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State v. Thorton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

July 27, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SHANE THORTON, [1] Defendant-Appellee.

          Criminal Appeals From: Hamilton County Municipal Court TRIAL NOS. 17TRC-4320A 17TRC-4320B

          Paula Boggs Muething, City Solicitor, Natalia Harris, City Prosecutor, and Christopher Liu, Appellate Director, for Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Rubenstein & Thurman, L.P.A., and Scott A. Rubenstein, for Defendant-Appellee.

          OPINION.

          MYERS, JUDGE.

         {¶1} The state of Ohio appeals the order of the trial court granting a motion to suppress for lack of probable cause to arrest Shane Thorton for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence ("OVI"). Because the trial court erred in concluding that there was no probable cause for the arrest, we reverse.

         I. Background Facts

         {¶2} While on patrol at about 3:00 a.m., Cincinnati Police Sergeant Michael Reynolds saw a car approaching him with its high beams on. He made a U-turn and began to follow the car. Then the driver of the car made a right-hand turn, and, in doing so, crossed two lanes of traffic and drove left of center.

         {¶3} Sergeant Reynolds stopped the car, which was driven by Shane Thorton. An upright plastic cup was in the console. The sergeant asked Thorton how much he had had to drink that night, and Thorton at first denied drinking. When the sergeant asked for insurance information, Thorton tried several times to open the locked glove compartment with the wrong key.

         {¶4} Cincinnati Police Officer Raymond Marsh arrived on the scene to assist the sergeant. Officer Marsh approached the driver's window and asked if Thorton had had anything to drink because he seemed "a little lethargic." Officer Marsh testified that he used the term "lethargic" to mean that Thorton seemed confused and disoriented. He testified that Thorton "was kind of slow to respond, multiple times he asked me why he had been stopped, when he had already been informed by Sergeant."

         {¶5} Thorton ultimately admitted to having had a drink earlier in the evening. Officer Marsh noted that Thorton's eyes were watery, bloodshot, and glassy, and that his speech was slurred and slow. The officer asked Thorton to get out of the car. When he spoke to Thorton face-to-face, he noted an odor of alcohol.

         {¶6} Officer Marsh had Thorton perform three field-sobriety tests. The officer observed multiple clues of impairment on each test. The officer observed four of six clues of impairment on the horizontal-gaze-nystagmus ("HGN") test. On the walk-and-turn test, the officer saw two of eight clues of impairment, which were Thorton's failing to walk heel to toe and stepping off the line. On the one-leg-stand test, the officer noted two of four clues of impairment, including swaying while balancing and putting a foot down during the test.

         {¶7} After administering the tests, Officer Marsh again asked Thorton how much he had to drink, and this time Thorton motioned to the plastic cup in his car and said that there was gin in the cup. The officer placed Thorton under arrest.

         {¶8} The trial court admitted into evidence video recordings from the body cameras worn by both police officers and a video recording from a police cruiser. The court also took judicial notice of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration ("NHTSA") manual regarding field-sobriety testing.

         II. The Trial ...


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