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Criminal Law: Traffic Stop-Probable Cause

Staff Report//January 17, 2020

Criminal Law: Traffic Stop-Probable Cause

Staff Report//January 17, 2020

Where an officer saw a driver cross the fog line and drive on the shoulder, the officer had probable cause to stop the vehicle, and the stop did not constitute an unreasonable seizure, so the trial court did not err in overruling the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Traffic offense

Dissenting opinion by Stith, J.: “I respectfully dissent. The principal opinion concludes Sgt. S.B. Johnson could stop Anthony Smith’s vehicle after allegedly witnessing the vehicle’s rear passenger-side tire momentarily cross the fog line because this gave Sgt. Johnson probable cause to believe Mr. Smith was violating section 304.015.2. That statute does not state that passage of one or more tires of a vehicle over the fog line is a traffic violation, however. It simply requires a car to be ‘driven upon the right half of the roadway.’ § 304.015.2. No authority is cited that one momentary crossing of the fog line by a vehicle’s tires (if such a crossing even occurred here) constitutes failing to ‘drive’ on the right half of the roadway. To the contrary, prior cases from this Court assume, and prior cases of the court of appeals and other jurisdictions hold, that such minor deviations of a tire onto the shoulder do not constitute a traffic offense. This Court should also so hold.”

Judgment is affirmed.

State v. Smith (MLW No. 74412/Case No. SC97811 – 23 pages) (Supreme Court of Missouri, Powell, J.; Wilson, Russell, Breckenridge and Fischer, JJ., concur; Stith, J., dissents in separate opinion filed; Draper, C.J., concurs in opinion of Stith, J.) Appealed from circuit court, Montgomery County, Dalton, J. (John D. James, St. Peters, for appellant) (Garrick Aplin, Jefferson City, for respondent).

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