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Date: 10-11-2019

Case Style:

STATE OF OHIO v. MOHAMMED MOIDUDDIN

Case Number: 14-18-15

Judge:

Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT UNION COUNTY

Plaintiff's Attorney: Terry L. Hord

Defendant's Attorney:

Description:

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This case stems from a stop of an automobile on US 33 in Union
County, Ohio. (Doc. No. 36). In the early morning hours of September 3, 2017,
Trooper Dorian Byers (“Trooper Byers”) of the Ohio State Highway Patrol observed
a vehicle traveling eastbound on US 33 at a low rate of speed. (Id.); (Apr. 5, 2018
Tr. at 32). After pacing the vehicle at a slow speed for a period of time, Trooper
Byers activated his overhead lights and effected a stop of the vehicle. (Doc. No.
36). On approaching the passenger side of the vehicle, Trooper Byers noticed that
the driver, Moiduddin, displayed indicators of intoxication. (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 30
31). Trooper Byers then asked Moiduddin to exit the vehicle and proceeded to
subject him to field sobriety testing. (Id. at 31-33). Although a portable breath test
failed to detect the presence of alcohol in Moiduddin’s system, Moiduddin’s
performance on a number of the field sobriety tests administered by Trooper Byers
was unsatisfactory, which prompted Trooper Byers to arrest him on suspicion of
operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. (Id. at 36-37); (Defendant’s Ex.
B). Thereafter, while inventorying the contents of Moiduddin’s vehicle, Trooper



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Byers discovered a small plastic bag filled with a white, powdery substance and a
separate black bag with a label that read “Analytical Sample.” (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at
39-40); (Defendant’s Ex. B). Chemical analyses later revealed that the bags
contained substances that are substantially structurally similar to 4
methoxymethamphetamine and phencyclidine. (State’s Ex. 1).
{¶3} On October 30, 2017, the Union County Grand Jury indicted
Moiduddin on three counts: Count One of operating a vehicle under the influence
of a drug of abuse in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a), (G)(1)(a), a first-degree
misdemeanor, and Counts Two and Three of aggravated possession of drugs in
violation of R.C. 2925.11(A), (C)(1)(a), fifth-degree felonies. (Doc. No. 1). On
November 29, 2017, Moiduddin appeared for arraignment and pleaded not guilty to
the counts of the indictment. (Doc. No. 7).
{¶4} On January 31, 2018, Moiduddin filed a motion to suppress evidence.
(Doc. No. 18). In support of his motion, Moiduddin argued that his rights under the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 14 of
the Ohio Constitution were violated when Trooper Byers stopped his vehicle. (Id.).
In particular, Moiduddin contended that Trooper Byers did not have probable cause
or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle for a violation of R.C. 4511.22, Ohio’s
slow-speed statute. (Id.).



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{¶5} A hearing on Moiduddin’s motion to suppress was held on April 5,
2018. (See Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 1). On April 12, 2018, Moiduddin filed his post
suppression-hearing brief. (Doc. No. 31). On April 20, 2018, the State filed its
response to Moiduddin’s post-suppression-hearing brief. (Doc. No. 34). That same
day, the State filed an amended response to Moiduddin’s post-suppression-hearing
brief. (Doc. No. 35).
{¶6} On July 18, 2018, the trial court granted Moiduddin’s motion to
suppress evidence. (Doc. No. 36). Specifically, the trial court concluded that
Trooper Byers did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop
Moiduddin for a violation of R.C. 4511.22. (Id.). The trial court also concluded
that the stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was not permissible under the community
caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. (Id.).
Finally, after granting Moiduddin’s suppression motion, the trial court also
dismissed the indictment. (Id.).
{¶7} On August 17, 2018, the State filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. No. 37).
It raises one assignment of error for our review.
Assignment of Error
The trial court failed to apply the law of communitycaretaking/emergency-aid function to the facts that exist in the hearing on the motion to suppress evidence and then based on the suppression of the evidence the trial court sua sponte dismissed the case in its entirety.




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{¶8} In its assignment of error, the State argues that the trial court erred by
granting Moiduddin’s motion to suppress evidence. It further argues that the trial
court erred by sua sponte dismissing the indictment against Moiduddin. With
respect to the trial court’s grant of Moiduddin’s motion to suppress evidence, the
State notes that Trooper Byers was reasonably concerned for Moiduddin’s well
being because of the unusually slow speed at which Moiduddin was operating his
vehicle. Specifically, the State asserts that Trooper Byers was concerned that
Moiduddin’s vehicle may have been mechanically impaired or that Moiduddin was
suffering from a “medical episode.” (Appellant’s Brief at 11). Furthermore, the
State notes that Trooper Byers was also concerned that Moiduddin and other
motorists on the highway were imperiled by the presence of Moiduddin’s slow
moving vehicle in fast-moving traffic. (Id. at 11-14). The State argues that, given
these concerns, Trooper Byers’s stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was constitutionally
valid because Trooper Byers was exercising a “community caretaking” function
when he stopped Moiduddin’s vehicle. (Id. at 10-15). Regarding its contention that
the trial court erred by sua sponte dismissing the indictment, the State argues that
because the dismissal was apparently based on the trial court’s supposedly
erroneous decision to grant Moiduddin’s motion to suppress, its decision to dismiss
the indictment was also erroneous. (Id. at 5-6). We turn first to the State’s argument
that the trial court erred by granting Moiduddin’s motion to suppress, followed by



