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State of Ohio v. Tyrone Lynch

October 27, 2011

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
TYRONE LYNCH DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-538646

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary J. Boyle, P.J.:

Cite as State v. Lynch,

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

JUDGMENT: REVERSED AND REMANDED

BEFORE: Boyle, P.J., Sweeney, J., and Jones, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Tyrone Lynch, appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. After reviewing the facts and pertinent law, we reverse the trial court's decision and remand the case for further proceedings.

Procedural History and Factual Background

{¶2} In June 2010, Lynch was indicted on eight counts: two counts of drug possession, three counts of drug trafficking, and one count each of possessing criminal tools, carrying a concealed weapon, and having a weapon while under a disability. All of the counts also included additional specifications (most were forfeiture specifications, but the drug-related counts also included a one-year firearm specification and one of the drug trafficking counts carried a juvenile specification). Lynch moved to suppress all evidence. The following facts were presented at the suppression hearing.

{¶3} Detective Michael Rasberry and Detective Luther Roddy testified that as Cleveland vice detectives, they had been involved in thousands of drug arrests. On the night in question, they were investigating citizen complaints of drug activity in the area of Prince Avenue. The complaints were nearly a year old, but they testified that they had also made recent drug arrests in the area. They were driving an unmarked black Crown Victoria.

{¶4} Around midnight, as they were driving, they saw a car stopped in the middle of Prince Avenue with its break lights on. A man, later identified to be Lynch, was standing on the driver's side of the vehicle, leaning down into the car. Detective Rasberry said that seeing this "struck a nerve" because he had "witnessed transactions in the street, transactions with vehicles, individuals hand to hand," or "some kind of transaction of drugs for currency, money." The detectives then saw the vehicle drive away, "definitely" exceeding the speed limit. When the car pulled away, Lynch "made a little hurry-scurry" to an SUV that was "running," but legally parked on the side of the road and got in the driver's side of the vehicle.

{¶5} At this point, the detectives activated their lights and "pulled right up on the side of the vehicle." After they activated their lights, "the seated driver was kind of jumping around the vehicle to his left of his body." That suggested to Detective Rasberry that Lynch was trying to hide drugs or weapons.

{¶6} As the detectives approached the driver's side of the vehicle, they saw a teenage girl who appeared to be high or intoxicated in the passenger seat. They identified themselves as police and asked Lynch what he had been doing in the street. Lynch replied that he was talking to his friend. At that point, the detectives asked Lynch if he had a driver's license "on his person." When Lynch replied that he did not, the detectives asked him to step out of the vehicle "to ask him more questions about him not having a license." Eventually, the detectives figured out that Lynch had a suspended driver's license and they placed him under arrest. After that, other officers searched Lynch's vehicle and discovered drugs and a gun in the car.

{¶7} After hearing the evidence, the trial court denied Lynch's motion to suppress. Lynch subsequently pleaded no contest to the indictment as charged. It is from this judgment that Lynch appeals, raising several Fourth Amendment issues.

Standard of Review

{¶8} A motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, 797 N.E.2d 71, ¶8. "When considering a motion to suppress, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and is therefore in the best position to resolve factual questions and evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Consequently, an appellate court must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. *** Accepting these facts as true, the appellate court must then independently determine, ...


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