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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > December 2015 > State v. Adams, 2015 Ohio 5072

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State v. Adams, 2015 Ohio 5072

Question: When may officers arrest for a minor misdemeanor offense?

Quick Answer:  Generally, officers shall not arrest for a minor misdemeanor. However, O.R.C. 2935.26 sets forth exceptions to this general rule.

Facts: A trooper on patrol followed Adams leaving a known drug location and initiated a traffic stop for a non-working brake light. The trooper noticed the smell of raw marijuana emanating from the car as he spoke with Adams. The trooper asked Adams to step out of the car and Adams admitted to having a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. Adams was handcuffed, Mirandized, thoroughly searched and placed in the back seat of the cruiser. During the search, the trooper felt a lump at the rear of Adams’ pants, but upon a second pass, the lump had disappeared. Adams’ car was then towed and a second search of his person was conducted, which included shaking his pants leg. A baggie of cocaine fell from his pants. The court suppressed the cocaine, finding that Adams’ arrest was unlawful. Consequently, the evidence resulting from the search was excluded. The court explained that the initial stop was for a brake light violation, which is a minor misdemeanor. The amount of marijuana in Adams’ possession was only sufficient to establish another misdemeanor. Because an arrest is regarded as a “serious personal intrusion” in Ohio, an individual may be arrested for a minor misdemeanor in only limited circumstances, none of which applied in this case. 

Keep in Mind: O.R.C. 2935.26 carves out exceptions to this general rule, which include: 1) the offender requires medical care or is unable to provide for his own safety; 2) the offender won’t offer satisfactory evidence of his identity; 3) the offender refuses to sign the citation; 4) the offender has previously been issued a citation for committing that misdemeanor, and has failed to appear in court or pay the fine.