Odor of Alcohol and Bloodshot Eyes Not Enough to Detain - DUI News - 10/17/2016

The Fifth District holds that the smell of alcohol with bloodshot glassy eyes is insufficient to detain for sobriety tests, even though the defendant was stopped at 1:30am and had crossed double yellow lines.

State v. Hall, 2016 Ohio 5787 (5th Dist.).


September 12, 2016

Mr. Hall was stopped after a police officer alleged that his tires crossed double yellow lines while making a turn at about 1:30am.  During the stop, the officer reported observing the smell of alcohol and marijuana and that Hall's had red, watery, bloodshot eyes.  There was a passenger in the vehicle and the officer did not observe Hall slurring, fumbling with his wallet, or other signs of impairment.  During a suppression hearing at the trial court, it was also concluded that there were not admissions to drinking.  The trial court denied Hall's motions to suppress, however.

The Fifth District first reviewed whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop, even through the video failed to show Hall crossing the double yellow lines.  The Fifth District concluded the initial stop was valid because, even with the lack of video, the video did not contradict what the officer testified he observed.

With regard to the whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to continue to detain Hall for sobriety tests, the Fifth District held that he lacked sufficient suspicion.  The court noted that it had previously held that, "where a non-investigatory stop is initiated and the odor of alcohol is combined with glassy or bloodshot eyes and further indicia of intoxication, such as an admission of having consumed alcohol, reasonable suspicion exists."  In applying that caselaw, the Fifth District found that the officer observed the odor of alcohol and glassy bloodshot eyes, but not further indicia of intoxication.  Interestingly, the court did not find the time of the traffic stop (1:30am) or the crossing of the double yellow lines to be that additional indicia.  As a result, the Fifth District granted Hall's appeal.