If you have a prior juvenile conviction in Ohio, that conviction no longer can be used against you in the event that you are charged and convicted of a crime in the future. The Ohio Supreme Court, in State v. Hand, held that R.C. 2901.08(A) violated the Due Process Clauses of Article 1, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution and the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution because it is “fundamentally unfair to treat a juvenile adjudication as a previous conviction that enhances either the degree of or the sentence for a subsequent offense committed as an adult.”
Specifically, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a juvenile conviction in Ohio cannot be used as a prior felony conviction for sentencing purposes when the juvenile is later charged with another crime as an adult. In doing so, the Court ruled that the defendant’s right to due process is violated because a juvenile proceeding does not provide a defendant with the right to a jury trial, whereas every adult facing a criminal charge in Ohio has that right.
Hand entered a plea of no contest to five felony offenses – aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, and two counts of felonious assault. He also entered a no contest plea to a three-year firearm specification.
Hand had a prior had a prior juvenile adjudication for aggravated burglary. During the sentencing hearing, the parties agreed upon the merger of the three-year gun specification into a single, mandatory three-year prison term. However, they disagreed upon whether the remainder of the sentence was mandatory or discretionary, and whether Hand’s prior juvenile adjudication for aggravated burglary should operate as a prior felony conviction. 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.
The sentencing judge used this prior adjudication to enhance the defendant’s sentence. Specifically, the trial court considered the prior juvenile adjudication to be a prior felony and sentenced Hand to a mandatory three-year term for the felony offenses and ordered that the term be served consecutively to the firearm specification term for a total of six years of mandatory prison time. His attorneys challenged the use of the prior juvenile adjudication to increase the sentence for the five adult charges as violating the defendant’s due process rights.
Juvenile Record Violates Constitutional Rights?
Based on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Ohio Supreme Court had to determine if the enhanced sentence violated Hand’s due process rights. The Court looked at two statutes – R.C. 2929.13(F)(6) and 2901.08(A).
2929.13(F)(6) requires a prison term for an offender with a prior first or second-degree felony, but doesn’t define the term “convicted.” R.C. 2901.08(A) provides that a juvenile adjudication is a conviction for determining what offense to charge and the sentence to impose. The Court held that a “juvenile adjudication differs from criminal sentencing – one is civil and rehabilitative, the other is criminal and punitive.”
Right to a Jury Trial
Even though juvenile proceedings are civil, a number of constitutional protections apply to juvenile proceedings, which are rooted in due process. These include the right to be represented by an attorney, double jeopardy and the protection against self-incrimination. However, no right to a trial by jury exists for juvenile offenders.
The Ohio Supreme Court held that the Apprendi decision requires that any prior conviction to be used to enhance a penalty beyond the maximum sentence must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Since a jury trial is not required for a juvenile proceeding, and juvenile proceedings are civil in nature, it would be “contradictory and fundamentally unfair” to use juvenile adjudications as criminal convictions to enhance adult penalties.
The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the defendant, stating that any prior conviction used to increase a penalty beyond the maximum sentence must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, a defendant’s prior juvenile conviction cannot be used to increase any sentence the defendant may later face for crimes committed as an adult.
Juvenile Defense Attorney – Columbus and Delaware, Ohio
If your child has been charged with a criminal 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 child’s case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your child’s case.