from Union County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. 2017 CR
L. Hord for Appellant
D. Andorka for Appellee
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.
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).
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).
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.).
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).
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
On August 17, 2018, the State filed a notice of appeal. (Doc.
No. 37). It raises one assignment of error for our review.
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.
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.
"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).
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.
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.
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.
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,
"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).
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. ...