Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Madison
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
Tyack Law Firm Co., L.P.A., Jonathan T. Tyack, Holly B.
Cline, for appellant
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
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
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 ...