State v. Simpkins

Citation2008 Ohio 1197,117 Ohio St.3d 420,884 N.E.2d 568
Decision Date20 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 2007-0052.,2007-0052.
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. SIMPKINS, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio

William D. Mason, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Matthew E. Meyer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Robert L. Tobik, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and David M. King and John T. Martin, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellee.



{¶ 1} On May 21, 1998, appellant, Curtis Simpkins, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02, felonies of the first degree, and to one count of gross sexual imposition in violation of R.C. 2907.05, a felony of the third degree. The trial court sentenced Simpkins on June 11, 1998, to a term of eight years' incarceration for each count of rape and to three years' incarceration for the single count of gross sexual imposition, to be served concurrently. Although postrelease control was required, see R.C. 2929.14(F) and 2967.28, the journal entry on sentencing did not indicate that Simpkins was subject to postrelease control. That error went uncorrected for more than seven years.

{¶ 2} In December 2005, however, the state moved to resentence Simpkins prior to his release from prison. The state asserted that the sentence imposed initially was void because it had not included postrelease control. The trial court held a hearing on the motion while Simpkins was still in custody and agreed that the initial sentence was void. The court resentenced Simpkins to the same sentence of incarceration imposed previously, but added a period of five years' postrelease control. The journal entry for the resentencing hearing reflects the imposition of postrelease control.

{¶ 3} Simpkins appealed, arguing that our decision in Hernandez v. Kelly, 108 Ohio St.3d 395, 2006-Ohio-126, 844 N.E.2d 301, does not support the after-the-fact resentencing of a defendant who has nearly completed his sentence. The court of appeals rejected his claim.

{¶ 4} Relying on State v. Rutherford, Champaign App. No. 06CA13, 2006-Ohio-5132, 2006 WL 2795380, the court of appeals explained, "The trial court retained its jurisdiction to resentence appellant. R.C. 2967.28 mandates that a trial court impose a term of post-release control for the offenses to which appellant pleaded guilty; therefore, the trial court must impose post-release control orally at the sentencing hearing and transcribe such imposition in the court's journal entry. Failure to do so renders the sentence void. State v. Jordan, 104 Ohio St.3d 21, 2004-Ohio-6085, 817 N.E.2d 864. Because appellant's 1998 sentence was void, resentencing was a proper remedy to correct the trial court's original error of omission. Id.; State v. Beasley (1984), 14 Ohio St.3d 74 , 471 N.E.2d 774." State v. Simpkins, Cuyahoga App. No. 87692, 2006-Ohio-6028, 2006 WL 3317928, ¶ 11.

{¶ 5} We accepted appellant's discretionary appeal, State v. Simpkins, 113 Ohio St.3d 1440, 2007-Ohio-1266, 863 N.E.2d 657, which presents a discrete proposition of law: "A defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment that does not include post-release control may not be sentenced anew in order to add post-release control unless the State has challenged the failure to include post-release control in a timely direct appeal." For the reasons that follow, we reject that proposition.

{¶ 6} We hold that in cases in which a defendant is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, an offense for which postrelease control is required but not properly included in the sentence, the sentence is void and the state is entitled to a new sentencing hearing to have postrelease control imposed on the defendant unless the defendant has completed his sentence.


{¶ 7} This appeal requires us to balance the doctrine of res judicata, a defendant's interest in the finality of his sentence, and the people's interest in the imposition of lawful, proper sentences.

{¶ 8} Simpkins asserts initially that the state is barred by res judicata from challenging the trial court's failure to include the period of postrelease control. Alternatively, he argues that he had a legitimate expectation of finality in his sentence and that the Double Jeopardy and Due Process Clauses of the federal constitution protect that expectation. We address these arguments in turn.


{¶ 9} Appellant suggests that the doctrine of res judicata prevented his resentencing, citing our decisions in Pratts v. Hurley, 102 Ohio St.3d 81, 2004-Ohio-1980, 806 N.E.2d 992, ¶ 12, and State v. Perry (1967), 10 Ohio St.2d 175, 180, 39 O.O.2d 189, 226 N.E.2d 104. The appellant's reliance on Pratts and Perry is understandable but misplaced. Pratts and Perry address aspects of res judicata doctrine in collateral attacks on voidable judgments and are distinguishable from the specific context of the instant case.

{¶ 10} Here, we consider whether a defendant who was not sentenced properly to a statutorily mandated period of postrelease control can be resentenced if he is still imprisoned and there was no direct appeal from the judge's sentencing error. That question is answered by a discrete line of decisions arising from cases that are more closely analogous to appellant's case.

