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State v. Mayernik

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull

September 5, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHELE RENEE MAYERNIK, Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2015 CR 00666.

          Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County Prosecutor, and Ashleigh Musick, Assistant Prosecutor, Administration Building, Fourth (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Michael Partlow, Suite C, Kent, (For Defendant-Appellant).

          OPINION

          CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, P.J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Michele R. Mayernik, pleaded no contest to one count of possession of drugs, a felony of the fifth degree, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A) and (C)(2)(a). Prior to entering the plea, she filed a motion to suppress evidence, which was denied by judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas. That judgment is the subject of the instant appeal. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         {¶2} On the night of July 9, 2015, Trooper John Lamm of the Ohio State Highway Patrol initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle with two occupants in Warren, Ohio. Prior to initiating the stop, the trooper first noticed the vehicle had a remarkably loud exhaust. While following the vehicle, it made a left turn onto Market Street into the curbside lane, instead of the left-most lane. The vehicle then made a second wide, right turn onto Elm Road into the left-most lane before veering into the curb lane without a signal. Trooper Lamm activated his lights and initiated the traffic stop.

         {¶3} Trooper Lamm approached the passenger side of the vehicle. He noticed the interior of the vehicle was extremely cluttered. He requested both the driver's and the passenger's licenses; the driver produced his license but was unable to locate the vehicle registration or proof of insurance. The trooper noticed appellant acting nervously, breathing heavily, and avoiding eye contact. As she opened her purse to retrieve her license, she shielded the contents from the officer. The trooper found each of these behaviors suspicious. Ultimately, appellant surrendered her license.

         {¶4} Trooper Lamm walked to the driver's side of the car and engaged the driver. He noticed the driver's eyes "appeared glassed over." The driver also appeared nervous, avoiding eye contact and speaking quickly. From the driver's-side window, the trooper noticed a pill bottle in the center console of the vehicle. The driver advised the trooper that the bottle was a prescription that belonged to his young son. At this point, the trooper asked the driver to exit the vehicle to check for signs of impairment.

         {¶5} After concluding the driver was not impaired, the trooper again inquired into the pill bottle and entered the driver's information into his computer. The officer was able to confirm, to his satisfaction, the prescription was for the driver's son. Based upon his observations, i.e., each individual's nervous behavior and lack of eye contact, as well as the disordered nature of the vehicle, the trooper asked the driver if he had any illegal narcotics in his possession. The driver was cooperative and responded that he had no narcotics; he further consented to a search of the vehicle. When asked whether he knew if appellant had any illegal narcotics, the driver first said "no, " then qualified his answer, stating "she better not."

         {¶6} After confirming the identity of the driver, the trooper returned to the vehicle and engaged appellant. He asked appellant if she had any drugs in her possession. At first, she responded no. Appellant, however, was still avoiding eye contact and appeared "overly nervous and [was] breathing heavy." He also noticed appellant gripping her purse with both hands. The trooper believed these actions to be additionally suspicious; he testified:

         {¶7} Typically, everybody does get nervous but that nervousness goes away fairly soon. When I walked back up to the vehicle for the second time, her being a passenger in the vehicle, she's not driving so she doesn't need to worry about DUI or driving under suspension and she still had that nervous behavior. She had plenty of time to ease her fear from the traffic stop. And when I go back up there, she is still nervous. That's another indicator for me. Typically, people - - their nerves calm down after some time.

         {¶8} Trooper Lamm again asked appellant if she had any drugs on her and added "tell me what you have and I will help you." Appellant looked down and stated she had a Suboxone pill in her possession and, ultimately gave it to the trooper. Appellant was then provided Miranda warnings. The trooper asked appellant if she had any other drugs, to which she replied she may have a Suboxone strip on her. She additionally stated she did not have a valid prescription for Suboxone. Appellant was placed under arrest after which the trooper searched her purse; he did not locate any additional contraband, but discovered an orange needle cap amongst appellant's belongings.

         {¶9} Appellant was ultimately indicted on one count of possession of drugs, a felony of the fifth degree, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A) and (C)(2)(a). She initially pleaded not guilty and filed a motion to suppress evidence. In the motion, she argued the duration of the traffic stop was of an unreasonable duration and the length was unsupported by articulable facts that would support the detention. After a hearing, the trial court requested post-hearing briefs. Eventually, on July 18, 2016, appellant entered a plea of no contest, which the trial court accepted. No formal judgment entry denying appellant's motion to suppress appeared on record prior to appellant's plea. Appellant and the state both acknowledge, however, the trial court verbalized its decision to deny the motion. Appellant was ultimately sentenced to five years community control. Appellant appealed the trial court's judgment denying her motion to suppress.

         {¶10} Upon appellant's motion, this court remanded the matter to the trial court to issue a written findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting its oral denial of the motion. The trial court complied with this court's ...


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