If you or a friend or family member have been arrested after being stopped by the police in your car, talk to a Columbus attorney today. We can help analyze the facts of your case and determine whether – as in the case described below – the reasons for the officer’s stop were invalid. For example, if you did not commit a criminal or traffic violation and the officer stopped you anyway, there is a chance the evidence (e.g., drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol, etc.) that the officer found could be thrown out of court and your case could be dismissed.
Here is an example.
On February 24, 2012, an Ohio police officer stopped a car in which the defendant was a passenger. The stop ultimately led to the officer’s search of the car. The officer found items believed to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The defendant’s counsel filed a motion to suppress evidence arguing that the stop was illegal. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant and his attorney appealed.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the Ohio and U.S. Constitution, the police are prohibited from conducting unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures. In fact, judges are required to exclude from trial evidence obtained by an illegal search.
Here, the officer testified that he was working off-duty as a security officer at a small grocery store. Over the prior two-year period, he had arrested 19 people who had purchased lye for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. That day, the defendant came into the store and purchased a bottle of lye.
He radioed to another officer, who followed the defendant’s car and ran her license plates. The license plates were registered to a neighboring county, about 30-40 minutes away from the store. The officer concluded that driving to an out-of-the way, small, grocery store to purchase a single item (lye) used in the manufacture of methamphetamine was suspicious and merited a stop. Note that the officer did not observe any criminal behavior or traffic infraction.
Considering all of the facts, the court of appeals concluded that the State did not prove that the officer was justified in stopping the car. The fact that the car was registered to another county, that the officer didn’t know the defendant, and that they bought one bottle of lye was not enough to create sufficient “reasonable suspicion” to justify the stop.
That the officer had a “hunch” is not enough. The drug paraphrenalia evidence was thrown out of court and the prosecution was left with virtually no evidence to prove its case.