A police officer may not stop and interrogate a driver merely because a vehicle's out-of-state license plates "caught his attention," the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month. In a split 2-1 decision, the court held the March 19, 2011 traffic stop of Bret Browning was improper because Copley Township Police Officer Ryan Price had no reason to think a crime was about to be committed. At 12:30am that day, Price noticed Browning standing beside a car on a private drive, then drive off.
"I didn't know if the person was taking a leak," Officer Price testified. "If they were checking the mail. Getting the trash cans. Stopped because they were lost. Being it was an out-of-state plate, pulled in there to check direction or what, but when he got in the car and drove to the back—I know it's a dead end, so I figured, well, if they're legit, maybe they'll turn around and come back. So I went down the road a little bit, sat in my cruiser, and sure enough the car came back out, got on State Route 21, went southbound."