Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Williams
Court No. 18CR000018
Katherine J. Zartman, Williams County Prosecuting Attorney,
L. Coble, for appellant.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
1} Appellant, James Thomas, appeals from the August
6, 2018 judgment of the Williams County Court of Common Pleas
convicting him, following acceptance of his guilty plea, to:
one count of aggravated possession of drugs (R.C.
2925.11(A)(C)(1)(a), a felony of the fifth degree); one count
of aggravated possession of drugs (R.C. 2925.11(A)(C)(1)(c),
a felony of the second degree) with a firearm specification;
having a weapon under a disability (R.C. 2923.13(A)(2), a
felony of the third degree); receiving stolen property (R.C.
2913.51(A)(C), a felony of the fourth degree); and improperly
handling firearms in a motor vehicle (R.C. 2923.16(B), a
felony of the fourth degree). Appellant was sentenced to an
aggregate prison term of six years. For the reasons which
follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
2} On appeal, appellant asserts the following
assignments of error: Assignment of Error One: Because the
officer who effected the traffic stop admitted that no
traffic violation occurred, the trial court erred in
upholding the validity of the stop.
Assignment of Error Two: The imposition of consecutive
sentences is not supported by the record.
Assignment of Error Three: The imposition of appointed
counsel fees and the costs of confinement should be vacated
where appellant is unable to pay.
3} In his first assignment of error, appellant
argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to
suppress the evidence obtained as a result of an alleged
unlawful vehicle stop. He asserts the stop was not valid
because the officer who initiated the stop admitted that no
traffic violation had occurred.
4} A Crim.R. 12(C)(3) motion to suppress presents a
mixed question of law and fact. State v. Hairston,
Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-1622, ¶ 60, quoting State
v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, 797
N.E.2d 71, ¶ 8. The appellate court defers to the trial
court's evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and
determination of the questions of fact which are supported by
competent and credible evidence but conducts a de novo review
of application of the law to the facts. Hairston,
5} Generally, searches or seizures that occur
"outside the judicial process, without prior approval by
judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under
the Fourth Amendment--subject only to a few specifically
established and well-delineated exceptions." Mincey
v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 390, 98 S.Ct. 2408, 57 L.Ed.2d
290 (1978), quoting Katz v. United States, 389 U.S.
347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967) (footnotes
omitted). The burden of establishing an exception to the
warrant requirement is on the prosecution. State v.
Banks-Harvey, 152 Ohio St.3d 368, 2018-Ohio-201, 96
N.E.3d 262, ¶ 18.
6} A warrantless seizure may be reasonable if it is
based upon objective, probable cause that the person has
committed a crime. Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491,
498, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983). "Probable
cause" means more than a reasonable suspicion but less
than the evidence needed to convict an individual of a crime.
Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 235, 103 S.Ct.
2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983); State v. Steele, 138
Ohio St.3d 1, 2013-Ohio-2470, 3 N.E.3d 135, ¶ 26. Where
an officer has probable cause to believe a driver committed a
traffic violation, the stop is reasonable, State v.
Mays, 119 Ohio St.3d 406, 2008-Ohio-4539, 894 N.E.2d
1204, ¶ 22. The relevant inquiry is whether the
officer's observed facts and circumstances were
"sufficient to warrant a reasonable belief that a
traffic violation had occurred. Id.
7} Where an officer has a reasonable suspicion to
believe a passenger in an automobile has an outstanding
warrant for his arrest, the officer may lawfully stop the
vehicle to make an arrest. United States v. Savath,
398 Fed.Appx. 237, 239 (9th Cir.2010), sentence vacated
on other grounds, 300 F.Supp. 1215, 1225 (2018);
United States v. Ellison, 462 F.3d 557, 563 (6th
Cir.2006); United States v. O'Connor, 658 F.2d
688, 691 (9th Cir.1981); United States v. Neemann,
61 F.Supp.2d 944, 951 (D.Neb.1999) (reasonable suspicion is
sufficient to stop a car briefly to determine if a passenger
was the person subject to an outstanding warrant);
Johnson v. Grob, 928 F.Supp. 889, 902 (W.D.Mo.1996).
8} At the motion to suppress hearing, Officer Korkis
testified that, prior to February 2, 2018, he recalled
examining an active felony arrest warrant for appellant,
received from the Bryan Police Department, and photographs of
appellant posted at the station. The officer was also
personally familiar with appellant because the officer had