What evidence can police use in a drunk driving traffic stop?

Jun 2, 2020 | drunk driving

When police suspect that an Ohio driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can initiate a traffic stop. The basis of a drunk driving traffic stop should be certain actions, such as swerving, that could give law enforcement reasonable suspicion that a crime was taking place. Recently, police made a traffic stop based on a third-party’s statement, which has some questioning whether this was appropriate and legal.

The Ohio Supreme Court recently decided to hear the case of a woman who was accused of drunk driving in 2017 after she was pulled over by an Ohio State Police trooper. The stop was initiated after a customer at a local gas station told the officer that the woman was drunk. The trooper was at the gas station for an unrelated reason, and the woman was leaving the parking lot.

After talking to the attendant, the officer then instructed the woman to stop. When she continued to back out of the parking space, the officer then got in front of her vehicle and forced her to stop moving. The officer’s statement said the driver had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and appeared to be intoxicated. The customer who reported her at the behest of the gas station attendant left and was not identified.

The question in this case is whether police can use the word of a passerby as grounds to make a drunk driving traffic stop. Before making it to the Supreme Court level, two lower courts determined the officer did not have reasonable suspicion. Without it, the entire traffic stop may be invalid, and this would likely lead to a dismissal of all charges against her. Ohio driver facing OVI or DUI charges have the right to challenge the circumstances of their arrest.