DUI Appeals Reports 02/23/16

The Eighth District seems to hold that an officer may initiate a traffic stop whenever a vehicle switches lanes of traffic, regardless of whether the officer has reason to believe they failed to ascertain whether it was safe to do so.

City of Strongsville v. Rodriguez, 2016 Ohio 201 (8th Dist.).


January 21, 2016

An officer observed Rodriguez's car about five feet off the shoulder of I-71 angled at about 45 degrees.  After his vehicle merged onto the highway without incident, the officer initiated a traffic stop, which ultimately ended with an OVI citation.  Rodriguez appealed, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to lawfully stop his vehicle.

The Eighth District reviewed the relevant statute, which states:

(1) A vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic and shall not be moved from such lane or line until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.

Rodriguez argued that the officer could not tell whether he first ascertained that he could move out of his lane safely.  The Eighth District concluded, however, that an Ohio Supreme Court case already addressed this question in State v. Mays, 119 Ohio St.3d 406, 2008-Ohio-2807, which held:

R.C. 4511.33 does provide for certain circumstances in which a driver can cross a lane line without violation of the statute. However, the question of whether appellant might have a possible defense to a charge of violating R.C. 4511.33 is irrelevant in our analysis of whether an officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. An officer is not required to determine whether someone who has been observed committing a crime might have a legal defense to the charge.

In Mays, however, the driver was witnessed weaving in and out of his lane twice. A concurring opinion found this stop justified instead based on the officer's "reasonable belief that there was a need for immediate aid and assistance."