from Seneca County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. 17 CR
Danielle C. Kulik for Appellant
Stephanie J. Kiser for Appellee
Defendant-appellant Cory D. McDonald ("McDonald")
appeals the judgment of the Seneca County Court of Common
Pleas for denying his motion to suppress. For the reasons set
forth below, the judgment of the lower court is affirmed.
and Procedural History
Patrolman Brett Bethel ("Bethel") has worked for
the Fostoria Police Department since 2007. Tr. 4. On January
19, 2017, he was preparing to go on his patrol when a
detective reported to him that McDonald was suspected of
transporting narcotics. Tr. 6. Bethel was familiar with
McDonald and had cited him in the past for driving while his
license was suspended. Tr. 14. The officers who had been on
the afternoon patrol shift also told Bethel that McDonald had
been spotted driving around town earlier that day in his
regular vehicle. Tr. 10. In response to this information,
Bethel had dispatch check McDonald's driving status in
the Law Enforcement Automated Data System
("LEADS"). Tr. 6. Bethel consequently discovered
that McDonald did not have a valid license at that time. Tr.
6. Later, during his shift, Bethel was parked in a lot by the
side of the road. Tr. 7. In between 11:30 and 11:45 p.m.,
Bethel saw McDonald drive past him in a blue sedan. Tr. 14,
15. McDonald was the sole occupant of the vehicle. Tr. 6.
Bethel testified that he was able to identify McDonald
without difficulty because he had encountered McDonald
"numerous times throughout [his] career in Fostoria,
specifically [McDonald] driving that specific vehicle."
Tr. 7. McDonald also wore "distinctive eyeglasses,
" which Bethel could see from his vantage point on the
side of the road. Tr. 7. Knowing that McDonald did not have a
valid driver's license, Bethel decided to initiate a stop
of McDonald's vehicle. Tr. 8. As the result of this stop,
McDonald was found to be in possession of contraband and was
arrested. Doc. 2.
On February 22, 2017, McDonald was charged with failure to
comply with an order or signal of a police officer in
violation of R.C. 2921.331(B), (C)(5)(a)(ii) and with
possession of cocaine in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A),
(C)(4)(a). Doc. 2. On March 1, 2017, McDonald filed a motion
to suppress. Doc. 20. The trial court held a hearing on this
motion on April 27, 2017. Tr. 1. Bethel testified as to his
observations on the night of January 19, 2017, and stated
that the basis of the stop of McDonald's vehicle was the
fact that McDonald was driving without a valid driver's
license. Tr. 5-8, 12.
On cross examination, Bethel admitted that his police report
characterized his request for dispatch to check
McDonald's driver status as "random." Tr. 11.
He indicated that this meant that this check was not part of
work done for the drug task force. Tr. 11-12. On recross
examination, the Defense again questioned Bethel about his
use of the word "random" in the police report. Tr.
20. This exchange occurred as followed:
Q. Random to me means like you picked his name out of
a hat. You say-you said to the prosecutor this was a random
running. How did you choose him to run then?
A. Because I was informed by-I was given intel by the
drug detective as well as the road units from afternoon
shift, but it was not for anything specific at that time,
just be on the lookout, he's driving without a
Tr. 20. In closing arguments, the Defense argued that this
was a random check of McDonald's driving status that was
conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Tr. 23.
On May 10, 2017, the trial court overruled McDonald's
motion to suppress. Doc. 41. The trial court found that the
traffic stop was based upon probable cause because Bethel
knew that McDonald did not have a valid driver's license
at the time that he saw McDonald driving. Doc. 41. On August
17, 2017, McDonald entered a plea of no contest to three
charges against him: one count of failure to comply with an
order or signal of a police officer in violation of R.C.
2921.331(B), (C)(5)(a)(ii); one count of possession of
cocaine in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A), (C)(4)(b); and one
count of tampering with evidence in ...