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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > December 2015 > State v. Ebert, 2015 Ohio 5012

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State v. Ebert, 2015 Ohio 5012

Question: Is a person approached and questioned by officers, based on an anonymous tip, seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment?

Quick Answer: No. Merely asking questions does not automatically convert a consensual encounter into an investigative detention.

Facts: While working at the Regional Transit Authority hub in Dayton, officers received an anonymous tip that a white male passenger named Andrew Ebert on Bus 7 was carrying a green tote bag containing a gun. When the bus arrived, two officers along with two security guards observed Ebert get off Bus 7 carrying a green tote bag. Officers encountered Ebert on the platform with what appeared to be blood on his face. They asked for his name and advised him they had been looking for him. They also asked if he had anything on him they needed to know about, to which he responded that there was a gun in the tote bag. At suppression, Ebert argued he was seized and in custody when questioned by officers. The court concluded the evidence demonstrated the interaction between Ebert and officers was a consensual encounter, not becoming a detention until the presence of the gun was disclosed. There was no evidence that the officers surrounded Ebert, brandished weapons, or otherwise acted in a threatening manner.

Keep in Mind: It is important to note an officer’s word and actions can convert an otherwise lawful consensual encounter into an investigative detention. In the present case, the officers did nothing to indicate that Ebert had been seized or was not free to leave.