For all you slow drivers out there, this case is for you. An Ohio court of appeals last week overturned a DUI conviction on the grounds that the stop was illegal. The defendant was pulled over for driving too slow—and the court said stopping him just for being slow isn’t enough.
The traffic stop went down like this. The officer was traveling in the opposite direction when he saw Dean driving 28 mph in a 45 mph zone. The officer made a U-turn and starting following Dean’s car for about a mile. Dean slowed down to 15-20 mph in a 35 mph zone, then hit his right turn signal before turning “real slow” onto another street.
The officer pulled Defendant Alan Dean over for impeding traffic, slow speed, and “abnormal” driving. After getting pulled over, Dean admitted he had “two or three” beers, failed the field sobriety test and then blew a 0.109 percent alcohol content.
The court held that although you can be stopped for going substantially under the speed limit, you have to be seriously impeding traffic or going unreasonably slow to create a safety risk before a stop is justified. “Slow speed” without something more impeding or obstruction of traffic is insufficient to validate a stop by the police.
Here, the court found that Dean was not impeding traffic. Cars easily passed him, the road was wet with foggy conditions and it was 1:00 a.m. The fact that the officer thought the driving was “abnormal” is just a hunch – which is not enough to stop a car.
Although some impaired do drivers drive slowly, lots of other people drive slowly too – driving slowly doesn’t alone indicate there might be criminal activity.
Moral of the story: if you are pulled over for going to too slowly and subsequently charged with an OVI, drug paraphernalia or other criminal charge, talk to an attorney ASAP as you might be able to get that charge dismissed. You can find out more about slow speed tickets in Columbus here.
You can find here the Dispatch article discussing the case. The case is State of Ohio v. Alan Dean, 5th Dist. No. 12-CA-60, 2013-Ohio-313.