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Drugs Excluded As Evidence After Wrongful Police Stop

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The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that drugs found during a police stop on I-280 must be excluded as evidence in a case because the arresting officer was outside her jurisdiction at the time.

Affirming the Sixth District Court of Appeals’ ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the drugs obtained by a Lake Township police officer during a traffic stop cannot be considered as evidence in a case because the arresting officer was outside of her jurisdiction and authority at the time of the traffic stop.

This case originated on March 16, 2011 when a Lake Township police officer noticed a car briefly swerve out of its lane while traveling on Interstate 280. The officer made a routine traffic stop and used a drug dog, which resulted in the seizure of oxycodone pills and a small amount of marijuana.

According to the Supreme Court, the officer had no authority to make a traffic stop or enforce any laws on an interstate highway, and therefore the search and seizure was unreasonable, although not per the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The lack of authority / wrongful police stop was determined by a parallel provision contained within the Ohio Constitution that prohibits township police officers from enforcing certain traffic laws on state highways.

Ohio Revised Code 4513.39

Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell wrote in his decision that Ohio Revised Code 4513.39 prevents township police officers, with the exception of individuals commissioned as peace officers, from enforcing certain state traffic laws, one of which includes lane violations. Even township police officers who are commissioned as peace officers cannot enforce lane violations on state highways if they serve a township with fewer than 50,000, such as Lake Township.

These differences mean that the protections provided by the Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution are more broad than those provided in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.