Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Admission of Evidence from Traffic Stop Unconstitutional

An Ohio appeals court has sided with a defendant who claimed his state constitutional right against illegal search and seizure was violated in a drug possession case. In a 3-0 decision, the Sixth District Court of Appeals has reversed Terrance Brown’s conviction and sent the case back to the Wood County Court of Common Pleas.

Brown was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to charges he illegally had oxycodone when he was stopped on March 16, 2011, by a Lake Township Police Department officer on I-280 in Wood County. Brown appealed the sentence because the township police officer did not have authority to stop him on the highway. He argued that his right to be free from unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution were violated when the trial judge denied his motion to suppress the evidence that was seized during the traffic stop.

Appeals Court Judge Arlene Singer in the decision examined the difference in protection under the state and federal constitutions spelled out in separate case law from U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court cases.

“[In Atwater v. Lago Vista] a stop, even if in violation of state law, is not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution if the stop was based on probable cause,” Judge Singer wrote. “[In State v. Brown] a stop made in violation of state law is reasonable under Article I, Section 14, of the Ohio Constitution only when probable cause to make the stop exists and the government’s interests in allowing unauthorized officers to make this type of stop outweighs the intrusion upon individual privacy.”

Judge Singer concluded that while Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because the officer had probable cause to stop him, there was a violation of his state rights.

“It is undisputed that the township officer violated R.C. 4513.39 by making the extraterritorial stop on an interstate highway for a marked lane violation, which is specified in R.C. 4513.39(A) as being within the exclusive jurisdiction of the state highway patrol, sheriffs, and sheriff deputies. Further, no extenuating circumstances were presented to justify an extraterritorial stop by township police officers for this type of traffic violation. Therefore, we find the extraterritorial stop was unreasonable under the Ohio Constitution.”

As a result, Judge Singer said the drugs seized should have been excluded from evidence. The case was sent back to the Wood County Court of Common Pleas.

Judges James D. Jensen and Mark L. Pietrykowski concurred with the decision.

State v. Brown, 2013-Ohio-5351
Appeal From: Wood County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed in part
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: December 6, 2013

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