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Ohio Supreme Court Addresses Juvenile DUI

In State v. Adkins, 2011-Ohio-3141, the Ohio Supreme Court  addressed  whether a  juvenile adjudication can be considered one of the five prior similar offenses necessary to enhance an R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) charge for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (“OVI”).

An OVI is a fourth-degree felony if the defendant has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to five OVIs in 20 years (under R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d)). 

The Ohio legislature passed a new law effective January 1, 1996, making a prior juvenile adjudication constitute a prior conviction for purposes of R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d).

Procedural History of Juvenile DUI

On September 14, 2007, defendant-appellant, Gary Adkins, was indicted for an OVI violation under R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a). Pursuant to R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d), he was charged with a fourth-degree felony based upon the allegation that he had been previously convicted of or pleaded guilty to five or more OVI offenses within the previous 20 years.

Specifically, the indictment alleged that Adkins had been convicted of six prior OVI offenses, including a November 20, 1987 adjudication in Delaware County Juvenile Court, where Adkins had been adjudicated “a juvenile traffic offender as a result of Alcohol Concentration, Fleeing an Officer and Failure to Maintain Assured Distance.”

Whether that adjudication could properly be considered a prior offense is the issue in this case.

Law & Analysis of Juvenile DUI

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that “R.C. 2901.08 did not change Adkins’s juvenile adjudication; it merely added another type of legal violation as an aggravating offense under R.C. 4911.19(G)(1)(d).

Prior to the passage of R.C. 2901.08, at least one appellate court had held that juvenile adjudications could not be considered previous OVI convictions for purposes of enhancement. State v. Blogna (1990), 60 Ohio App.3d 141, 573 N.E.2d 1223, syllabus. In that case, the court held that the defendant’s delinquency adjudication could not be used as an enhancement under 4511.19 due to the difference between an adult conviction and a juvenile adjudication. Id. at 143. R.C. 2901.08 statutorily overturned that holding and clarified the law. It did nothing to Adkins’s record – it simply made clear that for enhancement purposes, courts could consider a juvenile adjudication as a conviction.”

The Court also refused to find application of the law an a retroactively applied law, holding, “[b]ecause R.C. 2901.08 is applied prospectively and is not unconstitutionally retroactive, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.”

This DUI Law Update is a courtesy of Dayton, Ohio, DUI Attorney Charles M. Rowland.

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