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State v. Robinson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Madison

December 30, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Appellee,
v.
ROBERT L. ROBINSON, II, Appellant.

          CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM MADISON COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case Nos. CR 20180131 and CRI20180036

          Stephen J. Pronai, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas A. Adkins, Rachel M. Price, for appellee

          The Tyack Law Firm Co., L.P.A., Jonathan T. Tyack, Holly B. Cline, for appellant

          OPINION

          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Robert Robinson, appeals his convictions in the Madison County Court of Common Pleas for possession of drugs and operating a vehicle with a hidden compartment used to transport a controlled substance.

         {¶ 2} A drug task force with the Columbus Police Department was investigating Robinson on suspicion of drug-related activity. As part of that investigation, a Columbus detective followed Robinson's vehicle to a location in Indiana. The detective informed an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper of the investigation and that Robinson had left Indiana and was driving in the direction of Madison County, Ohio.

         {¶ 3} The trooper, who was positioned on Interstate 70, observed Robinson's vehicle pass him and noticed the vehicle's window tint was darker than that authorized by law. The trooper then pulled onto the interstate and began following Robinson. During this time, the trooper observed Robinson following the vehicle in front of him too closely. Based on these two violations, the trooper initiated a traffic stop. When the trooper approached Robinson's vehicle, he could smell the odor of raw marijuana emanating from the car. Based on the odor of raw marijuana, the trooper had Robinson step out of his vehicle and sit in the back of his patrol car.

         {¶ 4} Backup arrived on the scene, and the trooper and a sergeant searched Robinson's car. The sergeant, who was searching the backseat area, pulled down a rear armrest and determined that there was a solid surface behind the fabric of the rear seat armrest where there was normally a passthrough to the trunk. The sergeant observed signs that the area behind the armrest and a portion of the trunk had been modified with the existence of an aftermarket bracket. He also noticed non-manufacturer welding, paint "runs," Bondo, and post-production tool markings. Upon suspecting a hidden compartment, troopers then moved Robinson's vehicle to a patrol post where it was further searched. Troopers located five pounds of marijuana, a handgun, and $25, 000 cash in a hidden compartment in Robinson's vehicle.

         {¶ 5} Robinson was arrested and eventually charged with possession of drugs, having weapons under disability, and operating a vehicle with a hidden compartment for the transportation of controlled substances. Robinson filed multiple motions to suppress the evidence seized, claiming that the traffic stop and subsequent search were unconstitutional. The trial court denied Robinson's motions, and the matter proceeded to trial.

         {¶ 6} The state dismissed the weapons under disability charge, and the jury found Robinson guilty on the two remaining counts. The trial court merged the convictions for purposes of sentencing, and sentenced Robinson to a five-year sentence. Robinson now appeals his convictions, raising the following assignments of error, which we will combine and discuss out of order for ease of discussion.

         {¶ 7} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 8} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED MR. ROBINSON'S MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS, AS THE STOP OF MR. ROBINSON'S VEHICLE VIOLATED HIS RIGHTS UNDER THE FOURTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 14 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.

         {¶ 9} Assignment of Error No. 2:

         {¶ 10} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED MR. ROBINSON'S SUPPRESSION MOTIONS, AS THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF MR. ROBINSON EXCEEDED THE PURPOSE AND SCOPE OF THE INITIAL STOP, IN VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 14 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.

         {¶ 11} Assignment of Error No. 3:

         {¶ 12} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED MR. ROBINSON'S SUPPRESSION MOTIONS, AS THE TROOPERS DID NOT HAVE PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH THE VEHICLE'S TRUNK.

         {¶ 13} Assignment of Error No. 4:

         {¶ 14} THE WARRANTLESS SEIZURE OF MR. ROBINSON'S VEHICLE - WHICH WAS DRIVEN TO THE PATROL POST BY A TROOPER - AND MORE INTRUSIVE SEARCH OF MR. ROBINSON'S VEHICLE VIOLATED HIS RIGHTS UNDER THE FOURTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE ...


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