An Ohio appeals court vacated an Oregon, Ohio, man’s drunken driving conviction after concluding the arresting officer’s version of events that prompted him to pull the man over did not match the recording of the police vehicle’s dashboard camera.
The Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of the Oregon Municipal Court, which denied a request from Abraham R. Huffman to suppress the statements of the officer that claimed Huffman was pulled over for crossing the center line, and then discovered Huffman was driving under the influence of alcohol.
Suspect Pulled Over Late At Night
In March 2016, Huffman was stopped at about 2:30 a.m. in Oregon. The police officer testified that while at a stop light, he observed Huffman’s vehicle completely cross over the center line after overcorrecting for a wide left turn. He stated that both the front and rear driver-side tires crossed the line by one to two feet. He then pursued Huffman, and although a truck was between his vehicle and Huffman’s, he could observe Huffman’s driving. He testified that he saw the car cross the center line again, and observed a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction maneuver to avoid Huffman’s vehicle.
As a result of his driving, Huffman was stopped. He was charged with a marked lane driving violation, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (OVI), and operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited concentration of alcohol.
Huffman Seeks to Block Officer’s Account
Huffman filed a motion to suppress the officer’s testimony, which prosecutors opposed. The trial court denied the motion and Huffman pleaded no contest to the three charges. The court only sentenced Huffman on the OVI charge, imposing 180 days in jail, of which 177 days were suspended, and placed him on one year of community control. Huffman appealed to the Sixth District arguing that his motion to suppress was wrongly denied.
Appeals Court Examines Dash Cam
Writing for the Sixth District, Judge James D. Jensen explained that an officer must have “an articulable and reasonable suspicion” that the motorist is engaged in criminal activity or violated a traffic law in order to pull him over. Huffman was stopped because he was observed crossing the marked center line in violation of R.C. 4511.33.
Huffman contends there was insufficient reason to stop his vehicle because he had not crossed any lines, and argued the police dashcam video demonstrates that he did not cross the center line.
Prosecutors argued that the officer’s vast experience and eyewitness account of the events was sufficient for the officer to stop Huffman.
“Having reviewed the record in its entirety, we agree with appellant that the officer’s testimony is refuted by the dash camera footage, which does not depict appellant traveling over the centerline at any point prior to the stop, nor does it depict any oncoming traffic having to swerve in order to avoid being struck by appellant’s vehicle,” Judge Jensen wrote.
The opinion cited two other prior Sixth District decisions where motions to suppress the officer’s testimony were granted when the officer’s account of a driver crossing a marked lane did not match the dashcam video.
The Sixth District concluded Huffman’s motion was improperly denied and remanded the case to the Oregon Municipal Court for further proceedings.
Judges Mark L. Pietrykowski and Thomas J. Osowik concurred in the decision.
State v. Huffman, 2017-Ohio-7007