Ohio State Supreme Court Rulings
Ohio Law is always changing. The Ohio state legislature will enact new laws, change existing laws, or adjust penalties and severities of crimes. A great criminal lawyer will stay current on these changes. In addition, Ohio laws that might be ambiguous or in conflict may need rulings from the State Supreme Court of Ohio. The following is a sample of the types of issues addressed by the Ohio State Supreme Court.
- Huron Man Cleared of Assault Charges
Christopher T Nawal, 44 of Huron, Ohio, was cleared of sexual assault charges against a 26 year-old woman. The defense entered as evidence texts from the accuser to Nawal after the charges were made. These texts, inconsistent with statements made to police officers, cast doubt upon the truthfulness of the accuser. Erie County Judge Kevin Baxter agreed and dropped all charges against Mr. Nawal
- Search of purse during traffic stop constitutes illegal search
During a routine traffic stop for speeding, the passenger was arrested for an outstanding warrant. The driver and owner of the vehicle did not consent to the search, but the officer at the scene retrieved the purse from the vehicle and inventoried its contents. This was in accordance with police policy that the purse of an arrested woman would accompany her to jail. The officer found drugs in the purse and the woman was charged and convicted of possession. The Ohio State Supreme Court ruled the search unconstitutional since there was no search warrant for the vehicle.
- Drug Concealment does not Constitute Evidence Tampering
In a 7-0 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that concealing drugs within a body cavity cannot be considered evidence tampering without the foreknowledge or expectation of a criminal investigation. Justice O’Donnell wrote that to prove the accused guilty of tampering with evidence, prosecutors need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew an official proceeding or investigation was in progress or likely to be commenced at the time the evidence was concealed. The state cannot simply infer that because the accused knew that concealing evidence was an “unmistakable crime,” but rather it must also prove that she knew a criminal investigation was ongoing or likely to follow.
- Cellphone Data Search Requires Search Warrant
The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures requires police to obtain a warrant before searching data stored in a cell phone that has been seized from its owner in the course of a lawful arrest. Exceptional circumstances would would include situations when the search is necessary to protect the safety of law enforcement officers.
- City's Traffic Speed Cameras May Fine Speeding Car Owners And State May Cite Speeding Car Drivers - But Not Both
The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled valid a City of Akron speeding ordinance enforced through the use of traffic cameras. The 7-0 ruling leaves in place the city ordinance that fines car owners. Justice Lanzinger noted, “a person who speeds and is observed by a police officer remains subject to the usual traffic laws. Only when no police officer is present and the automated camera captures the speed infraction does the Akron ordinance apply, not to invoke the criminal traffic law, but to provide an administrative penalty on the vehicle’s owner. The city ordinance and state law may target identical conduct — speeding — but the city ordinance does not replace traffic law. Furthermore, a person cannot be subject to both criminal and civil liability. The ordinance states that if a violation is both recorded by the automated system and observed by a police officer, then the criminal violation takes precedence. The Akron ordinance complements rather than conflicts with state law.”
- Procesutors May Not Escalate Indictment Charges That Alter Conviction Penalties Without Resubmitting To Grand Jury
In a 5-2 decision the Supreme Court of Ohio held that amending an indictment to alter the penalty or degree of a crime charged against the defendant “changes the identity” of the charged offense and therefore violates the state’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. The case's defendant was indicted by a grand jury on criminal counts for allegedly trafficking a certain amount of prescription painkillers, a fourth-degree felony. The prosecutor later alleged a greater quantity was sold or offered for sale, and was granted an amendment raising the offense to a second-degree felony, of which the defendant was found guilty. The defendant appealed on grounds that the trial court violated his constitutional right to due process of law. The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed, in that when a grand jury has indicted a defendant for one or more specific offenses, the State may not amend the indictment if the amendment changes the penalty or degree of the specific charged offense.
- Guilty Plea Overturned Because Judge Failed Inform Defendant That State Must Prove Its Case ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’
With this ruling, the Supreme Court of Ohio overturns a guilty plea because the Judge informing the defendant of his rights failed to include the fact that, by pleading guilty, the defendant was giving up his right to trial where the State would be required to prove his guilt 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' The defendant, Thomas Veney, plead guilty to attempted felonious assault, a third-degree felony, and to a single firearm specification. In court, prior to accepting his plea, the trial judge engaged in a discussion with Veney to determine that he knew and understood the rights. During that discussion, the judge failed to advise Veney of one of the rights enumerated in the rule: the right to a trial at which the state would have to prove his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Supreme Court of Ohio, in a 4-3 ruling, agreed with Veney's appeal because he had not been informed of all his rights as a defendant.