{¶ 11} Our analysis begins by making a key distinction that has been obscured in our law: the difference between sentences that are void and those that are voidable. We recognize that we have not always used these terms as properly and precisely as possible. See, e.g., State v. Payne, 114 Ohio St.3d 502, 2007-Ohio-4642, 873 N.E.2d 306, ¶ 34 (Lanzinger, J., concurring) (suggesting that the court had not properly used the term "void" and instead should have used the term "voidable" in referring to the sentences at issue in State v. Foster, 109 Ohio St.3d 1, 2006-Ohio-856, 845 N.E.2d 470, ¶ 103); Kelley v. Wilson, 103 Ohio St.3d 201, 2004-Ohio-4883, 814 N.E.2d 1222, ¶ 14 ("despite our language in [State v. Green (1998), 81 Ohio St.3d 100, 689 N.E.2d 556] that the specified errors rendered the sentence `void,' the judgment was voidable and properly challenged on direct appeal"); State v. Parker, 95 Ohio St.3d 524, 2002-Ohio-2833, 769 N.E.2d 846, ¶ 20-26 (Cook, J., dissenting) (arguing that the majority opinion confused void and voidable judgments).

{¶ 12} In general, a void judgment is one that has been imposed by a court that lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case or the authority to act. State v. Payne, 114 Ohio St.3d 502, 2007-Ohio-4642, 873 N.E.2d 306, ¶ 27. Unlike a void judgment, a voidable judgment is one rendered by a court that has both jurisdiction and authority to act, but the court's judgment is invalid, irregular, or erroneous. Id.

{¶ 13} Although we commonly hold that sentencing errors are not jurisdictional and do not necessarily render a judgment void, see State ex rel. Massie v. Rogers (1997), 77 Ohio St.3d 449, 450, 674 N.E.2d 1383; Johnson v. Sacks (1962), 173 Ohio St. 452, 454, 20 O.O.2d 76, 184 N.E.2d 96 ("The imposition of an erroneous sentence does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction"), there are exceptions to that general rule. The circumstances in this case—a court's failure to impose a sentence as required by law—present one such exception.

{¶ 14} In a narrow vein of cases running back to 1984, this court has held consistently that a sentence that does not contain a statutorily mandated term is a void sentence. State v. Beasley (1984), 14 Ohio St.3d 74, 14 OBR 511, 471 N.E.2d 774. In Beasley, the applicable sentencing statute required the judge to impose a prison term and permitted the judge to impose a fine. Id. at 75, 14 OBR 511, 471 N.E.2d 774. The trial court disregarded the statutory mandate and imposed only a fine. We held that the trial court had exceeded its authority by disregarding the statutory sentencing requirements and that the "attempted sentence" was a nullity and must be considered void. Id.

{¶ 15} Twenty years later, in State v. Jordan, 104 Ohio St.3d 21, 2004-Ohio-6085, 817 N.E.2d 864, we applied Beasley to a trial court's failure to follow a statute that required the court to notify a defendant that he was subject to postrelease control. We recognized that "[t]he court's duty to include a notice to the offender about postrelease control at the sentencing hearing is the same as any other statutorily mandated term of a sentence. And based on the reasoning in Beasley, a trial court's failure to notify an offender at the sentencing hearing about postrelease control is error." Id. at ¶ 26. We held that "[b]ecause a trial court has a statutory duty to provide notice of postrelease control at the sentencing hearing, any sentence imposed without such notification is contrary to law" and void. Id. at ¶ 23. We thus concluded that the sentence imposed on Jordan must be vacated and that he must be resentenced. Id., citing Beasley, 14 Ohio St.3d 74, 14 OBR 511, 471 N.E.2d 774.

{¶ 16} Two years later, the issue resurfaced in two cases, Hernandez v. Kelly, 108 Ohio St.3d 395, 2006-Ohio-126, 844 N.E.2d 301, and State ex rel. Cruzado v. Zaleski, 111 Ohio St.3d 353, 2006-Ohio-5795, 856 N.E.2d 263. In each case, we were presented with a defendant who had not been properly sentenced to statutorily mandated terms of postrelease control as required by R.C. 2967.28(B). Although we reached different results as to the appropriate remedies for the failure to properly include the postrelease control, our analysis was consistent.

{¶ 17} In Hernandez, we held that the defendant could not be resentenced to the period of postrelease control that should have been imposed initially. Our holding there was driven by a critical fact: Hernandez had already completed the term of imprisonment that had been imposed properly by the trial judge. We held that an after-the-fact notification in those circumstances would have circumvented the objectives of R.C. 2929.14(F) and 2967.28, which...

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