Is parental discipline a defense or an element of a crime under the Ohio domestic violence and assault statutes?

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On February 19, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court came out with the decision, State v. Faggs, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-523, where the Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals and held that reasonable parental discipline is an affirmative defense to a charge under Ohio’s domestic violence and assault statutes.

What happened in the case?

The appellant, Faggs, was charged with one third-degree-felony count of domestic violence under O.R.C. § 2919.25(A) and one first-degree misdemeanor count of assault under O.R.C. § 2903.13(A). The incident that gave rise to these charges involved the seven-year-old son of Faggs’s live-in girlfriend. Faggs allegedly beat the boy after he acted out in school.

Faggs’s attorney argued during the bench trial that the allegations were exaggerated as Faggs’s conduct was merely “a reasonable and necessary exercise of parental discipline and corporal punishment.” The court found Faggs guilty of both charges.

On appeal, Faggs argued that the trial court had violated his constitutionally protected interest in raising and controlling his child by erroneously placing the burden of proving reasonable discipline on him. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision because Faggs provided little authority as to why he should be afforded a full array of constitutional rights when he was only acting in loco parentis. The court further reasoned that “so long as the state was required to prove each element of the underlying offense beyond a reasonable doubt, treating reasonable parental discipline as an affirmative defense and placing the burden of proving that defense upon the accused does not violate due process.”

What did the Court do?

The Court was concerned with whether, under Ohio’s domestic violence and assault statutes, reasonable parental discipline is a component of the physical-harm element or whether it is an affirmative defense. Specifically, the Court was concerned with whether the state bears the burden to prove unreasonable parental discipline or if it is in the nature of an affirmative defense.

In analyzing the issue, the Court sought to clarify any confusion left by its decision in State v. Suchomski, 58 Ohio St.3d 74. In Suchomski, the Court provided an overly legalistic definition of “injury,” which resulted in confusion over who had the burden to prove the reasonableness of the discipline.

The Court applied a three-part analysis in clarifying any confusion left by Suchomski. The first part of the analysis highlighted that reasonableness is not an element of the offenses. The Court noted that its goal is to give effect to legislative intent. As such, since the legislature did not include a reasonableness requirement, but rather language to the effect of “regardless of its gravity or duration,” proof of unreasonable parental discipline is not a component of the physical-harm element.

The second part of the analysis focused on whether reasonable parental discipline is an affirmative defense. In Ohio, the two types of affirmative defenses are (1) “expressly designated,” O.R.C. § 2901.05(D)(1)(a), and (2) “involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused, on which the accused can fairly be required to adduce supporting evidence,” O.R.C. § 2901.05(D)(1)(b). After determining that O.R.C. § 2901.05(D)(1)(b) applied to the case at hand, the Court analyzed whether the three requirements were met. Those three requirements to qualify as an affirmative defense are (1) fit the definition of “excuse” or “justification,” (2) the justification must be “peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused,” and (3) the accused can fairly produce supporting evidence. The Court ultimately held that reasonable parental discipline met all three requirements under the statute to be considered an affirmative defense.

The third part of the analysis concerned whether the classification as an affirmative defense violated Faggs’s due process rights. The Court held that under O.R.C. § 2901.05(A), “once the state has met its burden of proof for all elements of a charged offense, the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, for an affirmative defense . . . is upon the accused.” Due to the extensive precedent suggesting that the classification comports with due process, as well as the choice of language used by the General Assembly, Faggs’s due process rights were not violated.

After considering the three parts, the Court held that reasonable parental discipline is an affirmative defense, the burden is on the accused, and the classification as an affirmative defense as well as the burden of proof are not unconstitutional.

What should you take away?

Under O.R.C. § 2901.05(A), the burden of proof concerning reasonable parental discipline lies with the accused. It is on the parent to prove a reasonable exercise of parental discipline and corporal punishment as an affirmative defense. This treatment of reasonable parental discipline as an affirmative defense does not violate the due process rights of parents to raise their children as it does not unconstitutionally shift the burden of proof. Click here to read the opinion.

