Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ohio Supreme Court reaffirms No Individual May Be Detained 'Even Momentarily' Without Cause

The Ohio Supreme Court on Dec. 6 found that the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant still retains Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and cannot be improperly seized or arrested by an officer unaware of that warrant. [ State of Ohio v. Gardner ]

Appellee was in company of a second individual being arrested on an outstanding bench warrant issued for failing to appear at a trial in Butler County in a drug case. Acting in a suspicious manner, he was detained, searched, and subsequently arrested for possession at the scene. After his arrest, police then determined that appelle was subject of an arrest warrant for a traffic violation.

The case summarized, "Gardner was indicted on one count of possession of crack cocaine and had unsuccessfully moved the trial court to suppress the cocaine found in his possession. Trial court denied the motion, the judge describing the arrest warrant as 'a big elephant in the room.' According to the judge, 'If there's an arrest warrant for Mr. Gardner, the ballgame's over, right? Then everything's cleansed. Even if I agree totally with the defense up till [sic] now.' Ultimately, the judge, citing an unreported Second District decision, Dayton v. Click, Montgomery App. No.14328, 1994 WL 543210, 1994 Ohio App. LEXIS 4551 (Oct. 5, 1994), stated, 'Presuming for a moment * * * there was an illegal stop or illegal search, it matters not. I mean, because in this case we know Officer House didn't discover the arrest warrant until after the stop, search, pat-down and that had all occurred. But it makes no difference under this authority.'

"Upon conviction,Gardner appealed. After characterizing Click and its progeny as 'labyrinthine, if not desultory,' a divided panel of the Second District Court of Appeals reversed, noting that it was not bound by the doctrine of stare decisis to apply Click because the case involved a constitutional question.

The Second District also found there was no evidence showing 'when and how the officers discovered Gardner's name or that there was a warrant; whether the court found facts justifying—or not justifying—a Terry patdown; or whether, if such a patdown were justified, whether the seizure of the drugs was within the plain feel exception.' Id., ¶ 39; thus remanding to the trial court for further proceedings. [State v. Gardner, 2d Dist. No. 24308, 2011-Ohio-5962]

"Click is not good law," the Supreme Court explained in its opinion. "Click and its progeny stand for the proposition that an individual subject to an arrest warrant has 'no reasonable expectation of privacy in being free from being stopped arbitrarily by police' because the warrant is the embodiment of a court's command to arrest the individual. State v. Smith, 2d Dist. No. 22434, 2008-Ohio-5523, ¶ 11; see State v. Williams, 2d Dist. No. 22535, 2008-Ohio-6030, ¶ 21. Under Click, '[t]he mere existence of an outstanding warrant, in other words, renders a seizure lawful, whether or not the officer is aware of the warrant at the time of the seizure.' State v. Gray, 2d Dist. No.22688, 2009-Ohio-1411, ¶ 12.

"{¶ 23} We will not condone the notion that the unlawfulness of an improper arrest or seizure always can be purged by the fortuitous subsequent discovery of an arrest warrant," the Court summiuzed. "As one federal court succinctly stated, 'This argument is preposterous; the Fourth Amendment does not countenance such post hoc rationalization.' Bruce v. Perkins, 701 F.Supp. 163, 165 (N.D.Ill.1988).

"…we recognize that Gardner was the subject of an outstanding warrant (albeit for a traffic violation) and that he had possessed crack cocaine. But efforts 'to bring the guilty to punishment, praiseworthy as they are, are not to be aided by the sacrifice of those great principles established by years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land.' Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 393, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914). There is always a temptation in criminal cases to let the end justify the means, but as guardians of the Constitution, we must resist that temptation. See United States v. Mesa, 62 F.3d 159, 163 (6th Cir.1995)… Fourth Amendment freedoms are not second-class rights; they are indispensable to all members of a free society. See Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 180-181, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879 (1949) (Jackson, J., dissenting).

"Although we have rejected the state's constitutional claim, we intimate no opinion about whether suppression was proper. We agree with the court of appeals that the trial court denied the motion to suppress without finding whether there was a reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify Officer House's patdown of Gardner and whether the contraband seized could be justified… We thus affirm the appellate court's judgment, including its order to remand this cause to the common pleas court to make the necessary findings and for any other proceedings that may be necessary after those findings are made."

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