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State v. Gindlesperger

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

September 7, 2017


         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-15-594838-A

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Mark A. Stanton Cuyahoga County Public Defender, Erika B. Cunliffe Assistant Public Defender

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Melissa Riley Assistant County Prosecutor

          BEFORE: Kilbane, P.J., Boyle, J., and Jones, J.



         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Richard D. Gindlesperger, Jr. ("Gindlesperger"), appeals from his convictions for driving under the influence and failure to comply. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶2} In April 2015, Gindlesperger was charged in a four-count indictment. Counts 1 and 3 charged him with driving while under influence ("DUI"). Counts 2 and 4 charged him with failure to comply.[1] The charges arise from a traffic stop initiated by Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Coleman ("Trooper Coleman") in March 2015.

         {¶3} In January 2016, the matter proceeded to a jury trial, at which the following evidence was adduced.

         {¶4} On March 18, 2015, Trooper Coleman was patrolling traffic on I-71 northbound near Strongsville, Ohio when he checked a passing vehicle's speed with his laser device at a rate of 76 m.p.h. in a 60 m.p.h. zone. Trooper Coleman pulled up behind the vehicle with his emergency lights activated. Trooper Coleman testified that he followed the vehicle for approximately a quarter mile before the vehicle pulled over to the east berm.

         {¶5} Trooper Coleman approached the vehicle from the passenger's side and made contact with the driver, later identified as Gindlesperger. Upon approaching the vehicle, Trooper Coleman asked Gindlesperger for his driver's license and insurance card. Gindlesperger replied that he did not "have it on him." Trooper Coleman testified to several observations he made while speaking with Gindlesperger. Trooper Coleman detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle. He also noticed that Gindlesperger's eyes were bloodshot and glassy, as well as the fact that Gindlesperger seemed "extremely nervous" and was shaking really bad.

         {¶6} Trooper Coleman testified that he is a graduate of the State Highway Patrol Academy, whose curriculum includes a 40-hour course on identification of impaired motorists and the administration of field sobriety tests. Trooper Coleman received further instruction on identifying impaired drivers through his participation in the State Highway Patrol Academy Drinking Lab, where he was able to observe test subjects under the influence of alcohol.

         {¶7} Trooper Coleman further testified that based on his experience and training, factors such as the strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot, glassy eyes, nervousness, and speeding are often indicators of an impaired individual. Based on these indicators, Trooper Coleman asked Gindlesperger to exit his vehicle with the intention to administer field sobriety tests on Gindlesperger. Rather than complying with Trooper Coleman's request, Gindlesperger told Trooper Coleman that "he can't do it, he's sorry[.]" Gindlesperger then took off in his car at a high rate of speed. It took Trooper Coleman approximately five seconds to return to his vehicle and commence pursuit of Gindlesperger. By this point, Coleman had nearly lost visual contact with the vehicle. Trooper Coleman testified that his patrol car reached speeds of 120 m.p.h. in an attempt to catch up to Gindlesperger. Trooper Coleman eventually lost complete visual contact with the vehicle and his supervisor terminated the pursuit for safety concerns.

         {¶8} While pursuing Gindlesperger, Trooper Coleman testified he witnessed "large debris dust, " that was caused by Gindlesperger when he nearly forced another vehicle off of I-71. After termination of the pursuit, Trooper Coleman discovered that the vehicle was registered to Gindlesperger's mother, Linda Hodolic ("Hodolic").

         {¶9} The interaction was recorded on Trooper Coleman's dash-cam video and was played for the jury. In the video, Trooper Coleman is seen speaking to Gindlesperger, first from the passenger's side front window and then from the driver's side front window. While Trooper Coleman is speaking with Gindlesperger from the driver's window, Gindlesperger then takes off at a high rate of speed. Trooper Coleman then runs to his patrol car and the chase ensues. Trooper Coleman quickly lost sight of Gindlesperger because of the large cloud of dust.

         {¶10} Another trooper traveled to the address linked to the license plate number and spoke with Hodolic. He spoke with her about the incident on I-71 and requested that Gindlesperger contact the State Highway Patrol to discuss the incident. He gave Hodolic Trooper Coleman's phone number. Trooper Coleman spoke with Gindlesperger the next day and advised that he come to the post to follow up on the traffic stop. Trooper Coleman testified that Gindlesperger did not come to the patrol office until the next day, which was two days after the incident. Trooper Coleman did not issue a breathalyzer test at this point, because the two-day passage in time would not have led to reliable test results. While at the post, Gindlesperger asserted his Miranda rights and declined to answer Trooper Coleman's questions.

         {¶11} Hodolic testified that she and Gindlesperger had spent March 18, 2015 mourning together, because the date fell near the birthday of Gindlesperger's deceased father, who had died six months prior in September 2014. The death of Gindlesperger's father occurred on the same day Gindlesperger's sister died in a car accident. Hodolic testified that she fell asleep around 5:30 p.m. and has no memory of any events until the trooper arrived at her home. With the trooper present, Hodolic called Gindlesperger's cellphone and alerted him to the fact that a trooper was at the house and wanted to speak with him. She testified that Gindlesperger did not return home until a couple of hours later. Two days later, Hodolic accompanied Gindlesperger to the Highway Patrol post.

         {¶12} Gindlesperger and Hodolic both testified for the defense. Hodolic testified she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD") and is allergic to mold. In order to reduce mold in her car, she uses a certain microbial spray, which smells like alcohol when freshly sprayed. Hodolic testified that the last time she used the compound in the car was "probably the day before" Gindlesperger was stopped by Trooper Coleman.

         {¶13} Gindlesperger testified that he has a criminal history involving alcohol, but he stopped drinking the day his father and sister passed away in 2014. He denied consuming any alcohol on the day of the incident. He explained that on March 18, 2015, he and his mother spent the day reminiscing about their deceased family members and had a birthday party for Gindlesperger's deceased father. After his mother fell asleep, Gindlesperger testified that he sat in Hodolic's car because he wanted to listen to a CD of his father playing music. A few minutes later, Gindlesperger decided to take Hodolic's car and drive to his friend's house, which required Gindlesperger to traverse I-71.

         {¶14}While traveling on northbound I-71, Gindlesperger described the flow of traffic as moderate. As Gindlesperger proceeded along I-71, he recalls driving at a speed of about 65 m.p.h. when he passed Trooper Coleman's parked car. After Gindlesperger came to a stop, Trooper Coleman walked over to the passenger's side and asked for Gindlesperger's license. Gindlesperger initially replied that he did not have it on his person. Trooper Coleman then approached the driver's side window of the car, where Gindlesperger subsequently revealed that he does not have a valid license. After this exchange, Gindlesperger testified that Coleman asked him to step out of the vehicle. Instead, Gindlesperger fled the traffic stop, stating to Trooper Coleman that "he can't do it, he's sorry[.]" He took off because he was thinking "about losing his mom's car[.]" Gindlesperger estimated that he drove for approximately a mile, never exceeding 75 m.p.h. before exiting the freeway. He sat on the side of the road for approximately an hour and a half ...

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