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Date: 06-21-2021

Case Style:


Case Number: 20AP0007

Judge: Thomas Teodosio


Plaintiff's Attorney: DANIEL R. LUTZ, Prosecuting Attorney, and ANDREA D. UHLER, Assistant Prosecuting

Defendant's Attorney:

Akron, Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory


Akron, Ohio - Criminal defense attorney represented charged with obstructing official business.

{¶2} Hotel staff at the Days Inn in Wooster as well as Wooster police were notified that
Mr. Zupancic and his girlfriend (“M.S.”) were causing disturbances in Room 113 and were the
source of a strong odor of marijuana throughout the entire first floor of the hotel. Officer Jonathan
Ruggerri knew Mr. Zupancic from past incidents and learned that he had an active warrant for his
arrest. When he reached Room 113, the officer heard the voices of both a male and a female inside
of the room and smelled an overwhelming odor of marijuana. Over the next couple of hours, staff
and several officers spoke to M.S. through the closed door and tried to convince her to open it
because they suspected Mr. Zupancic was inside. Sometimes she answered and sometimes she
remained silent. After much stalling and being told she needed to leave the premises, M.S. finally 2

vacated the room. The officers again verbally announced their presence, identified themselves as
the police, and called out for anyone in the room to reveal themselves. Upon receiving no response,
the officers searched the room and ultimately found Mr. Zupancic hiding underneath a mattress
and inside of one of the enclosed bedframes.
{¶3} Mr. Zupancic was arrested and charged with obstructing official business in
violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), a misdemeanor of the second degree. After a bench trial, the trial
court found him guilty and sentenced him to 90 days in jail and a $500.00 fine. Mr. Zupancic’s
motion to stay the sentence was denied.
{¶4} Mr. Zupancic now appeals from his conviction and raises one assignment of error
for this Court’s review.
{¶5} In his sole assignment of error, Mr. Zupancic argues that his conviction was not
supported by sufficient evidence. We disagree.
{¶6} Whether a conviction is supported by sufficient evidence is a question of law, which
this Court reviews de novo. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). “A challenge to
the sufficiency of the evidence concerns the State’s burden of production * * *” and is, “[i]n
essence, * * * a test of adequacy.” In re R.H., 9th Dist. Summit No. 28319, 2017-Ohio-7852, ¶
25; Thompkins at 386. “The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most
favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of
the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph 3

two of the syllabus. However, “we do not resolve evidentiary conflicts or assess the credibility of
witnesses, because these functions belong to the trier of fact.” State v. Hall, 9th Dist. Summit No.
27827, 2017-Ohio-73, ¶ 10.
{¶7} Mr. Zupancic was convicted of obstructing official business, under R.C.
2921.31(A), which provides:
No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay
the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public
official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official
in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.
“A person acts purposely when it is the person’s specific intention to cause a certain result, or,
when the gist of the offense is a prohibition against conduct of a certain nature, regardless of what
the offender intends to accomplish thereby, it is the offender’s specific intention to engage in
conduct of that nature.” R.C. 2901.22(A). “Purpose can be established by circumstantial evidence
and may be ascertained from the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case.” North
Ridgeville v. Reichbaum, 112 Ohio App.3d 79, 85 (9th Dist.1996). Law enforcement officers are
considered public officials. See R.C. 2921.01(A).
{¶8} The front desk clerk at the Days Inn in Wooster testified at trial that, on November
24, 2019, she received complaints from hotel guests about Mr. Zupancic and M.S. fighting in
Room 113. The odor of marijuana was also apparent all throughout the first floor of the hotel.
She spoke to Officer Ruggerri in the parking lot, informed him of the trouble with M.S. and Mr.
Zupancic in Room 113, informed him of the odor of marijuana, and gave him permission to walk
through the hotel. Officer Ruggerri testified that he knew Mr. Zupancic from prior encounters and
learned that he had a warrant for his arrest. The officer went to Room 113 and testified that the
odor of marijuana was overwhelming as he approached the door to the room. He heard the voices
of both a male and a female talking from inside of the room. He was eventually able to converse 4

