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State v. Everett

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

June 17, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
SCOTT W. EVERETT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Mentor Municipal Court, Case No. 2018 TRC 02711 AB. Judgment:

          Lisa M. Klammer, City of Mentor Prosecutor, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Gregory A. Gentile, Gentile Law, LLC, (For Defendant-Appellant).


          MARY JANE TRAPP, J.

         {¶1} Appellant, Scott W. Everett ("Mr. Everett"), appeals from the judgment of the Mentor Municipal Court convicting him of OVI and failure to control following his no contest plea. He argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained following (1) his unlawful arrest without probable cause, and (2) his placement in custody without Miranda warnings.

         {¶2} We find that (1) under the totality of the circumstances, the officers' actions in this case did not exceed the bounds of a lawful investigative detention, (2) Officer Jacob's questioning of Mr. Everett and the administration of field sobriety tests did not constitute custodial interrogation, and (3) Mr. Everett's statements and the results of his field sobriety tests did not constitute self-incriminating statements.

         {¶3} For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the Mentor Municipal Court.

         Substantive and Procedural History

         {¶4} On August 10, 2018, at approximately 10:19 p.m., Mentor Police Officer Matthew Jacob ("Officer Jacob") received a call from dispatch indicating that a vehicle had crashed into a building on Station Street in Mentor, Ohio. Other officers were also en route based on the seriousness of the dispatch report. Upon arrival at the scene, a witness pointed Officer Jacob in the direction of the crashed vehicle.

         {¶5} Officer Jacob observed a Chevy Impala pinned up against a tree and the building at Lintern Corp. The business was closed for the evening, so there was no legitimate reason for a vehicle to be present in the area. Based on his observations of tire tracks and damage to landscaping, Officer Jacob concluded the vehicle had pulled into the driveway of Lintern Corp., veered off to the left side of the driveway, crossed over some grass and bushes, and became pinned. The vehicle sustained damage to its front.

         {¶6} When Officer Jacob approached the vehicle in his cruiser, he heard the vehicle's engine revving. He exited his police cruiser, stood near the passenger side door of the vehicle, and ordered the driver and sole occupant, Mr. Everett, to turn off the engine and exit. After Mr. Everett exited the vehicle, Officer Jacob ordered him to put his hands up, come toward Officer Jacob, face his vehicle, place his hands behind his back, and interlace his fingers. Officer Jacob testified that this entire interaction lasted approximately 30 seconds.

         {¶7} Although Mr. Everett complied with Officer Jacob's directives, Officer Jacob had to repeat himself three times before Mr. Everett complied with his orders to exit the vehicle, to come toward Officer Jacob, and interlace his fingers. According to Officer Jacob, Mr. Everett had a "blank stare" and "confused look" on his face during the encounter.

         {¶8} Following this interaction, Officer Jacob handcuffed Mr. Everett. Based on Mr. Everett's previous revving of the engine, Officer Jacob was concerned Mr. Everett was going to flee. Officer Jacob did not tell Mr. Everett that he was under arrest, and he testified that he did not consider Mr. Everett to be under arrest at that time.

         {¶9} Patrolman Louzias was present when Officer Jacob handcuffed Mr. Everett. Eventually, there were at least five other police officers on the scene, although it is not clear from the record when they all arrived.

         {¶10} Officer Jacob instructed Patrolman Louzias to take Mr. Everett to Officer Jacob's car and "search him." Mr. Everett was placed in the back seat of a police cruiser where officers patted him down, searched his front pockets, and searched his belt/waist area. It is not clear from the record who placed Mr. Everett in the back seat of the police cruiser or who conducted the search. The officers did not find anything in Mr. Everett's pockets.

         {¶11} While Mr. Everett was being placed in the back of the police cruiser and searched, Officer Jacob secured the scene by ensuring the vehicle was turned off and in park and by confirming there was no structural damage to the building. Officer Jacob obtained and ran Mr. Everett's license plate number.

         {¶12} Approximately two minutes after Mr. Everett was placed in the back of the police cruiser, Officer Jacob approached him and asked several questions, including if he was all right, if he had any injuries, his name, where he was coming from, whether he had anything to drink, and whether he had used any drugs. Observing a bloody scrape on Mr. Everett's knee, Officer Jacob asked him whether he wanted an ambulance, which Mr. Everett declined.

         {¶13} During this questioning, Officer Jacob noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Mr. Everett's breath and observed that Mr. Everett had bloodshot, glassy eyes and slurred speech. Based on these observations, Officer Jacob asked Mr. Everett if he was willing to perform field sobriety tests. Officer Jacob told Mr. Everett that if he did not want to do the field tests, he would "just leave the cuffs on."

         {¶14} After Mr. Everett performed and failed the field sobriety tests, Officer Jacob advised him he was under arrest, handcuffed him again, and read him his Miranda warnings.

         {¶15} Mr. Everett was cited for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs pursuant to R.C. 4511.19(A) ("OVI") and operation without being in reasonable control of vehicle pursuant to R.C. 4511.202. He was arraigned in Mentor Municipal Court and entered not guilty pleas to the charged offenses.

         {¶16} Mr. Everett subsequently filed a motion to suppress evidence alleging an unlawful arrest and a violation of his Miranda rights. The trial court held an oral hearing on the motion, and Officer Jacob was the sole witness.

         {¶17} The trial court denied Mr. Everett's motion to suppress, finding reasonable suspicion based on specific, articulable facts that Mr. Everett was violating a law, based on Mr. Everett's presence in the driver's seat of a vehicle that had crashed into the side of a building, and finding probable cause to arrest based on the signs of intoxication and the results of the field sobriety tests.

         {¶18} Mr. Everett entered a no contest plea to the OVI offense, and the trial court imposed sentence, which was stayed pending appeal.

         {¶19} Mr. Everett now appeals, raising the following two assignments of error:

         {¶20} "[1.] The trial court erred in overruling appellant's motion to suppress evidence arising from appellant's unlawful arrest without probable cause.

         {¶21} "[2.] The trial court erred in overruling appellant's motion to suppress evidence of statements made after appellant was placed in custody and not provided Miranda warnings."

         Standard of Review

         {¶22} Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶8. When considering a motion to suppress, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and is therefore in the best position to resolve factual questions and evaluate the credibility of witnesses. Id., citing State v. Mills, 62 Ohio St.3d 357, 366 (1992). Consequently, an appellate court must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. Id., citing State v. Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19, 20 (1982). The appellate court must then independently determine, without deference to the conclusions of the trial court, whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard. Id., citing State v. McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706, 707 (4th Dist.1997).

         {¶23} In this case, Mr. Everett is not challenging the trial court's finding of facts, only its application of those ...

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