FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE Nos. 15CA090977 15CR090976
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and NATASHA RUIZ GUERRIERI,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellant.
A. DELGUYD, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
FRIEDMAN, Attorney at Law, for Apellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
J. CARR Presiding Judge.
Appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals from the judgment of
the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, granting
Defendant-Appellees, Daniel Essad and Kimberly Benson's,
joint motion to suppress. This Court reverses and remands for
On the afternoon of January 21, 2015, Benson and Essad were
traveling eastbound on the Ohio Turnpike in Essad's
pick-up truck. Benson was driving the truck, and Essad was
seated on the passenger's side. As the two approached
mile post 133, they were observed by two Ohio State Highway
Patrolmen. Both patrolmen were parked in a crossover in the
middle of the turnpike. They sat alongside each other in two
different cruisers, both of which pointed to the south.
Sergeant Neil Laughlin was operating the cruiser on the
west-hand side, and his partner that day, Trooper Michael
Trader, was parked to his left.
According to Sergeant Laughlin, he first noticed Benson and
Essad's truck because he saw the truck make a "rapid
speed reduction, " consistent with the driver either
slamming on the brakes or "abruptly letting off the
gas." The truck then continued to travel at a lower rate
of speed as it passed his cruiser. Trooper Trader also
noticed the truck because it appeared to be traveling below
the speed limit. As the truck passed the two troopers, both
observed that the driver (Benson) and passenger (Essad)
appeared to have "very stiff or "very rigid
posture[s]." Trooper Trader then turned to his right to
discuss his observations with Sergeant Laughlin. Meanwhile,
Sergeant Laughlin continued to watch the truck. As he was
watching, he witnessed the truck cross over the right lane
marker by approximately a tire width for a few seconds before
returning to its lane of travel. Based on his observations,
he decided to exit the crossover and follow the truck.
Sergeant Laughlin ultimately stopped the truck somewhere
between mile post 135 and 136. According to the sergeant, he
observed an additional traffic violation before stopping the
truck because it moved from the right-hand lane to the middle
lane without signaling. His dash cam recording, however, did
not capture the lane change.
Trooper Trader independently decided to join Sergeant
Laughlin at some point during the stop. Because Sergeant
Laughlin's interactions with Benson and Essad led him to
believe that they might be engaging in criminal activity, he
asked Trooper Trader to take his canine around the truck. The
canine soon alerted to the bed of the truck, which the
troopers then searched. Inside the truck bed, the troopers
discovered over 200 pounds of marijuana.
Benson and Essad were each indicted on one count of
trafficking in marijuana and one count of possessing
marijuana. They filed a joint motion to suppress, and the
trial court held a hearing over the course of two days:
November 30, 2015 and February 24, 2016. Following the
hearing, the court allowed the parties to file additional
briefs. Benson and Essad filed a joint brief, and the State
filed a response. The court then reviewed the filings and
granted the joint motion to suppress. The court determined
that Sergeant Laughlin lacked reasonable suspicion to execute
a traffic stop.
The State now appeals from the trial court's order and
raises two ...