Many of our clients get initially pulled over for a “marked lanes violation.” This is what the police officer uses as a “probable cause” to initiate a DUI or OVI investigation. But, what exactly is a marked lanes violation? And when to police officers take this too far? What happens if you don’t actually cross the line? All of these are valid questions that the Sixth District Court of Appeals recently answered in the State v. Huffman opinion.

The Law: What is a marked lanes violation according to the Ohio Revised Code?

4511.33 Driving in marked lanes.
(A) Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, or wherever within municipal corporations traffic is lawfully moving in two or more substantially continuous lines in the same direction, the following rules apply:

(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.

(2) Upon a roadway which is divided into three lanes and provides for two-way movement of traffic, a vehicle or trackless trolley shall not be driven in the center lane except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or trackless trolley where the roadway is clearly visible and such center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or when preparing for a left turn, or where such center lane is at the time allocated exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle or trackless trolley is proceeding and is posted with signs to give notice of such allocation.

(3) Official signs may be erected directing specified traffic to use a designated lane or designating those lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction regardless of the center of the roadway, or restricting the use of a particular lane to only buses during certain hours or during all hours, and drivers of vehicles and trackless trolleys shall obey the directions of such signs.

(4) Official traffic control devices may be installed prohibiting the changing of lanes on sections of roadway and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of every such device.

(B) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

That seems confusing, right? Because it is. What happens if you touch the line? What happens if you drive on the line? Does that constitute a marked lanes violation? State v. Huffman answered these questions. And the answers are good for the defense.

When Does a Marked Lanes Violation Occur?

According to Huffman, a driver must COMPLETELY cross the centerline or the fog line in order to commit a marked lanes violation. Touching, bumping, driving on, or swerving within your lane does not amount to a marked lanes violation. And, therefore, can not be the arresting officer’s probable cause to stop your vehicle. Most police cruisers have cameras on their dashboards. This usually answers whether or not the violation occurred. Generally, the camera starts recording 30 seconds prior to when the police office turns on his lights. This is usually enough time to capture the alleged violation. If the video shows the violation, then there is not much to argue on this issue. However, if the video does not show the vehicle completely cross the line, the defense attorney has grounds to challenge the stop.

In the past 2 months, attorney Jaime Glinka has had 2 clients stopped for a “marked lanes” violation that was questionable. Both cases were reduced after a motion to suppress on the issue.

If you have been pulled over for a marked lanes violation and subsequently charged with an OVI, it is important to hire an attorney that is able to articulate the law and defend your case. Please contact the attorneys at Suhre and Associates, they will be happy to discuss your case and your options with you.