Stop Sign Violation Overturned for Lack of Evidence at Trial
A 2-1 decision by the Fourth District Court of Appeals found Mark A. Burke’s conviction for a stop sign violation to be against the manifest weight of the evidence and remanded the case to the Marietta Municipal Court.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed a Marietta man’s conviction for a stop sign violation after citing a lack of evidence presented during a bench trial about the existence of a stop line at a Marietta intersection.
The 2-1 per curiam decision found Mark A. Burke’s conviction to be against the manifest weight of the evidence and remanded the case to the Marietta Municipal Court to discharge Burke.
On February 2, 2012, Burke was at a stop sign on Market Street behind another vehicle. Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Knowlton testified that “both vehicles ‘came out together and made a left turn.’ In other words, the second vehicle did not come to a complete stop at the stop sign after the first vehicle proceeded into the intersection,” according to the opinion. In his testimony, Burke claimed he “came to a separate, complete stop at the sign after the truck pulled out.”
Burke pleaded not guilty to a charge of disobeying the instructions of a traffic control device while driving a vehicle (Ohio Revised Code section 4511.12(A)). In his appeal, Burke argued that the trial court erred because the evidence shows he stopped and that the State didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The trial court specifically found that ‘there is a stop line on Market Street’ before it found Burke guilty,” the opinion states. “Therefore, we conclude the court implicitly found that Burke disobeyed the instructions of a traffic control device, i.e., a stop sign, because he failed to stop at a clearly marked stop line when he approached the sign.”
“The record contains no evidence there was a stop line,” the opinion continues. “Although Burke mentioned a ‘white bar’ during his testimony, he never clarified what this bar was. In his brief, Burke appears to acknowledge there was in fact a stop line. But as he points out, there is no evidence as to where the line was in relation to the stop sign, the vehicle in front of him, or his vehicle at any time during this incident. Knowlton only testified about the location of the vehicles in relation to the stop sign itself.”
The appeals court disagreed with the State’s argument that Burke never raised the position of the stop line during the trial so he couldn’t bring it up during his appeal.
“The state had the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Burke disobeyed the instructions of a stop sign,” the court wrote. “Burke did not forfeit his right to have the State prove that simply because he did not make a Crim.R. 29(A) motion for acquittal. His not guilty plea preserved the right to appeal on the manifest weight and sufficiency of the evidence.”
Judges Peter B. Abele and Marie C. Moraleja Hoover concurred in the opinion, while Judge William H. Harsha III dissented.
State v. Burke, 2013-Ohio-2888
Criminal Appeal From: Marietta Municipal Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: June 27, 2013
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.
PDF files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the free Acrobat® Reader
Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated.