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State v. Griffin

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District

July 12, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
AARON LEE GRIFFIN Defendant-Appellant

(Criminal appeal from Common Pleas Court) T.C. NO. 11CR3840/1

APRIL F. CAMPBELL, Atty. Reg. No. 0089541, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee.

ELIZABETH C. SCOTT, Atty. Reg. No. 0076045, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant.



{¶ 1} After the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence, Aaron Lee Griffin pled no contest in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas to manufacturing fireworks without a license, in violation of R.C. 3743.60(A), a third-degree felony. In exchange for the plea, a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia (a crack pipe) was dismissed. The trial court found Griffin guilty of the unlicensed manufacturing charge and sentenced him to community control for a period not to exceed five years.

{¶ 2} Griffin appeals from his conviction claiming that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment will be affirmed.


{¶ 3} At the suppression hearing, the State presented the testimony of Sergeants John Riegel and Matthew Beavers, both of the Dayton Police Department. The evidence established the following facts:

{¶ 4} On June 30, 2011, Sgt. Riegel was working alone in uniform and driving a marked cruiser. Sgt. Beavers was also on duty in a separate cruiser. At approximately 10:41 p.m., both officers responded to 4935 Queens Avenue based on an anonymous report that two individuals at that address "were making bombs and selling them to neighborhood kids." The caller had stated that there were "a lot of bombs in the closet" and that they were being made in the garage. The officers were not dispatched to the location; each officer separately decided to investigate the call from a list of "medium to lower priority calls" on his cruiser's computer. Nevertheless, both officers arrived simultaneously and parked down the street from the Queens Avenue residence.

{¶ 5} The single-story home at 4935 Queens Avenue was located on the left side of the property, close to the street, with a small grass front yard. A black asphalt driveway ran perpendicular from the street, along the right side of the home, and to a detached garage that sat to the right of and approximately five feet behind the rear of the home. Viewed from the street, the entire width of the garage could be seen. A "relatively high" chain-link fence separated the house from the street and enclosed the property . A Google Earth street-view photograph of the front of the property was submitted as Defendant's Exhibit A. The Google photograph showed a metal driveway gate, however Sgt. Riegel testified that, if the fence were there on June 30, it "was certainly open. * * * It was not closed or locked." There was no walkway from the street to the house; the driveway was the only means to approach the house.

{¶ 6} Sgt. Riegel testified that, from the street, the officers could see lights on inside the house and that someone was in the garage. Riegel stated that the overhead garage door was open "about four feet, waist-high, maybe a little bit higher." As the officers walked on the driveway toward the garage, Riegel could see a couch and several tables or workstations with mixing bowls set up inside the garage; the person inside was moving back and forth to different mixing bowls. Riegel stated that the officers were "really focusing on the tables with the - what turned out to be explosives on them." Sgt. Beavers further testified that, before entering the garage, he could see a person walking back and forth carrying bowls and there appeared to be gunpowder on tables and "all over the garage floor." Sgt. Beavers stated that he was familiar with gunpowder from 25 years of hunting. Sgt. Riegel also testified that he and Beavers are hunters and muzzle loaders and that they were familiar with black powder and some of the powders and propellants that are used.

{¶ 7} The officers walked toward the garage to make contact with the person inside, who was later identified as Griffin. Riegel stated that, "[n]ormally we would go to the front door of the house, but from the street we could see that someone was in the garage, so we wanted to make contact with the first person we could see."

{¶ 8} The officers entered the open overhead garage door and made contact with the individual inside. The officers were not invited into the garage, and they did not have Griffin's consent to enter. Once inside, the officers could see gunpowder in the bowls, gunpowder scattered all over the floor of the garage, and more gunpowder that led out of the garage toward the back door of the house. Riegel stated that there were mixing agents and powders that "looked very similar to a lot of explosives that [the officers were] familiar with" as hunters and muzzler loaders. Sgt. Reigel further stated that there were "cigarette butts all over the place" and some scales.

{¶ 9} Griffin was not cooperative with the officers. He did not obey the officers' orders to back away from the tables. The officers handcuffed Griffin and then patted him down to make sure that Griffin did not have an ignition source on his person. A crack pipe was found in Griffin's pocket. Griffin was placed on a couch inside the garage, and Sgt. Riegel advised him ...

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