The Sixth District Court of Appeals in State v. Huffman, 2017 Ohio 7007, recently released a decision clarifying what constitutes a marked lanes violation. This case is valuable for criminal defense attorneys not only because it delineates what constitutes a traffic offense but also because many of our clients charged with OVI are often initially stopped for such a violation. The Court held that a violation of Revised Code § 4511.33, the marked lanes statute, occurs when a driver travels completely across the center line or fog line.
The means that merely swerving within one’s lane or touching the fog or center lines does not constitute a marked lanes violation and would be insufficient to justify pulling over a vehicle. This is an important distinction as officers often stop a vehicle for these supposed violations. Thus, a stop predicated on touching the line, without crossing it, or weaving in one’s lane must be thrown out, which is exactly what the Sixth District did in this case. As a result, the OVI charge against Huffman was dismissed due to the improper stop.
Interestingly, the Court also addressed in this case the discrepancy between the officer’s testimony about Hoffman’s driving and what the officer’s dashboard camera recorded. Although the officer testified that Hoffman’s vehicle crossed the marked center line on two separate occasions, the video did not support the officer’s account. The Court noted that the video did not depict Hoffman traveling over the center line at any point prior to the stop. While the Court did not explicitly state this, it appears that this case holds that dashboard camera video evidence effectively trumps an officer’s testimony.