subsection (2), that addresses
the "primary use" of the left lane of a multilane
roadway and a different subsection, subsection (4), that
identifies the only circumstance when traveling in the left
lane is an infraction.
review statutory interpretation questions de novo. In re
Del of Williams,147 Wn.2d 476, 486, 55 P.3d 597 (2002).
"The court's paramount duty in statutory
interpretation is to give effect to the legislature's
intent." In re Pers. Restraint of Nichols, 120
Wn.App. 425, 431, 85 P.3d 955 (2004). The surest indication
of legislative intent is the language enacted by the
legislature, so if the meaning of a statute is plain on its
face, this court " 'give[s] effect to that plain
meaning.'" State v. Jacobs,154 Wn.2d 596,
600, 115 P.3d 281 (2005) (quoting Dep 't of Ecology
v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC,146 Wn.2d 1, 9, 43 P.3d 4
(2002)). Only if the statute is susceptible to more than one
reasonable interpretation is it deemed ambiguous, in which
case this court "may resort to ...