On February 12, 1990 Rapper M.C. Hammer released his Grammy winning song U Can’t Touch This. On January 1, 2004 the Ohio Legislature released § 4511.33 (A)(1) Driving in Marked Lanes. On December 22, 2020 the Supreme Court of Ohio would analyze both … kind of … to clarify if touching a white fog line violated the statute.
State v. Turner
Supreme Court of Ohio
December 22, 2020
Because Turner did not cross the single solid white longitudinal line—the fog line—and driving on it or touching it is not prohibited under R.C. 4511.33(A)(1), no violation occurred.
On Sunday August 5, 2018 just before midnight, Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Jordan Haggerty was stopped at a red light at Glen Este-Withamsville Road and State Route 32, he observed a blue sedan driven by Mr. Ryan Turner pull out of a private drive and onto Glen Este-Withamsville Road. Trooper Haggerty found the turn “odd” as it appeared that the sedan almost turned into the curb before overcorrecting and traveling within its lane. Trooper Haggerty followed the Mr. Turner as he turned right onto Old State Route 74. He observed the sedan drift to the right, with the sedan’s two right tires touching the white fog line on the right side of the road. On cross-examination, Trooper Haggerty clarified that the sedan’s right tires did not cross the fog line but merely touched the line.
Glen Este-Withamsville Road and Old State Route 74 is the intersection where OSHP Trooper Jordan Haggerty first observed Mr. Ryan Turner.
Ohio Revised Code § 4511.33 (A)(1) states “Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, or wherever within municipal corporations traffic is lawfully moving in two or more substantially continuous lines in the same direction, the following rules apply: A vehicle or trackless trolley shall be driven, as nearly as is practicable, entirely within a single lane or line of traffic and shall not be moved from such lane or line until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.” [emphasis added]
Trooper Haggerty testified the sole basis for the traffic stop was the sedan’s touching of the white fog line on one occasion. He had not observed Mr. Turner commit any other traffic violations. Trooper Haggerty briefly followed the sedan before activating his cruiser’s lights and initiating a traffic stop for a marked lanes violation. Mr. Turner later submitted to a breath-alcohol test that indicated he had a breath-alcohol-content of .158.
Mr. Turner filed a Motion to Suppress and the trial court granted it, holding that merely touching a white fog line is not a violation of § 4511.33 (A)(1), but the vehicle must cross the line. The State of Ohio appealed to the Twelfth District Appellate Court which held that touching the white line was a violation and the Motion to Suppress was overturned. Mr. Turner appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio as the First, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Eleventh District and now the Twelfth District Courts all had conflicting decisions on whether or not a driver violates § 4511.33 (A)(1) by touching the line or crossing the line. On December 22, 2020 in a five to two decision the Supreme Court of Ohio held [or as M.C. Hammer said in his song ‘Break it down!’] “Because Turner did not cross the single solid white longitudinal line—the fog line—and driving on it or touching it is not prohibited under R.C. 4511.33(A)(1), no violation occurred.”. [emphasis added]
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Turner, 2020-Ohio-6773.
- Law enforcement is THE hardest job in America! Here Trooper Haggerty observed Mr. Turner make a wide turn and almost strike a curb. Thereafter he observed Mr. Turner touch the white fog line. At this time, it was nearly midnight, so the trooper decided to stop the blue sedan. Turner’s BAC was nearly twice the legal limit, so he was arrested and processed. A very good call by the trooper! However, law is SO nuanced that the Supreme Court of Ohio determined that Mr. Turner did not violate § 4511.33 (A)(1) by just a FEW INCHES! Based on the Exclusionary Rule the stop was rendered unlawful and consequently so was Mr. Turner’s OVI conviction. For more on the Exclusionary Rule see The Road Map(p) to Law Enforcement Training Standards.
- Officers should note this very technical nuance in § 4511.33 (A)(1) that a driver’s tires must cross the white fog line not just touch it for the statute to be violated. The court went to great lengths to analyze the foundation of the statute, the Ohio Legislature intent and the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices definitions for guidance. Unfortunately for Trooper Haggerty and all law enforcement officers, seven of the twelve Ohio District Courts could not agree on the interpretation of the statute at the time of the traffic stop, of the very impaired Mr. Turner. Now the Supreme Court of Ohio has clarified § 4511.33 (A)(1) that merely touching the line is not a violation, as a driver must cross the line. Sorry Hammer, U Can Touch This … or at least in Ohio.
Does your agency train on Traffic Stops?
Don’t fail your training.
Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!
Robert H. Meader Esq.