Does Driving Too Slowly Provide Basis for OVI Stop?

Driving very slowly may get you pulled over if you are driving so slowly that you are impeding other traffic on the highway. But it will be important to get testimony upon how much other traffic was on the highway, and whether or not it was actually being impeded.

In the case of State v. Hagerty, an officer observed Ms. Hagerty driving 32 mph in a 50 mph speed zone, and then speeding up to 40 mph once the speed zone went to 65 mph. The officer did not observe any other evidence of erratic driving.

The officer pulled Ms. Hagerty over for impeding the flow of traffic in violation of R.C. 4511.22. When he approached her car, he smelled alcohol, performed a HGN test upon her (which she passed) and then arrested her and took her to the station where she blew .052. Ms. Hagerty was charged with drunk driving (because she was under 21, the limit for her was .02 rather than the .08 for adults).

Ms. Hagerty made a motion to suppress, arguing that the stop was unconstitutional since the officer did not have Reasonable Suspicion that she was committing any crime. The trial court ruled in her favor and suppressed the evidence. The trial court reasoned that since the officer was the only other vehicle on the road, she could not have been impeding traffic. The prosecutor appealed, arguing that since the officer was traffic, she was impeding traffic.

The Eleventh District Court of Appeals threw the prosecutor’s argument out, reasoning that the officer could have driven around her very easily, and that the only reason he didn’t was because he wanted to track her speed. The Appellate Court found that Ms. Hagerty’s speed was not unreasonable, as it was late in the evening on January 1, and the road was wet. The Appellate Court further reasoned:

“That a person is driving slowly just after midnight on a cold, wet New Year’s Eve is not, under the totality of the circumstances test, sufficient in itself to support a suspicion that the person is driving under the influence of alcohol.” State v. Hagerty, 2002 Ohio App. LEXIS 3393 (June 28, 2002) Portage Co. App. Nos. P-2001-0083 and 84, unreported at 8.