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OVI Dismissed for Failure to Establish Marked Lanes Violation

marked lanes dotted yellow line ohio ovi

One of the most common traffic stops we see in OVI cases is marked lanes.   Marked lanes generally means weaving or otherwise moving over the center yellow line.  In this case, the officer pulled the driver over for “straddling the yellow line” while changing lanes and subsequently arrested him for OVI.  

The court agreed that this was not a marked lanes violation.  Thus, all evidence of the stop was thrown out and the OVI dismissed.

Driver Stopped by Officer for Marked Lanes Violation When He Straddled the Center Dotted Line While Switching Lanes

Around 3:00 a.m., an Ohio Highway Patrol officer witnessed a driver, who was in the left lane, turn on his right turn signal and then straddle the center dotted line for 50-100 feet before moving over into the right lane.  The driver  left his right turn signal on for about 300 yards, then made a right turn onto a closed exit ramp.

About halfway down the exit ramp, the officer stopped the driver for marked lanes.  Upon approaching the car, the officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol, that the driver’s eyes were glassy and that the driver was slurring his speech.  

When asked how much he had drink, the driver admitted to drinking one shot of liquor.   After performing field sobriety tests, the driver was arrested for OVI, in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1).

Straddling the Center Yellow Line While Changing Lanes is Not a Marked Lanes Violation

Generally, the police can stop a vehicle when the officer has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation, even a minor one such as marked lanes, has occurred or is occurring.  But if no traffic violation has occurred and there is no evidence of any criminal activity, the stop may be unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

Ohio’s marked lanes law says:

“(A) Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly  marked lanes for traffic, or wherever within the municipality traffic is lawfully moving in two or more substantially continuous lines in the same direction, the  following rules apply:

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

Here, the officer pulled the car over because he “straddled the center dotted line” for several feet (several seconds) before changing lanes.   This “uncommon” driving behavior caught the officer’s attention and spurred the traffic stop. 

In sum, the driver turned on his right-turn signal, changed lanes and during this lane change straddled the center line for a few seconds.  

The court concluded that straddling the center line for a few seconds does not constitute a marked lanes violation.   

Marked lanes usually involves weaving or moving over the center yellow line and then back into the original lane.  Here, he just straddled the center lane while changing lanes with his turn signal on.   In fact, a more gradual lane change may even be safer, giving the driver the opportunity to move in the event a car was in his blind spot.  

Likewise, entering a closed exit isn’t a traffic violations.  There could be many reasons for pulling off the highway, i.e. checking directions.  

Because no marked lanes violation occurred here, the entire stop was thrown out and the OVI charge dismissed.  

If you have been charged with marked lanes and OVI, talk to an Ohio attorney about your options.  Our Columbus DUI attorneys regularly handle OVI cases involving marked lanes and there may, as here, be a defense to the initial stop that could lead to the case being thrown out.  

State v. Maxwell, 2014-Ohio-3062