A Franklin County Court of Appeals case concluded that plea bargains are enforceable contracts. In State v. Church, Brian Church was arrested for possession of marijuana and jaywalking following a drug buy. Law enforcement intended to indict Mr. Church for trafficking in marijuana. However, Mr. Church was first charged in Franklin County Municipal Court with the aforementioned charges.
Pursuant to a plea agreement, Mr. Church entered a guilty plea as to jaywalking and the possession of marijuana charge was dismissed. The Municipal Court discussed with Mr. Church the terms of the negotiated plea and noted on the record that the drug possession charge was dismissed as part of the plea.
Two months after this plea, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office indicted Mr. Church in Franklin County Common Pleas Court for trafficking in marijuana. Mr. Church’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds.
What is Double Jeopardy?
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against double jeopardy. This clause provides three protections:
- Protection against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal;
- Protection against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and
- Protection against multiple punishments for the same offense.
Motion to Dismiss
Mr. Church’s attorney argued that the trafficking in marijuana offense and the possession of marijuana offense involved the same marijuana (same incident) and, therefore, the dismissal of the possession charge precluded the subsequent indictment for trafficking in the same drugs. The trial court denied this motion. Mr. Church’s attorney appealed this decision, arguing that the dismissal of the misdemeanor possession charge in municipal court, as part of a plea agreement, barred the state’s subsequent prosecution for drug trafficking in common pleas court.
The trial court analyzed the case under the “same elements” test of Blockburger v. United States. The trial court held that while both charges are based on the same marijuana in Mr. Church’s possession, the elements of the possession charge and the trafficking charge were not the same. Thus, they were not the same offense and there was no double jeopardy violation.
Mr. Church’s attorney argued before the Franklin County Court of Appeals that the case was controlled by State v. Dye, where the Ohio Supreme Court held that a negotiated guilty plea bars successive prosecutions where the defendant would reasonably believe that his or her plea would bar further prosecution for any greater offense related to the same factual scenario.
The prosecution argued that State v. Zima applied, where the prosecution was not barred from successive prosecutions of the defendant for the offense of driving under the influence and the offense of aggravated vehicular assault. However, the facts of Zima differ from Church’s case because at the time that Zima entered her plea in municipal court for driving under the influence, she had already been indicted in common pleas for aggravated vehicular assault. The court in Zima held that neither the municipal court nor the prosecutor in municipal court had the authority to dismiss the charge in common pleas court. Therefore, any expectation that Zima had regarding her being free from further charges was unreasonable.
The Court of Appeals held that pursuant to State v. Carpenter, “effect must be given to the intention of the state and the defendant in their plea bargain, and courts should enforce what they perceive to be the terms of the original plea agreement.” In this case, the court found that under the facts of Church’s case, Mr. Church had a reasonable expectation that he would not be subject to more serious drug charges arising out of the incident. In essence, the court applied the rule from Carpenter that plea agreements are based on contract-law principles and dismissed the double jeopardy argument. Thus, the state was precluded from re-charging Mr. Church with an offense arising out of this incident.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have 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 case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.