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City of Columbus v. Cochran

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 27, 2019

City of Columbus, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Scott E. Cochran, Defendant-Appellee.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court M.C. No. 2017 TRC 176927.

         On brief:

          Zachary M. Klein, City Attorney, Bill R. Hedrick, and Orly Ahroni, for appellant.

          The Tyack Law Firm Co., L.PA., Jonathan T Tyack, and Holly B. Cline, for appellee.


          Orly Ahroni.

          Jonathan T Tyack.


          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, City of Columbus, appeals from an entry of the Franklin County Municipal Court granting the motion to suppress of defendant-appellee, Scott E. Cochran, and ordering the dismissal of the matter. For the following reasons, we reverse.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On September 20, 2017, the city issued a citation to Cochran for one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol ("OVI") in violation of Columbus City Code ("C.C.C.") 2133.01(A)(1)(a); and one count operating a vehicle with a high prohibited alcohol concentration in violation of C.C.C. 2133.01(A)(1)(h). Cochran entered a plea of not guilty. Subsequently, on December 11, 2017, Cochran filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his warrantless stop and subsequent arrest.

         {¶ 3} The trial court conducted a hearing on Cochran's motion to suppress on May 14, 2018. At the suppression hearing, the three officers who responded to the scene testified. Additionally, all three officers wore body cameras during their interactions with Cochran, and the trial court admitted into evidence the videos from the body cameras.

         {¶ 4} Scott Wright, an officer with the Columbus Division of Police, testified that at approximately 4:38 p.m. on September 20, 2017, he responded to a dispatch at The City Dog, a dog daycare center, where someone called police reporting concern for a customer who had come to pick up his dog. The call to officers came in as a possible "medical or OVI." (Tr. at 16.) When they arrived at the scene, both Officer Wright and Officer Kyle Cull had pulled their cruisers behind Cochran's vehicle and blocked his vehicle in the parking space. Officer Wright explained this was a common practice upon receiving a call about a possible medical issue or OVI to block a vehicle in until it is determined the occupant is safe to drive and will not be a danger to themselves or the public. Officers Wright and Cull then encountered Cochran "slumped over the wheel of his car in the parking lot." (Tr. at 34.) The car's windows were cracked open, the car key was in the ignition, and a dog was seated in the front passenger seat.

         {¶ 5} Upon approaching the passenger side of the vehicle, Officer Wright began speaking to Cochran through the car window. Cochran told Officer Wright he had just picked up his dog and was taking a nap. Officer Wright told Cochran that the police received calls from concerned citizens worried that Cochran was not feeling well or was having a medical issue, and he asked Cochran if he would step out of his car so they could make sure he was okay. Cochran refused to exit his vehicle. While standing at the passenger window, Officer Wright observed Cochran sweating and his dog panting heavily. Officer Wright described Cochran as having "a look on his face of kind of being tired and almost distraught" and seemed "not with it." (Tr. at 15, 16.)

         {¶ 6} When medics arrived on the scene, Cochran remained in his vehicle and rolled the driver's side window down farther to speak with the medics. After medics tested Cochran's blood sugar for possible diabetic issues and checked his blood pressure, the medics informed the officers that "there was nothing wrong with Mr. Cochran medically and they were going to leave." (Tr. at 17.) Officer Cull testified that he suspected Cochran was intoxicated. Additionally, Officer Cull testified that Cochran had glassy eyes, slow speech, and delayed reactions when speaking with the officers.

         {¶ 7} Once the medics left, Officer Cull went inside The City Dog to speak with the witness who had initially called police. That woman told Officer Cull that Cochran laid on the ground with his dog when he came inside. She further said Cochran fumbled with the door as he exited The City Dog, and then she saw him get into his car and lie down in the driver's seat.

         {¶ 8} Officer Wright testified that when the medics left, he moved around to the driver's side window to continue speaking to Cochran. From that vantage point, Officer Wright said he observed that Cochran had glassy eyes and slurred speech. Officer Wright said Cochran was generally uncooperative and kept insisting that he was not driving but just wanted to sit in his car for a couple of hours until somebody could come get him. From the driver's side window, Officer Wright testified he could see a half-full bottle of liquor on the ...

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