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State v. Priester

December 4, 2008

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
ERNEST PRIESTER DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. CR-502127. JUDGMENT: AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James J. Sweeney, A.J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

BEFORE: Sweeney, A.J., Stewart, J., and Dyke, J.

{¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals from the trial court's order that granted defendant-appellee, Ernest Priester's ("defendant"), motion to suppress evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

{¶2} Defendant was charged with possession of drugs, in an amount less than five grams, a felony of the fifth degree. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence.

{¶3} The court held a hearing on defendant's suppression motion, where the State presented the testimony of one of the arresting officers. He stated that on September 6, 2007, he and his partner were patrolling the area of East 125th and Buckeye. The officer stated this is a "known prostitution area, known drug area." He observed defendant in a vehicle that was stopped, but not parked "off the side of the road on Buckeye." They saw a gentlemen leaning over toward the street talking to two females who were on the sidewalk. Although the officer stated that defendant's vehicle was impeding the flow of traffic, he also testified that the officers drove past it.

{¶4} The females got into defendant's vehicle, causing the officers to turn their vehicle around and initiate a traffic stop. Defendant began to make a turn the wrong way down a one-way street. Defendant did not proceed the wrong way down the street but instead was able to steer his vehicle back onto the roadway, where he stopped for the officers at Buckeye and East 125th Street. It was approximately 2:55 a.m.

{¶5} The State inquired of the officer: "Why did you and your partner decide to initiate a traffic stop after seeing the two women enter into this car?" To which the officer responded, "Just to do a further investigation to see what, in fact, was going on, if he was picking up prostitutes or if there was a drug transaction going on or what."

{¶6} The officer suspected possible prostitution because "it is a known prostitution area, known drug area, and that's the activity that goes on pretty much throughout the night."

{¶7} When the officer approached defendant's vehicle, he smelled an odor of alcohol. Defendant was removed from the vehicle along with the females. Defendant submitted to a field sobriety test, which he failed. Defendant reportedly gave different stories about the females that were in his vehicle. Defendant was placed under arrest for failing the sobriety test and his vehicle was inventoried prior to being towed. The officer found marijuana, a red pill, and a piece of paper that had a rock of crack cocaine in it.

{¶8} Cross-examination of the officer established the following: There was a very small amount of traffic at the time in question. Buckeye has two traffic lanes on each side of the roadway and there is room for parking on the curb lane. The officer was not sure whether parking was or was not permitted at the time he observed defendant's vehicle close to the curb lane. The officer decided to stop the defendant when he observed the females getting into his vehicle. Later, the officer testified that the basis for the stop was impeding the flow of traffic.

{¶9} The officer stated he was suspicious because defendant "pulled off to the side of the road speaking to two ladies and it looked like he was soliciting prostitution." Yet, he admitted that he had no information at all that the ladies were prostitutes. He confirmed that he had acted on a "hunch."

{ΒΆ10} The trial court granted the motion to suppress finding that the testimony established that defendant was not impeding the flow of traffic and ...


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