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Vehicle Stops in Ohio

The Fourth Amendment requires that an officer who is pulling over a car for a traffic stop have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The only exception to this is sobriety checkpoints, which must be short in duration and publicly announced beforehand. The officer must have probable cause to stop your vehicle. Under Ohio law, if a law enforcement officer sees a driver committing a minor traffic violation, he is permitted to pull you over and issue a citation. However, he is not allowed to then immediately ask you to take a chemical BAC test or a field sobriety test just based on that minor traffic citation. That is not considered adequate probable cause. However, if he approaches your vehicle and smells alcohol on your breath or clothes, a court could uphold his investigation of you and your vehicle for DUI.

The most common reasons an officer may pull a driver over under suspicion of drug or alcohol impairment are inability to stay steadily within your lane, inability to maintain appropriate speed, and lack of attention to the road. Usually speeding is not considered enough reason to pull someone over but if a driver is speeding and making unusually wide turns or failing to stay within his lane, the officer will probably pull the vehicle over. Some examples of behaviors police look over when attempting to judge whether or not a driver is paying proper attention to the road are wrong or unnecessary turn signaling, driving without headlights on, or a general unconcern for other drivers on the road.

If you are stopped, ask the officer why they pulled you over. If he does not have probable cause to believe you were involved in criminal activity then he can’t arrest you.


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