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Date: 12-31-2017

Case Style:

State of Ohio v. Cory Speelman

Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals

Case Number: L-16-1295

Judge: Thomas J. Osowik

Court: Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals

Plaintiff's Attorney: Julia R. Bates
Prosecuting Attorney
Mathew Simko
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney: Jerome Phillips
Eric Allen Marks

Description: Appellant, Cory Speelman, sets forth the following assignment of error:
{¶ 3} The following undisputed facts are relevant to this appeal. On Friday,
August 21, 2015, at approximately 2:47 a.m., appellant was driving his motorcycle on I
75 in the city of Toledo, accompanied by a female passenger riding along on the
{¶ 4} At the time of the accident, appellant was driving the motorcycle at a rate of
speed estimated to be at or above 102 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. speed limit zone. Appellant
and the passenger were not wearing helmets.
{¶ 5} While travelling at this extreme rate of speed, appellant’s motorcycle
slammed into the rear end of a motor vehicle traveling in front of appellant on the
freeway. The impact of the collision occurred with such force that appellant’s passenger
(“victim”) was ejected and thrust forward approximately 450 feet in front of the location
where the motorcycle came to rest. The victim was killed as a result of blunt force
trauma sustained in the impact of the accident.
{¶ 6} The driver of the motor vehicle struck by appellant attempted to assist and
immediately summoned emergency services. When Toledo police officers arrived on the
scene shortly thereafter, one of the responding officers found appellant injured so


severely that the officer presumed appellant to be deceased. Appellant’s eyes were
closed, appellant did not respond to any commands, could not communicate, and was
emitting audible gurgling noises.
{¶ 7} In conjunction with the above observations, the responding officers noted
that this accident occurred shortly after closing time at area bars, that the horrific impact
of the accident was consistent with appellant traveling significantly in excess of the speed
limit, and upon approaching appellant immediately detected a very strong odor of
alcohol. Responding fire personnel similarly smelled the strong odor of alcohol
emanating from appellant.
{¶ 8} Upon arrival at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center for emergency treatment
in a successful effort to save appellant’s life, the treating trauma nurse observed appellant
to score a 3 on the Glasgow coma scale, a scale utilized to measure a patient’s cognitive
mental state. Appellant subsequently scored a 4 on the scale. Both scores reflect that
appellant was unconscious and unable to communicate.
{¶ 9} R.C. 4511.191(A)(4) establishes that, “[A] person who is dead or
unconscious, or who otherwise is in a condition rendering the person incapable of refusal,
shall be deemed to have consented,” setting forth the statutory circumstances in which
consent is implied so as to permit the seizure of bodily substances in connection to the
investigation of the commission of a suspected crime.
{¶ 10} Given the above-described facts and circumstances surrounding the late
night, high-speed, fatal motorcycle accident, both the Toledo Police Department and the


treating emergency medical personnel obtained and tested appellant’s blood for the
presence of alcohol at the time of the incident. The tests revealed appellant’s blood
alcohol level to be in excess of the legal limit.
{¶ 11} On February 5, 2016, appellant was indicted on one count of aggravated
vehicular homicide, in violation of R.C. 2903.06(A)(1), a felony of the second degree,
and one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, in violation of R.C. 2903.06(A)(2), a
felony of the third degree. Both offenses arose from the underlying August 21, 2015 fatal
motor vehicle accident.
{¶ 12} On March 7, 2016, appellant filed a motion to suppress. Appellant
subsequently filed an amended motion to suppress on June 21, 2016. On June 22, 2016 a
motion to suppress hearing was conducted by the trial court.
{¶ 13} At the motion to suppress hearing, the trial court heard direct testimony
from the officers who arrived at the scene of the accident shortly after it occurred. The
officers testified that appellant appeared to be deceased. One responding officer
observed and testified that appellant’s injuries were so severe that much of appellant’s
facial skin was torn off and gone, appellant could not communicate, could not respond to
commands, and was making a distinctive gurgling noise indicative of the severity and
potentially fatal nature of appellant’s injuries.
{¶ 14} In addition, one of the responding officers observed appellant to have
sustained a severe leg injury that appeared to have possibly severed an artery, such that
the officer felt the appellant could possibly bleed out and pass away. Appellant’s eyes


