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9th District reverses Summit Cty. trial court’s warrantless search decision

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 24, 2021

A Summit County trial court erred by finding the state conducted a warrantless search of a parolee’s vehicle, according to the 9th District Court of Appeals.
Anfenee Crandall was under the supervision of the Adult Parole Authority when several warrants were issued for his arrest. At the time, he was living in an apartment leased by his girlfriend and owned by the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Officers from the APA and the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested Crandall and did a protective sweep of the apartment. They also searched a vehicle that was parked outside the apartment based on information that Crandall was using the vehicle. The search of the vehicle revealed a loaded gun and a digital scale coated with white residue.
Crandall was indicted on one count each of having a weapon under disability and receiving proceeds of an offense subject to forfeiture, plus a forfeiture specification. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him, including the items seized from the vehicle.
After a hearing, the trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part – concluding the state conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle in the absence of probable cause or any evidence linking Crandall to the vehicle. The trial court suppressed the evidence taken from the vehicle and denied the remainder of Crandall’s motion.
On appeal, the state alleged: the trial court made factual findings that were not based on competent, credible evidence; as a parolee, Crandall was subject to a warrantless search of any vehicle he controlled; if, in fact, the vehicle did not belong to Crandall, he lacked standing to challenge the search of the vehicle, and the evidence from the vehicle was discovered during a lawful inventory search.
The appellate court sustained the state’s argument that the trial court erred when it partially granted Crandall’s motion to suppress.
In her 3-0 opinion, appellate Judge Lynne Callahan noted the trial court found the vehicle searched was registered to a female, whom the police understood to be Crandall’s grandmother.
“The court noted that no one saw Mr. Crandall driving the vehicle or riding in it,” Judge Callahan wrote. “The court further noted that no one recalled whether Mr. Crandall had the keys to the vehicle or whether it was unlocked when the police searched it. The court found that the state failed to produce any evidence linking Mr. Crandall to the vehicle or demonstrating that its officers had probable cause to believe the vehicle contained contraband. The court only considered the automobile exception to the warrant requirement and, finding that exception inapplicable, granted Mr. Crandall’s motion to suppress the evidence found inside the vehicle.”
However, the state produced two witnesses at the suppression hearing linking Crandall to the vehicle.
Officer Todd Liggett testified that since Crandall was a parolee, the APA had the authority to conduct a warrantless search of his residence and any vehicle he had the ability to control. Liggett confirmed that, before the search, the APA received information that Crandall was driving the vehicle parked outside his residence even though it was registered to someone else. The officer specified that Crandall’s supervising parole officer had offered a description of the vehicle the parolee was known to drive.
Detective Troy Meech testified that he never personally saw Crandall drive the vehicle, but the AMHA’s security footage from the parking lot showed the parolee exiting the vehicle and walking into his residence.
“The state set forth evidence that the APA had a description of the car Mr. Crandall was known to drive, that a car matching that description was parked outside his registered address, that only Mr. Crandall and his girlfriend were present at that address when officers executed his arrest warrants, and that security footage from the parking lot showed Mr. Crandall stepping out of the vehicle and walking into his residence,” Judge Callahan stated.
On remand, the trial court must determine in the first instance whether the state conducted a constitutionally valid search of the vehicle pursuant to either R.C. 2967.131(C) or the inventory exception to the warrant requirement.
Appellate judges Jennifer Hensal and Thomas Teodosio concurred. The case is cited State v. Crandall, 2021-Ohio-3724.