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Ohio Court of Appeals Overturns DUI Conviction Finding No Marked Lanes Violation Unless the Wheels Go Completely Over the Yellow Lines

Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals decided a case last week that could have wide-reaching effects on DUI / OVI cases throughout the state—including here in Columbus. Ohio v. Parker, 2013-Ohio-3470.

In a large percentage of DUI cases, the driver is pulled over initially for a “marked lanes” violation.  What “marked lanes” means has been disputed by different judges in different courts, but one Court of Appeals has now officially defined its meaning.  Under this new Ohio court precedent:

In order to violate the marked lanes statute, a driver must travel completely over both yellow lines on the road.  Touching the lines with the wheel is not enough.

This is what happened in the case.  In March of 2012, the defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) and (A)(1)(b).

He pled not guilty and filed a motion to suppress, which was denied.  He then entered a no contest plea to the charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail with 75 days suspended.

He appealed.  On appeal, he argued that the trial court was wrong when it overruled his motion to
 suppress. In the motion, the defendant argued that the trooper lacked reasonable
 suspicion to stop his car.

The trooper stated that the reason for the stop was a marked lanes violation, which is found in R.C. 4511.33(A)(1).  The marked lanes statute says:

[w]henever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, or wherever within municipal corporations traffic is lawfully moving in two or more substantially continuous lines in the same direction, the following rules apply:

(1) A vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic and shall not be
 moved from such lane or line until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.

Under the Fourth Amendment, an officer must have “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is involved in criminal activity in order to pull him over.

The officer’s suspicions must be “based upon specific and articulable facts” that the driver is or has been engaged in criminal activity.

At the suppression hearing, the trooper testified that about 1:30 AM, he was driving behind an SUV and noticed the car weaving several times inside the lane of travel and, he testified, he saw the driver of the vehicle commit a marked lanes violation.  The trooper’s dash cam showed the SUV’s wheels touch the centerline and the fog line.  He then pulled him over.

When asked what he considered to be a marked lanes violation, he said: “[A] marked-lanes violation is when the vehicle actually crosses over a designated – either a center divider line on the roadway or the fog line on the right side of the roadway.”

But according to Ohio court precedent, in order to violate the marked lanes statute, a driver must travel completely over both yellow lines.  Unless the driver goes over both yellow lines, there is no reasonable suspicion to stop him.  Driving on the white fog line is not enough for a marked lanes violation.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Defendant—finding that even if his SUV sometimes traveled on the marked lanes, that is not a marked lanes violation.

The Court then reversed the municipal court’s decision denying the motion to suppress and remanded the case back to the trial court.  Without reasonable suspicion for the stop, the case against the defendant could not go forward.

If you or a friend or family member has been arrested in the Columbus area for an OVI / DUI and your ticket lists “marked lanes” as the reason for the stop, this new case law could be critical in your defense.

Depending on what the trooper dash cam shows, if your car’s tires touched the yellow line—but did not go completely over both lines—your attorney could very well argue that the stop was invalid and your charge should be thrown out.

If you are facing an OVI charge, contact an experienced Columbus Ohio DUI attorney ASAP to explore your defenses and work toward a possible dismissal of the charges.