Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ohio Supreme Court sex offender cases

The Ohio Supreme Court's docket this week included oral arguments on three cases examining various aspects of the state's sex offender registration and notification statute, the latest in a line of cases that answer legal questions that have arisen since the law was revised in conformity with the Adam Walsh Act in 2008. [ CourtNews ]

Heard yesterday was a case out of Wayne County (
State of Ohio v. Kyle D. Raber , Case no. 2011-1383), where the issue was "In a criminal case involving a sexually oriented offense, if a trial court enters a judgment of conviction and a sentencing order in its journal without including a requirement that the defendant register as a sex offender, does that judgment entry terminate the court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the case, and bar it from later imposing a registration requirement on the defendant?"

Today there were two cases, the first from Montgomery County (State of Ohio v. Donny A. Howard, Case no. 2011-2126), with the issue being "In sentencing a pre-2008 sex offender for a violation of his post-release registration duties, if the failure to register violation took place after the Ohio Adam Walsh Act (AWA) and its companion sentencing bill, S.B. 97, became effective on January 1, 2008, should the offender be sentenced for his registration violation under the pre-AWA (Ohio's Megan's Law) penalty scheme that was in place on the date his duty to register arose, or under the enhanced AWA/ S.B. 97 penalty scheme that was in place on the date his registration offense was committed?"

Today's second case is out of here in Hamilton County's First District, with a case (In re Bruce S., Case no. 2012-0059) that involves a juvenile offender identified who was convicted of a sexually related offense that was committed on September 1, 2007. In sentencing for that conviction, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court classified him as a Tier III (most dangerous) sex offender under the AWA, and ordered him to comply with the increased registration and community notification requirements imposed by S.B. 10. The case was appealed, asserting that the trial court had violated the Ohio Constitution's prohibition against retroactive laws by sentencing the offender under provisions of S.B. 10 for a crime that was committed before those provisions took effect. The First District Court of Appeals ruled that the provisions of S.B. 10 applicable to offense did not become effective until January 1. 2008. Based on that holding, the court of appeals reversed the offender's classification as a Tier III sex offender under the AWA, and remanded the case to the juvenile court with a directive to reclassify and resentence him under Megans Law, while certifying that its holding regarding which statutory scheme should be applied was in conflict with State v. Scott, a 2011 decision in which the Eighth District Court of Appeals held that a trial court sentencing a defendant for a sex crime committed after July 1, 2007 had properly applied the AWA rather than Megan's Law. With both sides citing the Supreme Court's July 2011 decision in State v. Williams, which held that the increased penalties imposed by the AWA may not be imposed retroactively as supportive of their positions, the Supreme Court agreed to review that case to resolve the conflict between appellate districts.

Last week, the Eight District Court of Appeals found in State v. Davis, that "a Cuyahoga County sex offender should not be subject to enhanced penalties of a new law when he was originally classified under a previous version of the law," with Judge Kathleen A. Keough there "noting that the appeals court previously reached a similar conclusion in another ruling (State v. Smith, 8th Dist. Nos. 96582, 96622, 96623, 2012-Ohio-261) and that previous ruling was in conflict with cases from the First and Fifth Appellate Districts. See State v. Freeman, 1st Dist. No. C-100389, 2011-Ohio- 4357, State v. Bowling, 1st Dist. No. C-100323, 2011-Ohio-4946, and State v. Dunwoody, 5th Dist. No. CT11-0029, 2011-Ohio-6360. On May 23, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court recognized that a conflict exists and has held the case for the decision in State v. Grunden, Case No. 2011-1553."

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