Christopher claimed he did not call his estranged wife but was spoofed by an unknown person, who coincidently, also did not like his wife.

Would Christopher be able convince the trial or appellate court?

After reviewing the record, we find that Mr. Terry’s conviction for violating a protection order is not against the manifest weight of the evidence and is therefore supported by sufficient evidence.

State v. Terry

2021 – Ohio – 4043

Twelfth District Appellate Court

Warren County, Ohio

November 15, 2021

Mr. Christopher Terry and Mrs. Zevar Terry were married in 2011. Mrs. Terry filed for divorce in July 2019. At that time, a civil protection order was issued by the Butler County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to R.C. 3113.31 and was set to expire September 27, 2021. The order provided that Mr. Terry is “not initiate or have any contact with” Wife, and defined contact to include “landline, cordless, cellular, or digital telephone.” It included a limited exception to the no-contact provision, permitting “communication concerning issues directly related to or concerning the parties[‘] minor child.” Such communication was only permitted via “the Our Family Wizard application except for emergency situations for which time is critical in which telephone communication is permitted.” Mr. Terry received a copy of the order and signed it.

On Tuesday November 24, 2020, at 11:49 a.m., Mrs. Terry received a missed call on her cellular telephone. She recognized the number as Mr. Terry’s, though she had deleted his contact information from her telephone. One minute later, she received a call from the same number and answered it. She recognized Mr. Terry’s voice as he told her, “you’re done, [expletive].” Mr. Terry screamed at her and mentioned something about court before wife ended the call. The call lasted for thirteen seconds. Mrs. Terry was at her residence in Warren County when she received the call.

Mrs. Terry took screenshots of Mr. Terry’s calls on her cellular telephone screen. She presented the pictures and a copy of the protective order to Hamilton Township Police Officer Joshua Clift. After checking that the protection order was still valid, Officer Clift decided to pursue charges relating to the incident. Officer Clift then filed a complaint and Mr. Terry was arrested.

The matter proceeded to trial on February 23, 2021. Mr. Terry appeared pro se [represented himself]. Mrs. Terry, Officer Clift, and Mr. Terry testified. The state submitted the screenshots of the two phone calls and the protection order into evidence. Mr. Terry submitted a screenshot of text messages between Mrs. Terry and the parties’ shared minor child, a printout of the Wikipedia webpage article on “Caller ID spoofing,” a printout of the webpage “Spoofbox,” and Mr. Terry’s own cellular telephone bill for the period of November 14, 2020, to December 13, 2020, which included a list of incoming and outgoing calls.

Following the one-day bench trial, Mr. Terry was found guilty of violating a protection order in under R.C. 2919.27(A)(1). He was sentenced to serve 180 days in jail with 165 days suspended for two years to probation and credit for two days. Mr. Terry now appeals his conviction.

At trial, Mr. Terry’s principal argument in his defense was that he did not call Mrs. Terry but was the victim of “spoofing,” “i.e., making the sender appear to be someone other than the actual source.” Meeks v. Oberlin, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 107636, 2019-Ohio- 2825.  To support his argument, Mr. Terry introduced evidence to establish a motive on Mrs. Terry’s part to use Mr. Terry’s telephone number in a “spoof.” He also introduced into evidence his cellular telephone bill for the period when the incident occurred. The call log attached to the bill does not show any outgoing calls at the time Mrs. Terry testified that she received the call and at the time her telephone shows she received the call. Mrs. Terry testified however, that she was not familiar with spoofing. Mrs. Terry testified that she not only recognized Mr. Terry’s telephone number but also his voice as well. This could not be explained away as spoofing.

How Would the Court Analyze the Possible Spoof Phone Call?

Although there is no explanation for why Mr. Terry’s telephone log does not disclose the telephone calls from him to Mrs. Terry, that is not to say the only explanation is that Mr. Terry did not make the calls. The trial court believed Mrs. Terry’s testimony that the calls were made and that she recognized Mr. Terry’s voice in the second call.


After reviewing the record, we find that Mr. Terry’s conviction for violating a protection order is not against the manifest weight of the evidence and is therefore supported by sufficient evidence.


Lessons Learned:

  1. One party can always spoof a fake phone call. This would most likely happen when it is domestic related and there is a no contact order.  In this case the trial court simply believed the testimony of Mrs. Terry over the possibility of a spoofed phone call, irrespective of the call log offered as evidence by Mr. Terry in court.
  2. How much should an officer consider spoofing when evaluating probable cause? The answer can only be answered on a case-by-case basis.  However, every officer should keep in mind that he is trying to establish probable cause not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  If there is evidence that a call is spoofed, then that would be exculpatory evidence and probable cause cannot be established.  But if there is no evidence, other than a suspect’s statement that the phone call was spoofed then that statement, in and of itself, without more evidence, would not be enough to overcome other evidence such as a phone call log.
  3. Probable cause can be, at times, challenging to establish; mostly. Most especially when evaluating technology when the tech-saavy criminals can alter so much.  However, officers should not over-think the legal doctrine of probable cause as that is the standard of measurement when making decisions in real time.  Officer Clift did great work and should be commended for his outstanding decision making.  Well done Officer Clift!

Does your agency train on Protection Orders?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.