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Date: 11-16-2020

Case Style:

STATE OF OHIO vs. ZION LYLE

Case Number: C-190447

Judge: Candace C. Crouse

Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS FIRST APPELLATE DISTRICT OF OHIO HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO

Plaintiff's Attorney: Paula Boggs Muething, City Solicitor, William T. Horsley, Chief Prosecuting
Attorney, and Jon Vogt, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

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Cincinnati, Ohio - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant Zion Lyle with arguing in two assignments of error that (1) the trial court erred in overruling his Crim.R. 29 motion for an acquittal and his
conviction was based upon insufficient evidence, and (2) the court erred in revoking his CHL and ordering the forfeiture of his firearm.




{¶4} Cincinnati Police Officer Caleb Sarchet testified that he and several
Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of gunshots in the vicinity
of Baymiller and Livingston Streets. As they walked down Baymiller Street to
investigate, Sarchet noticed a car occupied by two individuals parked on the side of
the street. As he approached the car, Sarchet noticed the passenger, who turned out
to be Lyle, twice turn toward the back seat and then back to the front.
{¶5} Footage from Sarchet’s body camera was played during trial. At the
45-second mark, Sarchet knocked on the passenger window and asked Lyle to roll it
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
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down. Once the window was down, he asked Lyle and the driver if they had heard
any gunshots, to which they both said that they had not. Sarchet testified that at that
point he could smell burnt and raw marijuana coming from the vehicle, could see
marijuana residue on the driver’s pants, and observed what appeared to be an open
container of alcohol in the center console. He did not mention any of this to the
occupants of the vehicle.
{¶6} Sarchet asked the driver, “Hey, real quick, can I talk to you for one
second?” As Sarchet walked over to the driver’s side, he told one of the deputies to
watch the passenger door. The driver got out of the car and walked back toward
Sarchet. Sarchet ordered him to face the car and patted him down. He asked the
driver, “Hey, where’s your weed at?” The driver denied having any. Sarchet
handcuffed the driver, sat him down on the curb, and questioned him about the
marijuana. Three minutes and ten seconds into the video, the deputy standing by
Lyle’s door turned toward Sarchet and said, “There’s a gun in the backseat.”
{¶7} Sarchet and the deputy then prepared to remove Lyle from the car.
The deputy told Lyle, “I’m going to put you in handcuffs alright? You’re not in
trouble, but we’re going to put you in handcuffs.” While the deputy and Sarchet
removed Lyle from the car and patted him down, Lyle told them that he had a
“license.” Sarchet pulled Lyle’s CHL card out of his wallet, and Lyle said, “Right
there, my CCW.” Sarchet asked Lyle why he had not told him earlier, and Lyle said
that he had told the deputy that had been standing by his door. Sarchet testified that
as he patted Lyle down, he discovered that Lyle was wearing an empty holster,
prompting him to believe that Lyle had moved the firearm to the backseat as police
approached the car.
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
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{¶8} The officers retrieved the firearm, which had been partially hidden
under a booster seat in the backseat of the car. The officers also found a small bag of
fentanyl next to the gun. Lyle was arrested for the fentanyl and for failing to
promptly inform the officers of the firearm and his CHL. The fentanyl charge was
ultimately ignored by the grand jury.
{¶9} On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Sarchet what law he was
intending to enforce as he approached the vehicle. Sarchet testified that at that point
it was “just an investigation. I was just talking to them as I would talk to any other
person. * * * My intention was simply to investigate the call that I was on for
gunshots heard in the area.”
{¶10} After a bench trial, the court found Lyle guilty, sentenced him to
probation for one year, ordered him to pay a fine of $150 and court costs, revoked his
CHL, and ordered forfeiture of the firearm.
First Assignment of Error
{¶11} In his first assignment of error, Lyle argues that the trial court erred in
overruling his Crim.R. 29 motion for an acquittal and that his conviction was based
upon insufficient evidence.
{¶12} The test for determining if the evidence was sufficient to sustain a
conviction is whether “after viewing the probative evidence and inferences
reasonably drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any
rational trier of fact could have found all the essential elements of the offense beyond
a reasonable doubt.” State v. MacDonald, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-180310, 2019-
Ohio-3595, ¶ 12, quoting State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175, 485 N.E.2d 717
(1st Dist.1983). It is a question of law for the court to determine, the court is not to
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
5
weigh the evidence. MacDonald at ¶ 12. “The trier of fact is in the best position to
judge the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given to the evidence
