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August 25, 2016

Ohio Supreme Court concludes it violates due process to treat a juve adjudication like adult conviction at later sentencing

As reported in this local press article, headlined "Court: Juvenile crimes can't enhance adult sentences," the Ohio Supreme Court handed down an interesting sentencing opinion today in Ohio v. Hand, No. 2016-Ohio-5504 (Ohio Aug. 25, 2016) (available here).  Here is the press summary of the ruling:

Prior juvenile convictions cannot be used to escalate the severity of charges or increase the prison sentences of adults, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices declared that treating cases from juvenile court as prior convictions for adult-sentencing purposes is unconstitutional, violating the due-process clauses of the Ohio and U.S. constitutions, and is “fundamentally unfair.”

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, writing for the majority, said that juvenile court proceedings, which are civil — not criminal — matters, are designed to protect the development of those under age 18 while they are rehabilitated.

Adult felony sentences, however, are designed to protect the public and punish offenders, she wrote. “In summary, juvenile adjudication differs from criminal sentencing — one is civil and rehabilitative, the other is criminal and punitive,” Lanzinger wrote.

The full opinion is available at this link. And as this final conclusion paragraph highlights, there are lots of interesting elements of the decision that all sentencing fans will want to check out:

Treating a juvenile adjudication as an adult conviction to enhance a sentence for a later crime is inconsistent with Ohio’s system for juveniles, which is predicated on the fact that children are not as culpable for their acts as adults and should be rehabilitated rather than punished.  It is widely recognized that juveniles are more vulnerable to outside pressures, including the pressure to admit to an offense.  Under Apprendi, using a prior conviction to enhance a sentence does not violate the constitutional right to due process, because the prior process involved the right to a jury trial.  Juveniles, however, are not afforded the right to a jury trial.  Quite simply, a juvenile adjudication is not a conviction of a crime and should not be treated as one.

August 25, 2016 at 06:47 PM | Permalink


The truly scary part ?
Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer will be off the court due to age …

{¶ 52} Accordingly, I [O’DONNELL, J.] respectfully dissent from the decision of the majority
in this case, and I would affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.
KENNEDY and FRENCH, JJ., concur in the foregoing opinion.
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.

Posted by: My friend Docile „ the Nemo Me ♠ Impune Lacessit ♂ & Kind Soul | Aug 25, 2016 6:54:55 PM

To sentencing and criminal neophytes, at least in a state with a similar juvy system (TX), this seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Aug 25, 2016 11:29:30 PM

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