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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > February 2016 > State v. Elmore, 2016 Ohio 129

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State v. Elmore, 2016 Ohio 129

Question: Does a trespasser have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the real property in which they are trespassing?

Quick Answer: No. When a person is trespassing he has no reasonable expectation of privacy on the property of another.

Facts:  A deputy on patrol observed a campfire and car parked in a wooded area near the Tuscarawas River. Having never known of this area to be used for camping, the deputy stopped to investigate. As he approached he observed three people sitting around the fire and two behind a tent. The subjects admitted they did not have permission to be there and did not know who owned the property. Both men behind the tent, which included Elmore, had outstanding warrants and appeared to be under the influence of a drug based on their actions. On the ground where they had been standing he observed coffee filters, marijuana, and a clear liquid in a plastic bottle. Upon viewing the car from the outside he located additional items consistent with manufacturing methamphetamines. He returned to the tent and lifted the corner finding methamphetamines. Inside the tent he found more items used to manufacture the drug. All denied ownership of the items. The appeals court overturned the trial court, which initially concluded the search was unlawful, finding Elmore had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the property as a trespasser. In addition, the car did not belong to him and no one claimed ownership of the tent or bag containing methamphetamines.

Keep in Mind: In making a determination whether a search was lawful, the court must consider whether the person challenging has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area or item to be searched. Asking questions to establish ownership will help determine whether the person has a legitimate expectation of privacy.