Determining Distance from a School In Drug Trafficking Cases

In State v. Franklin, 164 Ohio App.3d 758, 2005 Ohio 6854, 843 N.E.2d 1267, the defendant was convicted of two counts of trafficking in cocaine. Both counts were enhanced because the transactions occurred within 1,000 feet of a school premises. At trial, the state presented the testimony of a police officer who stated that he utilized a GIS program to measure the distance between the school premises and the location where the drug transactions occurred. According to the officer, the GIS program calculated the distance between the two points at 762 feet. A geographical information systems specialist employed by the city for over ten years also testified for the state. The specialist stated that one of the design functions of the software utilized by the police officer was to determine distances between two points. He further testified that the software was utilized extensively to measure distances and that he had in the past confirmed mechanically that the system was accurate to within three feet. On appeal, the defendant argued that the state failed to prove that the offenses were committed within 1,000 feet of a school premises. More particularly, the defendant argued that proof that a drug offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a school could be established only by lay testimony of a police officer if the officer physically measured the distance with a measuring reel or automobile odometer and personally testified from personal experience of having done so. The defendant cited numerous cases employing these methods for determining distance from a school. The court rejected the defendant's argument, noting that "there are other ways to determine the distance between two points, including use of a GIS." Id. at P10. In particular, the court noted that "global imaging devices are widely used and generally considered to be reliable." Id. at P11.