A recent Court of Appeals case in Ohio dealt with the issue of whether law enforcement is permitted to continue a traffic stop to search for illegal drugs or other contraband based solely on a suspicion of illegal activity following the traffic stop. The case, State v. Carver, held that while a police officer may have a suspicion of illegal activity following a traffic stop, it is not “open season” to investigate matters not reasonably within the scope of the officer’s suspicion.
The Fourth Amendment and Traffic Stops
The Fourth Amendment to the United States constitution provides “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This right is applied to traffic stops, where a police officer is permitted to stop a vehicle based on probable cause that a traffic violation has occurred, and the stop is reasonable under the 4th Amendment. See City of Dayton v. Erickson.
In State v. Carver, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper observed a vehicle traveling over the posted speed limit. The trooper initiated a traffic stop and believed that the occupants of the vehicle were “acting nervously.” The trooper did not detect the smell of marijuana or alcohol, and did not observe any contraband in plain view.
Despite this, the trooper continued to detain Carver and asked for consent to search his vehicle. Carver consented and the trooper found heroin and hypodermic needles. Carver was charged with Possession of Heroin, a 5th degree felony, and Possession of Drug Abuse Instruments, a 2nd degree misdemeanor.
Detention After a Traffic Stop
Pursuant to State v. Henderson, once a vehicle is lawfully detained for a traffic violation, law enforcement may order the driver to exit the vehicle without violating the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, if law enforcement does not detect any further illegal activity, the trooper must issue the driver a speeding ticket or inform the driver that he or she is free to go. See State v. Carver.
Consent to Search Does Not Validate a Fourth Amendment Violation
In State v. Carver, the court found that Carver could not reasonably believe that he was free to go after the trooper continued to detain and question him. Although Carver consented to the search of his vehicle, this consent was tainted by the lack of reasonable suspicion or facts of any ongoing criminal activity. Therefore, Carver’s consent was not effective to legitimize the illegal stop.
The court held that “the mere fact that a police officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion sufficient to stop a motor vehicle does not give that police officer ‘open season’ to investigate matters not reasonably within the scope of his suspicion.”
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Drug Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Attorney David Johnson at Johnson Legal, LLC to discuss your case. An experienced and knowledgeable drug defense lawyer in Columbus and Delaware, Ohio can help you fight the charge and achieve the best possible outcome. Call Johnson Legal, LLC at (614) 987-0192) or send an email to schedule a consultation.
Johnson Legal, LLC serves the following cities in the central Ohio area for Marijuana Offenses:
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