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State v. Harris

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

December 15, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
ALAN HARRIS, JR. Defendant-Appellant

         Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court T.C. NO. 14-CR-820/2

          ALICE B. PETERS, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          CHRISTOPHER M. COOPER, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant.

          ALAN HARRIS, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          OPINION

          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Alan Harris, Jr. appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which found him guilty on his guilty plea of possession of marijuana, and sentenced him to five years of imprisonment. Harris's appellate counsel has filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967), indicating that he has found no non-frivolous issues for appeal, and has asked to withdraw from the case. Counsel identified two potential assignments of error for review. We informed Harris that his attorney had filed an Anders brief on his behalf and granted him 60 days to file a pro se brief. Harris filed a pro se brief with four potential assignments of error. The State has filed a brief in response to Harris's brief.

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

         {¶ 3} On March 14, 2014, Harris and two co-defendants were each indicted on one count of possession of marijuana (>40, 000g) and one count of trafficking in marijuana (>40, 000g), both felonies of the second degree. On April 28 and 30, 2014, Harris filed motions to suppress evidence. A hearing was held on his motions; the trial court subsequently overruled Harris's motions to suppress. The trial was set for March 8, 2016.

         {¶ 4} On March 4, 2016, Harris entered a guilty plea to one count of possession of marijuana (>20, 000g but < 40, 000g), which is also a felony of the second degree and which was a "lesser included offense" of the one contained in the indictment; the count of trafficking in marijuana was dismissed. The parties agreed that Harris would serve a term of imprisonment of five to eight years, that he would be entitled to a five-year sentence if he cooperated with the State by testifying against his co-defendants, and that if any other defendant in the case received a lesser sentence, "Harris shall too be able to benefit from that reduction and a lesser term of imprisonment." The parties also agreed that Harris could be ordered to pay a fine and/or other financial sanctions and that he faced a mandatory driver's license revocation or suspension. On June 21, 2016, the trial court sentenced Harris to a five-year mandatory term of imprisonment, ordered him to pay a $7, 500 fine, and suspended his driver's license for one year.

         {¶ 5} Before turning to counsel's and Harris's potential assignments of error, we note that, even though Harris has elected to file a pro se brief, we review this appeal in accordance with Anders and consider whether Harris's and his appellate counsel's potential assignments of error are frivolous. In addition, we continue to have the obligation to review the entire record for any non-frivolous issues. Penson v. Ohio, 488 U.S. 75, 109 S.Ct. 346, 102 L.Ed.2d 300 (1988).

         {¶ 6} Harris's appellate counsel raised two potential issues for review: (1) whether Harris waived his right to appeal the decisions on his pretrial motions by entering a guilty plea, and (2) whether the trial court erred by denying Harris's motions to suppress. In his first assignment of error, Harris also challenges the trial court's denial of his motions to suppress. In his second assignment, Harris argues that his rights to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him were violated by the use of out-of-court hearsay statements of one or more of his co-defendants in building the case against him.

         {¶ 7} A plea of guilty is a complete admission of guilt. Consequently, a guilty plea waives all appealable errors, including a ruling on a motion to suppress, except to the extent that the errors precluded the defendant from knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entering his or her guilty plea. See, e.g., State v. Frazier, 2016-Ohio-727, 60 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 81 (2d Dist.); State v. Faulkner, 2d Dist. Champaign No. 2013-CA-43, 2015-Ohio-2059, ¶ 9; State v. Wheeler, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 24112, 2011-Ohio-3423. We find nothing in the trial court's pretrial rulings or in the State's alleged violation of his right to confront witnesses against him that would have precluded Harris from knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entering his plea. As such, Harris waived these arguments when he entered his guilty plea.

         {¶ 8} Harris's first and second assignments of error and the issues raised by Harris's counsel have no arguable merit.

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;{&para; 9} In his third assignment of error, Harris asserts that his sentence was contrary to law, because he was "under the assumption" that his plea to a lesser included offense meant that he was pleading to a felony of a lesser degree. In fact, both the offense with which he was ...


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