Officers Adamescu and Moore were engaged in the official business of conducting a wellness check within their official capacity as law enforcement officers. Mr. Hall ran from the officers, barricaded himself in a room with a variety of sharp objects that could inflict harm, and started to lunge towards a knife when officers ordered him to the ground. The evidence clearly demonstrates sufficient grounds to lawfully arrest Mr. Hall for obstruction.

 

State v. Hall

2023 – Ohio – 3869

Fifth District Appellate Court

Richland County, Ohio

October 25, 2023

 

Well Being Check on the Man on a Multi-Day Meth Bender

On February 21, 2021, the Mr. Levi Hall’s mother went to the Mansfield Police Department to request a well-being check on her son, Mr. Hall. She spoke with Patrol Officer Joshua Adamescu, telling him that Mr. Hall had been using methamphetamine for days, had been up for days, had knives with which he had been chasing people around the house, and that she was very concerned for her safety, her husband’s safety, and Mr. Hall’s safety. She also told officers that Mr. Hall said he “wanted to go out like Kenneth Cherry,” who was killed when he charged police officers while brandishing a knife.

Mr. Hall Slept with an Ax

Officer Adamescu and Officer Moore proceeded to 399 Hammond Avenue, in the City of Mansfield, where Mr. Hall resided with his father. Mr. Hall’s father, the owner of said residence, met the officers outside and told them that Mr. Hall was inside, Mr. Hall had been using methamphetamine, Mr. Hall brought strange people into the residence, Mr. Hall had knives, slept with an ax at night and that he was scared for his own safety in light of Mr. Hall’s behavior. Mr. Hall’s father gave the officers permission to enter the residence.

Mr. Hall’s mother requested Mansfield Police to respond to 399 Hammond Avenue, because her son, Levi Hall was on several day meth-bender, he was threatening his parents and was armed several edged weapons.

Mr. Hall was Armed with a Knife

Officer Adamescu met Mr. Hall at the threshold of the back door. Mr. Hall attempted to slam the door, but Officer Adamescu used his foot to prevent the door from shutting completely, entered the home, and saw that Mr. Hall held a butcher knife. Mr. Hall threw the knife into the sink and ran. Officer Adamescu advised Mr. Hall to stop; Mr. Hall failed to heed Officer Adamescu’s warning and was thereafter tased, to no effect. Mr. Hall shut himself in a bedroom and barricaded the door with his body. Officer Moore, who was still outside the home, could see Mr. Hall through a window and saw that he was holding a knife. Officer Adamescu kicked in the bedroom door, and Mr. Hall fell backward, dropping the knife.

Apprehension was Made Without Deadly Force

Officer Adamescu entered the bedroom, which was filled with knives, a long sword, a machete, an ax, and other sharp objects. Mr. Hall stood up, right over the knife. Officer Adamescu ordered Mr. Hall to the ground. Mr. Hall started to go down towards the ground, but then lunged towards a knife. However, Officer Adamescu and Officer Moore, who had entered the room by that time, were able to apprehend Mr. Hall before he grabbed the knife.

Charged with Obstructing Official Business, Resisting Arrest and Possession of Methamphetamine

Mr. Hall was arrested for obstruction and resisting. He was searched incident to said arrest, at which time officers found a baggie in his sweatshirt pocket of what was later confirmed to be methamphetamine. 

Indicted for Possession of Methamphetamine

Mr. Hall was indicted on one count of aggravated possession of drugs in violation of O.R.C. §2925.11(A) and (C)(1)(a), a felony of the fifth degree. Mr. Hall was released on a personal recognizance bond. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear for his August 30, 2021 arraignment. Mr. Hall was ultimately arraigned on February 11, 2022, at which time he pleaded not guilty. 

Motion to Suppress is Filed

On May 24, 2022, Mr. Hall filed a motion for leave to file a motion to suppress, which the trial court granted. A hearing on Mr. Hall’s motion to suppress was conducted on June 23, 2022. Officer Adamescu testified, and a number of exhibits were submitted by the appellee.

Motion to Suppress is Denied

On July 1, 2022, the trial court issued a judgment entry denying Mr. Hall’s motion to suppress. The trial court specifically found as follows: that Mr. Hall’s mother had requested a well-being check of Mr. Hall because he had been doing methamphetamines for some time, had not slept for days, and was chasing people throughout the house with knives; that Officer Adamescu went to the residence, and was met by Mr. Hall’s father, who owned the home and gave officers permission to enter the premises; that officers observed Mr. Hall with a knife, at which time he ran from them; that Mr. Hall was thereafter arrested, whereupon a search of his person revealed the drugs giving rise to the charge set forth in the indictment; and finally, that Officer Adamescu, who was the only witness to testify during the hearing, was a credible witness, that officers had probable cause to enter the residence, that Mr. Hall’s actions were more than sufficient to exceed probable cause for the arrest and search, and that the search incident to the arrest was proper. Based upon these findings, the trial court denied Mr. Hall’s motion to suppress. The matter thereafter proceeded to jury trial, at which the defendant was found guilty.