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the State’s argument that the trial court erred by sua sponte dismissing the
indictment.
{¶9} “Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of
law and fact.” State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. At a
suppression hearing, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and, as such, is
in the best position to evaluate the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. Id. See
State v. Carter, 72 Ohio St.3d 545, 552 (1995). When reviewing a ruling on a
motion to suppress, “an appellate court must accept the trial court’s findings of fact
if they are supported by competent, credible evidence.” Burnside at ¶ 8, citing State
v. Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19 (1982). With respect to the trial court’s conclusions of
law, however, our standard of review is de novo, and we must independently
determine whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard. Id., citing State v.
McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706 (4th Dist.1997).
{¶10} The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applied
to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,



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supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Furthermore, Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not
be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to
be searched, and the person and things to be seized.
“Historically, the protections afforded by Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio
Constitution have been construed as coextensive with the protections of the Fourth
Amendment of the United States Constitution,” with limited exceptions. State v.
Box, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 16AP-371, 2017-Ohio-1138, ¶ 17, citing State v.
Geraldo, 68 Ohio St.2d 120, 125-126 (1981), State v. Robinette, 80 Ohio St.3d 234,
239 (1997), and State v. Jones, 88 Ohio St.3d 430, 434 (2000). See, e.g., State v.
Brown, 143 Ohio St.3d 444, 2015-Ohio-2438, ¶ 23 (“Article I, Section 14 of the
Ohio Constitution affords greater protection than the Fourth Amendment against
searches and seizures conducted by members of law enforcement who lack authority
to make an arrest.”). “‘The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to impose
a standard of reasonableness upon the exercise of discretion by law enforcement
officers in order to “safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against



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arbitrary [governmental] invasions.”’” State v. Kerr, 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-17-01,
2017-Ohio-8516, ¶ 12, quoting State v. Carlson, 102 Ohio App.3d 585, 592 (9th
Dist.1995), quoting Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 99 S.Ct. 1391 (1979). “‘The
Fourth Amendment does not proscribe all state-initiated searches and seizures; it
merely proscribes those which are unreasonable.’” Id., quoting Florida v. Jimeno,
500 U.S. 248, 250, 111 S.Ct. 1801 (1991), citing Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177,
110 S.Ct. 2793 (1990). “Thus, ‘[t]he touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is
reasonableness.’” Id., quoting Jimeno at 250.
{¶11} In this case, Trooper Byers’s stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle potentially
implicates the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and
seizures. “Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by
the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a
‘seizure’ of ‘persons’ within the meaning” of the Fourth Amendment. Whren v.
United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-810, 116 S.Ct. 1769 (1996), citing Prouse at
653, United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 556, 96 S.Ct. 3074 (1976),
and United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878, 95 S.Ct. 2574 (1975).
Accordingly, “[a]n automobile stop is * * * subject to the constitutional imperative
that it not be ‘unreasonable’ under the circumstances.” Id. at 810. While probable
cause to believe that a motorist has committed a crime is a “complete justification
for a traffic stop,” a traffic stop need not be supported by probable cause to satisfy



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the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement. State v. Mays, 119 Ohio
St.3d 406, 2008-Ohio-4539, ¶ 23. Rather, a traffic stop is reasonable, and thus
constitutionally permissible, if a law enforcement officer has “a reasonable and
articulable suspicion that a motorist has committed, is committing, or is about to
commit a crime,” including a traffic violation. Id. at ¶ 7, citing Prouse at 663 and
Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439, 104 S.Ct. 3138 (1984), quoting Brignoni
Ponce at 881; State v. Smith, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 13AP-592, 2014-Ohio-712, ¶
10.
{¶12} “The Supreme Court of Ohio has defined ‘reasonable articulable
suspicion’ as ‘specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational
inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion [upon an individual’s
freedom of movement].’” State v. Smith, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-17-05, 2017-Ohio
5845, ¶ 9, quoting State v. Bobo, 37 Ohio St.3d 177, 178 (1988), quoting Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968). “‘Reasonable suspicion entails some
minimal level of objective justification for making a stop—that is, something more
than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or “hunch,” but less than the level
of suspicion required for probable cause.’” Kerr at ¶ 15, quoting State v. Ramos,
155 Ohio App.3d 396, 2003-Ohio-6535, ¶ 13 (2d Dist.), quoting State v. Jones, 70
Ohio App.3d 554, 556-557 (2d Dist.1990), citing Terry at 27. “‘The “reasonable
and articulable suspicion” analysis is based on the collection of factors, not on the



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individual factors themselves.’” (Emphasis sic.) Smith, 2017-Ohio-5845, at ¶ 9,
quoting Mays at ¶ 12, quoting State v. Batchili, 113 Ohio St.3d 403, 2007-Ohio
2204, ¶ 19. “‘[T]hese circumstances are to be viewed through the eyes of the
reasonable and prudent police officer on the scene who must react to events as they
unfold.’” Kerr at ¶ 16, quoting State v. Andrews, 57 Ohio St.3d 86, 87-88 (1991),
citing United States v. Hall, 525 F.2d 857, 859 (D.C.Cir.1976) and State v. Freeman,
64 Ohio St.2d 291, 295 (1980).
{¶13} With respect to the circumstances surrounding Trooper Byers’s stop
of Moiduddin’s vehicle, the trial court made the following findings of fact:
At 4:09 a.m. on the morning of September 3, 2017, Trooper Byers was
on stationary patrol on US 33 near milepost 18 facing eastbound
traffic when he observed [Moiduddin’s] vehicle travelling at a speed
which he estimated to be 45 mph. Trooper Byers asked Trooper
Austin to clock the vehicle and Trooper Austin clocked the vehicle by
laser at 35 mph. The speed limit in that area was 70 mph. There was
no posted slow speed limit. Trooper Byers pulled out and fell in
behind the vehicle for a pace clock of the vehicle. He testified that he
did not recall the vehicle’s speed as a result of the pace clock. The
vehicle was traveling in the right hand (slow) lane and the vehicle
never strayed from its marked lane * * *. The vehicle’s slow speed



