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State v. Clemons

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

July 24, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ASTASIA CLEMONS, Defendant-Appellant.

Conrad A. Curren and Carol Ann Curren, Greenfield, Ohio, for Appellant.

Anneka P. Collins, Highland County Prosecutor, Hillsboro, Ohio, for Appellee.

Elizabeth Cooke, Amna Akbar, Alyssa Bowerman, and Wondwosen Woldegebriel, The Ohio State Legal Clinic, Columbus, Ohio, and Farah Diaz-Tello, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, New York, New York, for Amici Curiae.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

Matthew W. McFarland Presiding Judge

{¶1} Appellant, Astasia Clemons, appeals her conviction for corrupting another with drugs after pleading no contest to the charge upon the trial court's denial of her motion to dismiss. On appeal, Appellant contends that the trial court erred to her detriment when it denied her motion to dismiss count one of the indictment. In light of our determination that the allegations contained in the indictment did not constitute an offense under Ohio criminal law, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying Appellant's motion to dismiss the indictment. As such, Appellant's sole assignment of error is sustained. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court is reversed and Appellant's conviction is vacated.

FACTS

{¶2} A review of the record reveals that on November 14, 2011, Appellant gave birth to a child who, upon birth, tested positive for marijuana, morphine an oxycodone. As a result, the child was transferred to Dayton's Children's Hospital, where she was treated and released. Appellant later informed a Children's Services worker that she had ingested Percocet, without a prescription, prior to giving birth, and had also used marijuana throughout her pregnancy.

{¶3} Based upon these events, on January 10, 2012, Appellant was indicted on two counts of corrupting another with drugs, in violation of R.C. 2925.02(A)(1) and (A)(3), both second-degree felonies. Appellant appeared for her arraignment without counsel and the court entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf Subsequently, on March 29, 2012, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss both charges, claiming the charges were not valid based upon the plain language of the statute. A hearing was held on the motion on April 4, 2012, after which the trial court granted Appellant's motion to dismiss the R.C. 2925.03(A)(3) charge only, based upon the fact that it appeared the child had suffered no injury as a result of the drug exposure. The trial court denied the motion as to the (A)(1) charge, which did not contain the element of physical harm.

{¶4} Appellant ultimately entered a plea of no contest to the R.C. 2925.02(A)(1) charge on April 6, 2011, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, which were stayed pending appeal.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
"I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED TO THE DETRIMENT OF APPELLANT/DEFENDANT WHEN IT DENIED THE APPELLANT'S/DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COUNT ONE OF THE INDICTMENT."

LEGAL ANALYSIS

{¶5} In her sole assignment of error, Appellant contends that the trial court erred to her detriment when it denied her motion to dismiss count one of the indictment. " '[A] motion to dismiss charges in an indictment tests the [legal] sufficiency of the indictment, without regard to the quantity or quality of evidence that may be produced by either the state or the defendant.' " State v. Barcus, 133 Ohio App.3d 409, 414, 728 N.E.2d 420 (1999); quoting State v. Patterson, 63 Ohio App.3d 91, 95, 577 N.E.2d 1165 (1989). Thus, "when a defendant moves to dismiss, the proper determination is whether the allegations contained in the indictment constitute offenses under Ohio criminal law." Id . If they do, it is premature for the trial court to determine, in advance of trial, whether the state could satisfy its burden of proof with respect to those charges. State v. Nihiser, 4th Dist. No. 03CA21, 2004-Ohio-4067, ¶ 9.

{¶6} Appellate review of a trial court's decision regarding a motion to dismiss involves a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Staffin, 4th Dist. No. 07CA2967, 2008-Ohio-338, ¶ 6 (reviewing a dismissal on speedy-trial grounds), citing State v. Pinson, 4th Dist. No. 00CA2713, 2001 WL 301418 (Mar. 16, 2001). We accord due deference to the trial court's findings of fact if supported by competent, credible evidence; however, we independently review whether the trial court properly applied the law to the facts of the case. Id .; citing State v. Thomas, 4th Dist. No. 06CA825, 2007-Ohio-5340, ΒΆ 8. Thus, our role is limited to conducting a de novo review of the ...


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