Officers May Stop Vehicles that Slow When They Pull Behind Them - DUI News - 11/10/2016

Driving slow when an officer pulls behind may be a reason to initiate a traffic stop.

State v. Bahen, 2016 Ohio 7012 (10th Dist.).

September 27, 2016

Bahen was observed by an officer to pass him quickly, and then slow and swerve.  The officer was less than clear whether Bahen actually crossed lines when he swerved, at one point explaining, "I don't know if he was fully, completely over, but he definitely was on."  The officer then pulled behind Bahen, at which point Bahen rapidly slowed.  The officer initiated the traffic stop, during when he observed the odor of alcohol, beer cans in the car along with a passenger, slurred speech and glassy and bloodshot eyes.  Roadside sobriety tests were completed, although the HGN was ultimately suppressed due to faulty administration and the walk-and-turn was permitted to be shown, although the officer could not testify regarding the number of clues he observed.  Following these rulings, Bahen entered a no-contest plea and appealed his conviction.

The Tenth District first reviewed whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop.  The Court looked at the alleged slow driving and applied precedent that holds that slow driving typically is not enough unless evidence also shows that the slow motorist also impeded or blocked traffic.  The Tenth District concluded that, in this case, Bahen did so because he rapidly decreased his speed with the officer behind him, despite the fact that the officer had not yet activated his lights.  With respect to the marked lanes violations, the court made note that the testimony was less than clear, but found it sufficient to establish a marked lanes violation.  The court also made not that it was not evaluating whether traffic violations occurred, but , "Rather, the focus of this appeal is whether [the officer], considering the totality of the circumstances, had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop appellant."

The Tenth District then looked at whether there was probable cause to arrest Bahen.  The Tenth District found probable cause by relying on evidence of traffic violations, field sobriety tests, a beer in the car, slurred speech and glassy and bloodshot eyes, and the strong odor of alcohol.