PUBLISHERS NOTE: I want to thank Ashlyn O’Brien, a third-year law student at the University of Dayton School of Law, for all of her assistance in drafting this blog article. Excellent job Ashlyn!

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New Expungement Law – Cleaning Up Your Record

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Expungement In Ohio: What Is Eligibile To Be Expunged From My Record?

As of April 8, 2019, Ohio has switched up the rules on expungement once again, and made it easier for citizens to clean up their record. Expungement, however, is not a completely clean slate. According to Ohio law, expungement means that the records of arrest and conviction will be sealed from public access. An index will still be kept by the governmental agency, but those records won’t be accessible to the general public. It is important to note that DNA records will not be sealed in the ways that other records are, unless the conviction has been overturned. Additionally, you can request the sealing of records for more than one case in a single application, which will save you on application fees.

Eligibility

Per Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.32, the following can be expunged:

  1. 3 years after the final discharge if only one felony (This means 3 years after the completion of the sentence, probation, and  payment of fines, court costs, and restitution)
  2. 4 years after the final discharge if convicted of two felonies (This means 4 years after the completion of the sentence, probation, and payment of fines, court costs, and restitution)
  3. 5 years after the final discharge if convicted of 3, 4, or 5 felonies  (This means 5 years after the completion of the sentence, probation, and payment of fines, court costs, and restitution)
  4. 1 year after the final discharge after a misdemeanor (This means one year after the completion of the sentence, probation, and payment of fines, court costs, and restitution)
  5. See Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.32 for the exact language regarding bail forfeiture cases

Non-eligible Offenses

The following convictions cannot be expunged:

  1. convictions when the offender is subject to a mandatory prison term
  2. Sex offense convictions under §§ 2907.02, 2907.03, 2907.04, 2907.05, 2907.06, 2907.321, 2907.322, or 2907.323, and former 2907.12
  3. Convictions of violence when the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony (except assault and few others)
  4. Convictions of a felony in the first or second degree
  5. Traffic offenses such as speeding, OVI, or reckless operation under Chapters 4507., 4510.,4511., or 4549.
  6. Convictions on or after October 10, 2007, under 2907.07 (importuning) or similar local laws when the victim is under 18
  7. Other sex offenses where the victim was less than 16 years old
  8. Bail forfeitures in certain traffic cases
  9. multiple convictions of an identical offense

What happens

After an application is filed with the court, the court will then set a date for a hearing, and notify the prosecutor for the particular case. The prosecutor is allowed to file objections to the application, and must specify why those objections are being made. The court will then direct the probation department to make inquiries and written reports as to the applicant. If the conviction is for a violation of 2919.21 (nonpayment of child support), the probation department will also contact the child support enforcement agency to ask about the applicant’s compliance with paying child support. The court will then make a decision regarding the application, reports and objections filed, as well as the public interest. Pending criminal proceedings and other issues will also be taken into account.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss expungement under this new law, please contact Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, LPA.

Marsy’s Law – Expansion of Victims’ Rights

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Victims Of Crime Can Now Petition Court To Be Heard And Participate In Proceedings Under Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law, or Issue One from the ballot in November 2017, is an expansion of victims’ rights in regards to notification and to be more involved in the criminal process. Additionally, who is classified as victim of a crime has been greatly expanded. Most importantly, victims of crimes may now petition the court via a motion or appellate review to make sure they are heard. This doesn’t mean that victims are now in control of the criminal court proceedings, but they are given the right to be heard and to participate in the proceedings. The law officially took effect February 5, 2018.

Who is protected under Marsy’s Law?

Marsy’s Law expands the traditional definition of victim to one that is more broad. Under the current law, victim only encompasses the person injured by certain types of crimes, as identified as victims in police reports. Now, the definition includes the person directly and proximately harmed by a criminal offense. For example, the parents of a child victim would be covered under this law, and gain the same rights to petition and be notified.

