WHEN CAN POLICE STOP A BICYCLE RIDER?
The Ohio Court of Appeals recently held in State v. Swift, 2016-Ohio-8191 that police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation has occurred before stopping a bicycle rider. Bicycle riders have the same constitutional rights as any driver on the road.
In Swift, the Defendant was effectively and unlawfully seized when he was stopped on the street while riding his bicycle. The Court went on to say a reasonable person in the Defendant’s position would not have felt free to leave without obeying the officers’ instructions, and the officers had neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the stop.
POLICE STOP BICYCLE RIDER FOR NO REASON
In Swift, the Defendant was riding his bicycle when officers pulled along side of him and asked him to stop so they could “talk to [the Defendant] real quick”.
An officer got out of the police cruiser and asked if he could pat the Defendant down. The Defendant said “sure”. The officers asked if the bicycle rider had any drugs or weapons and he said “no”.
During the pat down, the Defendant said he “had some weed on him”. The officer handcuffed him, took the marijuana and found other drugs on the bicycle rider as well. He was placed under arrest for possession of drugs.
The Defendant testified that he had not wanted to stop when the officers pulled up next to him and made him stop. The defendant also said he did not consent to the pat down.
FOURTH AMENDEMENT REQUIRES REASONABLE SUSPICION
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Under Terry, police officers may briefly stop and temporarily detain individuals in order to investigate possible criminal activity if the officers have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring, including a minor traffic violation.
Reasonable, articulable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause and requires a showing considerably less than “preponderance of the evidence.” State v. Fears, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 94997, 2011-Ohio-930 “A traffic violation gives an officer a reasonable articulable suspicion justifying a traffic stop, and the traffic stop may also give the officer the ability to investigate suspected drug activity. State v. Wilcox, 177 Ohio App.3d 609, 2008-Ohio-3856, 895 N.E.2d 597
STOPPING A BICYCLE VS. STOPPING A CAR OTHER VEHICLE
“A stop of a person on a bicycle is governed by the same standards as any other traffic stop: an officer must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the operator has engaged in criminal activity, including a minor traffic violation.” State v. Swift, 2016-Ohio-8191 citing State v. Brown, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 25204, 2012-Ohio-5532
The Court in Swift stated that when police officers in a police cruiser pass by any type of vehicle (including a bicycle) and then quickly catch up with the vehicle, drive along side it and “request or demand that the driver stop and pull over to talk, no reasonable person would believe that he was free to ignore the police and continue on his way down the street.” The Court stated the officers approached the Defendant “for no apparent reason.”
BICYCLE RIDERS HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS SOMEONE IN A CAR
Officers must have a reasonable articulable suspicion or criminal activity before they may stop an individual. A person on a bike should be afforded the same protections as someone in a car. Just because someone is traveling in a more recreational vehicle, does not mean that he has forfeited any of his constitutional rights.
If you believe you have been stopped unfairly and been charged with a crime, and have questions about defenses related to your legal rights, talk to one of our Columbus Criminal Defense Attorneys about your case at 614-361-2804.