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caused Trooper Byers to activate his lights. Trooper Byers testified
that when he activated his lights, the vehicle pulled over immediately.
The trooper observed the traffic in the area to be light. There was no
testimony that [Moiduddin’s] vehicle was blocking or impeding the
flow of any traffic.
(Doc. No. 36). In addition, the trial court found that “there was no showing that
[Moiduddin] committed any other traffic infraction * * *.” (Id.). Competent,
credible evidence supports the trial court’s factual findings concerning Trooper
Byers’s stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle. See State v. Craw, 3d Dist. Mercer No. 10
17-09, 2018-Ohio-1769, ¶ 36, citing State v. Thompson, 7th Dist. Jefferson Nos. 98
JE 28 and 98 JE 29, 2001 WL 69197, *5-6 (Jan. 24, 2001).
{¶14} At the April 5, 2018 suppression hearing, Trooper Byers testified that
he was on patrol on September 3, 2017 at approximately 4:09 a.m. when a vehicle
caught his attention because it “was traveling at an unusual[,] * * * low rate of
speed.” (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 26-28). He stated that he visually estimated that the
vehicle was traveling “close to about 45 miles per hour.” (Id. at 27). Trooper Byers
testified that because his view of the vehicle was obstructed, he asked a fellow
trooper to use a laser speed gun to determine the speed of the vehicle. (Id.). Trooper
Byers testified that the laser reading showed that the vehicle was actually moving
at a speed of 35 miles per hour. (Id. at 27-28).



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{¶15} Trooper Byers indicated that he was concerned about the vehicle
because at “[t]hat time of day and at the 70 mile per hour zone, you hardly will ever
see a vehicle traveling at that low rate of speed. And if they are, it could be a
possible medical episode or somebody is having vehicle issues.” (Id. at 28). He
reiterated that he was “[a]bsolutely” concerned that the driver of the vehicle could
have been suffering from a medical problem or that they were otherwise impaired.
(Id. at 29). He also testified that the vehicle’s slow speed caused him concern for
the safety of other motorists and that he deemed the driving to be unsafe. (Id. at 29,
36).
{¶16} Trooper Byers testified that he pulled out of the “cross over” to catch
up to the vehicle and “just paced him right there at about the same speed.” (Id. at
28). Although he could not recall the speed at which the vehicle was traveling while
he paced it, he did testify that the vehicle was moving “very slow.” (Id. at 29).
Trooper Byers testified that he eventually activated his blue emergency lights and
effected a stop of the vehicle. (Id.). He identified Moiduddin as the driver of the
slow-moving vehicle. (Id. at 31).
{¶17} On cross-examination, Trooper Byers initially testified that he
believed that it was raining when he stopped Moiduddin’s vehicle, but upon being
presented with a copy of the traffic ticket he issued to Moiduddin, he acknowledged
that the ticket stated that there were no adverse weather conditions at the time of the



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stop. (Id. at 42, 44); (Defendant’s Ex. A). He further testified that traffic was light
on the morning of the stop, that the stop was executed in a rural area, that the
highway featured two eastbound lanes, and that there was no posted minimum speed
limit. (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 44-45). Trooper Byers stated that there were no cars
between Moiduddin’s vehicle and his cruiser while he paced Moiduddin’s vehicle
and that, “[o]ther than a few cars that passed [him]” while he was pacing Moiduddin,
there was no other traffic on US 33. (Id. at 45). According to Trooper Byers,
Moiduddin was operating his vehicle in the right-hand lane, and he was neither
impeding nor blocking traffic. (Id. at 45-46).
{¶18} Trooper Byers stated that as he paced Moiduddin’s vehicle, he did not
observe Moiduddin weave in his lane, commit any marked lane violations, or
commit any traffic violation other than what Trooper Byers believed to be a slow-
speed violation. (Id. at 45-46). He testified that the reason he stopped Moiduddin’s
vehicle was for a slow-speed infraction in violation of R.C. 4511.22. (Id. at 44).
When questioned about his earlier statement that he was concerned that the driver
of the vehicle could have been in the midst of a “medical episode,” Trooper Byers
conceded that his statement of facts summarizing the events of September 3, 2017
did not mention “any concern about [Moiduddin] possibly having a medical
episode.” (Id. at 52); (Defendant’s Ex. B).



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{¶19} Finally, on redirect-examination, Trooper Byers agreed with the
State’s proposition that “[i]f a car had come up fast behind this other vehicle driven
by Mr. Moiduddin, and a car was going the registered speed of 70 miles per hour,
and Mr. Moiduddin was going 35 miles per hour,” there would “have been an
unreasonable situation that [Trooper Byers] could have prevented.” (Apr. 5, 2018
Tr. at 55).
{¶20} On these findings, the trial court first concluded that Trooper Byers
did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop Moiduddin’s vehicle for
a violation of R.C. 4511.22(A):
Given the facts presented by the testimony of Trooper Byers, the fact
that there was no evidence presented that any traffic was impeded or
obstructed, and that there was no showing that [Moiduddin]
committed any other traffic infraction, the State has failed to make a
prima facie showing that [Moiduddin’s] conduct violated the elements
of O.R.C. 4511.22(A) on its face.1 Because Trooper Byers failed to
establish a prima facie violation of the statute, his suspicion of
1 R.C. 4511.22(A) provides: “No person shall * * * operate a vehicle * * * at such an unreasonably slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when stopping or reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or to comply with law.” Courts have generally interpreted the statute to require evidence of actual impediment or obstruction of traffic. State v. Bahen, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 16AP-65, 2016-Ohio-7012, ¶ 25-26; State v. Dean, 5th Dist. Licking No. 12-CA-60, 2013-Ohio-313, ¶ 14.