presented.” State v. Carson, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-180336, 2019-Ohio-4550, ¶
16.
{¶13} A motion for an acquittal under Crim.R. 29(A) is governed by the same
standard as the one for determining whether a verdict is supported by sufficient
evidence. State v. Tenace, 109 Ohio St.3d 255, 2006-Ohio-2417, 847 N.E.2d 386, ¶
37.
{¶14} Lyle was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon in violation of R.C.
2923.12(B)(1), which provides:
(B) No person who has been issued a concealed handgun license shall do
any of the following:
(1) If the person is stopped for a law enforcement purpose and is
carrying a concealed handgun, fail to promptly inform any law
enforcement officer who approaches the person after the person has been
stopped that the person has been issued a concealed handgun license and
that the person then is carrying a concealed handgun.
(Emphasis added.)
{¶15} There are two crucial questions in this case: (1) at what point during
the interaction was Lyle “stopped for a law enforcement purpose,” and (2) when
stopped, did Lyle “promptly inform” the officers of the firearm and that he possessed
a CHL?
{¶16} The purpose of the “promptly inform” requirement is for officer safety,
so that during an interaction between an officer and a CHL holder, the officer is
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
6
aware that there is a firearm in the CHL holder’s possession. See State v. Griffin,
2020-Ohio-3707, ___N.E.3d___, ¶ 28 (1st Dist.) (discussing R.C. 2923.16(E)(1),
which requires a CHL holder “stopped as a result of a traffic stop” to promptly
inform an officer of his license and firearm). However, R.C. 2923.12(B)(1) does not
state that a citizen is under a duty to disclose his firearm and CHL any time he comes
in contact with police. The General Assembly made it clear that the duty does not
arise until a citizen is “stopped for a law enforcement purpose.”
{¶17} When Sarchet knocked on the passenger window and asked Lyle and
the driver whether they had heard any gunshots, he and the other officers were
performing a “law enforcement purpose.” However, Sarchet testified that he “was
just talking to them as I would talk to any other person. * * * My intention was
simply to investigate the call that I was on for gunshots heard in the area.” We find
the encounter to be consensual at that point.
{¶18} The state argues that a consensual encounter can be a “stop” under
R.C. 2923.12 if the encounter was for law enforcement purposes. However, this is
contrary to the plain language of the statute and any legal or nonlegal definition of
stop. A stop necessarily entails a seizure of some degree. See Merriam-Webster’s
Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stopped
(accessed September 1, 2020) (inter alia, defining “stop,” as “to hinder or prevent the
passage of,” and “stopped” as “to arrest the progress or motion of: cause to halt”); see
State v. Mitchem, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-130351, 2014-Ohio-2366, ¶ 17, citing
Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 501-507, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1982) (“For
purposes of determining the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment, the
United States Supreme Court has identified three categories of police-citizen
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
7
contacts: (1) a consensual encounter; (2) an investigative, or Terry, stop; and (3) a
seizure that constitutes an arrest.”); State v. Hill, 127 Ohio App.3d 265, 270, 712
N.E.2d 791 (1st Dist.1998) (holding that “[t]he trial court erred as a matter of law
when it held that Hill was seized when the police first began to chase him, since there
was no physical contact, and Hill, in running away, cannot be said to have submitted
to the officers’ show of authority.”).
{¶19} Where an encounter between police and the public is consensual,
there is no seizure. State v. Boys, 128 Ohio App.3d 640, 642, 716 N.E.2d 273 (1st
Dist.1998). “A seizure does not occur simply because a police officer approaches an
individual and asks a few questions,” including when the individual is sitting in a
parked car. Id. Thus, a consensual encounter with the police does not amount to a
“stop” under R.C. 2923.12. Lyle was not “stopped” when Sarchet asked him and the
driver whether they had heard any gunshots.
{¶20} This interpretation of R.C. 2923.12 is supported by City of Strongsville
v. Johnson, 2017-Ohio-7066, 95 N.E.3d 809, ¶ 15 (8th Dist.). In Johnson, the
defendant’s car had run out of gasoline and was stalled in the roadway when officers
approached the car to offer assistance. Id. The officers asked the defendant for his
driver’s license, but he refused to give it to them. Id. at ¶ 1. The officers physically
removed the defendant from the car and arrested him, at which time they discovered
that there was a firearm in the car and that he possessed a CHL. Id. The defendant
was convicted for violating R.C. 2913.12(B)(1). Id. at ¶ 14. The Eighth District held
that the defendant was not “stopped,” and reversed the conviction. Id. at ¶ 15. While
the court did not provide much analysis, it clearly believed the defendant was not
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
8
“stopped” because the police approached his already-stopped vehicle to offer
assistance and not because they were intending to enforce any law. See id.
{¶21} In Lyle’s case, the trial court found, and the state argues, that once
Sarchet saw and smelled marijuana, the encounter was “converted” from a “neutral”
