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State v. Bollheimer

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

January 13, 2020

STATE OF OHIO, Appellee,
v.
NATHANIEL BOLLHEIMER, Appellant.

          CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 18CR34459

          David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten A. Brandt, 520 Justice Drive, Lebanon, Ohio 45036, for appellee

          The Helbling Law Firm, LLC, John J. Helbling, 6539 Harrison Avenue, Box 124, Cincinnati, Ohio 45247, for appellant

          OPINION

          RINGLAND, P.J.

         {¶ 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 office").

         {¶ 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). (Emphasis added.)

         {¶ 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 ...


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