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State of Ohio v. Gerald Williams

January 30, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GERALD WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEARANCES: George A. Katchmer, Bloomingburg, Ohio, for Appellant. Anneka P. Collins, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kline, J.:

Cite as State v. Williams,

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

{¶1} Gerald Williams appeals the judgment of the Highland County Court of Common Pleas, which convicted him of receiving stolen property, possession of drugs, and possession of criminal tools. Williams contends that a police officer unconstitutionally prolonged a traffic stop, which led to the eventual discovery of contraband in Williams' vehicle. Because the evidence shows that the length of the traffic stop was not unreasonable under the circumstances, we disagree. Next, Williams contends that, during the traffic stop, a K-9 unit's dog impermissibly sniffed the interior of Williams' vehicle. Because there is no evidence to support Williams' assertion, we disagree. Next, Williams contends (1) that a search warrant authorizing a second search of his vehicle was defective and (2) that, as a result, the evidence found in the trunk of his vehicle should have been suppressed. Because the police were authorized to conduct the second search without a warrant, Williams cannot show that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Next, Williams argues that there was no evidentiary support for the trial court's inference, during sentencing, that Williams engaged in drug dealing. Because the evidence supported an inference that Williams was engaged in drug dealing, we disagree. Accordingly, we overrule Williams' assignments of error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I.

{¶2} On August 21, 2011, Officer Shawn Kelley received a tip from a confidential informant that Williams would be transporting narcotics in his vehicle. At approximately 8:50 p.m., Officer Kelley initiated a traffic stop of Williams' car based on a tinted-window violation. Williams claimed that he had a prescription for the tinted windows, but he could not produce the prescription. Williams also declined to give Officer Kelley consent to search the vehicle.

{¶3} Officer Kelley returned to his patrol car to write a citation for the tinted- window violation. Officer Kelley testified that he normally completes a citation in 15-20 minutes. However, it took approximately 27 minutes for Officer Kelley to complete the citation for Williams' tinted-window violation. The dispatcher on duty at the time was not familiar with the computer. And as a result, performing a computer check on Williams' drivers license took longer than normal. Also, at some point during the traffic stop, Williams extended his hands out of the vehicle in an unusual manner. Officer Kelley considered this behavior suspicious, and he apparently broke from completing the citation to order Williams to keep his hands in the vehicle.

{¶4} While Officer Kelley wrote the citation, he requested that a K-9 unit report to the scene. The K-9 unit arrived before Officer Kelley had finished writing the citation. The K-9 unit's dog signaled that Williams' vehicle contained contraband. The police searched the vehicle and found heroin in the center console and a loaded handgun behind the passenger's seat. The police also searched the trunk, but they found only clothing and miscellaneous items. (The police also seized cash.) Williams was placed under arrest, and the police impounded the vehicle.

{¶5} Later that night, Officer Kelley obtained a search warrant for a second search of the vehicle. (The warrant also covered a search of Williams' residence. The search of Williams' residence, however, is not an issue in this appeal.) Officer Kelley testified that he requested a warrant because he wanted to conduct a more thorough search of the vehicle. The second search of the vehicle revealed the presence of additional contraband in the trunk, including heroin, marihuana, a digital scale, and a tourniquet.

{¶6} Williams filed a motion to suppress challenging the search during the traffic stop. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. Williams later filed a second motion to suppress, which challenged the search at the impound lot. The trial court held a hearing and denied that motion as well. Eventually, Williams pled no contest to one count of receiving stolen property, one count of possession of drugs, and one count of possession of criminal tools.

{¶7} Williams appeals and asserts the following assignments of error:

I. "A TRAFFIC STOP MAY NOT EXCEED THE TIME NECESSARY TO ISSUE A CITATION."

II. "BY ENTERING THE APPELLANT'S CAR THE K-9 EXCEEDED A MERE SNIFF AND BECAME PART OF A WARRANTLESS SEARCH."

III. "WARRANTS MUST DESCRIBE WITH PARTICULARITY THE PLACE TO BE SEARCHED." And IV. "A SENTENCING JUDGE MAY NOT USE MATTERS FOR WHICH THERE IS NO EVIDENCE ON THE RECORD IN CONSIDERING SENTENCE."

II.

{¶8} Williams' first, second, and third assignments of error challenge the trial court's denials of his motions to suppress. As a result, we will consider these assignments of error together.

{¶9} Our "'review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. 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.'" State v. Roberts, 110 Ohio St.3d 71, 2006-Ohio-3665, 850 N.E.2d 1168, ¶ 100, quoting State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, 797 N.E.2d 71, ¶ 8. Therefore, we "must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence." Burnside at ¶ 8. "Accepting these facts as true, [we] must then independently determine, without deference to the conclusion of the trial court, whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard." Id. Accord Roberts at ¶ 100; State v. Stepp, 4th Dist. No. 09CA3328, 2010-Ohio-3540, ¶ 14.

{¶10} The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The Fourth Amendment "applie[s] to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment." State v. Moore, 90 Ohio St.3d 47, 48, 734 N.E.2d 804 (2000).

{ΒΆ11} "For a search or seizure to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, it must be based upon probable cause and executed pursuant to a warrant." Id. at 49, citing Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967); State v. Brown, 63 Ohio St.3d 349, 350, 588 N.E.2d 113 (1992). "First, there must be probable cause. If probable cause exists, then a search warrant must be obtained unless an exception to the warrant requirement applies. If the state fails to satisfy either step, the evidence seized in the unreasonable search must be suppressed." Moore at 49, citing ...


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