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State v. Mechling

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District

July 29, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
CHRISTOPHER J. MECHLING Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the Ashland Municipal Court, Case No. 12-CR-B-564AB

For Plaintiff-Appellee: DAVID M. HUNTER, Acting Assistant Law Director Ashland City Law Director's Office.

For Defendant-Appellant: THOMAS L. MASON, Mason, Mason & Kearns.

JUDGES: Hon. William B. Hoffman, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.

OPINION

Hoffman, P.J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant Christopher J. Mechling appeals the judgment entered by the Ashland Municipal Court denying his motion to suppress. Plaintiff-appellee is the state of Ohio.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

{¶2} On May 19, 2012, Officer Donald Garrison responded to a loud music complaint in the area of Birch and 10th Street in the City of Ashland. As he approached the residence, he determined the noise was coming from a detached garage with a driveway leading up to it from the street. He could see a fire pit or an actual fire on the driveway at the corner of the house. He could hear a lot of loud noise, talking, and music coming from a party in the garage. The residential house faces 10th Street, while the garage for the residence is a detached two-car garage and sits directly behind the house and is off of Birch Street. The Officer testified, he "had to walk up to the front area off of 10th Street" where "you go off back through the side yard to get back to the garage."

{¶3} As Officer Garrison was walking up to the garage, he heard a loud female voice state, "Hey, why don't you get that fat joint out of your pocket, and let's smoke it." He heard a male voice say he didn't have a joint, and the female voice responded, "I seen you put that fat joint in your pocket. Why don't you get it out so we can smoke it?" Officer Garrison then walked around the corner and said, "Yeah, why don't you get it out." Officer Garrison asked Appellant what he had in his pockets, and Appellant said "nothing." The officer asked Appellant to show him, and Appellant pulled his pockets halfway out, and the marijuana was visible in his hand. Officer Garrison asked Appellant if he had anything else, and Appellant produced rolling papers.

{¶4} Appellant was cited with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia under the Ashland City Code. Appellant filed a motion to suppress. Via Magistrate's Order of August 17, 2012, the motion to suppress was denied. The trial court overruled Appellant's objections to the Magistrate's Order via Judgment Entry of September 28, 2012. Appellant entered a plea of no contest to the charges, was convicted and sentenced accordingly.

{¶5} Appellant assigns as error:

{¶6} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY RULING THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITIES COULD TRESPASS ON THE GRASS AREA OF A HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT IN ORDER TO APPROACH A GARAGE WHEN THEY COULD HAVE DONE SO BY WALKING FROM THE SIDEWALK AND UP THE DRIVEWAY TO THE GARAGE.

{¶7} "II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FINDING THAT A POLICE OFFICER MAY ORDER A SUSPECT TO EMPTY HIS POCKETS, WHICH CONSTITUTES AN ARREST, WITHOUT POSSESSING PROBABLE CAUSE TO EFFECT A WARRANTLESS ARREST."

I.

{¶8} There are three methods of challenging on appeal a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress. First, an appellant may challenge the trial court's findings of fact. In reviewing a challenge of this nature, an appellate court must determine whether said findings of fact are against the manifest weight of the evidence. See State v. Klein, 73 Ohio App.3d 486 (1991), State v. Guysinger, 86 Ohio App.3d 592 (1993). Second, an appellant may argue the trial court failed to apply the correct law to the findings of fact. In that case, an appellate court can reverse the trial court for committing an error of law. See State v. Williams, 86 Ohio App.3d 37 (1993). Finally, assuming the trial court's findings of fact are not against the manifest weight of the evidence and it has properly identified the law, an appellant may argue the trial court has incorrectly applied the law in deciding the ultimate or final issue raised in the motion to suppress. In reviewing this type of claim, an appellate court must give deference to the trial court and is governed by an abuse of discretion standard; i.e., it must determine whether the trial court's subjective determination of the ultimate issue in the case was unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable. Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217 (1983). It is with this framework in mind that we address Appellant's assignment of error.

{¶9} The case law developed under the Fourth Amendment requires that a police officer's warrantless search of a residence must come within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. Payton v. New York (1980), 455 U.S. 573, 576, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 1374-75. A search under the Fourth Amendment meaning occurs, however, only when a subjective expectation of privacy which society is prepared to consider reasonable is infringed. United States v. Jacobsen (1984), 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 1656. "What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection." Katz v. United States (1967), 389 U.S. 347, 351, 88 S.Ct. 507, 511. See State v. Mark (Dec. 19, 1993) Fayette App. Nos. ...


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