Traffic stop: Vehicle search was justified, court rules

Larry Limpf

The Sandusky Court of Common Pleas didn’t abuse its discretion when it denied a motion to suppress evidence found by a state trooper during a traffic stop on the Ohio Turnpike, an appeals court has ruled.
Adrian Brown, a truck driver, was indicted for improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, a fourth degree felony, in September, 2019 and entered a plea of not guilty during his arraignment. He then filed a motion to suppress, claiming there was no basis for a probable cause search, and any evidence discovered was illegally seized.
The common pleas court denied his motion and in a separate hearing he pled no contest to the indictment charge and was found guilty.
In his appeal to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals, Brown argued the only basis for the traffic stop was an alleged speeding violation of 6 miles per hour over the 70 mile per hour limit. He was searched outside his truck and no contraband was found.
Considering the reason for “stopping the vehicle and the circumstances that followed thereafter, there was clearly no basis for a probable cause search. Any evidence discovered therefore must be suppressed,” his appeal says.
During the suppression hearing, the trooper testified Brown gave him permission to open the passenger door and when he did he could smell raw marijuana and noticed a can with a “small piece of marijuana bud” on the floor. He then asked Brown to step out of the truck, read him his Miranda rights and placed him in the back seat of the patrol car. The trooper said he had probable cause to search the vehicle and found another marijuana bud, a pack of rolling papers and a loaded handgun under a pillow in the bunk area.
Brown was placed under arrest and the buds were sent to the state patrol crime lab but no tests were run on them.
In its opinion, the appeals court noted a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that “the smell of marijuana alone, by a person qualified to recognize the odor, is sufficient to establish probable cause to search a motor vehicle, pursuant to the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. There need be no other tangible evidence to justify a warrantless search of a vehicle.”
It also noted no evidence was presented to dispute the trooper’s qualification to recognize marijuana.
Consequently, the trooper had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the truck’s cab, which did not violate Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights, the appeals court wrote


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