On June 23, 2015, in State v. Brown, 2015-Ohio-2438, the Supreme Court of Ohio, by a vote of 5-2, held that a traffic stop for a minor misdemeanor outside the officer’s statutory jurisdiction or authority violates Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution. A Lake Township police officer had pulled onto I-280 after seeing defendant Terrence Brown’s car cross the fog line, pulled him over, and cited him for a marked lane violation. The officer, who was also a canine handler, walked her dog around the car, which led to the discovery of 120 oxycodone pills and a baggie of marijuana. Brown was charged with aggravated possession of drugs. He moved to suppress the evidence, which was denied by the trial court. Brown then entered a no-contest plea to the charge, and was sentenced to a mandatory three-year prison term.
Under R.C. 4513.39, state highway patrol officers and county sheriffs can make arrests on interstate highways, but peace officers in townships with fewer than 50,000 people cannot. So the high court majority found that the township officer lacked statutory authority to stop Brown for a marked line violation on an interstate highway. Therefore, the court found, the arrest violated Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution, and the evidence should have been suppressed. Justice French wrote a heated dissent in the case, which Justice Kennedy joined. Read an analysis of the merit decision in this case here.
Republican state representatives Steve Hambley of Brunswick and Jeffrey Rezabeck of Clayton have introduced H.B. 378 to address the problem in Brown. The bill would allow township and joint police district officers and certain township constables to make arrests for motor-vehicle-related violations on interstate highways. The bill has a number of other co-sponsors. The blog will track the bill’s progress.