Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
MATHIAS H. HECK, JR., by HEATHER N. JANS, Atty. Reg. No.
0084470, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Montgomery County
Prosecutor's Office, Appellate Division, Attorney for
F. SOUTHER, Atty. Reg. No. 0058529, Attorney for
1} This case is before us on the appeal of the State
of Ohio from an order dismissing the indictment against
Defendant-Appellee, Joseph Miller. According to the State,
the trial court erred in granting Miller's motion to
dismiss the indictment because the immunity provision in R.C.
2925.11(B)(2)(b) for persons receiving medical assistance as
a result of a drug overdose does not apply to this case.
2} We conclude that the trial court erred in part in
dismissing the indictment. The immunity that R.C.
2925.11(B)(2)(b) provides does not apply to prosecution of
offenses that occur prior to the individual's overdose,
nor does it apply to charges that are not listed in R.C.
2925.11(B)(2)(b). However, the trial court did not err in
dismissing a drug possession charge based on drugs that were
found after Miller was taken to the hospital, even if the
drugs could have been discovered in a routine search at the
jail or pursuant to a search done incident to Miller's
arrest on other charges. R.C. 2925.11(B)(2)(b)(i) is
unambiguous and provides immunity for possession of drugs
that are discovered as a result of obtaining medical
assistance for an overdose, which is what occurred in this
case. Accordingly, the trial court's order will be
reversed in part and affirmed in part, and this cause will be
remanded for further proceedings.
Facts and Course of Proceedings
3} In October 2018, the State filed an indictment
charging Miller with five counts, including two counts of
possession of fentanyl, one count of possession of
methamphetamine, one count of falsification (public
official), and one count of possession of drug abuse
instruments. These charges involved, respectively, three
fifth-degree felonies, a first-degree misdemeanor, and a
second-degree misdemeanor. After pleading not guilty, Miller
filed a motion to dismiss the indictment based on the fact
that he was a "qualified individual" under R.C.
2925.11(B)(2) and was immune from prosecution.
4} The State responded to the motion, and the trial
court then issued an order dismissing the indictment. The
court did not hold an evidentiary hearing, but relied on the
content in Exhibit A, to which the parties had stipulated.
5} According to Exhibit A, Miamisburg Police Officer
Benjamin Carter was on routine road patrol on May 26, 2018,
at around 7:56 p.m., when he stopped a 2002 Ford truck for a
muffler violation. After contacting the driver and informing
her of the violation, Carter obtained her driver's
license. He also asked the front-seat passenger, Miller, for
identification. Miller said that he did not have his ID; he
gave Carter the name of Charles Coatney, a social security
number, and a birthdate. A check of the social security
number yielded negative results, and a name search turned up
a social security number that was one digit off from the one
Miller provided and a birthdate for a much older man. When
Carter checked with Miller again, Miller gave him the same
social security number and said he was from Tennessee.
However, Tennessee records for the Coatney name also yielded
6} Carter had prior contact with Miller and thought
he looked familiar. Because he believed Miller was providing
false information, Carter removed him from the car and placed
him in custody for obstructing official business. Carter then
asked Miller if he had anything illegal, and Miller said he
had a syringe in his right front pocket. After retrieving the
syringe, Carter inspected it and found that it contained an
unknown liquid. As a result, Carter placed Miller in the back
seat of his cruiser. He then discovered that Miller was the
subject of an outstanding felony warrant. After Carter gave
Miller Miranda rights, Miller stated that he had
lied because he had an outstanding warrant. Miller also said
the syringe contained heroin.
7} Carter then began to transport Miller to the
Montgomery County Jail. However, Miller stated that he was
going to vomit. When Carter pulled over and exited the patrol
car, Miller said he had swallowed a half gram of heroin.
Carter called for a medic, and when other officers came to
assist, Miller was breathing but was not responsive. Another
officer administered a dose of Narcan, and shortly
thereafter, medics arrived on the scene and transported
Miller to Sycamore Medical Center for further evaluation.
8} Carter also went to the hospital and informed the
hospital that Miller had an outstanding warrant.
Subsequently, the police faxed a copy of the detainer to
hospital security, which said the police would be notified
when Miller was discharged. Carter then left, after giving
Miller a summons and court dates for obstructing official
business and possession of drug abuse instruments.
9} Shortly after Carter left, hospital security
contacted the police and said that drugs had been located on
Miller's person. At that point, Carter returned to the
hospital, where he learned that the doctor had noticed that
Miller remained in a fetal position during the examination.
When Miller's clothes were removed, a security officer,
Officer Daymon, located two plastic baggies containing an
unknown white powdery substance. Daymon placed the two
baggies in a larger plastic bag, and then gave the bag to
Carter. Carter booked the baggies as well as the syringe into
evidence and sent them to the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab
10} After testing, the lab found that the syringe
contained fentanyl and methamphetamine, with a total weight
of .12 grams. Each plastic bag contained fentanyl, with the
total weight of the two bags being .16 grams. As noted,
Miller was subsequently indicted on five charges relating to
these events, and the trial court dismissed the indictment.
The State then appealed from the dismissal of the indictment.
Does R.C. 2929.11(B)(2)(b) Apply to this Case?
11} The State's sole assignment of error states
The Trial Court Erred in Granting Miller's Motion to
Dismiss. R.C. 2925.11(B)'s Immunity Provision Had No
Application to Miller's Case
12} Under this assignment of error, the State
addresses two types of charges: those occurring before
Miller's overdose, and one resulting from the discovery
of drugs at the hospital. According to the State, charges
based on events occurring before Miller's overdose did
not result from his overdose within the meaning of R.C.
2925.11(B)(2)(b). In addition, the State contends that
charges based on discovery of drugs after Miller's
overdose did not result from an overdose for purposes of the
immunity statute, because the drugs would inevitably have
been discovered during a search incident to arrest or a
routine search at the jail.
13} A de novo standard of review has been applied to
decisions interpreting R.C. 2925.11(B), because "the
correct interpretation of a statute is a question of law
subject to de-novo review." State v. Simmons,2018-Ohio-2018, 112 N.E.3d 327, ¶ 18 (4th Dist.), citing
State v. Pountney,152 Ohio St.3d 474, 2018-Ohio-22,
97 N.E.3d 478, ¶ 20. (Other citation omitted.) In this
situation, appellate courts do not defer to a trial
court's interpretation. Id. Furthermore,
appellate courts generally apply de novo review when
reviewing trial court decisions to dismiss indictments.