State v. Hand

Decision Date25 August 2016
Docket NumberNo. 2014–1814.,2014–1814.
Citation2016 Ohio 5504,149 Ohio St.3d 94,73 N.E.3d 448
Parties The STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. HAND, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Mathias H. Heck Jr., Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney, and Andrew T. French, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Stephen A. Goldmeier, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Michael DeWine, Attorney General, Eric E. Murphy, State Solicitor, and Peter T. Reed, Deputy Solicitor, urging affirmance for amicus curiae, Ohio Attorney General.

LANZINGER, J.

{¶ 1} In this case, we are asked to determine whether it is a violation of due process to treat a juvenile adjudication as the equivalent of an adult conviction for purposes of enhancing a penalty for a later crime. We hold that it is.

Case Background

{¶ 2} Appellant, Adrian Hand Jr., entered no-contest pleas in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in case No. 2012–CR–00650/2 to three first-degree felonies—aggravated burglary in violation of R.C. 2911.11(A)(2), aggravated robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.01(A)(1), and kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(2) —and two second-degree felonies—felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) and (A)(2). Each count had a three-year firearm specification attached to it, and Hand also entered no-contest pleas to the specifications.

{¶ 3} During the plea hearing, the trial court noted that the parties agreed to a total six-year prison term with three of the years being mandatory because they are related to the merged firearm specifications, R.C. 2929.14 and 2941.145, but that the parties disputed whether the three years for the other offenses was also a mandatory term. The question was whether Hand's prior juvenile adjudication for aggravated robbery under R.C. 2911.01(A)(3) should operate as a first-degree-felony conviction to enhance his sentence. R.C. 2929.13(F)(6) requires a mandatory prison term for a first- or second-degree felony if the offender has previously been convicted of or pled guilty to a first- or second-degree felony.

{¶ 4} After the parties briefed the sentencing issue, the trial court relied on R.C. 2901.08(A) and ruled that Hand's prior juvenile adjudication required imposition of mandatory prison terms under R.C. 2929.13(F). The trial court merged the allied offenses and sentenced him to a mandatory three-year prison term for each of the aggravated-burglary, aggravated-robbery, and felonious-assault counts. These sentences were to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the mandatory three-year prison term for the firearm specification, for an aggregate six-year mandatory term of incarceration.

{¶ 5} Hand appealed his sentence. He agreed that the three-year term for the firearm specification was a mandatory term, but he argued that the three-year term for the other offenses should not be mandatory. The Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. The appellate court, in a two-to-one decision, rejected Hand's arguments that treating his juvenile adjudication as a prior conviction violated his due-process rights because he was not afforded the right to a jury trial in juvenile court. The court also did not find a violation of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000).

{¶ 6} Hand appealed to this court, and we accepted jurisdiction on the following proposition of law:

The use of a prior juvenile adjudication to enhance an adult sentence violates a defendant's right to due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution, and the right to trial by jury as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 5 of the Ohio Constitution.

142 Ohio St.3d 1409, 2015-Ohio-1099, 27 N.E.3d 539.

Analysis

{¶ 7} The question here is whether a statute that permits a previous juvenile adjudication to count as a prior conviction that enhances a later adult sentence by requiring a mandatory prison term violates due process under Apprendi. The statutory language must be examined along with existing case law before we turn to the constitutional question of due process.

The Statutes Involved: R.C. 2929.13(F)(6) and 2901.08(A)

{¶ 8} For Hand's first-degree- and second-degree-felony convictions, the trial court was required to impose a mandatory prison term if Hand had previously been convicted of a first- or second-degree felony. R.C. 2929.13(F) provides:

Notwithstanding divisions (A) to (E) of this section, the court shall impose a prison term or terms under sections 2929.02 to 2929.06, section 2929.14, section 2929.142, or section 2971.03 of the Revised Code and * * * shall not reduce the term or terms pursuant to section 2929.20, section 2967.19, section 2967.193, or any other provision of Chapter 2967. or Chapter 5120. of the Revised Code for any of the following offenses:
* * *
(6) Any offense that is a first or second degree felony and that is not set forth in division (F)(1), (2), (3), or (4) of this section, if the offender previously was convicted of or pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, murder, any first or second degree felony, or an offense under an existing or former law of this state, another state, or the United States that is or was substantially equivalent to one of those offenses.

