The Fourth Amendment has been a hot topic in criminal law lately, and the Ohio Supreme Court just added another citizen-friendly case to the books.
InState v. Brown, 2015-Ohio-2438, Mr. Brown was pulled over by a Lake Township patrol officer and drug sniffing canine handler on the interstate for a marked lanes violation. The officer walked her dog around the car, leading to the discovery of oxycodone tablets and marijuana. However, under Ohio's statutes, a township officer does not have authority to stop an individual for a minor misdemeanor traffic violation on an interstate highway unless the officer is in hot pursuit of the vehicle or other extenuating circumstances exist for following the vehicle outside of the officer's jurisdiction.
The trial court found that no constitutional violation had occurred, but the appellate court reversed, concluding that the stop was unreasonable and violated Ohio's Constitution because the traffic stop occurred outside of the officer's jurisdiction and no special circumstances existed to initiate the extraterritorial stop. The State appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
On June 23, 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision in, holding that, "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 established by Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution." This holding confirms the Court's belief that the Ohio Constitution actually affords greater protection than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution against searches and seizures conducted by members of law enforcement who lack authority to make an arrest. When such an unconstitutional arrest is made, all evidence flowing from the arrest must be suppressed, leaving the State without a case.
This is a huge win for those of us defending the Constitutional rights of our citizens against unreasonable police actions.
Jessica D'Varga is a defense lawyer with The Law Offices of Saia & Piatt, Inc. who handles criminal, OVI, and traffic cases in Ohio. To enlist outstanding representation for your case,contact the firm to schedule a free consultation.