COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio Supreme Court is taking up a case that could have a large impact throughout the state.
The case surrounds a traffic stop in Hamilton County where the driver did not have a temporary tag in full view and had window tint on the vehicle. A loaded gun was later found in his truck.
A deputy pulled the driver over and discovered that he had not had a valid driver’s license for three years. In addition, it was discovered that the driver was recently charged with not having a valid license in connection to a previous traffic stop.
Since there was no licensed driver to take custody of the car, it was towed and a pre-inventory of the truck revealed a loaded gun in the car.
The driver was convicted of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and sentenced to five years of community control.
During the court proceedings, the driver filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the traffic stop but it was overruled by the lower court.
The driver appealed to the First District Court of Appeals and won. The court ruled that the driver’s Fourth Amendment rights (unreasonable search) were violated by the search of his truck without a warrant and that “the evidence presented by the state was not sufficient to demonstrate that the inventory search of the vehicle was made in accordance with standardized procedures of the sheriff’s department,” according to court documents.
The appellate court said that while an inventory search of a vehicle is one of the “well-established” exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, the deputy needed to show that the inventory search was part of “standard procedure” and that his testimony alone was not sufficient. The court noted that video evidence indicated that the officer did not write anything down and no writing was introduced at the suppression hearing.
“In this case, the state did not present evidence regarding the policy that the deputy was relying upon for the vehicle search, the policy was not introduced into evidence, and the deputy’s testimony did not set forth any detail’s about the sheriff’s department inventory-search policy.”
Prosecutors appealed the appellate court’s decision to Ohio Supreme Court and the case was accepted Tuesday by the panel.