By on December 27, 2011

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.

Source: PDF File Ohio v. Forrest (Court of Appeals, State of Ohio, 12/6/2011)


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20 Comments on “Ohio: Yanking Motorist Out of Car Is Not a Welfare Check...”

  • avatar

    Sorry boys, you need to play by the rules if you’re going to arrest people.
    It’s for your protection after all.
    Tell them it’s for their protection and they get even more steamed about limits on their police powers.

  • avatar

    It is very unfortunate that the officer still has a job and doesn’t have to fork over to Mr. Forrest every dime and piece of property that the officer posses.

  • avatar

    I rather like the idea of reverse confiscation. The State has a fun time taking cash, property and anything it can from charged offenders, sometimes not returning items for months if at all. But of course we have civil lawsuits as a redress, unfortunately that costs money. Maybe we should have public defenders file suits instead where we get to keep 95% of the loot instead of 60 or 70%.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I keep telling you people that Ohio is a cop-ridden hell hole. Now do you believe me?

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but I have to take the “ends justify the means” road. These cases are NEVER really about cops harassing sweet innocent little old ladies driving to church. Inevitably, this was a DRUG DEAL that the cop stumbled into. And IMHO, if you are in possesion of illegal substances, then however the cop came to see it is all good in my book.

    But having said that, the judges are absolutely correct to go by the letter of the law as written. That is their job.

    • 0 avatar

      No sir, you are correct (specifically)… but wrong (in the long view). That is because “sweet innocent little old ladies” lack standing to bring cases against the police when their rights are violated. If no charges are brought, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to volunteer yourself as David versus the Goliath of the State.

      • 0 avatar

        So what you’re really saying is that law abiding people don’t get “their rights violated.” If some cop assaulted me and then discovered that I was not in the process of breaking any laws, you can bet that I would take action against said cop. So would every innocent little old lady I know. This guy was a gun toting drug dealer. He still is thanks to some civilization destroying slimeball lawyer.

    • 0 avatar

      No sir, I am not saying that “law abiding people” don’t get their rights trampled. I am saying that such folk generally don’t pursue claims against the government when such violations occur.

      To follow your line of argument is to grant law enforcement a pass in breaking the very laws you bemoan being violated in the first place. Constitutional protections exist for good reason and blaming “some civilization destroying slimeball lawyer,” while a colorful turn of phrase, deflects from the issue at hand.

      Perhaps the man in the vehicle was breaking the law, but we’ll never know, because a legal finding of fact cannot be undertaken, because the police broke the law in their overzealous prosecution of it.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      Why bother to allow for the repeal of arrest warrants if we’re just going to use them as justification in violating Fourth Amendment rights down the road? Hell, sounds like a lot of unnecessary trouble to me.

      • 0 avatar

        The prior arrest warrant just suggests that this armed drug dealer wasn’t making his first appearance at the rodeo. The fact remains that the arresting officer happened upon a drug deal in progress and correctly identified it as such, as proven by the results of his search. Should an officer need a search warrant to look in the bag of a masked man fleeing a crime scene? Would the officer be violating court created ‘Fourth Amendment rights’ in spite of hearing an alarm and people yelling stop? This officer used his judgement for the purpose of stopping a crime in progress. He didn’t know anything about an incorrectly repealed arrest warrant when he saw the deal in progress and the armed drug dealer responded to his greeting by rolling up the window of his car and taking the key from its ignition, which sounds like something some other criminals’ advocate would have told him to do to create this crime perpetuating farce.

      • 0 avatar

        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.

    • 0 avatar

      The officer would not in fact need such a warrant if he were on foot pursuit “of a masked man fleeing a crime scene” under the officer protection exemptions already long-carved out of the Fourth Amendment.

      What you are arguing for is the criminalization of an act that merely gives the appearance of a potentially illegal act. Note the modifiers “gives the appearance of” and “potentially.” At any rate, it is unnecessary to speculate on what the man was doing, because as soon as the officer broke the law his subsequent actions were invalid.

      I fail to appreciate your distinction between illegal acts performed by a private citizen and an officer of the law.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      They didn’t witness a crime. See @Pch101 above [].

      I will not take your ability to twice arrive at a conclusion not substantiated by facts — (a) that the ends justify the means in this case and (b) my mental health is deficient — as sufficient evidence to claim that your grasp of logic is tenuous at best. Perhaps you could engage some similar conclusive humility.

      • 0 avatar

        He walked up to a car with a driver slumped low in his seat. He saw a fist full of dollars. He addressed the driver. The driver studiously ignored him and rolled up the window of the car. These are the facts. The rest amounts to a bunch of court room inventions meant to allow an armed drug dealer to continue armed drug dealing. I want cops to go after such criminals rather than focus on holding up commuters to collect money, an activity that the courts and the liars rarely find requires any constitutional protections for the public at all. The state has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing, as do the trial liars.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t disagree with your final point on revenue enhancements, but continue to reject your earlier conclusions.

      • 0 avatar

        CJ isn’t a big fan of the Bill of Rights, apparently. Fortunately, the founders had the good sense to put it in writing, so it doesn’t really matter that people like him choose to ignore it.

        As it stands now, with the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment and the legality of Terry stops, the bar for complying with the Fourth Amendment is already pretty low. But even after all that, a hunch still doesn’t qualify as reasonable suspicion.

    • 0 avatar


      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.

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