The officers’ order that Green move his vehicle was given to protect their own safety and that of the public and Green, and it was a lawful order.

State v. Green

2020 – Ohio – 4370

First District Appellate Court

Hamilton County, Ohio

September 9, 2020

Colerain Township Police Officer Patrick Enneking testified that he was on patrol the night of the snow emergency and that the conditions were treacherous. According to him, the weather was “extremely snowy,” the roads were horrible, and there was poor visibility. It was snowy, extremely windy, and windshields were freezing up. Officer Enneking testified that multiple vehicles were getting stuck on Banning Road. Because of this and the conditions, he blocked Banning Road with his cruiser. He stopped each approaching vehicle and assisted its driver in parking in a nearby lot.  At this time Mr. Terrence Green approached Officer Enneking.  Mr. Green stopped his car diagonally across the double line in the roadway.

Mr. Green got out of his car and told Officer Enneking that he was traveling to a friend’s house. Officer Enneking asked Mr. Green to park his car in a nearby lot, as he was fearful that someone would get struck by a passing car because it was difficult for cars to safely travel in either direction based on where Mr. Green’s car was stopped. Mr. Green refused, and their conversation became argumentative as Mr. Green insisted that he did not have to move his car.

Sergeant Scott Owen responded to assist Officer Enneking. According to Sgt. Owen, it was snowing heavily, the winds were brutal, the roads were not properly cleared, and it was one of the worst nights of inclement weather in which he had worked. Sgt. Owen testified that Mr. Green continued to refuse to move his car, telling the officers that he did not want the car to “get stuck.” After being informed that Mr. Green would be arrested for misconduct at an emergency if he failed to move his car.  Mr. Green reentered the car and locked the doors. The officers knocked on the car’s windows, ordered Mr. Green out, and told him that he was under arrest. Mr. Green shifted the car into reverse and hit the gas, and the tires began spinning. Officer Enneking testified that both officers would have been struck if the car had traction. Sgt. Owen threatened to break a window with his baton if Mr. Green did not comply with their order to exit from the car.

Mr. Green eventually put the car in park and unlocked the doors. Officer Enneking and Sgt. Owen then pulled him from the car. Mr. Green refused to put his hands behind his back, and the officers took Mr. Green to the ground and handcuffed him. After Mr. Green was placed under arrest, he informed the officers that he was driving to work, rather than to a friend’s house as he had initially stated. Both officers testified that Mr. Green was dressed in plain clothes and was not wearing a work uniform.

Sgt. Owen asked Mr. Green for his supervisor’s telephone number so that he could confirm that Mr. Green was in fact on his way to work, but Mr. Green refused to provide the number.

Mr. Green testified in his own defense. He stated that he was driving from a friend’s house to his job as a Metro bus driver when he encountered Officer Enneking on Banning Road. Mr. Green assumed the road was blocked after seeing a police cruiser. He attempted to turn around, but stopped mid-turn and exited from his car to speak to Officer Enneking after seeing that officers had let another car through.

Mr. Green explained that after being informed that the county was under a level two snow emergency and that he should not be on the road, he told Officer Enneking that he was on his way to work. He testified that his work uniform was in the trunk of the car. Mr. Green stated that he offered to drive back the way he had come, but that Officer Enneking and Sgt. Owen told him to move his car off the road and park it. Mr. Green stated that he wanted to move his car, but that, in his opinion, it was unsafe to park the car where the officers directed because he feared it would get stuck.

According to Mr. Green, the officers threatened to cite him for misconduct in an emergency, and he reentered his car to call his work supervisor. While he was in the car, the officers tapped on the window and ordered him out. Mr. Green testified that he did not lock his car doors, but that the doors automatically locked when he put the car in reverse to move it. Mr. Green unlocked the doors, and the officers forcibly pulled him out and handcuffed him. Mr. Green denied refusing to exit from his car.  Mr. Green was found guilty of misconduct at an emergency, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The trial court imposed a sentence of 30 days in jail, but suspended 29 of those days and awarded Mr. Green credit for one day served. It additionally imposed a fine and court costs, ordered Green to perform 150 hours of community service, and placed him on community control for one year.

Mr. Green was convicted of misconduct at an emergency in violation of R.C. 2917.13(A)(3), which provides that “No person shall knowingly … Fail to obey the lawful order of any law enforcement officer engaged in the law enforcement officer’s duties at the scene of or in connection with a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind.” Mr. Green concedes that a countywide snow emergency constitutes an emergency for purposes of the statute, but contends that the officers’ order for him to move his car was not “lawful.”

The officers’ order that Green move his vehicle was given to protect their own safety and that of the public and Green, and it was a lawful order.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence introduced at trial established that Green knowingly failed to obey the lawful order that he move his vehicle during a snow emergency.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Law enforcement have many responsibilities during emergencies and responsibilities during a snow emergency can be challenging. The lack of compliance by Mr. Green on Banning Road is an all-too-often modern-day example of citizenry failing to comply.  Green chose to intentionally and repeatedly comply with lawful orders from Officer Enneking and Sgt. Owen.  Once it was clear that Mr. Green was creating more of a safety hazard remaining on the street than being arrested was the decision made to ban Mr. Green from Banning Road.  Mr. Green had a unique legal argument; that Officer Enneking did not give him a lawful order of a lawful law.  The First District Appellate Court did not agree with Mr. Green as it held law enforcement can give a lawful order to move off of the roadway.
  1. To review the law under which Mr. Green violated, was arrested and convicted can be found in the Ohio Revised Code chapter titled Offenses Against the Public Peace. Misconduct at an Emergency O.R.C. §2917 (A)(3) No person shall knowingly do any of the following: Fail to obey the lawful order of any law enforcement officer engaged in the law enforcement officer’s duties at the scene of or in connection with a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind.  What the First District Appellate Court held was that law enforcement can give a lawful order during a snow emergency.  Now the authority to give a lawful order during a snow emergency is not absolute, but in context, in this situation, the order was lawful.
  1. Law enforcement is THE hardest job in America and this case demonstrates that Officer Enneking did great work trying to be reasonable with an unreasonable person. Though a tough decision to get tied up with an arrest during a snow emergency with cars sliding off of the roadway, the right decision was made by Officer Enneking.

Does your agency train on Misconduct at an Emergency?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.