State v. Ramsey, CA2022-02-003

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtHENDRICKSON, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 3389
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Appellee, v. REMICK D. L. RAMSEY, Appellant.
Docket NumberCA2022-02-003
Decision Date26 September 2022

2022-Ohio-3389

STATE OF OHIO, Appellee,
v.

REMICK D. L. RAMSEY, Appellant.

No. CA2022-02-003

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette

September 26, 2022


CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CRI 20210328

Jess C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, and Rachel S. Martin, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Steven H. Eckstein, for appellant.

OPINION

HENDRICKSON, J.

{¶1} Appellant, Remick D.L. Ramsey, appeals from his conviction for one count of failure to register as a sex offender in violation of R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) and R.C. 2950.99(A)(1)(b)(iii). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Ramsey's conviction.

{¶2} In June of 2008, Ramsey was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, requiring him to register as a sex offender for the next 25 years. On October 12, 2021,

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an officer with Fayette County, Sergeant Fausnaugh, served Ramsey with a 10-day notice of eviction at his grandmother's home where Ramsey had resided since 2017. During this process, Fausnaugh reminded Ramsey of his duty to inform the sheriffs department of his new address, or if he had no new address, to report the places he intended to stay to the sheriff and sign in daily.

{¶3} On October 22, 2021, Sergeant Fausnaugh executed the eviction. During the four and one-half hour eviction, Fausnaugh reminded Ramsey of his duty to inform the sheriff's department of his new address. During this time, Ramsey used a phone and appeared to place a call to WBNS 10 TV Columbus to request that somebody from the station come down to the residence to document a "wrongful eviction."[1] Ramsey then made additional phone calls to other individuals to request assistance in moving his property out of the home. Shortly thereafter, a few people arrived to help Ramsey move some of his belongings.

{¶4} Ramsey told Sergeant Fausnaugh that he had nowhere else to go, so many of his belongings, packed into his camper and a few other vehicles, sat in the shared driveway of the adjacent property for four or five days. During this time, a few of Ramsey's friends moved some of Ramsey's property to an address in Bloomingburg, Ohio. The property manager also checked in on Ramsey as he sat in the driveway, but Ramsey did not ask to borrow her phone to call the sheriff's department. On October 24 or 25, Ramsey relocated himself and the remainder of his belongings to the Bloomingburg address.

{¶5} On October 28, 2021, Ramsey had not made contact with the sheriff's department and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Ramsey was arrested at the address in Bloomingburg and the matter proceeded to a bench trial. At trial, Ramsey stipulated to

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his prior conviction for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and his prior conviction for failure to register as a sex offender. At the close of all the evidence, Ramsey's trial counsel made a Crim.R. 29 motion, claiming that the state did not establish a prima facia case. The motion was denied. The trial court convicted Ramsey for failing to notify the sheriff of his address change in violation of R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) and sentenced him to 24 months in prison.

{¶6} Ramsey now appeals his conviction, raising four assignments of error for our review.

{¶7} Assignment of Error No. 1:

{¶8} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE MENS REA OF R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) IS STRICT LIABILITY IN VIOLATION OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS UNDER THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE 1, SECTION 16 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.

{¶9} Ramsey contends that because R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) does not explicitly state a level of culpability, recklessness is the implied mental state and must be proven. We disagree.

{¶10} R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) states that no person who is required to notify a sheriff of a change of address pursuant to division (A) of the section "shall fail to notify" the appropriate sheriff in accordance with that division. There is no specific mens rea in the statute, and thus Ramsey argues that R.C. 2901.21 (B) applies. This section states:

When the language defining an offense does not specify any degree of culpability, and plainly indicates a purpose to impose strict criminal liability for the conduct described in the section, then culpability is not required for a person to be guilty of the offense

R.C. 2901.21(B).

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{¶11} Because Ramsey argues that the statute requires a mens rea of recklessness, he likely meant to point this court to R.C. 2901.21 (C)(1), which states:

When language defining an element of an offense that is related to knowledge or intent or to which mens rea could fairly be applied neither specifies culpability nor plainly indicates a purpose to impose strict liability, the element of the offense is established only if a person acts recklessly.

R.C. 2901.21(C)(1).[2]

{¶12} Thus, Ramsey's argument is that R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) requires recklessness because the General Assembly's intent to impose strict liability is unclear.

