The Ohio Supreme Court this month tackled the issue of whether the Ohio Constitution is violated when a police officer conducts a traffic stop outside that officer’s statutory jurisdiction. The case began when a Lake Township police officer pulled onto I-280 and saw Terrence Brown cross a lane line for about 100 feet. This resulted in the officer citing Brown for a marked lanes violation. The officer walked his dog around Brown’s car, which led to the discovery of 120 oxycodone pills and marijuana.
Brown was charged with aggravated possession of drugs and was sentenced to a mandatory three-year prison term. On appeal to the Sixth District Court of Appeals, the court reversed the trial court, finding that the stop violated Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution.
Before discussing the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision, some key statutes and precedents must be enumerated. The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. This is largely the same as Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution. Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 4513.39, the state highway patrol and sheriffs, or their deputies, are the only law enforcement officers that may make an arrest for violations on all state highways.
As for relevant case law, Fairborn v. Munkus stated that police officers had no authority to make warrantless arrests outside their jurisdiction unless they were in “hot pursuit” of a suspected felon fleeing that jurisdiction. In State v. Jones, the court stated that a “law enforcement officer who personally observes a traffic violation while outside the officer’s statutory territorial jurisdiction has probable cause to make a traffic stop; the stop is not unreasonable under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision begins with a summary of the parties positions. The State of Ohio argued that both the 4th Amendment and Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution are nearly the same and the Ohio Constitution should not be read to afford greater protection than the 4th Amendment. The State further argued that the Ohio Supreme Court has already held that a search or seizure outside an officer’s territorial jurisdiction does not violate the 4th Amendment if the officer has probable cause, and the court should hold that there was no violation of Article I Section 14 either. Finally, a statutory violation does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation requiring the suppression of evidence.
Brown argued that the officer lacked statutory authority to stop any driver on an interstate highway for a marked lane violation. The court should balance the government’s interest against the privacy of the accused, and find that the officer’s violation of the statute was a state constitutional violation, thus necessitating suppression of the evidence against Brown.
The issue, therefore, before the court is whether a traffic stop without statutory jurisdiction violated Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The court held “yes.”
Discussing the statutory provisions, the majority stated that ORC 4513.39(A) gives authority only to state highway patrol and sheriffs, or their deputies, to enforce traffic laws on state highways, such as a marked lanes violation. Since the officer was a Lake Township police officer, and not a state highway patrol officer, sheriff, or sheriff’s deputy, the officer did not have the requisite statutory authority to make the stop. Moreover, there was no exception that applied to the officer. Thus, a traffic stop for a minor misdemeanor outside a police officer’s statutory jurisdiction violates Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.