Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Law Directing Drivers to Stay in Lanes Arrives at Supreme Court

Image of a car tire just over the white line on a road

An Ohio traffic law states, “A vehicle … shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic ….”

Image of a car tire just over the white line on a road

An Ohio traffic law states, “A vehicle … shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic ….”

An Ohio traffic law requires driving within the lanes marked on roadways, but the state’s appeals courts, prosecutors, and drivers disagree about whether it prohibits driving on the lines or only bans traveling across those lines.

Law enforcement stopped a driver in Clermont County after his tires drifted onto a road’s edge line. The county prosecutor pursued charges for a violation of the traffic law and other offenses. The prosecutor and the driver will debate the boundaries of the law next week before the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will hold one day of oral arguments, the last ones scheduled for 2020.

Trooper Follows Driver Who Made Odd Turn
One night in August 2018, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper saw a sedan pull out from a private driveway in Clermont County onto a road. The trooper thought the turn was “odd” and followed the sedan, which traveled for a while, then turned onto Old State Route 74. The trooper saw the vehicle’s two right tires touch the white edge line on the road’s right side. The trooper soon activated his flashing lights, initiating a traffic stop for a marked-lanes violation.

According to state law, “[a] vehicle … shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic ….”

The driver, Ryan Turner, was charged with two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence and a marked-lanes traffic offense. However, the Clermont County Municipal Court granted Turner’s request to suppress evidence from the stop, finding that the trooper wasn’t justified in pulling over Turner based on him briefly driving on the edge line.

On appeal, the Twelfth District Court of Appeals overturned the municipal court. The Twelfth District also agreed that its ruling conflicts with decisions from other appellate courts in the state. The Supreme Court accepted the case to review the conflict.

Traveling on Line Doesn’t Violate State Law, Driver Maintains
Turner argues that a law enforcement officer doesn’t have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” of criminal activity when a vehicle’s tires touch, but don’t cross, a line that marks the lanes on a road. While precedent shows that the traffic law prohibits driving across lines, the First, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Eleventh district courts of appeal also agree that touching a marked line while driving isn’t a violation, Turner states.

He notes that a tennis ball that bounces on the baseline is in bounds, and a baseball that hits the foul line is ruled as in the field of play. A vehicle on a road’s marked lines is still in the lane of traffic, he maintains.

The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers submitted an amicus brief in State v. Turner and will share time with Turner during oral argument.

Lines Are Boundaries and Buffers, Not Part of Lanes, State Argues
The prosecutor’s play turns on football, where the rules say a player is out of bounds when a sideline or other boundary line is touched. A football player must be “within” the boundary, just as the marked-lanes law requires a vehicle to be driven “entirely within” a single lane, the prosecutor argues.

The prosecutor maintains the words “entirely within a single lane or line of traffic” makes clear that a vehicle must be on the inside, or on the inner side, of the lines on a road. If a vehicle drives on a line or touches a line, the vehicle has ceased being entirely on the inner side of the lane, the prosecutor contends. The office also views the lines on the roads as a buffer zone that protects other motorists and pedestrians on the road.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which filed a brief in support of the prosecutor’s position, will join the county in arguments before the Court.

Oral Argument Details
The Supreme Court will consider Turner and four other appeals on Aug. 18. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m.

Because of the global pandemic, the Court will hold its session by videoconference. All arguments are streamed live online at, and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information released preview articles today about each case, available through the case-name links.

Tuesday, Aug. 18
A northeast Ohio heavy equipment producer filed a malpractice lawsuit against two law firms it had hired to sue the maker of faulty engines used in its tractor crawlers. After a year of mediation, the parties seemed in 2016 to agree to a nearly $3 million settlement, but the company leader refused to sign the agreement. In 2017, the law firms asked the trial court to declare the company in breach and deem the matter settled. The law firms also requested that the court order the manufacturer to pay for the attorney fees expended over the year to enforce the settlement. In Rayco Manufacturing v. Murphy, Rogers, Sloss & Gambel, the Court will consider whether attorney fees can be awarded in a breach-of-settlement case.

After being fired from an Eastlake Walmart, a former employee set fire to blankets in the store. He pleaded no contest to arson. The trial court ordered the man to register with the state’s Arson Offender Registry for the rest of his life. In State v. Carlisle, the man claims the registration law is unconstitutional because the only way to reduce the lifetime registration requirement to fewer years is if the prosecutor and the investigating law enforcement agency ask the trial judge to consider a reduction. The man contends this violates the separations-of-powers doctrine, while the state maintains the law doesn’t interfere with the court’s authority.

In re Suburban Natural Gas Company v. Columbia Gas of Ohio is a dispute between two natural gas companies about service in Delaware County. Columbia Gas, which has intervened in the case, offered an incentive program for energy-efficient homes to the builder of a new phase of a residential development. The new development was across the street from a neighborhood that Suburban serves. Suburban maintains a 1995 agreement between the companies doesn’t permit the builder incentive programs or the duplication of utility facilities, such as pipelines. The state’s public utilities commission, noting that natural gas companies don’t have service territories in Ohio, contends that the incentive program was allowable competition that is in the public interest.

In 2017, three men were accused of the gang rape of a woman on the campus of Miami University, and all were indicted on 23 to 26 counts of rape, kidnapping, and other charges. The three were to receive separate trials. The defendant who went first was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 51 years in prison . The other two accepted plea agreements and received five- and eight-year prison sentences. The man who went to trial and lost on appeal argues he deserves a second appeal because his appellate lawyer was ineffective. In State v. Simpson, the Court will consider the standards appellate courts use to determine the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.