A traffic stop for a minor misdemeanor made outside a police officer’s statutory jurisdiction or authority violates the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.
State v. Brown
143 Ohio St.3d 444 (2015)
The state’s interest in protecting the public from a person who drives an automobile in a manner that endangers other drivers outweighs Weideman’s right to drive unhindered … As Officer Rarrick’s detention of defendant under the circumstances presented here did not violate the Fourth Amendment, the trial court was not required to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the stop and detention.
State v. Weideman
94 Ohio St.3d 501 (2002)
State v. Brown
143 Ohio St.3d 444 (2015)
Supreme Court of Ohio
On Wednesday March 16, 2011, Lake Township Police Canine Officer Kelly Clark, pulled from the median on Interstate 280 into the passing lane and observed the passenger-side tires of a Chevy Impala momentarily cross the solid white fog line for a distance of approximately 100 feet. Officer Clark pulled her police vehicle alongside the Impala and observed that the driver, Mr. Terence Brown, was staring directly ahead and did not look over at her. Officer Clark decided to stop Mr. Brown for leaving the lane of travel approximately two- and one-half miles from where the violation occurred. It is undisputed that Officer Clark was outside of her jurisdiction.
Mr. Brown had a suspended driver’s license and an active felony warrant in Michigan. The record here, however, does not disclose whether Officer Clark was aware of those facts when she walked her drug dog around the Chevrolet Impala, leading to the discovery of 120 oxycodone tablets and a baggie of marijuana.
Mr. Brown was arrested for aggravated possession of drugs. Mr. Brown filed a motion to suppress, but the trial court denied it, finding that Officer Clark had probable cause to stop Mr. Brown for a marked lane violation. Mr. Brown subsequently pleaded no contest to aggravated possession of drugs, and the trial court sentenced him to a mandatory term of three years in prison.
Mr. Brown appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals, asserting that because Officer Clark lacked statutory authority to stop him for a marked lane violation outside her jurisdiction, the stop and the subsequent arrest and search violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The appellate court determined that the stop did not violate the Fourth Amendment, because Officer Clark had probable cause to believe Brown had committed a misdemeanor in her presence. However, the court held that the stop was unreasonable and violated the Ohio Constitution because the marked lane violation occurred outside Clark’s territorial jurisdiction and there were no extenuating circumstances that called for the township police officer to initiate the extraterritorial stop. Concluding that the trial court should have suppressed the drug evidence, the appellate court reversed Mr. Brown’s conviction.
Wood County Ohio appealed, and the Supreme Court of Ohio held “A traffic stop for a minor misdemeanor made outside a police officer’s statutory jurisdiction or authority violates the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.”.
- As the Supreme Court of Ohio evaluated this case it stated in pertinent part “[T]he General Assembly has not extended the authority to enforce traffic laws on state highways to all police officers.”. Law enforcement must be aware of where their own jurisdiction begins and ends as that too is where the legal authority of authority of law enforcement begins and ends. Law enforcement cannot make traffic stops outside their own jurisdiction. Of course, with every rule there seems to be an exception and here there is no exception to the exception because there is an exception.
- This case, Brown, should be contrasted against State v. Weideman, 94 Ohio St.3d 501 (2002), also decided by the Supreme Court of Ohio that gave a different decision, but the facts are different too. On Sunday May 24, 1998 at 3:32 a.m. Ms. Pam Weideman went left of center on a blind curve at the intersection of South Prospect Street and Hayes Road just outside Ravenna, Ohio. Officer David Rarrick, who was on duty and in a marked cruiser, had to swerve off of the roadway to avoid a violent head-on collision. He turned around and conducted a traffic stop on Ms. Weideman. He conducted field sobriety tests on Ms. Weideman and she failed. Officer Rarrick determined she was too impaired to drive but did not place her under arrest. Since Officer Rarrick was outside his jurisdiction, he called the Ohio State Highway Patrol who did have jurisdiction. At 3:47 a.m. OSHP Sgt. Don Dunbar arrived at the scene and he too conducted field sobriety tests. Weideman was arrested by OSHP Sgt. Dunbar and she tested .239 BAC. Ms. Weideman appealed her conviction and on April 3, 2002 the Supreme Court of Ohio held “Where a law enforcement officer, acting outside the officer’s statutory territorial jurisdiction, stops and detains a motorist for an offense committed and observed outside the officer’s jurisdiction, the seizure of the motorist by the officer is not unreasonable per se under the Fourth Amendment.”. However, the court qualified this holding which makes it distinguishable from Brown when it held in Weideman “The state’s interest in protecting the public from a person who drives an automobile in a manner that endangers other drivers outweighs Weideman’s right to drive unhindered … As Officer Rarrick’s detention of defendant under the circumstances presented here did not violate the Fourth Amendment, the trial court was not required to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the stop and detention.”. Consequently, the court is saying the same thing … only different. Law enforcement can stop a vehicle outside of his jurisdiction IF the officer determines the driver is creating danger to the public – see #3 below for additional information. In the Brown case, the driver committed a minor misdemeanor traffic violation without creating danger to the public which is why the Supreme Court of Ohio determined the stop was unreasonable. See The Road Map(p) to Law Enforcement Training Standards as to why the drugs in Brown were suppressed.
South Prospect Street and Hayes Road, just outside of Ravenna, Ohio where Officer Rarrick drove off the roadway to avoid a head-on collision.
- If a law enforcement does believe a driver is reckless enough to conduct a traffic stop outside of his jurisdiction, then the officer must call the ‘home team’ law enforcement agency. An officer WITH jurisdiction should be called to the scene of the stop and utilize the information from the officer without jurisdiction for any criminal charges. In the Weideman case the court understood that Officer Rarrick made a reasonable decision to protect the public from what would later be determined a highly intoxicated driver. Both he and Sgt. Dunbar should be commended for working in tandem to keep the roadways safe.
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Brown, 143 Ohio St.3d 444 (2015), State v. Weideman, 94 Ohio St.3d 501 (2002), and a phone interview with Ravenna Police Officer David Rarrick in 2003.
Does your agency train on Jurisdiction?
Don’t fail your training.
Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!
Robert H. Meader Esq.