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City of Westlake v. Dudas

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 9, 2020

CITY OF WESTLAKE, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRITTANY M. DUDAS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Rocky River Municipal Court Case No. 18 CRB 1264

          Michael P. Maloney, Law Director, and John J. Spellacy, Assistant Law Director, for appellee.

          James V. Barilla, for appellant.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          ANITA LASTER MAYS, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant Brittany M. Dudas ("Dudas") appeals the trial court's decision to adopt the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Dudas asks this court to reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the complaint against Dudas. We affirm the trial court's decision but remand for the limited purpose of correcting the journal entry.

         {¶ 2} After the denial of Dudas's motion to suppress, Dudas pled no contest to one count of offenses involving underage persons, a first-degree misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 4301.069(C)(1); one count of possession of drugs, a first-degree misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 2925.11(C)(3); and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, a minor misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 2925.141(C). The trial court sentenced Dudas to pay a $300 fine, 180 days suspended jail time, and six months of community control supervision.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 3} On June 8, 2018, a Westlake police officer conducted a traffic stop of a 17-year-old male, W.C. During the traffic stop, the officer learned that W.C. had just dropped off Dudas and another minor female, L.P., at the nearby Red Roof Inn Hotel. Two more Westlake police officers arrived at the traffic stop as backup. According to Westlake police, the Red Roof Inn is a location known for prostitution, human and drug trafficking. W.C. told the officers that Dudas was over 18 years old, but L.P. was not. W.C. also told the officers that the alcohol found in his vehicle was left by either Dudas or L.P.

         {¶ 4} After receiving the information from W.C. and the fact that there was a minor involved, the officers went to the Red Roof Inn to speak with staff. The staff confirmed that Dudas rented room 227 and gave the officers Dudas's license plate registration information. After running Dudas's information through the Law Enforcement Automated Data System ("LEADS"), it was confirmed that Dudas was 20 years old. No such information was available for L.P.

         {¶ 5} The police officers then went to room 227 and pounded on the door for a couple of minutes. The officers announced themselves as "Westlake Police," and told the occupants that they needed to open the door so they could conduct a juvenile welfare check. Dudas opened the door, and then went to lie down in the bed. The officers entered the room and removed the covers from over Dudas's head. The officers stated that they removed the covers for officer safety. One of the officers observed the bathroom door moving from side to side. He advised whomever was in the bathroom to come out, and he tried to open the bathroom door, but was unsuccessful. The officer then advised the person to exit the bathroom, and L.P. exited the bathroom with bloodshot and glassy eyes. The officer smelled an odor of alcohol on L.P. and observed an open bottle of vodka in the bathtub. The officer questioned L.P. regarding the consumption of alcohol. L.P. admitted consuming alcohol and stated that she stole the bottle of vodka from a grocery store.

         {¶ 6} The officers also observed bottles of alcohol near the door, sticking out of Dudas's purse. Dudas admitted to the officers that the alcohol belonged to her and consented to having her purse searched after she was placed under arrest and mirandized. The officers found marijuana, marijuana blunts, and a marijuana grinder in Dudas's purse.

         {¶ 7} Dudas was charged with offenses involving underage persons, possession of drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Dudas pled not guilty, and then filed a motion to suppress the evidence arguing that the officers conducted an unlawful, warrantless search and seizure of her hotel room. The magistrate concluded that the police officers did not violate Dudas's Fourth Amendment rights and denied the motion to suppress. Dudas filed an objection to the magistrate's decision in the trial court. The trial court, in its journal entry stated, in part, "upon review of the recorded proceedings hereby finds that the Magistrate's determination of the factual issues were indeed proper and that the application of the appropriate law was applied. The objections of the Defendant are hereby overruled." (Journal Entry 18 CRB 1264, Feb. 12, 2019.)

         {¶ 8} Dudas then pleaded no contest to all the charges. The trial court sentenced Dudas to probation, a suspended jail sentence, court costs, and fines. The trial court stayed the sentence on condition that Dudas post an appellate bond within 30 days. Dudas timely posted the bond and filed this appeal arguing one assignment of error for our review:

I. The trial court erred in not sustaining the objection to the magistrate's decision and by adopting the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the magistrate, which violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution which grants to the people the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

         II. ...


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