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State v. Moiduddin

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Union

September 3, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MOHAMMED MOIDUDDIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

          Appeal from Union County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. 2017 CR 0238

          Terry L. Hord for Appellant

          Gary D. Andorka for Appellee

          PRESTON, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals the July 18, 2018 judgment of the Union County Court of Common Pleas granting the motion to suppress evidence of defendant-appellee, Mohammed Moiduddin ("Moiduddin"), and dismissing the indictment against him. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         {¶2} This case stems from a stop of an automobile on U.S. 33 in Union County, Ohio. (Doc. No. 36). In the early morning hours of September 3, 2017, Trooper Dorian Byers ("Trooper Byers") of the Ohio State Highway Patrol observed a vehicle traveling eastbound on U.S. 33 at a low rate of speed. (Id.); (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 32). After pacing the vehicle at a slow speed for a period of time, Trooper Byers activated his overhead lights and effected a stop of the vehicle. (Doc. No. 36). On approaching the passenger side of the vehicle, Trooper Byers noticed that the driver, Moiduddin, displayed indicators of intoxication. (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 30-31). Trooper Byers then asked Moiduddin to exit the vehicle and proceeded to subject him to field sobriety testing. (Id. at 31-33). Although a portable breath test failed to detect the presence of alcohol in Moiduddin's system, Moiduddin's performance on a number of the field sobriety tests administered by Trooper Byers was unsatisfactory, which prompted Trooper Byers to arrest him on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. (Id. at 36-37); (Defendant's Ex. B). Thereafter, while inventorying the contents of Moiduddin's vehicle, Trooper Byers discovered a small plastic bag filled with a white, powdery substance and a separate black bag with a label that read "Analytical Sample." (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 39-40); (Defendant's Ex. B). Chemical analyses later revealed that the bags contained substances that are substantially structurally similar to 4-methoxymethamphetamine and phencyclidine. (State's Ex. 1).

         {¶3} On October 30, 2017, the Union County Grand Jury indicted Moiduddin on three counts: Count One of operating a vehicle under the influence of a drug of abuse in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a), (G)(1)(a), a first-degree misdemeanor, and Counts Two and Three of aggravated possession of drugs in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A), (C)(1)(a), fifth-degree felonies. (Doc. No. 1). On November 29, 2017, Moiduddin appeared for arraignment and pleaded not guilty to the counts of the indictment. (Doc. No. 7).

         {¶4} On January 31, 2018, Moiduddin filed a motion to suppress evidence. (Doc. No. 18). In support of his motion, Moiduddin argued that his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution were violated when Trooper Byers stopped his vehicle. (Id.). In particular, Moiduddin contended that Trooper Byers did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle for a violation of R.C. 4511.22, Ohio's slow-speed statute. (Id.).

         {¶5} A hearing on Moiduddin's motion to suppress was held on April 5, 2018. (See Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 1). On April 12, 2018, Moiduddin filed his post-suppression-hearing brief. (Doc. No. 31). On April 20, 2018, the State filed its response to Moiduddin's post-suppression-hearing brief. (Doc. No. 34). That same day, the State filed an amended response to Moiduddin's post-suppression-hearing brief. (Doc. No. 35).

         {¶6} On July 18, 2018, the trial court granted Moiduddin's motion to suppress evidence. (Doc. No. 36). Specifically, the trial court concluded that Trooper Byers did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop Moiduddin for a violation of R.C. 4511.22. (Id.). The trial court also concluded that the stop of Moiduddin's vehicle was not permissible under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. (Id.). Finally, after granting Moiduddin's suppression motion, the trial court also dismissed the indictment. (Id.).

         {¶7} On August 17, 2018, the State filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. No. 37). It raises one assignment of error for our review.

         Assignment of Error

         The trial court failed to apply the law of community-caretaking/emergency-aid function to the facts that exist in the hearing on the motion to suppress evidence and then based on the suppression of the evidence the trial court sua sponte dismissed the case in its entirety.

         {¶8} In its assignment of error, the State argues that the trial court erred by granting Moiduddin's motion to suppress evidence. It further argues that the trial court erred by sua sponte dismissing the indictment against Moiduddin. With respect to the trial court's grant of Moiduddin's motion to suppress evidence, the State notes that Trooper Byers was reasonably concerned for Moiduddin's well-being because of the unusually slow speed at which Moiduddin was operating his vehicle. Specifically, the State asserts that Trooper Byers was concerned that Moiduddin's vehicle may have been mechanically impaired or that Moiduddin was suffering from a "medical episode." (Appellant's Brief at 11). Furthermore, the State notes that Trooper Byers was also concerned that Moiduddin and other motorists on the highway were imperiled by the presence of Moiduddin's slow-moving vehicle in fast-moving traffic. (Id. at 11-14). The State argues that, given these concerns, Trooper Byers's stop of Moiduddin's vehicle was constitutionally valid because Trooper Byers was exercising a "community caretaking" function when he stopped Moiduddin's vehicle. (Id. at 10-15). Regarding its contention that the trial court erred by sua sponte dismissing the indictment, the State argues that because the dismissal was apparently based on the trial court's supposedly erroneous decision to grant Moiduddin's motion to suppress, its decision to dismiss the indictment was also erroneous. (Id. at 5-6). We turn first to the State's argument that the trial court erred by granting Moiduddin's motion to suppress, followed by the State's argument that the trial court erred by sua sponte dismissing the indictment.

         {¶9} "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. At a suppression hearing, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and, as such, is in the best position to evaluate the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. Id. See State v. Carter, 72 Ohio St.3d 545, 552 (1995). When reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, "an appellate court must accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence." Burnside at ¶ 8, citing State v. Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19 (1982). With respect to the trial court's conclusions of law, however, our standard of review is de novo, and we must independently determine whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard. Id., citing State v. McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706 (4th Dist.1997).