Mr. Hall Appeals the Denial of the Motion to Suppress

Mr. Hall filed a timely notice of appeal, and sets forth the following sole assignment of error:

Mr. Hall submits that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the evidence found on Mr. Hall’s person was not the result of a lawful search. We disagree.

Can a Person be Convicted of Obstructing Their Own Well-Being Check?

Officer Adamescu testified at the motion to suppress hearing that Mr. Hall was arrested for obstruction and resisting. O.R.C. §2921.31 defines obstructing official business, and states that “no person, with the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of an authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes the performance of the official’s lawful duties.” Officers Adamescu and Moore were engaged in the official business of conducting a wellness check within their official capacity as law enforcement officers. Mr. Hall ran from the officers, barricaded himself in a room with a variety of sharp objects that could inflict harm, and started to lunge towards a knife when officers ordered him to the ground. The evidence clearly demonstrates sufficient grounds to lawfully arrest Mr. Hall for obstruction.

Resisting Arrest

Further, O.R.C. §2921.33 defines resisting arrest, and provides that no person, recklessly or by force, shall resist or interfere with a lawful arrest of the person, and provides further that no person shall resist or interfere with the lawful arrest of the person if the offender, during the course of the resistance or interference, brandishes a deadly weapon. The evidence clearly demonstrates sufficient grounds to lawfully arrest Mr. Hall for resisting arrest – he brandished a knife, dropped it upon the Officer Adamescu’s entry into the room, and then lunged towards a knife as he was ordered to the ground during his arrest.

Search Incident to Arrest

Officers searched Mr. Hall’s person incident to his arrest. Their search of Mr. Hall was reasonable, particularly in light of concerns for the officers’ safety given the plethora of sharp objects that were in the room in which Mr. Hall had barricaded himself just prior to his arrest.

The search incident to a lawful arrest exception has two rationales: officer safety, and “safeguarding evidence that the arrestee might conceal or destroy.” State v. Adams, 2015-Ohio-3954.

Conclusion and Holding

We find that competent, credible evidence exists to support the findings of the trial court. We find further that the trial court’s findings established that officers had sufficient grounds to arrest Mr. Hall and conduct a search incident to that arrest. The facts in this case support Mr. Hall’s arrest for obstruction and resisting, and the officers’ search of Mr. Hall incident to that arrest was reasonable.

Information for this article was obtained from State v. Hall, 2023 – Ohio – 3869.

State v. Hall, 2023 – Ohio – 3869 was issued by the Fifth District Appellate Court on October 25, 2023 and is binding in the following Ohio Counties: Ashland, Coshocton, Delaware, Fairfield, Guernsey, Holmes, Knox, Licking, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Perry, Richland, Stark and Tuscarawas.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Addiction Calls are Common – This is a common call where loving family members try to support a loved one who struggles with addiction. In this case Mr. Hall was a methamphetamine consumer who had a substantiative number of edged weapons in his bedroom.  He had threatened others and both this mother and father were in such fear for their lives they requested law enforcement intervention. These types of calls often end violently but this one did end without significant force being exacted. If Mr. Hall does not overcome his addiction, he will be a frequent participant in the criminal justice system.
  2. Crossing the Threshold – Officer Adamescu and Officer Moore crossed the threshold lawfully with consent by Mr. Hall’s father, who provided them a knowingly, voluntarily and intelligent waiver to enter the home.
  3. Obstructing Official Business – Mr. Hall did obstruct the well-being check by brandishing a knife when Officer Adamescu entered the home and lunged at the officer with a knife. O.R.C. §2921.31 defines obstructing official business, and states that “no person, with the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of an authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes the performance of the official’s lawful duties.”
  4. Search Incident to Arrest – The search incident to arrest was lawful as anytime a suspect is arrested and going to be transported to jail, he may be searched in accordance with S. v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973) “[W]e hold that in the case of a lawful custodial arrest a full search of the person is not only an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment but also ‘reasonable’ search under the Amendment.”.

Does your agency train on Obstructing Official Business?

Don’t fail your training.

Don’t let your training fail you!

Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!

Robert H. Meader Esq.