CAN THE POLICE STOP YOU FOR DRIVING ON TOP OF THE PAINTED LINE ON THE ROAD
The Ohio Court of Appeals recently through out a conviction for Operating a Vehicle while Impaired on Alcohol (OVI) when the evidence showed Defendant did not drive his vehicle over the center line, but merely drove on top of the center line. State v. Huffman, 2017-Ohio-7007
In Huffman, Defendant was driving when the arresting officer turned onto the road Defendant was traveling on. The officer claims to have witnessed several marked lanes violations, and initiated a traffic stop. The officer testified that he observed Defendant’s vehicle cross completely over the center line after overcorrecting from a wide left turn.
The officer testified that both the driver’s side front and rear tire were completely over the marked lane approximately one or two feet. As he was pursuing Defendant, he observed both of the vehicle’s tires cross completely over the edge line. While there was a truck in between the appellant’s and officer’s vehicles, the officer further testified that he moved his truck side to side to see the appellant’s vehicle. The officer also testified that he observed a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction maneuver to avoid the appellant’s vehicle as it crossed the center line the second time.
During his investigation of the incident, the officer believed Defendant was impaired by alcohol and arrested him for OVI. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, claiming the officer lacked a reasonable suspicion to pull him over for a marked lanes offense.
MARKED LANES VIOLATION: DRIVER MUST CROSS COMPLETELY OVER CENTER LINE OR FOG LINE
Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.33 states that a driver must stay “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.” Courts have generally held that a driver commits a marked lanes offense when a driver travels completely across the centerline or fog line. State v. Baker, 2014-Ohio-2564.
An officer must have a reasonable an articulable suspicion that a driver has driven his car completely across the centerline or the fog line while on the road. City of Sylvania v. Comeau, 2002-Ohio-529 The test is whether a reasonable officer would have believed a driver had driven his car over the line.
The Court in Huffman determined that is was not reasonable for the officer to pull Defendant over for a marked lanes offense because the footage from the officer’s cruiser video failed to show the driver drive over the centerline or the fog line at any point while the officer followed Defendant. The Court held that the video even conflicted with the officer’s testimony about Defendant committing a marked lanes violation.
The Court went on to list several examples of driving that would also not be considered marked lanes violations:
- A vehicle that sometimes traveled on the marked lanes but did not cross over either the centerline or the fog line is not a violation of Section 4511.33. State v. Parker, 2013-Ohio-3470.
- A driver that drove his car on the marked line for a substantial distance, but not across it, is not a marked lanes violation under Section 4511.33 State v. Baker, 2014-Ohio-2564.
The motion to suppress should have been granted. The OVI was then dismissed due to lack of reasonable suspicion for the initial stop.