Answer: Probably (but Ohio courts haven’t definitively decided the issue).
Ohio courts do not appear to have not definitively decided the constitutionality of stopping a bicycle at a DUI checkpoint. But it does happen and, so far, Ohio courts have allowed it.
This issue came up recently in State v. Hemela, 2015-Ohio-4749. In this case, the defendant asked the court to decide the constitutionality of stopping a bicycle at a checkpoint.
Unfortunately, the court ended up finding that the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the bicyclist for jumping line at the checkpoint and driving in the middle of the road. So, the court never directly answered the central constitutional question.
Nonetheless, the ruling does ultimately allow the stop, which suggests that bicyclists can – for now – be stopped at a checkpoint — particularly if the rider tries to go around the checkpoint.
Bicycle Rider Drives in Middle of Road and Jumps Onto Sidewalk to Avoid Checkpoint
In Hemela, an OVI checkpoint was set up. Around 7:15 p.m., an officer saw the defendant ride a green mountain bicycle down the middle lane of the street.
The defendant drove up to the checkpoint on his bicycle. Once inside the restricted area of the checkpoint, the bicyclist passed three or four cones and then biked over the curb and onto the sidewalk. He then pedaled away from the checkpoint.
An officer cut him off and stopped him. He explained the purpose of the checkpoint, and noted an odor of alcohol on appellant’s breath, and appellant’s eyes appeared red, bloodshot and watery.
The bicyclist was was cited for OVI.
Court Finds Reasonable Suspicion for Stop; Declines to Answer Constitutional Question
At the motion hearing, the questions the defendant wanted to raise were:
(1) can police constitutionally stop someone on a bicycle at a DUI checkpoint? and
(2) was the stop was supported by a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity?
Unfortunately, the court jumped right to answering the second question and declined to answer the first constitutionality question.
In this case, the officer testified that the defendant was riding his bike in the middle of the road – which presumably would be a marked lanes violation. The bicyclist entered the checkpoint, went past several cones, then up onto the sidewalk, riding past the officers conducting the checkpoint.
In addition to riding in the middle of the road, the officer testified that jumping out of line indicates to him that someone has something to hide.
Because the defendant rode in the middle of the road, voluntarily went into the checkpoint but then jumped out of line by hopping onto the sidewalk, the court found that the officer had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the stop.
The motion to suppress, then, was denied and the OVI stop was upheld. Because the court found reasonable suspicion, the court declined the answer the larger constitutional question.
If you have been stopped for OVI or other traffic charge on a bicycle, talk to one of our Columbus traffic attorneys about your options at (614) 361-2804.