Ohio’s Fifth District Court Of Appeals Rules That Driving Slowly Is Not Grounds For A Traffic Stop
Last Friday, Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals issued a decision in State v. Dean (5th Dist. 2013), 2013-Ohio-313, holding that a traffic stop of a motorist traveling substantially under the speed limit is not permissible unless the driver is obstructing the flow of traffic.
The case stems from a traffic stop by a Pataskala police officer of Alan Dean occurring on March 18, 2012. After observing Dean driving 28 mph in a 45 mph zone, the officer followed and, when the road widened to two lanes, the car behind Dean passed him. The officer continued following Dean, who slowed down to 15-20 mph when the speed limit dropped to35 mph and left his turn signal on for an extended period before executing a turn that was “wide and ‘real slow.'”
Based upon his observations, the officer pulled Dean over and, after investigation, charged Dean with driving under the influence and unreasonable slow speed. Dean’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the traffic stop, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that Dean was engaged in criminal activity and therefore the traffic stop was unconstitutional. The trial court overruled Dean’s motion and Dean appealed.
On appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeals opined:
We find for the officer to conclude that something was “abnormal” was tantamount to a hunch and was not based upon specific and articulable facts that criminal activity was afoot. While many impaired drivers drive slowly, many unimpaired drivers do too. If traffic is not impeded or obstructed, there is no criminal activity.
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