Recent Ohio tinted window traffic stops result in drug possession arrests
Even a minor equipment infraction such as a broken tail light can be enough for police to stop drivers in Ohio. On their own, these infractions can lead to relatively minor misdemeanor charges. However, violating the window tinting laws can arouse suspicion. Unless violators give permission, police cannot conduct a warrantless search based solely on a tinted window — but officers can take additional actions to develop grounds for a warrantless search.
In two recent cases, external vehicle inspections by drug-sniffing dogs provided justification for warrantless vehicle searches. While police initiated both stops based solely on the excessively tinted windows, police became more suspicious after the November 3, 2013 stops, according to a story reported by Cleveland.com:
In one case, police stopped a car specifically because of its excessively tinted windows. Noticing the smell of marijuana, they enlisted a drug-sniffing dog for the positive alert needed to conduct a search. They arrested all four occupants after finding a small bag of marijuana. However, the driver later admitted ownership, so her three passengers were released. The driver was charged with both marijuana possession and excessively tinted windows.
Earlier that same day, excessively tinted windows caused police to stop another car. After noticing the driver’s nervousness, police discovered that a misdemeanor warrant was outstanding for one of the passengers. The driver refused to give permission to search the car, so a police dog was called in. A positive alert led to admissions that the driver and one passenger had marijuana and pipes. However, a search also revealed a small bag of cocaine. Both individuals were charged with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. The driver was also charged with cocaine possession and tinted windows.
Positive external dog-sniff alerts are considered probable cause to conduct a search under the law, typically eliminating the removal of drug evidence before a case goes to trial.