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State v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District

June 20, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RYAN E. SMITH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Criminal Appeal from County Court No. 4, Case No. 07 CRA 169.

For Plaintiff-Appellee: Attorney Paul J. Gains, Prosecuting Attorney Attorney Ralph M. Rivera, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

For Defendant-Appellant: Attorney Edward A. Czopur, DeGenova & Yarwood, Ltd.

JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro, Hon. Gene Donofrio, Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich.

OPINION

DeGenaro, P.J.

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Ryan E. Smith, appeals the decision of the Mahoning County Court No. 4 denying his application to seal the record relating to his dismissed grand theft charge. Smith argues the trial court erred in denying his application because the State failed to present any interest in maintaining the record and because the trial court failed to make the requisite findings pursuant to R.C. 2953.52(B)(2). Smith's arguments are meritorious in part. The trial court was not precluded from denying Smith's application notwithstanding the State's failure to object and present its interests in maintaining the record. However, the trial court did err in failing to place its findings relative to R.C. 2953.52(B)(2) on the record. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed and this cause is remanded for further proceedings and compliance with R.C. 2953.52(B).

Facts and Procedural History

{¶2} In 2007, Smith was charged in Mahoning County Court No. 4 in Case No. 2007 CRA 169, with one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle (R.C. 2913.02(A)), a fourth-degree felony. The State moved to dismiss the charge and following a hearing, the trial court dismissed the charge in a March 19, 2007 judgment entry.

{¶3} On May 2, 2012, Smith filed an application for an order to seal the records relative to the dismissed grand theft charge. During the hearing, which the State did not attend, the trial court indicated that the prosecutor would not "sign off" on the application to seal the records. Defense counsel stated that the prosecutor would not object to the motion and that the applicable statute provides that if the State objects, it needs to attend the hearing. Defense counsel further stated that the statute does not require the State to approve of the motion. The trial court responded, "He's not required to, but I would want his approval before I expunge (inaudible) for something like that." At the conclusion of the hearing, the court took the matter under advisement. The trial court issued a judgment entry denying the application to seal and finding that "the defendant has other convictions and the State would not approve the Application."

Application to Seal Records

{¶4} Smith asserts two assignments of error on appeal, which are interrelated and will be discussed together:

{¶5} "Appellant's motion to seal subsequent to dismissal and pursuant to ORC § 2953.52 was erroneously denied as no interest of the State was presented at the hearing thereby requiring that the motion to seal be granted."

{¶6} "The trial court erred in not making the requisite findings prior to denying Appellant's motion to seal thereby requiring reversal."

{¶7} "An appellate court reviews a trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to seal records pursuant to R.C. 2953.52 for an abuse of discretion." State v. Widder, 146 Ohio App.3d 445, 2001-Ohio-1521, 766 N.E.2d 1018, ¶6 (9th Dist). The term 'abuse of discretion' means an error in judgment involving a decision that is unreasonable based upon the record; that the appellate court merely may have reached a different result is not enough. See, Bergman v. Bergman, 2d Dist. No. 25378, 2013- ...


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