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Erie County Sheriff/State of Ohio v. andrew R. Dalton

September 30, 2011

ERIE COUNTY SHERIFF/STATE OF OHIO APPELLEE
v.
ANDREW R. DALTON APPELLANT



Trial Court No. 1003024

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yarbrough, J.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

{¶1} This is an appeal from a judgment of the Erie County Municipal Court in which appellant, Andrew Dalton, was convicted of failing to maintain reasonable control of his vehicle, a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 4511.202(A).

{¶2} Testimony elicited at a bench trial indicates that on June 14, 2010, Dalton was involved in an automobile accident. Dalton lost consciousness and the vehicle he was operating crashed into a store located on Burnham Orchards' property on State Route 113 in Berlin Township.

{¶3} At trial, Dalton testified that on the morning of the accident he awoke feeling "light headed and dizzy." After a phone conversation with his employer, Dalton determined that he still needed to report to work at a horse barn located near Burnham Orchards, despite not feeling well. Dalton testified that he felt fine up until the point that his vision blurred while he was driving on State Route 113. Dalton then testified that he lost consciousness before the accident and that he only remembers hitting the gravel on the side of the road, and attempting to pull his truck back over on the road. Dalton went on to state that he lost consciousness "somewhere before when [he] went in the ditch." The trial court determined that Dalton was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.

{¶4} Following the trial, Dalton was convicted of failure to maintain reasonable control of his vehicle and sentenced to pay a $50 fine, and court costs of $289.20. The trial court also imposed two years of probation on Dalton with the condition that Dalton "abide by the laws of the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions and have no convictions for 2 years from this date."

{¶5} Dalton now appeals, asserting the following assignment of error:

{¶6} "The Trial Court's Judgment convicting the Defendant-Appellant Andrew Dalton of failing to maintain reasonable control over a motor vehicle was against the manifest weight of the evidence because the uncontroverted evidence showed that [Dalton] lost control solely due to a medical emergency over which he had no control and thus involuntarily lost consciousness."

{¶7} Appellant asserts that he had an affirmative defense for his failure to maintain reasonable control over his vehicle. Namely, that he lost consciousness and fainted while driving. See State v. McCaw (Aug. 1, 1997), 2d Dist. No. 16202. At trial, appellant was required to prove his affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence. Id., citing R.C. 2901.05(A). Thereafter, the state retained the burden of persuasion, beyond a reasonable doubt upon every issue necessary to convict. Id., citing State v. Humphries (1977), 51 Ohio St.2d 95, paragraph three of the syllabus. From the record provided on appeal, we are unable to determine whether the trial court, in finding Dalton guilty, rejected Dalton's theory of an affirmative defense which would have been error; or whether the trial court found that Dalton failed to meet his burden of proof in proving his affirmative defense. The relevant portion of the trial transcript dealing squarely with this issue states:

{¶8} "DEFENDANT'S ATTORNEY: Your honor, (Lengthy inaudible) and in order for my client to be found guilty The State has to prove that he had the means to avoid lacking control in the circumstance.

{¶9} "And as you hear the evidence, my client, although he didn't feel good in the morning was asked to come into work. And he was driving, certainly had no indication that he couldn't drive effectively. As he's coming into work he gets double vision, he loses consciousness and he has an accident.

{¶10} "That's exactly what the law says is an affirmative defense.

{¶11} "* * *

{ΒΆ12} "THE ...


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