Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case
P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten A.
Brandt, 520 Justice Drive, Lebanon, Ohio 45036, for appellee
Helbling Law Firm, LLC, John J. Helbling, 6539 Harrison
Avenue, Box 124, Cincinnati, Ohio 45247, for appellant
1} Appellant, Nathaniel Bollheimer, appeals from his
conviction in the Warren County Court of Common Pleas for
aggravated possession of drugs. For the reasons outlined
below, we affirm.
2} In July 2018, Bollheimer was indicted for
aggravated possession of drugs in violation of R.C.
2925.11(A). The charge stemmed from the search of a motel
room at a Motel 6 in Warren County ("Room 259") in
May 2018. The day of the search, police were alerted by
Bollheimer's mother that he and another individual,
Justin Cullers, were staying in Room 259 and that both men
had active warrants for their arrest. At that point, Deputy
Phillip Green of the Warren County Sheriffs Office confirmed
the warrants and went to the motel with two additional
deputies and his sergeant. Prior to Deputy Green's
arrival, two plainclothes detectives went to the motel to
investigate. Upon arriving, the detectives spoke with a
housekeeper, who identified Bollheimer and Cullers as the
guests in Room 259. According to the housekeeper, Cullers and
Bollheimer had stayed past their designated checkout time.
The housekeeper then guided the deputy and detectives to Room
259, knocked on the door, and announced,
"housekeeping." The guests did not respond to the
housekeeper's knocking, which prompted her to make entry
into the room with her key. At that time, Deputy Green
recognized the two men and placed them under arrest. While
arresting the two men, Deputy Green observed methamphetamine
and drug paraphernalia on the counter of the motel room.
3} Bollheimer entered a plea of not guilty to the
charge. Thereafter, in September 2018, Bollheimer filed a
motion to suppress, wherein he argued that the evidence
obtained from the search of Room 259 should be suppressed
because there was no probable cause that Bollheimer was
engaged in or about to engage in criminal activity, and he
did not otherwise consent to the search. After a hearing, the
trial court denied Bollheimer's motion. In doing so, the
trial court found that Bollheimer failed to meet his burden
of proving that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in
Room 259 at the time of the search.
4} The matter proceeded to a jury trial. The state
presented four witnesses in its case-in-chief, and Bollheimer
presented three witnesses in his defense. The jury returned a
guilty verdict, and the trial court sentenced Bollheimer to
24 months in prison. Bollheimer now appeals, raising four
assignments of error.
5} Assignment of Error No. 1:
6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING THE
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS.
7} In his first assignment of error, Bollheimer
argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to
suppress the evidence found in Room 259 after the officers
entered the room with only an arrest warrant.
8} Appellate review of a ruling on a motion to
suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State
v. Burkhead, 12th Dist. Preble No. CA2008-11-022,
2009-Ohio-4466, ¶ 7; State v. Burnside, 100
Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. When considering a
motion to suppress, the trial court, as the trier of fact, is
in the best position to weigh the evidence in order to
resolve factual questions and evaluate witness credibility.
State v. Eyer, 12th Dist. Warren No. CA2007-06-071,
2008-Ohio-1193, ¶ 8. In turn, the appellate court must
accept the trial court's findings of fact so long as they
are supported by competent, credible evidence. State v.
Lange, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2007-09-232, 2008 Ohio
3595, ¶4; State v. Bryson, 142 Ohio App.3d 397,
402 (12th Dist.2001). After accepting the trial court's
factual findings as true, the appellate court must then
determine, as a matter of law, and without deferring to the
trial court's conclusions, whether the trial court
applied the appropriate legal standard. State v.
Forbes, 12th Dist. Preble No. CA2007-01-001,
2007-Ohio-6412, ¶ 29; State v. Dierkes, 11th
Dist. Portage No. 2008-P-0085, 2009-Ohio-2530, ¶ 17.
9} Bollheimer initially argues that his motion to
suppress should have been granted because he maintained a
privacy interest in Room 259 and did not consent to the
search of the room. As such, Bollheimer claims his Fourth
Amendment rights were violated when the officers entered Room
259 in order to effectuate his arrest.
10} "The Fourth Amendment generally prohibits
police from making a warrantless, nonconsensual entry into a
suspect's home to make a felony arrest." Payton
v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 588-589, 100 S.Ct. 1371
(1980). It is well established that the protection provided
by the Fourth Amendment extends to hotel rooms. Hoffa v.
