Well, the Ohio State Supreme Court addressed this question and determined that, in some cases, a non-highway patrol officer cannot initiate a traffic stop, conduct a search and make an arrest on an interstate highway in Ohio.
In The State of Ohio v. Brown, decided last year, the Supreme Court considered a case where a Lake Township patrol officer was waiting in the median of Interstate 280 when that officer observed a car cross the solid line for approximately 100 feet. The officer pulled from the median and, approximately two and one half miles later, decided to pull that driver over for a marked lanes violation.
The driver not only had a suspended driver’s license but, also an active felony warrant from Michigan. The officer was a canine handler as well and, upon walking her dog around the driver’s car, discovered 120 oxycodone tablets and a baggie of marijuana.
So, not the most sympathetic person to be challenging the stop, search and arrest by this officer. The driver was indicted for aggravated possession of drugs. After a failed Motion to Suppress, a no contest plea to aggravated possession of drugs and after being sentenced to a mandatory sentence of three years in prison, the driver’s case made it to an Appellate Court. That Court held that the traffic stop of the driver was unreasonable and violated the Ohio Constitution and that the trial court should have suppressed all the evidence that the officer obtained and, The Ohio State Supreme Court agreed. Why did the Courts rule this way? Why let this driver off the hook?
Basically, because the Courts determined that the marked lane violation occurred outside of the officer’s territorial jurisdiction and there was no extenuating circumstances that called for the township police officer to initiate the extraterritorial stop. In other words, the township police officer is given a certain area (territorial jurisdiction) in which to legally patrol and cannot make a traffic stop outside that area unless there is an emergency type situation (extenuating circumstances). The area that a township police officer can legally patrol does not include an Interstate Highway.
But, before you decide that you are going to laughingly speed by that non-highway patrol car parked in the median on the Interstate – you need to be aware that this case does not apply to municipal (City) police – only to townships and, then, only to townships with a population of fifty thousand or less. Still, as in this driver’s case that may be something to consider. There are townships in Ohio with full police departments that may not be aware of this ruling and may be patrolling the Interstate issuing faulty citations.
So, if you receive a ticket on the highway and the following apply:
- It was on an Interstate Highway
- The ticket was issued by a Township Police Officer
- That Township has less than 50,000 residents (most, if not all, do have less)
Then, you probably have a basis to get your case dismissed, even for the most serious of charges.