with M.S. through the door, but testified that “everything became quiet” once he mentioned that
Mr. Zupancic had a warrant for his arrest. Several other officers arrived at the scene over time
because the entire incident took approximately an hour to an hour-and-a-half. M.S. would
sometimes respond and talk with the officers through the door, but would sometimes remain silent.
At some point, the officers found out from hotel staff that M.S. and Mr. Zupancic were on the
hotel’s “do not rent” list. The front desk clerk returned to Room 113 and told M.S. through the
door that the hotel manager wanted the couple to leave the hotel. M.S. requested time to gather
her belongings, but after much more time elapsed the manager authorized the clerk to use a master
key to open the door. After more prompting from officers, M.S. eventually unhooked the door
chain and the officers could finally see inside of the room.
{¶9} Officer Ruggerri’s body cam video was entered into evidence. In the video, the
officers wait at the threshold of the open doorway while watching M.S. pack up her belongings for
another 15 minutes. Once M.S. finally vacates the room, the officers enter to look for Mr.
Zupancic. They can be seen and heard in the video clearly announcing their presence, identifying
themselves as police officers, and asking for anyone else in the room to come out. After receiving
no response, they spend the next minute searching the room and ultimately discover Mr. Zupancic
hiding underneath the mattress and inside one of the enclosed bedframes. With weapons drawn,
they immediately remove him from underneath the bed. Officer Ruggerri testified that the amount
of time that elapsed, combined with having to physically check underneath beds that cannot be
seen under, was a delay in their investigation. After handcuffing Mr. Zupancic and reading him
his Miranda rights, one of the officers asks him, “Be honest with me: Could you hear us?” Mr.
Zupancic’s response to this question is faint and unintelligible in the video, but Officer Ruggerri
testified that Mr. Zupancic admitted to hearing the officers and admitted to knowing he had a 5

warrant for his arrest. Officer Ruggerri testified that it typically takes two minutes to process
someone with a warrant if they are compliant. Officer Phillip Coe testified that while speaking to
Mr. Zupancic outside of the hotel, Mr. Zupancic claimed that he climbed under the bed and pulled
the bed back on top of himself to elude the officers. He testified that Mr. Zupancic admitted that
he knew the officers were present and that he heard them calling out to him.
{¶10} Mr. Zupancic argues that the State failed to set forth sufficient evidence that he
“prevent[ed], obstruct[ed], or delay[ed]” the officers’ performance of their duties by “hamper[ing]
or imped[ing]” them. He first relies on Officer Coe’s testimony that the police were conducting a
safety sweep of the room and claims that hiding underneath the mattress did not impede the
officer’s duties, as they were “not searching the room just to find [him].” He also argues that he
was already underneath the mattress when officers entered the room, and the officers did not call
out for him or ask him to come out, so he did not take any action to impede, hamper, or delay the
officers in their duties. We interpret these arguments collectively as challenging the sufficiency
of the evidence with regard to whether Mr. Zupancic did any act that hampered or impeded the
officers in the performance of their lawful duties. See R.C. 2921.31(A).
{¶11} “An affirmative act is required to support a conviction for obstructing official
business, and the mere failure to obey a police officer’s request may not always amount to
obstruction.” (Emphasis added.) State v. Moss, 9th Dist. Summit No. 28986, 2018-Ohio-4747, ¶
12. See also State v. McCrone, 63 Ohio App.3d 831, 834 (9th Dist.1989), quoting Hamilton v.
Hamm, 33 Ohio App.3d 175, 176 (12th Dist.1986) (“Generally, a person ‘cannot be guilty of
obstructing official business by doing nothing * * *.’”). “However, a suspect may indeed obstruct
official business when he creates a significant delay by ignoring an officer’s repeated orders, 6