What is Gained under Marsy’s Law?

Under this new law, victims gain:

  1. The right to be informed of proceedings in writing
  2. The right to assert the rights described in the act via representative, and may appeal decisions based on those decisions
  3. The right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity and privacy
  4. The right, UPON REQUEST, to reasonable and timely notice of all public proceedings
  5. The right to be present at the above proceedings
  6. The right to be heard in public proceedings that involve release, pleas, sentencing, disposition, or any other proceeding
  7. The right to speak with the prosecutor, upon request
  8. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case
  9. The right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request by the accused, except as described in the Ohio Constitution, Article 1, Section 10
  10. The right to full and timely restitution from the offender
  11. The right to reasonable protection from the accused, or any person acting on behalf of the accused
  12. The right UPON REQUEST to reasonable notice of escape or release of the accused

Who was Marsy?

Marsy Nicholas was a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1983. One week after her murder, Marsy’s family ran into the murderer at the grocery store, as he had been released on bail. After this traumatic event, Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, chose to purse an initiative to protect victims and their families from what his family experienced after his sister’s death.

Which States have Marsy’s Laws?

As of the writing of this article, Marsy’s Law has already been passed and enacted in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Other states are currently targeted to bring Marsy’s law to those states.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I want to thank our law extern, Lily Mann, for writing this article. Lily will be completing her JD degree from the University of Dayton School of Law in 2020. Nice job Lily!

For More Information, Check out the Links Below:

For the full text, see Article I Section 10a of the Ohio Constitution:

Ohio Introduces Reinstatement Fee Amnesty

Who Is Eligible For Driver’s License Reinstatement Fee Reduction?

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House Bill 336 creates a six-month driver’s license reinstatement fee amnesty reduction and waiver for offenders whose driver’s license has been suspended for certain violations.

The amnesty/reduction only applies to a driver’s license or permit suspension; it does not apply to a commercial driver’s license or commercial permit suspension.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will determine eligibility based on the specific qualifying offense contained in the Ohio Revised Code.

In order to be eligible for the driver’s license reinstatement fee reduction:

  1. Applicants must have completed all court-ordered sanctions related to the eligible offense other than payment of any reinstatement fees.
  2. At least 18 months must have passed since the end of the period of the suspension ordered by the Court.

Those able to provide proof of indigence will qualify for complete amnesty of reinstatement fees. House Bill 336 defines “indigent” as a person who is participating in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) administered by the Department of Job and Family Services pursuant to Section 5101.54 of the Ohio Revised Code.

To apply, complete BMV form 2829, a BMV reinstatement fee amnesty application. You may obtain the form at your local Deputy Registrar, online at www.bmv.ohio.gov or it can be mailed to you by calling (614) 752-7500. Applications must be received or postmarked by July 31, 2019 to be eligible.

Supreme Court rules that warrants are required for cell phone location data

Law Enforcement Need Warrant To Gain Access To Cell Phone Data

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“When the government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user”

A recent Supreme Court ruling limits the ability of law enforcement to obtain cell phone data that tracks the past locations of criminal suspects without a search warrant. The Court stated that police need a court approved warrant to get access to cell phone data that tracked the previous locations of a suspect.

Timothy Carpenter was convicted of several armed robberies in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cell phone location data that linked him to the crime scenes. Justice Roberts’ opinion stated “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carriers’ database of physical location information”.

Ruling In Unrestricted Cell Phone Data Access Protects Privacy For Individuals And Is A Blow To Law Enforcement Surveilance

This ruling is a victory for individual privacy rights during a time when there is an increased concern over surveillance procedures of law enforcement and other intelligence agencies.

Justice Roberts further opined “that a cell phone is almost a feature of human anatomy and that a cell phone faithfully follows its owner beyond public thoroughfares and into private residences, doctors’ offices, political headquarters and other potentially revealing locales”.

As a result he said “when the government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user”. (Carpenter v. United States).