Ohio: Yanking Motorist Out of Car Is Not a Welfare Check

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
ohio yanking motorist out of car is not a welfare check

Cops in Ohio may not rip a motorist out of his vehicle to “check on his welfare.” The state court of appeals handed down a decision earlier this month in a case involving a man parked on the side of the road in a quiet Columbus residential neighborhood who was “helped” out of his car with physical force.

Al E. Forrest sat in the driver’s seat of a 2003 Ford Explorer with another man in the passenger seat as two police officers came up on either side of the vehicle. According to Officer Kevin George’s testimony, he just wanted to see if the Explorer driver was okay. The officers had no suspicion of any criminal activity prior to approaching the Explorer. When George poked his head into the driver’s window, Forrest looked surprised to see a cop staring at him through the window. George said this was a sign of “nervousness.” When George saw money in Forrest’s left hand, he ordered the man out of the SUV. This was the beginning of the legal problem for the Columbus officer.

“We note initially that the police needed no suspicion of activity, legal or illegal, in order to walk up to or approach the Ford Explorer,” Judge G. Gary Tyack wrote for the appeals court. “What a person willingly displays in public is not subject to Fourth Amendment protection. However, Officer George went far beyond approaching the vehicle.”

Forrest did not immediately get out of the Explorer. Instead, he rolled up the window and removed the keys from the ignition. Unsatisfied with this response, George pulled open the car door and yanked Forrest out. George had no warrant and had still not observed any illegal activity. Because of this, a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge suppressed evidence obtained from arresting Forrest. The state appealed. The three-judge appellate panel found the prosecution’s claim that exceptions to the Fourth Amendment applied to be entirely unpersuasive.

“The state argues probable cause to arrest and then search incident to arrest are present, but both fail because they are premised on Forrest’s wrongfully refusing to obey the order to step out of the vehicle,” Judge Tyack wrote. “The officer, however, had no basis to order Forrest out of the vehicle because he lacked reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity when Officer George reached across Forrest’s body to grab his hand and pull him out of the vehicle. Since there was no lawful arrest, the search and seizure cannot be justified as a search incident to a lawful arrest.”

With the suppression motion upheld, the state has no case against Forrest. A copy of the decision is available in a 30k PDF file at the source link below.


Ohio v. Forrest (Court of Appeals, State of Ohio, 12/6/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

Join the conversation
11 of 20 comments
  • CJinSD CJinSD on Dec 27, 2011

    I don't support police efforts to raise revenue and court efforts to ignore our rights to enable raising of said revenue. What we have here is a cop who walked up on a drug deal in process. Yippee. Another gun toting drug dealer has beaten the system, probably not for the first time considering he had a previous arrest warrant that was repealed.

    • See 3 previous
    • Pch101 Pch101 on Dec 28, 2011
      @modestholdings The fact remains that the arresting officer happened upon a drug deal in progress and correctly identified it as such That's the problem -- he didn't identify it as such. Instead, the cops claimed that their intent was to "check on the well being" of the vehicle's occupants. The basic problem here is that the cops can't just stop people on a hunch; the Fourth Amendments requires at least "reasonable suspicion" for a stop and frisk. And the cops didn't have that. We all can guess what happened here. The cops had a hunch but didn't see anything to justify their fishing expedition. Because of the lack of reasonable suspicion, they instead "testi-lied" that they were checking up on the suspect out of concern for his health, only to stumble upon this crime in progress. That lie was a poor one. To justify the frisk, they needed suspicion, but the health checkup didn't give them that suspicion. If they were going to lie, they should have made up some other facts that gave them suspicion.

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Dec 28, 2011

    Yes, you fail. Creating the fiction that the framers meant police couldn't take action to investigate crimes they witness isn't the act of a well mind.

    • See 4 previous
    • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Dec 29, 2011

      CJinSD- Wow, I hope you're never on a jury for anything more important than a jaywalking case. If you get called for jury duty, do everyone a favor and just tell the judge you'll always find the person guilty. That will keep you off the jury, and hopefully someone with a more rational view can take your place.

  • Wjtinfwb Instead of raising fines, why don't the authorities enforce the laws and write tickets, and have judges enforce the penalty or sentence of a crime. I live across the street from an Elementary School on a 4-lane divided state highway. every morning the cop sits in his car and when someone sails through the School Zone well above the 10 mph limit, he merely hits his siren to get their attention but that's it. I've never, in 5 years, seen them get out of the car and actually stop and driver and confront them about speeding. As a result, no one pays attention and when the School Zone light is not lit, traffic flies by at 50-60 mph in the 45 zone. Almost no enforcement occurs until the inevitable crash, last year some zoned out girl rolled her beater Elantra 3 times. On a dry, straight, 4 lane road with a 45 mph limit. I'm no Angel and have a heavy foot myself. I've received my share of speeding tickets, lots of them when younger. Traffic enforcement in most locales has become a joke these days, jacking prices because someone has a higher income in as asinine as our stupid tax policy and non-existent immigration enforcement.
  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.
  • BEPLA For anything but the base model, I'd rather have a pre-owned Polestar 2.