By RYAN DUNN
The pungent smell of marijuana wafting from Trenton Shuttlesworth’s Kia sedan, state troopers testified, led to the discovery of more than 1,000 painkillers on Interstate 75 late last year.
The only problem is there was no marijuana in the car.
The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office this week challenged a local judge’s exclusion of oxycodone as evidence in Shuttlesworth’s drug case. The judge doubted how well marijuana’s odor could stick to clothes and a plastic bag of pills.
The 3rd District Court of Appeals, Lima, will hear the appeal.
On Nov. 18, Shuttlesworth was driving south on I-75 near Hancock County 99 when troopers stopped him for traffic violations, according to the Findlay post of the State Highway Patrol.
Sgts. Michael Walter and Kurt Beidelschies said they smelled marijuana soon after approaching Shuttlesworth’s car window.
Beidelschies briefly spoke to Shuttlesworth before patting his jacket and finding a bag of oxycodone pills in Shuttlesworth’s pocket, he said.
The State Highway Patrol said the seizure of 1,066 oxycodone pills was worth about $32,000. A grand jury indicted
Shuttlesworth, 45, of Nashville, on a first-degree felony charge of aggravated drug possession.
Shuttlesworth later admitted the bag of pills was stored in a Toledo house where marijuana had been placed atop a heat vent, prosecutors said.
Hancock County Common Pleas Court Judge Reginald Routson in June rejected the pills as evidence.
He called it “difficult to fathom” Beidelschies could detect the smell in six seconds from meeting Shuttlesworth while standing outside the car to searching him.
The troopers should have instead obtained a warrant, according to the judge.
Trained law enforcement officers have just cause to search if they smell marijuana, Assistant Prosecutor Alex Treece wrote in his appeal.
“It is not appropriate for the trooper to determine the source before even conducting the search, as it is the odor alone which provides the probable cause,” Treece wrote.
Routson created a “fantastical requirement” that officers be trained in smelling raw marijuana on clothing, Treece wrote.
Odors transfer constantly, including instances of “sitting next to a cigarette smoker” or “transporting ethnic food in a vehicle,” Treece wrote.
“The arbitrary placement of six seconds is contrary common sense and basic human experience,” he wrote.
Treece said law enforcement officials were correct to act quickly and without a warrant, as defendants can destroy evidence.
The bag smelled of marijuana when law enforcement later investigated, troopers testified.
“Multiple times in its decision, the court had to search for unreasonable expectations to reach its desired conclusion,” Treece wrote.
Shuttlesworth’s defense has not yet filed its response to prosecutors’ appeal.