APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE WAYNE COUNTY MUNICIPAL COURT COUNTY OF WAYNE, OHIO CASE No. TRC-12-01-00725
APPEARANCES: DAVID C. KNOWLTON, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DANIEL R. LUTZ, Prosecuting Attorney, and NATHAN R. SHAKER, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellant.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
(¶1} The State appeals the decision of the Wayne County Municipal Court granting Dixie Hackworth's motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand.
(¶2} On January 28, 2012, Sergeant Robert Gable of the State Highway Patrol stopped the vehicle being driven by Ms. Hackworth. Based on his observations, Ms. Hackworth was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Ms. Hackworth filed a motion to suppress, arguing that Sergeant Gable lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to initiate the stop. A hearing was held before a magistrate, who issued a decision denying Ms. Hackworth's suppression motion. Ms. Hackworth objected to the magistrate's decision, arguing that Sergeant Gable lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to stop her. The trial court sustained her objection and granted her motion to suppress. The State has appealed, raising a single assignment of error for our review.
II. ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING HACKWORTH'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS ON THE BASIS THAT THE TRAFFIC STOP WAS ILLEGAL AND THERE WAS NO REASONABLE SUSPICION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.
(¶3} The State argues that the trial court erred in granting Ms. Hackworth's motion to suppress because Sergeant Gable had reasonable, articulable suspicion to initiate the stop.
(¶4} The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that
[a]ppellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. When considering a motion to suppress, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and is therefore in the best position to resolve factual questions and evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Consequently, an appellate court must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. Accepting these facts as true, the appellate court must then independently determine, without deference to the conclusion of the trial court, whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard.
(Internal citations omitted.) State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. A traffic stop is constitutionally valid if probable cause exists. Dayton v. Erickson, 76 Ohio St.3d 3 (1996), syllabus. In addition, traffic stops can be constitutionally valid if "an officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime." State v. Mays, 119 Ohio St.3d 406, 2008-Ohio-4539, ¶ 7. Whether reasonable, articulable suspicion exists is determined by the totality of the circumstances. Id. See also United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002).
(¶5} The dashcam video in this case shows a two-lane country road with a center line that would become a hashed line to allow for passing. Sergeant Gable testified that Ms. Hackworth had crossed the yellow line marking the edge of her lane and onto the yellow line marking the lane for the oncoming traffic. However, the trial court found that this testimony was inconsistent with Sergeant Gable's spontaneous statements on the dashcam, which it determined indicated that Ms. Hackworth had merely driven on the line marking the edge of her lane and not onto the line marking the edge of the lane for oncoming traffic. The court also found that Ms. Hackworth properly used her turn signals on three separate occasions during the video and that the video shows gradual drifting consistent with normal driving patterns. It ultimately ...