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criminal activity was unreasonable. Accordingly, there was no basis
for the investigative traffic stop.
(Doc. No. 36).
{¶21} The State concedes that Trooper Byers had neither probable cause nor
reasonable suspicion to stop Moiduddin’s vehicle for a violation of R.C. 4511.22.2
(See Appellant’s Brief at 10-11). Given that it is undisputed that Moiduddin was
not operating his vehicle on a part of the highway with a posted minimum speed
limit3 and that Moiduddin’s vehicle did not impede or obstruct traffic, we do not
second-guess the State’s concession. Instead, the State argues that the judgment of
the trial court granting Moiduddin’s suppression motion should be reversed because
the trial court erred by concluding that the stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was not valid
under the community caretaking exception.
{¶22} After concluding that the stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was not
supported either by probable cause or by reasonable suspicion of a violation of R.C.
4511.22, the trial court proceeded to determine whether the “caretaker exception to
the warrant requirement” supported Trooper Byers’s stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle.
2 The State also conceded this point at the trial-court level. (See Doc. Nos. 34, 36). 3 A driver may also violate R.C. 4511.22 by operating their vehicle at a speed which is less than a posted minimum speed limit: “Whenever the director of transportation or local authorities determine on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a controlled-access highway, expressway, or freeway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the director or such local authority may declare a minimum speed limit below which no person shall operate a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or street car except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” R.C. 4511.22(B).



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(Doc. No. 36). In its analysis, the trial court relied on State v. Dunn, a case in which
the Supreme Court of Ohio held:
The community-caretaking/emergency-aid exception to the Fourth
Amendment warrant requirement allows a law-enforcement officer
with objectively reasonable grounds to believe that there is an
immediate need for his or her assistance to protect life or prevent
serious injury to effect a community-caretaking/emergency-aid stop.
131 Ohio St.3d 325, 2012-Ohio-1008, ¶ 26. In concluding that the community
caretaking exception did not supply a valid basis for Trooper Byers’s stop of
Moiduddin’s vehicle, the trial court found that the “totality of the circumstances *
* * d[id] not suggest that there was an immediate need for assistance to protect life
or prevent serious injury.” (Doc. No. 36). The trial court concluded that although
Moiduddin “was driving at a very slow speed,” “he did not violate O.R.C. 4511.22
and slow speed alone does not create a reasonable belief that there was an
immediate need for assistance to prevent death or serious injury.” (Id.).
{¶23} The State argues that the stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was permissible
under the community caretaking exception because Trooper Byers was reasonably
concerned that Moiduddin’s vehicle was mechanically impaired or that Moiduddin
was suffering from a “medical episode.” (Appellant’s Brief at 11-12). It further
contends that the stop was a valid exercise of Trooper Byers’s function as



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community caretaker because “operating a vehicle at such slow speed presented
concern for other motorists’ safety on US 33” even though Moiduddin’s driving did
not amount to a violation of R.C. 4511.22. (Id. at 11-12). In response, Moiduddin,
relying almost entirely on Dunn, argues that the trial court correctly determined that
the community caretaking exception is not applicable to the facts of this case
because “Trooper Byers did not have objectively reasonable grounds to believe that
there was an immediate need for his assistance to protect life or prevent serious
injury to justify the stop.” (Appellee’s Brief at 5). Moiduddin asserts that this case
“involve[s] the stop of a vehicle by show of authority and is different from coming
upon a vehicle that is already stopped to inquire whether there is a need of
assistance.” (Id.). Finally, Moiduddin submits that “[Trooper Byers’s] conduct of
pacing the vehicle for a significant amount of time is contrary to any belief of
immediate need for assistance.” (Id. at 6).
{¶24} Before evaluating the merits of the parties’ arguments, we feel it
necessary to review the origins of the community caretaking exception and the
development of the doctrine. The Supreme Court of the United States first
acknowledged the community caretaking exception in Cady v. Dombrowski, 413
U.S. 433, 93 S.Ct. 2523 (1973). In that case, Dombrowski was involved in a single
vehicle accident in rural Wisconsin. Id. at 435-436. At the scene of the accident,
Dombrowski informed local police officers that he was a Chicago police officer. Id.



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at 436. Believing that Chicago police officers were required by regulation to carry
their service revolvers with them at all times, local police officers looked for
Dombrowski’s service weapon on his person. Id. Failing to find a weapon on
Dombrowski’s person, one of the local police officers looked into the front seat and
glove compartment of Dombrowski’s vehicle; however, the officer did not find a
revolver. Id. Thereafter, local police officers had the disabled vehicle towed to a
privately owned garage where it was left outside without a police guard. Id. After
Dombrowski was formally arrested for drunken driving and taken to the hospital,
one of the local police officers drove to the private garage to search for
Dombrowski’s revolver in the wrecked automobile. Id. at 436-437. During the
search for Dombrowski’s weapon, which was conducted without a warrant, the local
police officer unlocked the trunk of the vehicle, where he discovered evidence
linking Dombrowski to a murder—a crime for which he was eventually convicted.
Id. at 437, 439.
{¶25} In upholding the constitutionality of the search of Dombrowski’s
vehicle, the court observed:
Because of the extensive regulation of motor vehicles and traffic, and
also because of the frequency with which a vehicle can become
disabled or involved in an accident on public highways, the extent of
police-citizen contact involving automobiles will be substantially



