Simply put, the methamphetamine and the assorted drug-related items were found in a [Batman] bag in close proximity to Batdorf before she was removed from the vehicle, thereby constituting evidence that she was in possession of the methamphetamine.
State v. Batdorf
2020 – Ohio – 4396
Second District Appellate Court
Greene County, Ohio
September 11, 2020
On Sunday July 23, 2017, Fairborn Police Officers Ethan Boggs and Ross Ferree responded to a dispatch regarding a drug complaint at a Shell Gas Station at 2 East Dayton Drive, in Fairborn, Ohio.
During an inventory of the vehicle that Ms. Batdorf was in at the Shell Gas Station at 2 East Dayton Drive, in Fairborn, Ohio, Officer Ethan Boggs found a Batman Bag that was full of methamphetamine.
On Sunday July 23, 2017, Fairborn Police Officers Ethan Boggs and Ross Ferree responded to an anonymous call regarding a drug complaint at a Shell gas station at 2 East Dayton Drive, in Fairborn, Ohio.
Officer Boggs testified that he approached the driver of the vehicle, and Officer Ferree approached the passenger side and made contact with the individual sitting in the front passenger seat. This individual initially identified herself as “Judith McCoy,” but she was not the real McCoy. She was lying about her identity. This was not much of a Riddler, as later she was identified as Ms. Jeannie Batdorf.
Officer Boggs testified that the driver of the vehicle, Mr. Derek Ferdon, was removed from the vehicle and arrested for an active and verified warrant. During his arrest he identified his front seat passenger as Ms. Batdorf which explained why she was not the real McCoy. The officers then removed Ms. Batdorf and the other occupant of the vehicle and conducted an inventory search of the vehicle. Officer Boggs testified that, during the inventory search, the officers found a red Adidas backpack in the backseat, which contained Mr. Ferdon’s wallet and drug paraphernalia were inside a red backpack. His wallet was actually found inside a Batman sock inside of the red backpack.
On the front passenger floorboard Officer Boggs observed a Batman backpack between Ms. Batdorf’s feet. Inside the Batman backpack, the officers discovered a digital scale, multiple small baggies, and two large bags containing what was later found to be approximately 19.4 grams of methamphetamine.
At trial, the parties stipulated that the bulk amount of methamphetamine is three grams. Fairborn Police Detective Brian Neiford, a member of the A.C.E. drug task force, testified that, in his experience, suspects found to be in possession of digital scales and large amounts of methamphetamine, particularly when contained in multiple small baggies, were likely to be engaged in drug trafficking. Detective Neiford testified that, based upon the large amount of methamphetamine discovered in the Batman bag and the manner in which it had been packaged, he requested that Ms. Batdorf be charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs.
A jury trial was held on November 18, 2019, and Ms. Batdorf was found guilty of aggravated trafficking in drugs and aggravated possession of drugs because of the methamphetamine found in the Batman bag. The trial court merged these offenses and sentenced Batdorf to eight years in prison for aggravated trafficking in drugs.
Ms. Batdorf appealed, in part, based on her “possession” of the Bat bag. The legal issue is whether or not Ms. Batdorf constructively possessed the Bat bag. The court evaluated the doctrine of Constructive Possession – “[C]onstructively possess drugs, a person must be able to exercise” ‘dominion and control'” over them,” ‘even if [they] [were] not within his immediate physical possession.'” [State v. Dillard, 173 Ohio App.3d 373, 2007-Ohio-5651, 878 N.E.2d 694, (2d Dist.)], quoting State v. Mabry 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 21569, 2007-Ohio-1895, Constructive possession may be inferred from “the surrounding facts and circumstances, including the defendant’s actions.” State v. Pilgrim, 184 Ohio App.3d 675, 2009-Ohio-5357, 922 N.E.2d 248, (10th Dist.), the methamphetamine and the assorted drug-related items were found in a bag in close proximity to Batdorf before she was removed from the vehicle, thereby constituting evidence that she was in possession of the methamphetamine.”.
Consequently, the Second District Appellate Court held that the Bat bag was in Constructive Possession of Ms. Batdorf and held “Simply put, the methamphetamine and the assorted drug-related items were found in a bag in close proximity to Batdorf before she was removed from the vehicle, thereby constituting evidence that she was in possession of the methamphetamine.”.
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Batdorf, 2020 – Ohio – 4396.
This case was issued by the Ohio Second District Appellate Court and is binding in the following counties: Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami and Montgomery.
Ms. Batdorf’s Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections link. https://appgateway.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/Search/Details/W105067 – Batman Bag is not pictured.
- Possession is evaluated in the criminal court in two ways; either actual or constructive. Actual possession is when a person has property on his person. Constructive Possession is based on the totality of the circumstances. To evaluate Constructive Possession, it begins with the Ohio Revised Code. Under O.R.C. §2901.21 (F)(1) states “Possession is a voluntary act if the possessor knowingly procured or received the thing possessed, or was aware of the possessor’s control of the thing possessed for a sufficient time to have ended possession.”. The doctrine can be further evaluated under controlling case law. In State v. Wolery, 46 Ohio St. 2d 316 (1976) the Supreme Court of Ohio held “Constructive possession exists when an individual exercises dominion and control over an object, even though that object may not be within his immediate physical possession.”.
- On July 23, 2017 Ms. Batdorf had a Batman backpack located near her or it was within her “Constructive Possession”. When law enforcement attempts to utilize the Constructive Possession Doctrine, it is best to provide substantive documentation as to how the person was in dominion and control of the object(s). Utilization of body camera or cruiser camera is also very helpful to establish possession.
- Often a recidivist claims that the jacket or pants he is wearing is not his own. This is very common when the recidivist is in possession of felonious contraband. Most often the recidivist is in actual possession not constructive possession of the contraband. Often, the officer at the scene does not need to parse the nuanced differences. Law enforcement does not need to be right, only reasonable. That is what the Wolery decision meant when the Supreme Court of Ohio held “Constructive possession exists when an individual exercises dominion and control over an object, even though that object may not be within his immediate physical possession.”. Id at 329. To underscore this point in Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177 (1990) the U.S. Supreme Court held “[T]he police officer conducting a search or seizure under one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement — is not that they always be correct, but that they always be reasonable.”. Id at 185.
- For more information on the Constructive Possession Doctrine see Why was Mickey’s Mouse Felonious?
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