thereby impeding the officer’s ability to perform his lawful duties.” Moss at ¶ 12. The total course
of the suspect’s conduct must be considered, rather than viewing his actions in isolation. Id.
{¶12} In State v. Welch, this Court affirmed convictions for obstructing official business
wherein an officer went to a residence to arrest the appellant on a warrant, believing the appellant
to be there, but the appellant hid in the attic instead of coming out. See State v. Welch, 9th Dist.
Summit No. 22002, 2004-Ohio-4582, ¶ 17-18. We have also affirmed convictions for obstructing
official business in cases where the evidence showed the suspects ran into a basement and hid
behind a furnace when police announced their presence, although these cases admittedly involved
both flight from and hiding from the police. See State v. Lamb, 9th Dist. Summit No. 23418, 2007-
Ohio-5107, ¶ 22; State v. Griffin, 9th Dist. Summit No. 19278, 1999 WL 334781, *2 (May 26,
1999). Our sister courts in the Second and Fourth Districts have found hiding to evade the police
to be an affirmative act which impedes or hampers the officers in their duties, which is sufficient
to support convictions for obstructing official business. See State v. Gillam, 2d Dist. Montgomery
No. 27998, 2019-Ohio-808, ¶ 15, citing State v. Thomas, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 26907, 2017-
Ohio-5501, ¶ 31-32 (“[H]iding from the police in response to an order to surrender is sufficient to
constitute the offense of obstructing official business.”); State v. Newsome, 4th Dist. Hocking No.
17CA2, 2017-Ohio-7488, ¶ 11 (finding affirmative acts to support an obstructing official business
conviction when the appellant ran and hid from police even before they spotted him because the
evidence showed he knew they were looking for him and sought to evade them); State v. Bailey,
4th Dist. Hocking No. 09CA9, 2010-Ohio-213, ¶ 35-36 (recognizing “little distinction” between
the affirmative acts of purposely hiding in a bathroom and fleeing from police, both of which
impeded or hampered the officers’ performance because they had to find the suspect). 7

{¶13} After reviewing the record, we conclude that the State presented sufficient
evidence, if believed, to demonstrate that Mr. Zupancic committed the offense of obstructing
official business. The evidence showed that Mr. Zupancic had an active warrant for his arrest and
the officers had reason to believe he was inside of Room 113. The odor of marijuana coming from
the room was also overwhelming. When Officer Ruggerri explained through the hotel door that
Mr. Zupancic had a warrant for his arrest, Mr. Zupancic did more than simply refuse to respond to
the officer verbally or open the door. Instead, he later admitted to the officers that he tried to elude
them by lifting up a mattress, crawling inside of the enclosed bedframe underneath, and then
pulling the mattress back on top of himself to hide. These actions constituted affirmative acts that
hampered or impeded the officers in their investigation. The evidence established that handling
Mr. Zupancic’s warrant could have taken a matter of minutes, but the incident was instead delayed
for hours. Even after the door was finally opened, the body cam video showed officers standing
at the threshold and talking to M.S. as she packed up her belongings for another 15 minutes, all
while Mr. Zupancic remained hidden under the bed. When the officers finally entered the room
to look for him, clearly identifying themselves again and asking anyone in the room to come out,
Mr. Zupancic stayed hidden under the bed for another minute and refused to respond until being
discovered by the officers during their protective sweep. He then admitted to the officers that he
heard them, knew they were looking for him because of his warrant, and hid under the bed to elude
{¶14} Based on our review of the record and the evidence presented, we conclude that the
trial court, as trier of fact, could have reasonably determined that the State proved beyond a
reasonable doubt all of the elements of obstructing official business. Mr. Zupancic committed 8

affirmative acts that hampered or impeded police officers in their investigation, and did so with
the purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay that investigation.
{¶15} Mr. Zupancic’s sole assignment of error is overruled.

Outcome: Mr. Zupancic’s sole assignment of error is overruled. The judgment of the Wayne
County Municipal Court is affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

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