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State v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

November 20, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
DOMINIQUE J. ADAMS Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR-2018-01-0248

          KERRY M. O'BRIEN, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO GUEST, Assistnat Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JULIE A. SCHAFER, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Dominique J. Adams, appeals from his conviction in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. For the reasons that follow, this Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} In February of 2018, the Summit County Grand Jury issued an indictment charging Mr. Adams with one count of having weapons while under disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(3), a felony of the third degree, and one count of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle in violation of RC. 2923.16(B), a felony of the fourth degree. The charges stem from an incident on January 23, 2018, when Akron police initiated a traffic stop of the 2018 Ford Expedition vehicle Mr. Adams was driving. The police decided to stop the vehicle after they observed that the rear lights of the vehicle were not illuminated, which they determined to be a safety issue and a traffic violation. After officers approached the vehicle, one of the officers observed a gun in the back seat and discovered that the weapon was loaded.

         {¶3} Mr. Adams entered a plea of not guilty to both charges. He filed a motion to suppress contending that, although they stopped his vehicle because it had no tail lights, "there was no probable cause for the police officer to look inside the vehicle, and as a practical matter it is highly doubtful that the police officer would be able to observe a dark colored handgun in the back of a dark vehicle at 1:30 [a.m.]" Accordingly, Mr. Adams argued that officers lacked a basis for seizing the gun in his vehicle and sought to suppress the introduction of the weapon at trial.

         {¶4} The trial court held a hearing on the motion. The transcript of the suppression hearing reflects that Mr. Adams abandoned the initial argument raised in his motion. At the beginning of the suppression hearing, the State informed the trial court as follows:

We are here this afternoon on [Mr. Adams]'s motion to suppress. It is my understanding that the issue here is - - it is a traffic stop, ultimately a gun is found, but the initial reason for the stop, the report reads, that the rear lights - - or the rear lights, the nighttime rear lights were not illuminated.
I believe [Mr. Adams] is contesting that fact and I have two officers here waiting to testify. And I believe that's the only issue. The reason for the initial traffic stop is the only issue here for the [c]ourt to decide.

         Mr. Adams acquiesced in the State's summary of the issue. Trial counsel for Mr. Adams followed up with a brief opening remark, indicating that

[t]his [incident] happened, I think, in late January of [2018], so the vehicle couldn't have been more than four or five months old, and the sheet [provided by the car rental agency that owned the vehicle] indicates that there were no repair records for this vehicle. So it is our contention that we have a brand new car[;] the rear lights were working.

         {¶5} At the hearing, Officers Steven Orwick and Brandon Collins of the Akron Police Department testified that they were on patrol in a marked police cruiser during the early morning hours of January 23, 2018. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the officers were traveling northbound on Kelly Avenue when a vehicle passed them in the opposite direction in a southbound lane. Both officers observed that the front of the vehicle was illuminated, but the rear lights of the vehicle were not visible and the back of the vehicle was black. The officers determined that the lack of rear illumination was a traffic ...


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