         {¶10} The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

         Furthermore, Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person and things to be seized.

         "Historically, the protections afforded by Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution have been construed as coextensive with the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution," with limited exceptions. State v. Box, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 16AP-371, 2017-Ohio-1138, ¶ 17, citing State v. Geraldo, 68 Ohio St.2d 120, 125-126 (1981), State v. Robinette, 80 Ohio St.3d 234, 239 (1997), and State v. Jones, 88 Ohio St.3d 430, 434 (2000). See, e.g., State v. Brown, 143 Ohio St.3d 444, 2015-Ohio-2438, ¶ 23 ("Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution affords greater protection than the Fourth Amendment against searches and seizures conducted by members of law enforcement who lack authority to make an arrest."). "'The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to impose a standard of reasonableness upon the exercise of discretion by law enforcement officers in order to "safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary [governmental] invasions."'" State v. Kerr, 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-17-01, 2017-Ohio-8516, ¶ 12, quoting State v. Carlson, 102 Ohio App.3d 585, 592 (9th Dist.1995), quoting Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 99 S.Ct. 1391 (1979). "'The Fourth Amendment does not proscribe all state-initiated searches and seizures; it merely proscribes those which are unreasonable.'" Id., quoting Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 250, 111 S.Ct. 1801 (1991), citing Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 110 S.Ct. 2793 (1990). "Thus, '[t]he touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness.'" Id., quoting Jimeno at 250.

         {¶11} In this case, Trooper Byers's stop of Moiduddin's vehicle potentially implicates the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. "Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a 'seizure' of 'persons' within the meaning" of the Fourth Amendment. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-810, 116 S.Ct. 1769 (1996), citing Prouse at 653, United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 556, 96 S.Ct. 3074 (1976), and United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878, 95 S.Ct. 2574 (1975). Accordingly, "[a]n automobile stop is * * * subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be 'unreasonable' under the circumstances." Id. at 810. While probable cause to believe that a motorist has committed a crime is a "complete justification for a traffic stop," a traffic stop need not be supported by probable cause to satisfy the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement. State v. Mays, 119 Ohio St.3d 406, 2008-Ohio-4539, ¶ 23. Rather, a traffic stop is reasonable, and thus constitutionally permissible, if a law enforcement officer has "a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime," including a traffic violation. Id. at ¶ 7, citing Prouse at 663 and Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439, 104 S.Ct. 3138 (1984), quoting Brignoni-Ponce at 881; State v. Smith, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 13AP-592, 2014-Ohio-712, ¶ 10.

         {¶12} "The Supreme Court of Ohio has defined 'reasonable articulable suspicion' as 'specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion [upon an individual's freedom of movement].'" State v. Smith, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-17-05, 2017-Ohio-5845, ¶ 9, quoting State v. Bobo, 37 Ohio St.3d 177, 178 (1988), quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968). "'Reasonable suspicion entails some minimal level of objective justification for making a stop-that is, something more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or "hunch," but less than the level of suspicion required for probable cause.'" Kerr at ¶ 15, quoting State v. Ramos, 155 Ohio App.3d 396, 2003-Ohio-6535, ¶ 13 (2d Dist.), quoting State v. Jones, 70 Ohio App.3d 554, 556-557 (2d Dist.1990), citing Terry at 27. "'The "reasonable and articulable suspicion" analysis is based on the collection of factors, not on the individual factors themselves.'" (Emphasis sic.) Smith, 2017-Ohio-5845, at ¶ 9, quoting Mays at ¶ 12, quoting State v. Batchili, 113 Ohio St.3d 403, 2007-Ohio-2204, ¶ 19. "'[T]hese circumstances are to be viewed through the eyes of the reasonable and prudent police officer on the scene who must react to events as they unfold.'" Kerr at ¶ 16, quoting State v. Andrews, 57 Ohio St.3d 86, 87-88 (1991), citing United States v. Hall, 525 F.2d 857, 859 (D.C.Cir.1976) and State v. Freeman, 64 Ohio St.2d 291, 295 (1980).

         {¶13} With respect to the circumstances surrounding Trooper Byers's stop of Moiduddin's vehicle, the trial court made the following findings of fact:

At 4:09 a.m. on the morning of September 3, 2017, Trooper Byers was on stationary patrol on U.S. 33 near milepost 18 facing eastbound traffic when he observed [Moiduddin's] vehicle travelling at a speed which he estimated to be 45 mph. Trooper Byers asked Trooper Austin to clock the vehicle and Trooper Austin clocked the vehicle by laser at 35 mph. The speed limit in that area was 70 mph. There was no posted slow speed limit. Trooper Byers pulled out and fell in behind the vehicle for a pace clock of the vehicle. He testified that he did not recall the vehicle's speed as a result of the pace clock. The vehicle was traveling in the right hand (slow) lane and the vehicle never strayed from its marked lane * * *. The vehicle's slow speed caused Trooper Byers to activate his lights. Trooper Byers testified that when he activated his lights, the vehicle pulled over immediately. The trooper observed the traffic in the area to be light. There was no testimony that [Moiduddin's] vehicle was blocking or impeding the fow of any traffic.

(Doc. No. 36). In addition, the trial court found that "there was no showing that [Moiduddin] committed any other traffic infraction * * *." (Id.). Competent, credible evidence supports the trial court's factual findings concerning Trooper Byers's stop of Moiduddin's vehicle. See State v. Craw, 3d Dist. Mercer No. 10- 17-09, 2018-Ohio-1769, ¶ 36, citing State v. ...


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