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greater than police-citizen contact in a home or office. Some such
contacts will occur because the officer may believe the operator has
violated a criminal statute, but many more will not be of that nature.
Local police officers, unlike federal officers, frequently investigate
vehicle accidents in which there is no claim of criminal liability and
engage in what, for want of a better term, may be described as
community caretaking functions, totally divorced from the detection,
investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a
criminal statute.
(Emphasis added.) Id. at 441. The court concluded that the justification for the
search of Dombrowski’s vehicle, “concern for the safety of the general public who
might be endangered if an intruder removed a revolver from the trunk of the
vehicle,” was “constitutionally reasonable.” Id. at 447. Acknowledging its previous
“recognition of the distinction between motor vehicles and dwelling places,” the
court held that “the type of caretaking ‘search’ conducted * * * of a vehicle that was
neither in the custody nor on the premises of its owner, and that had been placed
where it was by virtue of lawful police action, was not unreasonable solely because
a warrant had not been obtained.” Id. at 447-448.
{¶26} Since Dombrowski, “an overwhelming majority of lower federal
courts and state courts have consistently described and applied the [community



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caretaking] doctrine as an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant
requirement.” State v. McCormick, 494 S.W.3d 673, 682 (Tenn.2016), fn. 9
(collecting cases). See Commonwealth v. Livingstone, 644 Pa. 27, 58-60 (2017)
(collecting cases). While many courts have limited application of the exception to
its original context—searches (and occasionally seizures) of automobiles—some
courts have extended the doctrine to permit warrantless entries into and searches of
the home.4 Compare, e.g., Ray v. Twp. of Warren, 626 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir.2010)
(“We * * * interpret the Supreme Court’s decision in [Dombrowski] as being
expressly based on the distinction between automobiles and homes for Fourth
Amendment purposes. The community caretaking doctrine cannot be used to justify
warrantless searches of a home.”) with, e.g., State v. Pinkard, 327 Wis.2d 346, 363
(2010) (“[U]nder certain circumstances a reasonably exercised community
caretaker function may permit a warrantless entry into a home * * *.”). As the
doctrine has developed, “the community caretaking rubric has become ‘a catchall
for the wide range of responsibilities that police officers must discharge aside from
their criminal enforcement activities.’” MacDonald v. Town of Eastham, 745 F.3d
8, 12 (1st Cir.2014), quoting United States v. Rodriguez-Morales, 929 F.2d 780, 785
(1st Cir.1991). Consequently, it is unsurprising that courts have struggled to
4 Because this appeal involves the stop of an automobile on a public highway, we do not concern ourselves with the question of whether the community caretaking doctrine should extend beyond the context of automobiles to residences.



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consistently frame the scope of the exception and differentiate it from other Fourth
Amendment exceptions.
{¶27} As explained by the First Circuit Court of Appeals:
[C]ourts do not always draw fine lines between the community
caretaking exception and other exceptions to the warrant requirement.
The juxtaposition between the community caretaking exception and
the emergency aid exception furnishes an apt illustration of this
overlap. Some courts have treated emergency aid as a freestanding
exception to the warrant requirement. Others have classified
emergency aid as “a subcategory of the community caretaking
exception.” People v. Ray, 21 Cal.4th 464, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 981 P.2d
928, 933 (1999). Indeed, some courts have held that giving the
community caretaking exception a life in the home independent and
apart from the emergency aid exception “would render the
emergency-aid doctrine obsolete.” [State v.] Vargas, [213 N.J. 301,]
63 A.3d [175,] at 189 [(2013)]. The other side of the coin is that some
courts continue to insist on a sharp line of demarcation between the
emergency aid exception and the community caretaking exception.
The same sort of disarray is evident in the manner in which courts
have attempted to define the interface between the exigent



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circumstances exception to the warrant requirement and the
community caretaking exception. For example, some courts “apply
what appears to be a modified exigent circumstances test, with
perhaps a lower threshold for exigency if the officer is acting in a
community caretaking role.” Twp. of Warren, 626 F.3d at 176. Other
courts steadfastly maintain that the exceptions are not congruent and
must be analyzed and applied distinctly.
Given the profusion of cases pointing in different directions, it is
apparent that the scope and boundaries of the community caretaking
exception are nebulous.
(Citations and footnotes omitted.) Id. at 13-14. The First Circuit’s observations are
addressed specifically to the extent to which those courts that extend the community
caretaking exception to warrantless searches of the home blend the community
caretaking exception with the emergency aid and exigent circumstances exceptions
in that context. However, the community caretaking exception has also been
correlated with the emergency aid and exigent circumstances exceptions in the
context of automobile stops. See, e.g., United States v. Toussaint, 838 F.3d 503,
507 (5th Cir.2016).
{¶28} Amidst this doctrinal uncertainty, the Supreme Court of Ohio decided
State v. Dunn, the case the trial court used to conclude that the stop of Moiduddin’s



