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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren

January 22, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LINDSEY M. WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 07 CR 23884

          David P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten Brandt, for plaintiff-appellee

          Lindsey M. Williams, defendant-appellant, pro se

          OPINION

          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Lindsey Williams, appeals a decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas denying his motion for return of personal property.

         {¶ 2} Williams was involved in a stand-off with police in 2006, during which time he utilized multiple guns and ammunition he owned. After Williams was arrested, the police seized Williams' guns and ammunition as evidence. Williams eventually pled guilty to multiple charges and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Williams attempted no less than four times to withdraw his guilty plea, but each motion was denied.

         {¶ 3} In 2017, Williams filed a motion for the return of his personal property, including the guns seized in 2006. While the trial court ordered the state to return several items of personal property to Williams, it denied the motion as to the guns and ammunition. Williams now appeals the trial court's decision, raising the following assignment of error.

         {¶ 4} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE APPELLANT'S MOTION TO RETURN HIS PROPERTY.

         {¶ 5} Williams argues in his assignment of error that the trial court erred in not ordering the return of his guns and ammunition.

         {¶ 6} Williams does not challenge the initial seizure of the weapons and ammunition, and instead, recognizes that the state had authority to seize the weapons and ammunition as evidence related to the charges. However, Williams argues that the state no longer has authority to keep the weapons and ammunition now that he has been convicted, his motions to withdraw his guilty plea have been denied, and he is in the process of serving his sentence.

         {¶ 7} Conversely, the state argues that Williams' argument is barred by res judicata because he did not raise the issue of forfeiture in any of his attempts to withdraw his guilty plea. The doctrine of res judicata provides that a final judgment of conviction bars a convicted defendant who was represented by counsel from raising and litigating in any proceeding except an appeal from that judgment, any defense or any claimed lack of due process that was raised or could have been raised by the defendant at the trial, which resulted in that judgment of conviction, or an appeal from the judgment. State v. Lawwill, 12th Dist. Warren No. CA2017-03-027, 2017-Ohio-8432.

         {¶ 8} However, there are several procedural issues that make the doctrine of res judicata inapplicable to the case sub judice. The Supreme Court of Ohio has indicated that "the forfeiture of items contemplates judicial action and additional considerations that extend beyond a defendant's criminal case, " including the need for certain findings by the trier of fact. State v. Harris, 132 Ohio St.3d 318, 2012-Ohio-1908, ¶ 33.

         {¶ 9} R.C. Chapter 2981 permits law enforcement officers to seize property based on probable cause that the property is subject to forfeiture. [1] Such property includes "contraband, " "proceeds" from the commission of an offense, and "instrumentalities" involved in the commission of felonies and certain other offenses. R.C. 2981.01(B)(13). A state or political subdivision acquires provisional title to property subject to forfeiture, upon commission of an offense giving rise to forfeiture. R.C. 2981.03(A)(1). However, this provisional title is subject to claims of third parties and a final forfeiture adjudication. Id.

         {¶ 10} A prosecuting attorney may pursue forfeiture of seized property in a criminal case according to R.C. 2981.04, in a civil proceeding pursuant to R.C. 2981.05, or both. R.C. 2981.03(F). The state initiates criminal forfeiture by including a forfeiture specification in the charging instrument consistent with R.C. 2941.1417, or by providing the defendant with "prompt notice, " in conformity with Crim.R. 7(E), that the property is subject to forfeiture. R.C. 2981.04(A)(1) and (A)(2). Civil forfeiture is initiated by ...


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