Search and Seizure

OH Court OKs Breaking Down House Door Over Traffic Signal

Hot pursuit of a ... misdemeanor?


The Ohio Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the police use of a battering ram on the home of a suspect who failed to properly signal a turn. The court majority also took the unusual step of noting that they disagreed with their own decision and called on the state Supreme Court to overturn the precedent.

On December 12, 2011, Dayton Police Officers Michael Saylors and Randy Beane saw the gold Oldsmobile Intrigue belonging to Jeffrey Lam near the intersection of Hodapp and Lorain Avenues. While the officers were following Lam to his home at 645 Creighton Avenue, they noted he allegedly failed to use his turn signal. Lam had a history of running from police, so the officers waited until he came to a stop before turning on their emergency lights. Lam ran out of his car into his home and locked the door. After failing to kick in the door, the officers used a battering ram and knocked it down. In the course of a search of the house for "officer safety," drugs were found.

At trial, Lam argued the officers could not enter his home without a warrant for a minor misdemeanor. The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge disagreed, ruling that failure to open the door for the officers constituted a separate offense on its own justifying the entry.