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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Marked Lanes Violation Overturned for Lack of ‘Reasonable’ Suspicion

An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper did not have a “reasonable, articulable” suspicion to stop a Paulding County woman for a marked lanes violation, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled on Monday. Accordingly, her convictions for reckless operation and failure to drive within the marked lanes were reversed.

Trooper Joe Sisco observed the right side tires of Kimberly Jo Shaffer’s vehicle drive onto the white line marker one time for about three seconds on March 10, 2012 on State Route 66. He stopped her vehicle, smelled alcohol, and conducted a series of field sobriety tests. He arrested Shaffer and charged her with operating a vehicle under the influence. She entered not guilty pleas and filed a motion to suppress the evidence arguing that she didn’t commit a marked lanes violation. The trial court overruled her motion, and she pleaded no contest to failure to drive within the marked lanes and an amended charge of reckless operation.

Shaffer appealed to the Third District. In the court’s unanimous decision, authored by Judge Stephen R. Shaw, the court agreed with Shaffer’s claims “that Trooper Sisco’s testimony that a vehicle’s tires touched the white fog line on a single occasion, causing the right fender of the vehicle to extend slightly over the line for three seconds, without any other evidence in the record addressing either the practicability or safety of the circumstances, is not sufficient to establish reasonable, articulable suspicion of a violation of R.C. 4511.33(A)(1).”

Judge Shaw particularly pointed to one specific phrase in section (A)(1).

“We believe the language ‘as nearly as is practicable’ inherently contemplates some inevitable and incidental touching of the lane lines by a motorist’s vehicle during routine and lawful driving, without the vehicle being considered to have left the lane of travel so as to constitute a marked lanes violation,” Judge Shaw wrote.

“Accordingly, it is our conclusion that consideration of the statutory factors of practicability and safety is integral to any determination of a violation of R.C. 4511.33(A)(1).”

“The fact remains that in this case there is no evidence in the record from which any legitimate inference can be drawn regarding either one of these requisite statutory elements,” Judge Shaw noted.

“Accordingly without some additional evidence in the record regarding the surrounding circumstances, traffic and road conditions going to the express statutory language regarding either practicability or safety, we cannot conclude that the act of Shaffer driving onto the white fog line one time for a matter of three seconds is alone sufficient to establish the requisite reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop Shaffer for a violation of R.C. 4511.33(A)(1).”

In conclusion, Judge Shaw wrote: “We simply believe our decision is more consistent with the specific statutory language of R.C. 4511.33(A)(1), which among other things, refers to the movement and location of vehicles, not tires.”

Judges Vernon L. Preston and John R. Willamowski concurred in the opinion.

State v. Shaffer, 2013-Ohio-3581
Criminal Appeal From: Paulding County Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: August 19, 2013

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