{¶13} In State v. Cook, the Ohio Supreme Court found that R.C. 2950.04, which requires that sex offenders "shall register personally with the sheriff," does not have a scienter requirement. State v. Cook, 83 Ohio St.3d 404, 419 (1998) ("The act of failing to register alone, without more, is sufficient to trigger criminal punishment provided in R.C. 2950.99."). This finding has led the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh appellate districts in Ohio to hold that R.C. 2950.05 imposes strict liability.[3]To date, there are no Ohio appellate districts that hold that violations of R.C. 2950.05 require

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any element of culpability.

{¶14} A statute imposes strict liability when the statute clearly shows a legislative intent to do so. State v. Moody, 104 Ohio St.3d 244, 246 (2004) ("[F]or strict liability to be the mental standard, the statute must plainly indicate a purpose to impose it."). While the language "no person shall" does not automatically impose strict liability, other indicia demonstrate the General Assembly's intent to do so. State v. Smith, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-130571, 2014-Ohio-4030, ¶ 8-9. These indicia include (1) whether the statute specified a mental state for one element of the crime and omitted it from another, (2) whether the offense was malum prohibitum, and (3) whether the legislature had taken a "strong stance" against that type of crime. State v. Blanton, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 08AP-844, 2009-Ohio-5334, ¶ 19; State v. Maxwell, 95 Ohio St.3d 254, 258 (2002); State v. Clay, 120 Ohio St.3d 528, 532 (2008).

{¶15} As for the first consideration, no portion of R.C. 2950 specifies an element of culpability. Thus, the first consideration "provides no guidance on the issue of whether the General Assembly intended to define a strict liability offense." Blanton at ¶ 20.

{¶16} As for the second indicia, several Ohio appellate courts find that sexual offender registration laws are mala prohibita-acts made unlawful for the good of the public welfare regardless of the offender's state of mind. State v. Stansell, 2nd Dist. Montgomery No. 23630, 2010-Ohio-5756, ¶ 20; State v. Stewart, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 94863, 2011-Ohio-612, ¶ 17; Smith at ¶ 7; State v. Hardy, 9th Dist. Summit No. 21015, 2002-Ohio-6457, ¶ 17. Failing to notify the sheriff of a change of address, required by R.C. 2950.05, is not an immoral act by itself; instead, the act is a crime merely because of an individual's prior convictions and the existence of R.C. 2950.05. Blanton at ¶ 10. Further, the offense is regulatory in nature, "designed to protect the health, safety and well-being of the community," indicating that strict liability attaches. State v. Finn, 2nd Dist. Montgomery No. 22914, 2009-Ohio-4949, ¶ 29.

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Because R.C. 2950.05 is considered malum prohibitum, this further indicates the General Assembly's intent to impose strict liability for violations.

{¶17} The final consideration is whether the General Assembly has taken a "strong stance" against these types of crimes. Ohio implemented sex offender registration statutes in 1963. Cook, 83 Ohio St.3d at 406 (1998). Over time, the General Assembly has repeatedly amended the statutes to impose additional obligations, resulting in stricter and more burdensome requirements. State v. Williams, 114 Ohio St.3d 103, 106 (2007). The General Assembly's intent in repealing and reenacting the statute has been to "protect the safety and general welfare of the people of this state." R.C. 2950.02(B); Cook at 406. The General Assembly also recognizes that sexual predators and habitual sexual offenders pose a high risk of recidivism, and thus has made an effort through legislation to ensure the public is informed about sex offenders. R.C. 2950.02(A)(1); State v. Hayden, 96 Ohio St.3d 211, 213 (2002). The protection of the public from sex offenders is deemed a "paramount governmental interest." R.C. 2950.05(A)(2). Together, this demonstrates that the General Assembly has taken a "strong stance" regarding violations of registration and notice requirements for sex offenders, which supports a finding that the statute imposes strict liability.

{¶18} Thus, the language of R.C. 2950, the other indicia of strict liability offenses, and the established case law throughout Ohio, support a finding that R.C. 2950.05(F)(1) indicates a plain legislative intent to impose strict liability. Accordingly, Ramsey's first assignment of error is overruled.

{¶19} Ramsey does little to distinguish his arguments under his second and third assignments of error, as he raises similar issues under each assignment. As his arguments for each assignment are interrelated, we will address them together.

{¶20} Assignment of Error No. 2:

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{¶21} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT ENTERED A JUDGMENT AGAINST THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, WHICH WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE.

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