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State v. Tarrance

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District

June 28, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DEMAR J. TARRANCE, Defendant-Appellee.

Criminal Appeal from the Portage County Municipal Court, Ravenna Division, Case No. R2012 TRC 00791.

Victor V. Vigluicci, Portage County Prosecutor, and Pamela J. Holder, Assistant Prosecutor, (For Plaintiff-Appellant).

J. Chris Sestak, Student Legal Services, Inc., Kent State University, (For Defendant-Appellee).

OPINION

DIANE V. GRENDELL, J.

{¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals from the judgment of the Portage County Municipal Court, Ravenna Division, granting defendant-appellee, Demar J. Tarrance's, Motion to Suppress. The issue to be decided in this case is whether a police officer has reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop for a window tint violation when he observes a vehicle passing by his police cruiser, in the dark, and concludes, based on his experience and training in the area of window tinting, that the vehicle's side window was excessively tinted. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand the decision of the court below.

{¶2} On January 20, 2012, Tarrance was issued a Complaint, charging him with two counts of Operating a Vehicle While Under the Influence (OVI), misdemeanors of the first degree, in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) and R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(d), and a Window Tint violation, a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 4513.241.

{¶3} On March 2, 2012, Tarrance filed a Motion to Suppress/Motion in Limine, in which he requested that certain evidence be suppressed since, inter alia, there was no reasonable suspicion to stop or detain Tarrance. He argued that the police officer viewed his car and its windows for only a moment, in the dark, and this did not provide a reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop of his vehicle for a Window Tint violation.

{¶4} A Suppression Hearing was held on June 12, 2012. The following testimony and exhibits were presented.

{¶5} Trooper John Lamm, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, testified regarding his stop of Tarrance. On January 20, 2012, at approximately 1:15 a.m., Trooper Lamm was on patrol and was stationary, facing traffic, in the Key Bank parking lot on State Route 43 in Kent, Ohio. He observed Tarrance's vehicle traveling southbound past him for a "couple of seconds, " and noticed that the front passenger side window was "extremely dark." He had his headlights on at the time and could not "make out anything inside the car, " except maybe "a shadow or something in there but not able to make out hardly anything in the vehicle it was so dark." At that time, he believed it was well within the range of window tint prohibited by law. Trooper Lamm stated that nothing was impeding his view and he could see the car approaching his position. He explained that the fact that it was dark did not affect his ability to see the window tint.

{¶6} Trooper Lamm testified that he had been trained on window tint law and had stopped numerous cars for such violations, estimating that "[i]t could be in the hundreds, " and noting that window tint "has been one of [his] things."

{¶7} The video from Trooper Lamm's dash camera was presented and showed Tarrance's car passing by Trooper Lamm's parked cruiser. It revealed that Lamm's headlights were shining on the passenger side of Tarrance's car as it passed by and that Trooper Lamm pulled out a few seconds after Tarrance's car passed by to effectuate the stop.

{¶8} Upon being stopped, Tarrance was "laughing" and made a comment about knowing that his window tint was dark. Trooper Lamm returned to his cruiser to get a tint meter, a device used to measure the amount of light that passes through a tinted window. Trooper Lamm tested the driver's side window, and it read "13, " which was the percent of light being let inside of the car. This fell well below the 50 percent minimum light required to be able to pass through the window.

{¶9} On cross-examination, Trooper Lamm stated that another officer was at the Key Bank parking lot beside him, but he could not remember if that officer's car was parked to his right or to his left. He explained that there was not a lot of light on the roadway.

{¶10} Trooper Lamm stated that he did not test the passenger window with the tint meter, although that was the window he observed when initially watching Tarrance's vehicle pass. He stated that in his experience, "most people get windows tinted the same on both sides, " explained that he had never seen one side window tinted differently than the ...


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