The Fourth Amendment was one of the driving forces behind the United States Revolution. This Amendment generally protects individuals against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. But what does “reasonable” mean in the context of a traffic stop?

In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court in Whren v. United States tried answering this question. In so doing, the Court determined that pretextual traffic stops are “reasonable.” Pretextual traffic stops occur where an officer stops a vehicle and cites a lawful reason for the stop, yet the underlying reason is unlawful. The Whren Court determined that an officer’s intent is completely irrelevant to whether a seizure is “reasonable.” But given the abundance and ambiguity in traffic laws, this decision has effectively supplied officers with unfettered discretion to seize any driver for any conceivable basis.

The U.S. Supreme Court sets the constitutional floor. And states may adopt higher constitutional standards. But one month after Whren, the Supreme Court of Ohio refused to raise the bar in City of Dayton v. Erickson. Instead, Ohio agreed that pretextual stops are “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment.

This Article argues that Erickson was wrongly decided in light of the text, history, and purpose of the Fourth Amendment. This Article then discusses the policy arguments surrounding pretextual traffic stops. Finally, this Article offers a new legal test to help alleviate this problem—a better road forward for Ohio.