State v. Collins

Decision Date11 August 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92-2143,92-2143
Citation616 N.E.2d 224,67 Ohio St.3d 115
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellant, v. COLLINS, Appellee.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Defendant-appellee, James A. Collins, Jr., failed to stop his vehicle at a stop sign and collided with another vehicle driven by Rickey R. Allred, resulting in Allred's death. Defendant was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide (R.C. 2903.06[A] ) and involuntary manslaughter (R.C. 2903.04[B] ).

At his trial, the jury was instructed that failure to stop at a clearly marked stop sign is a violation of R.C. 4511.43 and is a misdemeanor. The defendant did not object to this jury instruction.

Defendant was subsequently convicted of the lesser included offense of vehicular homicide (R.C. 2903.07) and involuntary manslaughter. He appealed and the Second Appellate District reversed the conviction for involuntary manslaughter because the court found that an offense classified as a "minor misdemeanor" is not an underlying predicate offense for purposes of R.C. 2903.04(B).

Finding its decision in conflict with the decision of the Court of Appeals for Lorain County in State v. Montecalvo (Sept. 5, 1990), Lorain App. No. 89CA004653, unreported, 1990 WL 129245, the court of appeals certified the record of the case to this court for review and final determination.

Jeffrey M. Welbaum, Miami County Pros. Atty., and Jane T. Skogstrom, Asst. Pros. Atty., for appellant.

John C. Holden, Dayton, for appellee.

FRANCIS E. SWEENEY, Sr., Justice

Today we are asked to determine whether an offense classified as a minor misdemeanor is a misdemeanor for purposes of the involuntary manslaughter statute, R.C. 2903.04(B). For the following reasons, we answer this question in the negative.

R.C. 2903.04(B) provides that "[n]o person shall cause the death of another as a proximate result of the offender's committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor." The underlying "misdemeanor" the jury found defendant committed was a violation of R.C. 4511.43, the failure to stop at a clearly marked stop sign. However, a conviction for R.C. 4511.43 is a minor misdemeanor when it is a first offense. R.C. 4511.99(D).

The state argues that for purposes of the involuntary manslaughter statute, the underlying misdemeanor offense includes offenses classified as minor misdemeanors. The state urges us to follow the conflict case of State v. Montecalvo, supra.

Additionally, the state relies on our decision announced in State v. Chippendale (1990), 52 Ohio St.3d 118, 556 N.E.2d 1134. However, Chippendale resolved a very different issue than that presented here.

Chippendale dealt with whether involuntary manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide could both be charged from the same conduct. The case did not consider the sufficiency of the underlying violation to support a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Indeed, we did not need to do so as the defendant's involuntary manslaughter charge was predicated upon the first degree misdemeanor offense of driving under the influence. R.C. 4511.19(A).

Instead, we find more persuasive the rationale advanced by the appellate court and the well-reasoned dissents of Judge Cacioppo in State v. Montecalvo, supra, at 7-18, and State v. Westfall (July 31, 1991), Summit App. No. 14930, unreported, at 5-15, 1991 WL 149573. As the appellate court and Judge Cacioppo have concluded, we do not believe the General Assembly intended to include a minor misdemeanor as a predicate misdemeanor offense for purposes of the crime of involuntary manslaughter. In construing the General Assembly's intent, we are guided by various Revised Code provisions.

Throughout R.C. Title 29, minor misdemeanors are distinguished from other misdemeanors. In R.C. 2901.02 (classification of offenses), the General Assembly has delineated various categories of crimes. Misdemeanors are further subdivided into four degrees. Minor misdemeanors have their own category. This same classification is found in R.C. 2929.21, which establishes separate penalties for misdemeanors, up to six months in jail, and for minor misdemeanors, a fine of up to $100 only. In addition, there is no right to a jury trial for a minor misdemeanor offense. R.C. 2945.17. Moreover, a prosecution for a minor misdemeanor must be brought within six months (as opposed to two years for a misdemeanor and six years for a felony). R.C. 2901.13(A). Also, a trial for a minor misdemeanor must be held within thirty days after arrest or the service of summons (once again, different time constraints than those for misdemeanors and felonies). R.C. 2945.71.

The rule of statutory construction is that penal laws "shall be strictly construed against the state, and liberally construed in favor of the accused." R.C. 2901.04(A). Having classified misdemeanors and minor misdemeanors separately, and having provided for several distinctions in various code provisions, the General Assembly cannot be presumed to have intended that they merge into one classification, that of "misdemeanors," for purposes of the involuntary manslaughter statute. Any uncertainty must be resolved against the state.

While we agree that most...

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40 cases
  • 1996 -NMSC- 68, State v. Yarborough
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • November 27, 1996
    ...of probable consequences of a dangerous nature, when tested by the rule of reasonable prevision"); State v. Collins, 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 616 N.E.2d 224, 226 (Ohio 1993) (holding that a "minor-misdemeanor," such as the failure to stop at a stop sign, could not be a predicate offence for misde......
  • State ex rel. Enquirer v. Lyons, s. 2012–1924
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • June 5, 2014
    ...are classified from first to fifth degree and misdemeanors from first degree to minor. The dissent quotes State v. Collins, 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 116, 616 N.E.2d 224 (1993), and relies on language distinguishing minor misdemeanors from other misdemeanors. But in Collins, we simply applied the ......
  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • December 13, 1996
    ...involuntary manslaughter statute requires only a finding of In 1993, the Supreme Court of Ohio decided the case of State v. Collins (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 616 N.E.2d 224, which held at the syllabus that "[a] minor misdemeanor may not serve as the underlying predicate offense for purpose......
  • U.S. v. Sanders, 95-3759
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • December 6, 1996
    ...convictions. See State of Ohio v. Westfall, 1991 WL 149573 at * 2 (Ohio.Ct.App. July 31, 1991) overruled by State of Ohio v. Collins, 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 616 N.E.2d 224 (1993) (finding that minor misdemeanors could serve as the underlying charge in an involuntary manslaughter However, a clos......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Opaque recklessness.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 91 No. 3, March 2001
    • March 22, 2001
    ...conviction for vehicular homicide where the defendant ran a stop sign but there was no showing of recklessness); State v. Collins, 616 N.E.2d 224, 226 (Ohio 1993) (stating that a traffic violation cannot serve as underlying misdemeanor for misdemeanor-manslaughter); Commonwealth v. Clauser,......

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