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State v. Wheeler

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

March 31, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
ERIC WHEELER Defendant-Appellant

         Criminal Appeal from Municipal Court T.C. NO. 15-CRB-5449

          JOSHUA T. SHAW Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

          CHARLES E. McFARLAND Attorney for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Eric Wheeler appeals from a judgment of the Dayton Municipal Court, which found him guilty after a trial to the court of one count of failing to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, a misdemeanor of the first degree. The trial court sentenced him to 180 days in jail, which was suspended, suspended his driver's license for three years, and fined him $250. Wheeler appeals from his conviction.

         {¶ 2} For the following reasons, the judgment of the trial court will be affirmed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 3} On August 16, 2015, uniformed Dayton Police Officer Lucas Rose, who was patrolling in a marked cruiser with his partner, observed a man driving a red Pontiac. Rose knew from prior interactions with the man that he did not have a valid driver's license, although he did not immediately recall the man's name. The officers attempted to make a traffic stop. The man, who Rose later identified by name as Wheeler, initially pulled his vehicle to the side of the road, but he drove away when the officers got out of their cruiser and approached his vehicle. Although Wheeler was not located that day, the car in which he had been driving was found a short distance away. It was owned by a woman with whom Wheeler had previously been in a relationship. Wheeler was charged, in two complaints, with failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer under R.C. 2921.331(A) and (B).

         {¶ 4} Wheeler filed a "Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, " in which he claimed that the complaints failed to state "all the essential facts constituting the crime"; he acknowledged that the complaints tracked the language of the statute, R.C. 2921.331. The trial court overruled the motion. A bench trial was conducted, and Wheeler was convicted of failure to comply in violation of R.C. 2921.331(B). He was sentenced as described above.

         {¶ 5} Wheeler raises two assignments of error on appeal.

         II. Sufficiency of Complaints

         {¶ 6} In his first assignment of error, Wheeler argues that the complaints charging him with failure to comply were insufficient because they "failed to allege any facts that constitute the crime of failing to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, " notwithstanding that it contained the "numerical criminal statute." He asserts that the complaints did not allege all of the essential elements of the offenses, although he does not identify an element that is missing.

         {¶ 7} The primary purpose of a charging instrument in a criminal prosecution is to inform the defendant of the nature of the offense with which he is charged; accordingly, Ohio law has consistently held that an indictment or complaint that does not set forth all of the essential elements of the crime is invalid. State v. Sampson, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 22214, 2008-Ohio-775, ¶ 9, citing State v. Cimpritz, 158 Ohio St. 490, 110 N.E.2d 416 (1953), and others. Crim.R. 3 governs complaints filed in misdemeanor cases, and states that the complaint must contain the "essential facts constituting the offense charged." Ohio courts have uniformly held that this phrase means those facts which the State must prove in order to obtain a conviction, i.e., the essential elements of the crime charged. Id. at ¶ 10. Generally, the requirements of a complaint or indictment may be met by reciting the language of the criminal statute. State v. Childs, 88 Ohio St.3d 194, 199, 724 N.E.2d 781 (2000), citing State v. Murphy, 65 Ohio St.3d 554, 583, 605 N.E.2d 884 (1992).

         {¶ 8} Wheeler was charged by two complaints. In the first complaint, he was charged with failure to comply with an order or signal of the police officer, in violation of R.C. 2921.331(A), which states: "No person shall fail to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer invested with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic." The complaint stated that Wheeler committed the offense "in that [he] did unlawfully, fail to comply with a lawful order or direction of a police officer invested with the authority to direct control or regulate traffic." The ...


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