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Traffic Stop Suppression

May 26, 2015

Traffic Stop Suppression

CaseState of Tennessee v. Linzey Danielle Smith State of Tennessee v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr.

Issue:  Does driving over the fog line justify a stop of the vehicle?

Facts: In these consolidated cases, the Defendants were arrested for DUI after being stopped for crossing over the fog line a single time. The officers justified the stops on violations of driving laws that require drivers to stay in their lanes of travel (TCA §§ 55-8-115, 55-8-120, 55-8-132). Both Defendants pled guilty to DUI but reserved as a certified question whether the stops were constitutional.

Appellate Decision: In both cases, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions, reasoning that even a single crossing of the fog line creates reasonable suspicion and probable cause that a traffic violation has occurred, thereby justifying the stops in each case. Judge Ogle dissented in Smith, writing that the single fog line cross did not justify a stop, particularly considering the officer acknowledged the driver otherwise “drove fine.”

Review Granted:  May 14, 2015.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will establish a “totality of the circumstances” test and remand for reevaluation of the facts. Cf. State v. Bell (Tenn. 2014) (establishing totality of the circumstances test for DUI probable cause, even where Defendant passes sobriety tests).