United States, 385 U.S. 293, 301, 87 S.Ct. 408 (1966),
citing United States v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48, 72
S.Ct. 93, 96 (1951) ("[a] hotel room can clearly be the
object of Fourth Amendment protection as much as a home or an
11} In Payton, the United States Supreme
Court held that "an arrest warrant founded on probable
cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to
enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is
reason to believe the suspect is within."
Payton at 603. "'Accordingly, pursuant to
Payton, an arrest warrant is sufficient to enter a
person's residence to effectuate the warrant if the
police have reason to believe that the suspect lives in the
home and is in fact at the home at the time the arrest
warrant is executed.'" State v. Cooks, 2d
Dist. Clark No. 2016-CA-40, 2017-Ohio-218, ¶ 10, quoting
State v. Zerucha, 11th Dist. Ashtabula No.
2015-A-0031, 2016-Ohio-1300, ¶ 13. Federal courts have
indicated that "[t]he protections against warrantless
intrusions into the home announced in Payton * * *
apply with equal force to a properly rented hotel room
during the rental period." United States v.
Junkman, N.D. Iowa No. CR96-4033, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
24888, *3 (June 24, 1997), citing United States v.
Rambo, 789 F.2d 1289, 1295 (8th Cir.1986) and United
States v. Wicks, 995 F.2d 964, 969 (10th Cir.1993).
12} Similarly, Ohio courts have found that a
person's motel room, like a person's home, must be
free of warrantless intrusions and that any lesser standard
is presumptively unreasonable. State v. Nicole, 4th
Dist. Athens No. 99CA49, 2001-Ohio-2451, *12; State v.
Miller, 77 Ohio App.3d 305, 312 (8th Dist.1991);
State v. Montgomery, 2d Dist. Clark No. 98 CA 82,
2000 Ohio App. LEXIS 1339, *11 (Mar. 31, 2000). However,
despite the right to be free from warrantless intrusions,
once the motel guest "voluntarily abandons the room, his
status is lawfully terminated, or the rental period has
expired, the guest no longer has a legitimate expectation of
privacy in the [m]otel room." State v. Oliver,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106305, 2018-Ohio-3667, ¶ 32,
citing United States v. Bautista, 362 F.3d 584, 589
(9th Cir.2004). Additionally, a motel employee may consent to
the entry to and search of a person's motel room where
the renter or occupant has either abandoned the room or
surrendered his tenancy. United States v. Savage,
564 F.2d 728, 733 (5th Cir.1997).
13} At the suppression hearing, a housekeeper for
the motel testified that the checkout time for the motel is
11:00 a.m. and that guests are expected to check out at that
time. According to the housekeeper, if guests stayed after
11:00 a.m. without paying for an additional night she had
authority to "kick them out." On the date of the
search, the housekeeper went to Room 259 around 11:00 a.m. to
"see if [Bollheimer and Cullers] were going to stay in
another night or * * * if they were checking out that
day." Neither guest responded to the housekeeper's
knocking. As a result, using her key, the housekeeper opened
the door and saw Cullers by the counter and Bollheimer lying
on the bed. At that point, the housekeeper informed the two
guests that it was time to check out, to which they
eventually responded that they were unsure if they were
staying over or checking out. The housekeeper then went to
the front office, which sent her back to Room 259. According
to the housekeeper, the only reason the front desk would have
sent her back to Room 259 was because the guests had not paid
for an additional night. Thereafter, the police arrived at
the motel around 11:15 a.m., showed her photographs of two
individuals, and asked if she recognized the men depicted in
the photographs. The housekeeper identified the men in the
photographs as the guests staying in Room 259. The
housekeeper then led the officers to Room 259, knocked on the
door, and stated, "housekeeping." Like her initial
encounter with the guests in Room 259, the men did not
respond to her knocking, and she used her key to open the
door. At that time, the officers announced their presence and
entered Room 259.
14} Bollheimer argues that, although a motel room
may be searched upon consent of motel employees once a guest
has abandoned the premises, it was impermissible here because
the housekeeper was unsure whether the guests had paid for an
additional night and because they had not returned the key to
their room. We disagree.
15} There was competent credible evidence presented
at the suppression hearing that Bollheimer had relinquished
Room 259 at the time of the search. Specifically, the
housekeeper testified that if guests plan to stay for an
additional night, they are required to pay for that night
before their rental period expires. If the guests fail to pay
for the additional night, they are expected to leave at
checkout time. Here, the record indicates that Bollheimer did
not pay for an additional night before he was required to
check out of Room 259. The record also reflects that, despite
the housekeeper's statement that it was time to check
out, neither Bollheimer nor Cullers stated ...