(Emphasis added.)

{¶ 9} R.C. 2929.13 does not define the term "convicted," so in determining whether Hand's prior juvenile adjudication should be counted as a prior conviction, the trial court relied on R.C. 2901.08(A), which provides:

If a person is alleged to have committed an offense and if the person previously has been adjudicated a delinquent child or juvenile traffic offender for a violation of a law or ordinance, * * * the adjudication as a delinquent child or as a juvenile traffic offender is a conviction for a violation of the law or ordinance for purposes of determining the offense with which the person should be charged and, if the person is convicted of or pleads guilty to an offense, the sentence to be imposed upon the person relative to the conviction or guilty plea.

(Emphasis added.) Thus, when read together, the two statutes say a juvenile adjudication counts as a previous conviction that can enhance either the degree of a later offense or a subsequent sentence to include mandatory prison time.

{¶ 10} This court has mentioned R.C. 2901.08 in its opinions only four times, and the statute was actually at issue in only one of them. See State v. Adkins, 129 Ohio St.3d 287, 2011-Ohio-3141, 951 N.E.2d 766 ; In re C.P., 131 Ohio St.3d 513, 2012-Ohio-1446, 967 N.E.2d 729 ; State v. Howard, 134 Ohio St.3d 467, 2012-Ohio-5738, 983 N.E.2d 341 ; State v. Bode, 144 Ohio St.3d 155, 2015-Ohio-1519, 41 N.E.3d 1156. In Adkins, we held that a juvenile adjudication could count as one of the five offenses used to enhance a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol ("OVI") under R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a). In that case, however, the issue was whether R.C. 2901.08 was unconstitutionally retroactive, and we held that it was not, because the OVI statute did not add an additional punishment to the juvenile disposition but rather punished the defendant for the current offense. Id. at ¶ 15. The juvenile adjudication was unaffected and remained a juvenile adjudication. Id. at ¶ 19. Howard, In re C.P., and Bode did no more than mention the holding in Adkins, and none of the four cases provided an analysis of due process. Hand, however, contends that treating his juvenile adjudication as a conviction violates his due-process rights under the Ohio and United States Constitutions and is inconsistent with Apprendi.

Due Process and the Juvenile Court

{¶ 11} Hand asserts that his right to due process was violated when his past juvenile adjudication was used to make his prison term mandatory. Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution provides: "All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his land, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administered without denial or delay." The "due course of law" provision is the equivalent of the "due process of law" provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Direct Plumbing Supply Co. v. Dayton, 138 Ohio St. 540, 544, 38 N.E.2d 70 (1941).

{¶ 12} "For all its consequence, ‘due process' has never been, and perhaps can never be, precisely defined." Lassiter v. Dept. of Social Servs. of Durham Cty., North Carolina, 452 U.S. 18, 24, 101 S.Ct. 2153, 68 L.Ed.2d 640 (1981). It is a flexible concept that varies depending on the importance attached to the interest at stake and the particular circumstances under which the deprivation may occur. Walters v. Natl. Assn. of Radiation Survivors, 473 U.S. 305, 320, 105 S.Ct. 3180, 87 L.Ed.2d 220 (1985). "Applying the Due Process Clause is therefore an uncertain enterprise which must discover what ‘fundamental fairness' consists of in a particular situation by first considering any relevant precedents and then by assessing the several interests that are at stake." Lassiter at 24–25, 101 S.Ct. 2153.

{¶ 13} The court of appeals rejected Hand's due-process claims with little analysis. The dissenting appellate judge, however, commented that "[t]here are a significant number of law review articles which question on due process grounds whether juvenile court adjudications should be considered the equivalent of criminal convictions for purposes of sentence enhancement statutes." 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 25840, 2014-Ohio-3838, 2014 WL 4384131, at ¶ 11 (Donovan, J., dissenting). She concluded that it is inconsistent to deem juvenile adjudications civil for some purposes but criminal for the purpose of classifying them as prior convictions for sentencing enhancements. Id. at ¶ 12. When we examine the nature of the juvenile...

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