Charity Whitney


When told that crossing the fog line is not sufficient grounds for a traffic stop in Missouri, most people will answer, "What is the fog line?" Though the term may be unfamiliar to many, anyone who drives would recognize the object to which it refers - the white or yellow line on the side of the road that indicates the end of the lane and the beginning of the shoulder. Fog lines have been the subject of much civil and criminal litigation in Missouri, at both the state and federal levels. Crossing a fog line is a traffic violation for failing to stay in the correct lane, and law enforcement officers have frequently initiated traffic stops based on such violations. Yet case law within Missouri has created a strange rule regarding crossing the fog line. Federal law clearly states that any observation of a traffic law violation is sufficient for a stop, and Missouri case law has likewise held for many years that any traffic law violation is sufficient cause for a law enforcement officer to initiate a traffic stop. However, Missouri courts have also insisted that crossing the fog line is not sufficient cause to stop a vehicle. The combined effect of these holdings puts Missouri state law in an internally inconsistent position - how can courts insist that observing a law violation is not sufficient cause for a law enforcement officer to reasonably suspect a law violation, and therefore initiate a traffic stop?

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