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State v. Hawkins

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette

May 21, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JUSTIN HAWKINS, Defendant-Appellant.

          CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CRI20160145

          Jess C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, John M. Scott, Jr., for plaintiff-appellee.

          Steven H. Eckstein, for defendant-appellant.

          OPINION

          HENDRICKSON, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Justin Hawkins, appeals from his conviction for the failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, arguing the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas erred when it denied his motion to suppress. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the trial court's denial of appellant's motion to suppress and uphold his conviction.

         {¶ 2} At approximately 3:00 a.m. on May 20, 2016, Patrolman Jeffery Heinz, a 14- year veteran police officer with the city of Washington Court House, was finishing up a traffic stop on Draper Street when a black GMC SUV driven by appellant passed his patrol car. Heinz's onboard license plate reader captured the license plate of the vehicle, and Heinz ran the license plate number through dispatch to obtain the vehicle's registration information. Heinz was advised that the license plate was registered to a 2001 white GMC SUV. Heinz quickly concluded his original traffic stop before locating the black GMC SUV and pulling it over. Heinz initiated the traffic stop of the SUV because he was concerned that the vehicle might have been stolen or had a "fictitious registration."

         {¶ 3} After stopping the SUV, Heinz explained to appellant that the color discrepancy was the reason for the stop and asked appellant for his license, registration, and proof of insurance. Appellant did not have any identification on him. While obtaining appellant's personal information, Heinz was able to verify the last six numbers of the GMC's VIN by providing the numbers to dispatch, who verified that the numbers matched the records of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles ("BMV").

         {¶ 4} Heinz returned to his patrol car to write appellant a warning and to run the social security number appellant provided. The social security number belonged to a different individual. Heinz again approached appellant's vehicle and verified appellant's name, date of birth, and his social security number. Although Heinz instructed appellant to "sit tight" while Heinz ran the second social security number, appellant began to slowly drive away. Heinz followed in his patrol car.

         {¶ 5} While Heinz followed appellant's vehicle, he ran the second social security number provided by appellant. This number also belonged to someone other than appellant. Heinz then ran appellant's name and date of birth through dispatch. He was advised that appellant did not have a valid driver's license and had a warrant for his arrest out of Delaware County. Heinz activated his patrol car's lights and sirens, and appellant pulled over the SUV he was operating. However, after Heinz informed appellant there was a warrant out for his arrest, appellant "gunned the engine and took off at a rapid rate." Heinz called for assistance and set off in pursuit of appellant, with his vehicle's lights and sirens activated.

         {¶ 6} After nearly hitting a police cruiser, appellant veered off the road and drove through yards before striking a bush or a small tree. Appellant then abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot. He was apprehended by Heinz and arrested. Appellant's vehicle was inventoried, and two credit cards were found in the glovebox of the SUV. The credit cards were not in appellant's name and had previously been reported stolen.

         {¶ 7} On June 3, 2016, appellant was indicted on two counts of receiving stolen property in violation of R.C. 2913.51(A) and (C), felonies of the fifth degree, and one count of failing to comply with an order or signal of a police officer in violation of R.C. 2921.331(B) and (C)(5)(a)(ii), a felony of the third degree as appellant's operation of the motor vehicle caused a substantial risk of serious physical harm to persons or property. Appellant moved to suppress all evidence relating to his traffic stop on the basis that Heinz "lacked reasonable and articulable suspicion to make an investigatory stop." Appellant contended the "mismatch" between the SUV's color and the color listed on the vehicle's registration did not provide reasonable suspicion to justify the stop.

         {¶ 8} The only witness to testify at the hearing on appellant's motion was Heinz, who testified as follows regarding the traffic stop:

[Prosecutor]: What if any concern to you have that a plate [sic], cause it sounds like it matched the type of vehicle, but it didn't match the color of the vehicle. What reason would you have for any concern?
Heinz: Yeah typically with my, with my experience when subjects will steal a vehicle and that is why BMV started implementing the colors is, in years past somebody would steal a vehicle.
In years past, with my experience, if someone would steal a vehicle, they would just go through a parking lot anywhere and find a vehicle that would match the vehicle in which they were driving. Throw ...

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