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vehicle was not valid under the community caretaking exception. In Dunn, a law
enforcement officer received a dispatch that a suicidal man driving a tow truck was
in possession of a weapon and intended to kill himself when he arrived at a specified
address. 131 Ohio St.3d 325, 2012-Ohio-1008, at ¶ 2. En route to the given address,
the law enforcement officer spotted the tow truck. Id. at ¶ 3. He then executed a
traffic stop of the tow truck, later finding a loaded firearm in the glovebox of the
tow truck. Id. at ¶ 4-5. Dunn was subsequently indicted on one count of improper
handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, and he moved to suppress evidence on
grounds that the traffic stop violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Id. at
¶ 7. The trial court overruled Dunn’s motion to suppress but the trial court’s ruling
was subsequently reversed on appeal. Id. at ¶ 8-9.
{¶29} In reversing the appellate court’s decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio
stated: “There are a number of exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant
requirement, including the one applicable to this case, the community-caretaking
exception, which courts sometimes refer to as the ‘emergency-aid exception’ or
‘exigent-circumstance exception.’” Id. at ¶ 15. The court noted that the Supreme
Court of the United States had referred to the community caretaking exception as
the “emergency-aid exception” and that its own precedents discussed the exception
under the term “exigent circumstances” rather than “community caretaking.” Id. at
¶ 18-20, citing Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 130 S.Ct. 546 (2009), Brigham City



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v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 126 S.Ct. 1943 (2006), Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 98
S.Ct. 2408 (1978), and State v. Applegate, 68 Ohio St.3d 348 (1994). According to
the court, the “community-caretaking/emergency-aid exception to the Fourth
Amendment warrant requirement is necessary to allow police to respond to
emergency situations where life or limb is in jeopardy.” Id. at ¶ 21.
{¶30} On its face, Dunn appears to stand for the proposition that “community
caretaking” is synonymous with “emergency aid” or assistance rendered under
“exigent circumstances.” See id. at ¶ 15. However, examining the cases of the
Supreme Court of the United States cited in Dunn and the Supreme Court of Ohio’s
own precedents, there is good reason to believe that, whatever overlap might exist
between the community caretaking, emergency aid, and exigent circumstances
exceptions, the concepts are not entirely interchangeable.
{¶31} First, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States relied
on by the court in Dunn do not limit application of the community caretaking
exception to instances where law enforcement officers possess an objectively
reasonable belief that they must intervene immediately in order to protect life or
prevent injury. Importantly, Dombrowski, the source of the community caretaking
doctrine, did not itself involve an “emergency” or “exigency” of the type present in
Dunn. In Dombrowski, the justification for the warrantless search of Dombrowski’s
vehicle was “concern for the safety of the general public who might be endangered



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if an intruder removed a revolver from the trunk of the vehicle.” (Emphasis added.)
413 U.S. at 447. Thus, it was law enforcement’s interest in neutralizing the
possibility of harm, rather than its need to respond to the probability of imminent
injury or death, that justified the warrantless search. Furthermore, in subsequent
applications of Dombrowski, the court held that, pursuant to the community
caretaking function, law enforcement officers may impound vehicles and conduct
standardized inventory searches of those vehicles. Colorado v. Bertine, 479 U.S.
367, 107 S.Ct. 738 (1987); South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 96 S.Ct. 3092
(1976). Neither of these cases was decided on the basis that impounding and
inventorying the vehicles were reasonable because law enforcement officers were
presented with an urgent need to intervene to prevent injury or death. Instead,
impounding and inventorying the contents of the vehicles were justified by a
generalized interest in “guard[ing] the police from danger” posed by potential
hazards in the vehicles as well as interests in “protect[ing] [the] owner’s property
while it [was] in the custody of the police * * * [and] insur[ing] against claims of
lost, stolen, or vandalized property.” Bertine at 372. Hence, the most direct
guidance from the Supreme Court of the United States suggests that, as community
caretakers, law enforcement officers may conduct certain searches and seizures in
circumstances bereft of emergency or exigency.



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{¶32} Moreover, in Dunn, the Supreme Court of Ohio relied heavily on the
Supreme Court of the United States’s opinions in Mincey, Brigham City, and Fisher
to support its equation of the community caretaking exception with the emergency
aid and exigent circumstances exceptions. However, Mincey, Brigham City, and
Fisher do not couch their holdings in terms of “community caretaking,” and the
phrase does not appear in the opinions. In fact, the only mention in either Mincey,
Brigham City, or Fisher to Dombrowski or any of its direct progeny is a single
reference in Mincey to Justice Powell’s concurrence in Opperman. See Mincey, 437
U.S. at 390, citing Opperman at 381 (Powell, J., concurring).
{¶33} Finally, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s pre-Dunn and post-Dunn
jurisprudence suggests that the court itself does not limit the community caretaking
exception to instances where law enforcement officers possess an objectively
reasonable belief that they must intervene immediately in order to protect life or
prevent injury. In numerous cases predating Dunn, the court, frequently relying on
Dombrowski, Bertine, or Opperman, recognized that law enforcement officers may
impound vehicles and conduct inventory searches in their roles as community
caretakers. E.g., Blue Ash v. Kavanagh, 113 Ohio St.3d 67, 2007-Ohio-1103, ¶ 11.
Likewise, after Dunn, the court acknowledged that “[i]nventory searches performed
pursuant to standard police procedure on vehicles taken into police custody as part
of a community-caretaking function are reasonable.” State v. Leak, 145 Ohio St.3d



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165, 2016-Ohio-154, ¶ 21, citing Opperman at 373.5 Finally, there are further
indications from the post-Dunn court that the community caretaking function
encompasses more than the administration of emergency aid. See State v. Banks
Harvey, 152 Ohio St.3d 368, 2018-Ohio-201, ¶ 50 (Kennedy, J., concurring in
judgment only) (“The United States Supreme Court has recognized the caretaking
function of law enforcement in relation to motor vehicles and in rendering
emergency aid.”) (Emphasis added.), citing Dombrowski at 441, Mincey at 392, and
Fisher, 558 U.S. at 47.
{¶34} Therefore, although Dunn can be read to suggest that the community
caretaking, emergency aid, and exigent circumstances exceptions are fungible, we
believe that Dunn is better understood as representing the view that the emergency
aid and exigent circumstances exceptions fall under the broader umbrella of
“community caretaking.” By implication, then, there may be some actions taken by
law enforcement officers that do not fit under the emergency aid or exigent
circumstances exceptions but that are nevertheless justifiable because they were
carried out in order to discharge a duty under another facet of the community
caretaking function.
{¶35} Returning to the parties’ arguments, Moiduddin argues that the trial
court was correct in applying Dunn to conclude that the stop of his vehicle was
5 Leak was a plurality opinion.



