CAN AN OFFICER ARREST YOU FOR OVI BASED ON A RANDOM LICENSE PLATE CHECK?
A random license plate check happens when a police officer runs the license plate number of a vehicle to check for license suspensions, expired tags, or warrants. But is this allowed? Is stopping someone based on a random license plate check constitutional?
EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY IN A VEHICLE
Because cars, drivers and passengers are in plain view of officers (and anyone else) while on the road, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that privacy rights while in a car are less than if the driver were in a home. See Car
dwell v. Lewis, 417 U.S. 583, 590, 94 S. Ct. 2464, 41 L. Ed. 2d 325, 60 (1974).
Ohio courts have also held that there is no expectation of privacy in a license plate number displayed publicly on a car. See Rocky River v. Saleh, 139 Ohio App. 3d 313, 743 N.E.2d 944 (8th Dist. Cuyahoga County 2000).
RANDOM LICENSE CHECK ENOUGH FOR A VALID TRAFFIC STOP
Therefore, an officer is permitted to run a random license plate check on any vehicle on a public road.
If the computer check shows a warrant, suspended license, or expired tags, the police then have reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a criminal or traffic offense.
In Rocky River v. Saleh, 139 Ohio App. 3d 313, 743 N.E.2d 944 (8th Dist. Cuyahoga County 2000) the Court held that running someone’s license plate number doesn’t interrupt the driver’s travel and doesn’t constitute a “stop.”
In Rocky River, the computer check of Defendant’s license plates showed that the owner of the vehicle had a suspended driver’s license. The mobile data terminal also provided the officer with the physical characteristics of the Defendant. The court found it was reasonable for the officer to infer that the driver of the vehicle was the owner. In addition, the officer observed that the driver of the vehicle matched the physical characteristics of the registered owner with the suspended license. Thus, the court found the stop was valid.
It is important to have legal representation that can analyze every aspect of your case, and provide detailed explanations of legal defenses available to you, including whether an officer had grounds to stop your vehicle or not. If you have been charged with an OVI, or other traffic or alcohol related offenses, and have questions about defenses related to your legal rights, talk to one of our Columbus OVI attorneys about your case at 614-361-2804.
Written by Anthony Iori, Esq., Riddell Law Associate