encounter into a law enforcement stop, and that Lyle should have informed Sarchet
about the firearm and his CHL at that time.
{¶22} Whether an individual was stopped is an objective test based on an
officer’s conduct. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 439, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115
L.Ed.2d 389 (1991) (to determine whether a seizure occurred under the Fourth
Amendment, a court must “consider all the circumstances surrounding the
encounter to determine whether the police conduct would have communicated to a
reasonable person that the person was not free to decline the officers’ requests or
otherwise terminate the encounter.”). Therefore, that Sarchet considered the
encounter to be a drug investigation once he saw and smelled the marijuana is
insufficient to change the consensual nature of the encounter into a stop unless his
conduct indicated such a change to Lyle and the driver. Sarchet did not mention
marijuana or indicate in any way that the encounter had evolved into a drug
investigation until he was questioning the driver, alone, behind the car. Therefore,
we find that Lyle was not stopped at the point Sarchet smelled and saw marijuana.
{¶23} So how do we answer the question of when Lyle was “stopped for law
enforcement purposes?” Fourth Amendment caselaw is instructive to our analysis. A
seizure occurs when the officer, “by means of physical force or show of authority, has
in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen.” California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S.
621, 625, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991), quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1,
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
9
19, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Police questioning, by itself, is unlikely to
result in a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. I.N.S. v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210,
216, 104 S.Ct. 1758, 80 L.Ed.2d 247 (1984). “Unless the circumstances of the
encounter are so intimidating as to demonstrate that a reasonable person would have
believed he was not free to leave if he had not responded, one cannot say that the
questioning resulted in a detention under the Fourth Amendment.” Id.
{¶24} The state contends that even if the encounter was initially consensual,
it evolved into a stop once Sarchet made a “show of authority” by asking to speak
with the driver and telling the deputy to keep an eye on Lyle in the passenger seat.
{¶25} We disagree with the state’s contention. Sarchet did not order the
driver out of the car; he simply asked to speak with him and walked over to the
driver’s side while directing one of the deputies to watch the passenger’s side. The
driver exited from the car on his own volition and walked back toward Sarchet, who
was standing at the rear of the vehicle on the driver’s side. The encounter
undoubtedly evolved into a stop of the driver once Sarchet ordered him to face the
car, patted him down, and placed him in handcuffs at approximately one minute 15
seconds into the body camera video.
{¶26} While Sarchet was dealing with the driver (for approximately two
minutes), his body camera video showed the deputy standing by Lyle's door
appearing to talk with Lyle. Lyle testified that he informed the deputy of the firearm
before he was removed from the car. The video seems to confirm this due to the fact
that at approximately three minutes ten seconds, the video shows the deputy, after
speaking with Lyle, inform Sarchet there was a firearm in the backseat of the car.
Curiously, the state did not call the deputy as a witness at trial.
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS
10
{¶27} The encounter began as a consensual encounter, and besides a deputy
standing outside his door, the state did not present any evidence that the officers
gave any indication that they were stopping Lyle until they prepared to remove him
from the vehicle. By that time, Lyle had informed the deputy of the firearm, and
informed him that he possessed a CHL shortly thereafter. Perhaps the deputy’s
conduct did indicate to Lyle that he was stopped sometime during the two minutes
after the driver was stopped and before Lyle was removed from the car, but the state
did not present any testimony on that subject.
{¶28} We hold that, even in the light most favorable to the prosecution, it did
not present sufficient evidence that Lyle failed to “promptly inform” the officers of
his CHL and the firearm after being “stopped for a law enforcement purpose.” Lyle’s
first assignment of error is sustained and his conviction for carrying a concealed
weapon in violation of R.C. 2923.12(B)(1) is reversed.
Second Assignment of Error
{¶29} Since Lyle’s conviction is reversed, there is no basis for his firearm to
be forfeited or his CHL to be suspended. His second assignment of error is
sustained.

Outcome: Because Lyle was not “stopped for a law enforcement purpose” until
after he had disclosed that there was a firearm in the vehicle, his conviction under
R.C. 2923.12(B)(1) was based upon insufficient evidence. Both assignments of error
are sustained. The judgment of the trial court is reversed, appellant is discharged
from further prosecution on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon in violation
of R.C. 2923.12(B)(1), and the cause is remanded for the trial court to vacate the
forfeiture and suspension orders.

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