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unconstitutional because “the totality of the circumstances * * * d[id] not suggest
that there was an immediate need for assistance to protect life or prevent serious
injury.” (Appellee’s Brief at 5-6); (Doc. No. 36). However, in light of the preceding
discussion, we conclude that the trial court erred by relying exclusively on Dunn to
hold that the stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was not justified under the community
caretaking exception. Even assuming that the trial court correctly concluded that
Moiduddin’s “slow speed alone d[id] not create a reasonable belief that there was
an immediate need for assistance to prevent death or serious injury,” we still find
that Trooper Byers was executing a community caretaking function when he
stopped Moiduddin’s vehicle. Thus, we conclude that the stop of Moiduddin’s
vehicle was permissible under the community caretaking exception.
{¶36} As this court has previously held, “[w]hile Terry and much of its
progeny stand for the proposition that a police officer generally needs a reasonable
suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that an occupant of a vehicle is or
has been engaged in criminal activity, nothing in the Fourth Amendment requires
that the ‘specific and articulable facts’ relate to suspected criminal activity.”
(Emphasis sic.) State v. Norman, 136 Ohio App.3d 46, 53 (3d Dist.1999). We
concluded that to insist that every vehicle stop be supported by a reasonable,
articulable suspicion of criminal activity would be to “overlook[] the police officer’s
legitimate role as a public servant designed to assist those in distress and to maintain



Case No. 14-18-15


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and foster public safety.” Id. Thus, “under appropriate circumstances[,] a law
enforcement officer may be justified in approaching a vehicle * * * without needing
any reasonable basis to suspect criminal activity * * * to carry out ‘community
caretaking functions’ to enhance public safety.” Id. at 54. As with all searches and
seizures, the “key to * * * permissible police action” when conducting community
caretaking functions is reasonableness. Id. Provided that a law enforcement officer
is “able to point to reasonable, articulable facts upon which to base her safety
concerns,” the brief seizure of an automobile and its occupants will be deemed
reasonable. Id.
{¶37} While we have had difficulty locating an Ohio case endorsing the
principle that a law enforcement officer is justified in effecting a community
caretaking stop of a vehicle doing little more than driving at an unusually slow,
albeit noncriminal, speed, decisions of the courts of our sister states support that
such stops are constitutionally reasonable. See Trejo v. State, 76 So.3d 684, 689
690 (Miss.2011) (holding that a law enforcement officer may perform a community
caretaking stop of a motorist whose slow driving suggests that they are falling
asleep, but concluding that driving between 58-60 miles per hour in a zone with a
speed limit of 70 miles per hour, without more, does not support a reasonable
inference that the driver is at risk of falling asleep); State v. Rincon, 122 Nev. 1170,
1175-1176 (2006) (“Absent reasonable suspicion, and under very limited and



Case No. 14-18-15


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narrow circumstances, an inquiry stop of a slow driver may also be permissible
pursuant to the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment.”); State
v. Rinehart, 617 N.W.2d 842, 843-844 (S.D.2000); Ortega v. State, 974 S.W.2d
361, 363-364 (Tex.App.1998); State v. Martinez, 260 N.J.Super 75, 77-78 (1992)
(abnormally slow speed suggests number of objectively reasonable concerns
including: “something might be wrong with the car * * * [and] a traffic safety
hazard is presented to drivers approaching from the rear when an abnormally slow
moving vehicle is operated at night on a roadway without flashers”); contra State v.
Bacher, 170 Ohio App.3d 457, 2007-Ohio-727, ¶ 14 (1st Dist.) (community
caretaking exception inapplicable where only apparent indication that driver might
have been in distress was the fact that the vehicle was moving at 42-43 miles per
hour in a zone with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour). We join these courts and
conclude that in some circumstances, a law enforcement officer may be justified in
effecting a community caretaking stop of an abnormally slow-moving vehicle to, at
the very least, determine whether the vehicle is suffering from a mechanical
malfunction and to temporarily remove the hazard of an excessively slow-moving
vehicle from fast-moving traffic.
{¶38} Here, Trooper Byers testified that because of the abnormally slow
speed at which Moiduddin’s vehicle was traveling, he was concerned that
Moiduddin’s vehicle was experiencing mechanical problems or that Moiduddin was



Case No. 14-18-15


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suffering from a “medical episode.” (Apr. 5, 2018 Tr. at 28-29). Trooper Byers
also indicated that he was concerned for Moiduddin’s safety and for the safety of
other motorists on the highway due to the risk that a much faster moving vehicle
could collide with Moiduddin’s slow-moving vehicle. (See id. at 29, 36, 55). Thus,
rather than basing his stop on a generalized “hunch” that the driver of the vehicle
was in distress or that public safety was endangered, Trooper Byers articulated
specific facts upon which his concerns were based. Although the circumstances do
not necessarily suggest that immediate assistance was needed to prevent serious
injury or death, the circumstances do support that Trooper Byers’s safety concerns
were legitimate and reasonable and that he was justified in stopping Moiduddin’s
vehicle to dispel these concerns.
{¶39} Nevertheless, Moiduddin argues that the stop of his vehicle was not
constitutionally valid because “[t]here is no mention of a medical episode in Trooper
Byers’s Statement of Facts and his conduct of pacing the vehicle for a significant
amount of time is contrary to any belief of immediate need for assistance.”
(Appellee’s Brief at 6). Moiduddin’s argument is without merit. As the Supreme
Court of the United States has stressed repeatedly, “[a]n action is ‘reasonable’ under
the Fourth Amendment, regardless of the individual officer’s state of mind, ‘as long
as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify [the] action.’” (Emphasis sic.)
Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 404, quoting Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 138,



