984 N.E.2d 1129 (Ohio Mun. 2012), 2012 TRC 012085, City of Cleveland v. Machnics
|Docket Nº:||2012 TRC 012085.|
|Citation:||984 N.E.2d 1129|
|Opinion Judge:||EMANUELLA GROVES, Judge.|
|Party Name:||CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff v. Elizabeth MACHNICS, Defendant.|
|Attorney:||Attorney Karrie Howard and Joanna Lopez, Assistant Police Prosecutors appearing on behalf of the City of Cleveland. Attorney John Mizanin, Cleveland, appearing on behalf of the defendant.|
|Case Date:||November 29, 2012|
|Court:||Municipal Court of Ohio|
The defendant filed a Motion to Suppress challenging two areas relating to her arrest. First, defendant argued the trooper did not have sufficient justification to request her to step out of the motor vehicle. Second, the defendant argued that the field sobriety tests were not performed in substantial compliance with testing requirements set forth in the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) Manual.
The facts from which the case arose are as follows:
On February 24, 2012 at approximately 2:30 a.m., the defendant Elizabeth Machnics was stopped by Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper James Baker for no front plate and no rear license plate light. When the trooper approached the vehicle, he smelled alcohol on the defendant's breath. The trooper also observed the defendant had bloodshot and glassy eyes. The defendant admitted drinking earlier. Based on the trooper's six years of experience and almost 200 DUI arrests, he suspected that the defendant was intoxicated, and asked the defendant to exit the vehicle for further investigation.
Upon exiting the vehicle, the trooper had the defendant perform three field sobriety tests. The first test performed by the defendant was the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, which requires four clues as evidence of impairment. The defendant presented six clues of impairment. The second test performed by the defendant was the one-leg stand, which requires two clues as evidence of impairment. The defendant only presented one clue for impairment. The third test performed by the defendant was the walk-and-turn, which requires at least two clues as evidence for impairment. The defendant presented two clues. In all, the defendant failed two of the three field sobriety tests.
The initial reason the trooper stopped the defendant was for an equipment, non-moving violation. As long as the trooper had probable cause to believe the defendant violated the law, the stop is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.1 Once a motorist has been stopped for a valid offense (no matter how minor), no observations of erratic driving is necessary to investigate a driving while impaired offense. The degree of the violation is irrelevant for purposes of establishing probable cause for the stop. De minimis or minor violations are valid and sufficient reasons for a stop by law enforcement.2
Although the trooper stopped the defendant for a minor violation, an investigation by the trooper is not limited to the scope of that violation. The trooper may detain the defendant to investigate additional violations. However, the trooper must have a reasonable suspicion based on specific articulable facts that a law has been violated or is being violated. 3 The determination of reasonable suspicion to further detain the defendant must be based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the trooper's observations.4
In short, the detention may not be based on an unparticularized suspicion or hunch.5 The difference between a hunch and a reasonable suspicion is the number of surrounding facts and circumstances. In State v. Evans, the Court of Appeals for the 11 th District enumerated factors that may be included in determining reasonable suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol:
These factors include, but are not limited to (1) the time and date of the stop (Friday or Saturday night as opposed to, e.g., Tuesday morning); (2) the location of the stop...
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