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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > October 2013 > Traffic Stops (Turn Signals on, but no Turn is Made): State of Ohio v. Coyle

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Traffic Stops (Turn Signals on, but no Turn is Made): State of Ohio v. Coyle

Question: Do you have reasonable suspicion to pull a car over when the signal is on for 10 seconds, but the car does not turn?
Quick Answer: No.

State of Ohio v. Coyle, Fifth Appellate District, Ashland County, Sept. 12, 2013.
Facts: Ryan Coyle’s vehicle approached a trooper in the opposite lane of travel. The trooper testified that the operator was not driving in a straight line within his lane of travel, but he admitted he could not see the lane lines due to weather. The trooper turned around and caught up to Coyle’s vehicle, observing him tap his brakes, slow down, and turn on his left turn signal. When the vehicle did not turn, the trooper activated his lights. Coyle testified that while driving, he saw the trooper’s lights, slowed down, and put his left turn signal on to turn into a parking lot. He said he did not stop on the right because the berm was narrow due to the guardrail. Coyle was charged with an OVI as a result of the stop. The court found that the trooper lacked a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify the stop.
Importance: It can be the little things that make the biggest difference in a case. Here, the court determined that Coyle did not commit a marked lane or signal violation. They even checked the video to see how long the signal was on — only 10 seconds, some of that time while the trooper’s lights were activated. No suspicion equals a result of no OVI evidence, which means a drunk driver goes free.
More on Traffic Stops
You aren’t from here, so you must be up to something. One of your co-workers has an off-duty security job at a small market. He gives you a call because there are two people in the store who have purchased lye and some candy. You both know that lye is an ingredient in making meth, and he has made several of these calls to you in the past. You head over, see the suspects’ car, and start to follow them. You run the plates and conclude the car is registered in the next county, about 40 minutes away. Based on these circumstances, you believe these suspects make meth and pull them over. Did you just make a legal stop? The court in Taylor says no. Buying candy and lye is not criminal, nor is driving outside your own county. The officer did not see a traffic violation or any other criminal behavior. As a result, the officer violated Terry when he pulled this car over. State of Ohio v. Taylor, Ninth Appellate District, Summit County, Sept. 11, 2013.
Medical situation vs. investigation of criminal activity. You are on a traffic stop and over the radio here dispatch reporting a possible impaired driver. A few minutes later, a car drives by matching the description from dispatch, although you see nothing out of the ordinary regarding the car or the driving. After you finish up the traffic stop, you continue to patrol the area. Up ahead you see the same car parked strangely at a bank driveway with part of the car in the roadway. You stop, get out, and walk to the car. You see a woman who has clearly been sick inside the car. You also have a concern that another car may hit her car based on how it is parked. Is this a traffic stop? In Weese, the court says no. The court found that he officer did not pull the woman over, but instead was acting as a community caretaker. As a result, the Fourth Amendment was not triggered, and he did not need reasonable suspicion to approach the car or the individual. State of Ohio v. Weese, Tenth Appellate District, Franklin County, Sept. 19, 2013.