November 25, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
39°F

Appellate court upholds woman’s conviction for making meth

MEDINA — An appellate court on Monday affirmed the conviction of a 20-year-old Fairlawn woman who said police improperly arrested her for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Sarah B. Buchanan appealed her case to the 9th District Court of Appeals after her May 2013 conviction.

Sarah Buchanan

Sarah Buchanan

She had pleaded no contest to illegal assembly of methamphetamine, aggravated drug possession and cocaine possession, a third- and two fifth-degree felonies. She faced up to three or more years in prison.

Medina County Common Pleas Judge James Kimbler sentenced her to 1½ years in prison. She is serving her time for the drug charges along with a burglary conviction from Summit County at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville and is due to be released soon.

In her appeal, Buchanan argued her arrest was improper because Highway Patrol Trooper Harley Steppenbrecker did not have reasonable suspicion to detain her.

According to the appellate court’s ruling, friends of Buchanan — Shaun Roland and Sharice Lemon — were pulled over in Wadsworth in the early morning hours of March 18, 2012, while driving a vehicle owned by Buchanan’s mother. Buchanan had loaned the vehicle, which she often drove, to her friends.

When the vehicle was pulled over, police reported Lemon was on the phone with Buchanan.

Police conducted a search after spotting a syringe filled with methamphetamine and discovered a portable meth lab in the trunk of the vehicle.

Shortly afterward, Buchanan arrived in another vehicle and told officers she was there to collect her mother’s car. Steppenbrecker said Buchanan was frantic and had a lot of scratches around her face and neck.

Steppenbrecker said he recognized Buchanan’s appearance as someone who might use methamphetamine.

Wadsworth K-9 Officer Phillip Cantora and his dog, Ozzie, were on scene and initiated a sniff test on the car Buchanan used to arrive on scene. The dog reacted to three areas of the vehicle and a search was conducted.

After police reported finding several drug-related items, Buchanan was arrested.

The appellate judges wrote that Steppenbrecker had reasonable suspicion to detain Buchanan.

“We conclude that detention of Ms. Buchanan when the drug dog walked around the vehicle occurred at a point in time when police investigation of Ms. Buchanan was underway and based on reasonable suspicion that Ms. Buchanan was involved in criminal activity,” the judges wrote.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.