Evidence suppressed after search appeal

LISBON – An appeal filed on behalf of a Columbus man, Hashim Dunlap, suppressed evidence found in both his wallet and a digital scale found during a search.

Dunlap, 30, Columbus, was sentenced in county Common Pleas Court to three years probation in August 2012 after he pleaded guilty in June 2012 to possession of drugs with a forfeiture specification. According to court documents, Dunlap was found with a scale used to measure cocaine with residue of the drug still on it and $1,425 believed to have been used in drug-related activities.

Judges Gene Donofrio, Cheryl L. Waite and Mary DeGenaro of the Seventh District Court of Appeals overruled a decision by Judge Scott Washam not to suppress the evidence. Washam had made that decision following a suppression hearing which was held in April 2012 in which the defense attorney argued the police had no reason to search him for a second time and no reason to believe he was armed.

According to court documents, Dunlap was stopped on Jan. 12, 2008 by St. Clair Township officer Jayson Jackson because Dunlap was riding in a vehicle with a cracked windshield driven by Susan Baker. Dunlap was fidgeting around, so Jackson asked him to step out of the vehicle and consent to a pat down search. No weapons were found on Dunlap or in the backseat of the car.

Jackson allowed him to return to the car and began writing a ticket for Baker, who was reportedly driving under suspension. However, Dunlap was again fidgeting, so Jackson again asked him again to step out of the car. This time he found a lump under his armpit and was told it was his wallet. Inside the wallet, Jackson found about $1,400.

He then found another lump in another pocket. Dunlap reportedly told him he did not know what it was. Jackson removed it and it was found to be a small digital scale, about the size of a cell phone, which had residue on it which turned out to be cocaine.

Jackson had testified at the suppression hearing he believed Dunlap did not have any weapons at the time he removed the items from the jacket, but he was unsure what the items were, if they could be used as weapons and was suspicious of Dunlap, who had lied about having no identification.

The appeals court judges were asked to consider if Dunlap’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, were violated leading to his conviction.

The judges determined the reasons for both the first and second frisks were reasonable, but the scope of what was found was not. It was noted the search can only be conducted for weapons, which makes the removal of Dunlap’s wallet unreasonable. The opinion additionally states Jackson finding the scale was due to his believing the item to be some type of contraband, not a weapon.

Both the evidence of the wallet and the scale must be thrown out in any additional court proceedings, according to the judges. A status conference has been scheduled for Jan. 23 in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, where it is expected a motion will be made by the prosecutor’s office in regards to these charges.

Dunlap was also charged in 2010 to trafficking in drugs, charges which were also dismissed following a status conference. In that case, a motion by the prosecutor’s office said an essential state witness could not be located, preventing the state from proceeding further with the case.