were closed. Appellant strongly smelled of alcohol. Given these facts and
circumstances, in conjunction with the fact that the motor vehicle accident had killed
appellant’s passenger, the responding officers requested a blood kit for alcohol testing as
soon as possible.
{¶ 15} In the course of reaching the subject motion to suppress decision, the trial
court noted that in addition to the late night timing of the fatal accident, the extremely
high rate of speed that appellant was travelling, the fact that the victim was ejected with
such force that she was recovered a substantial distance away from the location of
impact, approximately 450 feet from the location where the motorcycle was located, and
the strong odor of alcohol detected by the responding officers and fire department
personnel upon appellant’s person, ample evidence of probable cause existed regarding
whether appellant was unlawfully operating the motorcycle under the influence of
alcohol at the time of the fatal accident.
{¶ 16} In conjunction with the above, the trial court noted that R.C. 4511.191(B)
expressly authorizes the withdrawal of blood from an unconscious person, whether or not
the person is under arrest, when the officer has reasonable cause to believe the person
was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The court further found
that due to the severity of appellant’s injuries, the fact that appellant was unconscious and
unable to communicate, appellant was incapable of refusal.
{¶ 17} The court consistently found that due to the accident killing appellant’s
passenger, so severely injuring appellant that his life was in jeopardy, and the fact that


appellant’s body was naturally processing the blood so as to potentially destroy evidence
if the blood was not secured in a timely fashion, there was not a reasonable opportunity to
secure a warrant prior to the blood retrieval. Appellant’s motion to suppress was denied.
{¶ 18} On October 11, 2016, following the motion to suppress denial, appellant
pled no contest on the first count of the two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and
was found guilty. A presentence investigation was conducted.
{¶ 19} On November 22, 2016, appellant was sentenced to a mandatory five-year
term of incarceration, a mandatory three-year term of post-release control, as well as
restitution and a lifetime license suspension. This appeal ensued.
{¶ 20} In the assignment of error, appellant maintains that the trial court erred in
denying appellant’s motion to suppress. We do not concur.
{¶ 21} It is well-established that in reviewing a disputed motion to suppress
determination, this court must assume that the trier of fact is best suited to evaluate and
resolve the matter. This court must defer to the trial court ruling if it is supported by
competent, credible evidence. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372,
797 N.E.2d 71, ¶ 8.
{¶ 22} R.C. 4511.191(A)(4) establishes that, “[A] person who is dead or
unconscious, or otherwise is in a condition wondering the person incapable of refusal,
shall be deemed to have consented * * * and the test or tests may be administered.”
{¶ 23} In support of this appeal, appellant maintains that Ohio’s implied consent
statute is unconstitutional given the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in


Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (2016). We
do not concur. We have reviewed Birchfield and found it to be materially distinguishable
from, and inapplicable to, the instant case.
{¶ 24} While Birchfield does stand for the proposition that a blood draw can be an
unconstitutional method in order to obtain a blood alcohol concentration level in the
context of a limited set of circumstances that must be present, our scrutiny of the ruling
makes clear that it is only applicable in those cases in which a suspect is conscious and
physically able to alternatively furnish a less intrusive breath test for the detection of the
potential presence of alcohol.
{¶ 25} As clearly stated regarding blood tests in Birchfield, at paragraph one of the
syllabus, “[T]heir reasonableness must be judged in light of the availability of the less
invasive alternative of a breath test.” By contrast, the facts and circumstances of this case
clearly reflect that appellant was severely injured, unconscious, unable to communicate,
and clearly unable to perform a less invasive breath test. The scenarios examined in
Birchfield entailed parties capable of participating in an alternative breath test. Given the
unavailability of conducting a breath test in the instant case, Birchfield does not implicate
the propriety of the subject blood test.
{¶ 26} The record of evidence reflects that appellant was driving his motorcycle
with a passenger upon I-75 late at night, driving at an extremely high rate of speed,
rammed into the rear of a lawfully traveling vehicle with such tremendous force that the
body of the victim was ejected and recovered approximately 450 feet further from the
location where the motorcycle came to a stop.

{¶ 27} The record of evidence further reflects that upon arrival at the scene, the
responding officers initially presumed appellant to also be deceased based upon his
appearance and injuries, found him to be unconscious, unresponsive, incapable of
communication, sustained severe injuries to his face and leg, required immediate
emergency medical attention, and exhibited a strong odor of alcohol emanating from his
{¶ 28} We find that the record of evidence reflects ample competent, credible
evidence in support of the disputed trial court motion to suppress determination. The
record contains a wealth of probable cause evidence suggesting that appellant had been
unlawfully driving the motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol.
{¶ 29} The record reflects that responding emergency services personnel were
presented with a scenario in which, even if appellant survived, appellant was
unconscious, unable to consent, and physically unable to furnish the less invasive breath
test. Wherefore, we find that the trial court properly denied appellant’s motion to

Outcome: On consideration whereof, we find appellant’s assignment of error not
well-taken. The judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas is hereby

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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