[E]ven where the officer making the stop lacks all of the information justifying the stop. [T]he entire [law enforcement] system is required to possess facts justifying the stop or arrest, even though the arresting officer does not have those facts.


State v. Mosley

2021 – Ohio – 3472

First District Appellate Court

Hamilton County, Ohio

October 1, 2021

In September of 2019 in the Price Hill section of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Rico Mosley stopped his car in the middle of traffic to talk with occupants of a car adjacent blocking traffic behind him.  A female officer in plain clothes in an unmarked vehicle observed this traffic violation.  The officer radioed to a marked uniform unit – Officer Merlin Murrell.  Officer Murrell was instructed to conduct a traffic stop on Mr. Mosely but was not told what traffic violation Mr. Mosely committed.  The lack of the specific traffic violation would be the foundation of this appeal.

Mr. Rico Mosley stopped in the middle of a street here in the Price Hill section of Cincinnati.  His traffic violation was observed by a female police officer in plain clothes in an unmarked vehicle.  Mr. Mosley and his cocaine would soon be stopped and discovered by a uniformed officer. Would the cocaine be admissible?  The First District held that it was admissible.

After committing the traffic offense, Mr. Mosley pulled away, prompting the undercover officer to follow his car until Officer Murrell could arrive. During this time, the undercover officer observed Mr. Mosley “making all kinds of movement as if to hide something” facts that she conveyed to Officer Murrell as he was enroute. He eventually caught up and pulled Mr. Mosley over.

During the traffic stop, Officer Murrell could not issue the traffic citation, however, because he did not know any details of Mr. Mosley’s traffic violation. Nevertheless, Officer Murrell asked Mr. Mosley to step out of his vehicle. Mr. Mosley refused to consent to a search of his vehicle, but admitted that he had marijuana in the vehicle. Mr. Mosley smartly refused the consensual search because of the felony he had nestled in the center console.  Officer Murrell contacted a canine unit, which arrived within ten minutes. The trained dog alerted onto the vehicle, at which point Officer Murrell discovered a bag of crack cocaine in the center console. Mr. Mosley was subsequently arrested for drug possession.

Prior to trial, Mr. Mosley moved to suppress, challenging the constitutionality of the traffic stop. At a hearing, the trial court held that Officer Murrell’s stop was unconstitutional because he could not articulate the specific traffic offense that justified the stop or the location where it occurred. The state immediately appealed from that judgment as the trial court was as wrong as the Ninth Circuit is much of the time.

The First District Appellate Court overturned the trial court and held “Although the trial court faulted the undercover officer for failing to provide specific details of the violation, this runs afoul of the principle explained above that we must consider the knowledge of the law enforcement community engaged in the investigation and apprehension as a whole. This rule flows from the recognition that many communications between officers are made in the heat of the moment or under exigent circumstances, with no opportunity to provide a detailed narrative of the officers’ observations or a recitation of applicable code sections. In light of the existence of probable cause, the ensuing stop, ordering Mr. Mosley out of the car, and the K-9 investigation that revealed drugs were all permissible.”.

Information for this article was obtained from State v. Mosley, 2021 – Ohio – 3472.

This decision was issued by the First District Appellate Court which is binding in Hamilton County, Ohio.


Lessons Learned:

  1. The First District Court cited a Supreme Court of Ohio case from 1992 to provide the foundation for Officer Murrell to stop Mr. Mosley without the specific information as to what traffic violation had occurred “[E]ven where the officer making the stop lacks all of the information justifying the stop. [T]he entire [law enforcement] system is required to possess facts justifying the stop or arrest, even though the arresting officer does not have those facts.” State v. Cook, 65 Ohio St.3d 516, 521 (1992). In other words, one law enforcement officer may direct another to conduct an investigative detention, traffic stop or arrest without all of the specific details as to the why.  One officer having substantive information is sufficient.  Law enforcement is often tasked with making quick decisions to detain or arrest.  These challenging decisions when made in an office under florescent lights … with calm deliberation … is exponentially easier then when made in real time … under sunlight, moonlight, streetlights or no lights at all.
  1. The court also cited another case from 1990 to provide another layer of support to Officer Murrell’s stop and subsequent arrest of the cocaine-toting Rico Mosley “The Supreme Court also instructs that “information supplied by officers or agencies engaged in a common investigation with an arresting officer may be used to establish probable cause for a warrantless arrest.” State v. Henderson, 51 Ohio St.3d 54, 57 (1990).
  1. One wonders how the trial court was able to make a decision that looked like it was issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – en banc. This is a classic example as to why there is an appellate system in the United States.  Appellate judges have a duty to act in the role of umpires and examine the decisions made by a lower courts’ single judge.  Here the criminal justice system worked, and Rico’s cocaine was determined to be lawfully obtained by Officer Murrell.

Does your agency train on the Traffic Stops?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.