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State v. Church

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

May 30, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
JAMES EDWARD CHURCH Defendant-Appellant

         Appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016CR0488

          For Plaintiff-Appellee JOHN D. FERRERO, Prosecuting Attorney, Stark County, Ohio By: KRISTINE W. BEARD Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Appellate Section

          For Defendant-Appellant ADAM WILGUS

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. John W. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          Hoffman, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant James Church appeals his convictions entered by the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. Plaintiff-appellee is the state of Ohio.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

         {¶2} On March 8, 2016, Ohio State Highway Patrol Sergeant Joel Smith observed a driver erratically changing lanes on Interstate 77, southbound. Specifically, Trooper Smith observed the vehicle slow down and change lanes, then abruptly change lanes without signaling. Trooper Smith noted the vehicle had a license plate for a rental car from Michigan. Trooper Smith effectuated a stop. Upon approaching the vehicle, Trooper Smith smelled a light odor of marijuana, and observed loose marijuana on the passenger seat, floor board, and in the back seat.

         {¶3} Appellant produced a valid driver's license, but claimed he could not find a rental agreement, after searching only the center console. Appellant maintained the vehicle's glove box was locked and he did not have keys to unlock the compartment. When Trooper Smith returned to his cruiser to call the rental company, check for warrants and request a K9 search, [1] he noticed Appellant disappear from view, laying across the front seat toward the vicinity of the glove compartment. Upon returning to the vehicle, Appellant handed the rental agreement to Trooper Smith. The vehicle was registered to a rental car company, with Appellant's brother named on the rental agreement. Appellant was not an authorized operator of the rental vehicle.

         {¶4} Approximately forty minutes after the initial traffic stop, Officer Todd Gillilan arrived on the scene with a K9 officer to conduct a sniff search of the vehicle. The K9 indicated a response at the vehicle's driver's side, trunk, and passenger side. The officers proceeded to conduct a search of the entire vehicle. A gallon-sized plastic bag of suspected cocaine, as well as, a smaller wrapped package of suspected cocaine was found in the vehicle's glove box. The substances were later identified as cocaine hydrochloride, a schedule II substance.

         {¶5} The Stark County Grand Jury indicted Appellant on one count of trafficking in cocaine, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2)(C)(4), with a major drug offender specification, R.C. 2941.1410; and one count of possession of cocaine, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)(C)(4)(f), with a major drug offender specification, R.C. 2941.140.

         {¶6} On June 21, 2016, Appellant moved the trial court to suppress the evidence obtained during the search. The trial court held a hearing on the motion on August 15, 2016.

         {¶7} On August 16, 2016, the trial court denied Appellant's motion to suppress. On the same date, Appellant was convicted by a jury of the charges. The matter proceeded to sentencing on September 6, 2016.[2]

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED APPELLANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE COLLECTED DURING A SEARCH THAT VIOLATED HIS FOURTH AMENDMENT RIGHT AGAINST ...

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