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98 S.Ct. 1717 (1978). Here, the circumstances, when viewed objectively, support
that a community caretaking stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was justified to determine
whether Moiduddin’s car was functioning properly and to briefly remove his vehicle
from the flow of traffic, thereby fostering and enhancing public safety. Thus, the
stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle was reasonable regardless of Trooper Byers’s
subjective beliefs or of the fact that he hesitated in stopping Moiduddin’s vehicle.
{¶40} Similarly, the fact that Trooper Byers testified that he stopped
Moiduddin’s vehicle for a potential violation of R.C. 4511.22 does not defeat
application of the community caretaking exception. Although Dombrowski speaks
of community caretaking functions as those “totally divorced” from the detection
and investigation of violations of criminal statutes, “[a]s an officer goes about his
or her duties, an officer cannot always ascertain which hat the officer will wear—
his law enforcement hat or her community caretaker hat.” State v. Kramer, 315
Wis.2d 414, 433 (2009). Consequently, law enforcement officers may encounter
situations where both their law enforcement and their community caretaking
functions are implicated. As noted above, an officer’s subjective motivations have
no bearing on the question of whether a search or seizure is reasonable under the
Fourth Amendment. Brigham City at 404-405. Therefore,
so long as a police officer is able to point to specific, objective, and
articulable facts which, standing alone, reasonably would suggest that



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his assistance is necessary, a coinciding subjective law enforcement
concern by the officer will not negate the validity of [a search or
seizure] under * * * the community caretaking doctrine.
Livingstone, 644 Pa. at 74. See McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 686-687; Kramer at
432-435; State v. Smathers, 232 N.C.App. 120, 127-128 (2014). Under the
circumstances, it would have been objectively reasonable for any law enforcement
officer to perform a community caretaking stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle.
Accordingly, it is irrelevant whether Trooper Byers’s stop of Moiduddin’s vehicle
was partially motivated by an interest in enforcing the traffic laws.
{¶41} In sum, we conclude that the trial court erred by holding that the stop
of Moiduddin’s vehicle was not justified under the community caretaking exception.
As a result, we conclude that the trial court erred by granting Moiduddin’s motion
to suppress.
{¶42} Having concluded that the trial court erred by granting Moiduddin’s
motion to suppress, we now consider whether the trial court also erred by dismissing
the indictment against Moiduddin. In this case, it appears that the trial court’s
decision to dismiss the indictment was predicated on its assessment that, having
granted Moiduddin’s motion to suppress, the State was left with insufficient
evidence to prosecute Moiduddin for the crimes with which he was charged. (See
Doc. No. 36). Given that we have determined that the trial court’s decision to grant



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Moiduddin’s motion to suppress was in error, we have little difficulty reversing the
trial court’s dismissal of the indictment as the ostensible basis for the dismissal has
been fatally undermined. However, even if the trial court had been correct in
granting Moiduddin’s suppression motion, we would still conclude that the trial
court erred by dismissing the indictment.
{¶43} “If a trial court finds a Fourth Amendment violation, the remedy is
suppression of the wrongfully obtained evidence, not dismissal.” State v. Lassiter,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 92278, 2009-Ohio-3893, ¶ 5. See State v. Sanders, 7th Dist.
Columbiana No. 12 CO 35, 2013-Ohio-5220, ¶ 13; State v. Marcum, 12th Dist.
Butler Nos. CA2005-10-431 and CA2005-20-446, 2006-Ohio-2514, ¶ 9. Neither
appellate courts nor trial courts “possess adequate or complete prosecutorial
information and are [thus] unable to make an informed judgment whether sufficient
evidence remains to prosecute.” State v. Malone, 6th Dist. Erie No. E-03-060, 2004
Ohio-3794, ¶ 20, citing State v. Bertram, 80 Ohio St.3d 281, 284 (1997). As a result,
“[d]ismissal of a case by the trial court after granting a motion to suppress is error
because it deprives the state of its opportunity to determine the sufficiency of its
own case.” Marcum at ¶ 10, citing State v. Hamilton, 97 Ohio App.3d 648, 651 (3d
Dist.1994). After a trial court grants a motion to suppress, “[t]he state is permitted
to determine whether it will seek a stay of proceedings to pursue a Crim.R. 12 appeal
or alternatively proceed to a final judgment.” Id., citing Malone at ¶ 19, citing State



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v. Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 0337 Buckeye, 58 Ohio St.3d 166, 169 (1991).
“‘While the state may have a tougher row to hoe without the availability of
suppressed evidence, it does not necessarily follow that, as a matter of law, the
defendant is entitled to dismissal of the charge.’” Id. at ¶ 11, quoting State v. Couch,
2d Dist. Montgomery No. 17520, 1999 WL 961264, *5 (June 25, 1999).
{¶44} Therefore, regardless of whether the trial court correctly or incorrectly
granted Moiduddin’s motion to suppress evidence, the trial court erred when it
dismissed the charges pending against Moiduddin. See Malone at ¶ 21.
{¶45} The State’s assignment of error is sustained.

Outcome: Having found error prejudicial to the appellant herein in the particulars
assigned and argued, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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