I have received this question by a number of individuals after they are cited for a traffic violation. Unfortunately, the short answer is “no.” The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure provides, pursuant to Rule 7(D), that the court may at any time before, during or after a trial amend the indictment, information, complaint, or bill of particulars, in respect of any defect, variance from the evidence, omission in form or substance, or imperfection provided no change is made in the name or identity of the crime charged.
Ohio courts have made a distinction between modifying the name or identity of the charge and amendments that simply correct an administrative error. Administrative or clerical errors can be corrected at any time, even the day of trial. However, the name or identity of the charge cannot be modified. A common example of this is where a traffic ticket specifically states the offense charged, but incorrectly cites the wrong code section. The court will permit the prosecutor to amend the ticket provided that the amendment does not prejudicially mislead the defendant.
The general rules are these:
- The original traffic citation gave the defendant notice of the true nature of the offense charged;
- The defendant was not deprived of the ability to prepare a defense; and
- The modification simply clarifies the information in the original citation.
Example of a Court Permitting an Amendment of the Wrong Code Section
An Ohio court, in Brecksville v. Bickerstaff, recently dealt with this issue. In that case, the driver was cited for failure to change lanes near a public safety vehicle. The traffic ticket specifically stated that the driver “failed to veer left or slow speed passing police cars w/ disabled motorist.” The code section was for a local municipal ordinance, which stated “337.27,” instead of “331.27.” The prosecutor, on the day of trial, notified the court that the traffic ticket cited an incorrect number. The driver argued that the court should dismiss the case against him because his traffic citation cited an incorrect code section.
The court permitted the amendment. Specifically, the court held that the amendment to the traffic ticket did not change the identity of the crime charged, but instead, amended the citation so that it referenced the correct ordinance. Thus, the court permitted the prosecution to correct the error by the officer because it was simply a clerical error.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal or traffic offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal or traffic offense case.