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Jurisdiction, shmurisdiction? Not so much anymore

Jurisdiction, shmurisdiction. That’s what we used to think every time someone came in complaining of a police stop outside their jurisdiction. But it’s not so clear anymore. And the Ohio Supreme Court recently gave us (the good guys, the defense attorneys) some ammo to work with on jurisdiction cases.

In State v. Brown, 143 Ohio St. 3d 444, the Ohio Supreme Court acknowledged that jurisdiction issues actually can have some teeth.

Here’s the deal. In that case, a local township cop was patrolling an Ohio interstate when she noticed a car drift outside the white fog line. She decided to pull the car over and investigate (probably thinking drunk driver). It turned out the cop happened to have a drug-sniffing dog with her. And it also turned out the dog (after walking around the car) detected drugs. The cop searched the car and found some illegal dope.

Everyone agreed that under Revised Code Section 4513.39, the local township cop was outside her jurisdiction to make arrests on the interstate highway. The defense argued the search was therefore unlawful and violated both the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the similar provision of the Ohio Constitution. But the prosecution said, “So what?” The arrest may be outside jurisdiction, but the Fourth Amendment is federal law and the local jurisdiction violation doesn’t matter. After all, the police had probable cause to search.

So the issue was whether the court should “throw out the evidence” under the exclusionary rule. That is, should the violation of the local jurisdiction law require the court to exclude the evidence the police found as a result of the stop?

The Ohio Supreme said “yes” to that question and concluded that a traffic stop made outside a cop’s jurisdiction violates the Ohio Constitution (Article I, Section 14), which is similar to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. So, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded, the remedy for the violation is to throw out the evidence.

What does all this mean? In simple terms, it means the defendant wins. This time, at least. And it is now clear that local-yocal cops can’t work and play outside their own sandbox.

Check out the case here if you really want to get the details.

Or, better yet, just reach out to us to help decipher your problem. It’s never hopeless.

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